The Green Bay Packers’ special teams have been a disaster. So has Amari Rodgers.
Rodgers is poised to join a growing list of third-round picks who haven’t done jack in the NFL. Josiah Deguara has strung together some respectable performances in the wake of the injury to Robert Tonyan. He’s doing all he can to buck the trend. Regardless, the outlook has not been great for Green Bay’s third-round selections in the last 10-plus years.
The last good third-round picks Green Bay made were Jermichael Finley in 2008 and James Jones the year before. Their third-round draft history is otherwise littered with more errors than contributors. Jace Sternberger, Oren Burks, and Montravius Adams aren’t names that strike fear in the hearts of opponents.
It is early in Rodgers’ career, but he shows many signs of being a bust. He was initially lauded as a Randall Cobb-esque player who ran crisp routes and could contribute in a wide variety of ways on offense. Rodgers was also supposed to showcase effectiveness on special teams like Cobb did early in his career.
Thus far, that has not been working out.
Green Bay was incredibly lucky to see this play wiped out by a penalty. It was Rodgers’ second muffed punt of the game. He has had a few more this season, including two in the preseason opener. Fielding punt returns was supposed to be a strength of Rodgers’ game, but he has been playing scared and confused. While the special teams have been a mess as a whole, Rodgers’ performance has done little to ease the widespread concerns with Mo Drayton’s unit.
When Rodgers catches punts, he doesn’t do much with them. He has returned 18 kicks for 134 yards this year, only 7.4 yards per return. Rodgers ranks 14th out of 20 players that average over 1.25 punt returns per game, per The Football Database. An opportunity has presented itself to Rodgers, and he has failed to capitalize.
Rodgers has also been almost entirely forgotten on offense as well. He has three catches for 40 yards on the year. It is not professional to type “lol” in the middle of a sentence on a reputable sports blog but, like, dude. That is not good.
People have cited Davante Adams’ slow start to his Packers career in defense of Rodgers, but it was never this bad. Adams, a second-round pick, had 38 receptions for 446 yards in his 2014 rookie season. Cobb, also a second-round pick and closest comparison to Rodgers, had 25 receptions for 375 yards in his 2011 rookie season. Rodgers will not come close to sniffing those totals even with the additional game this year.
This ineptitude is magnified when considering the vast array of injuries Green Bay has endured this year. Players like Adams, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, Malik Taylor, and Cobb have been in and out of the lineup with injuries. That’s basically the entire wide receiver corps, and Rodgers has still not made an impact. Cobb’s recent core injury should theoretically open the door for Rodgers to produce, but don’t cross your fingers. It does not look likely at this juncture.
It is equally telling of the team’s lack of faith in Rodgers and the injury situation that the Packers recently promoted Juwann Winfree to the active roster. Multiple players and coaches have expressed their confidence in Drayton and that the team needs to find players to step up. If there was any belief left in Rodgers for this season, it seems to be ebbing away. Winfree, a preseason darling, should be able to step in and contribute immediately. He has never returned kicks on special teams, but I would not be surprised to see Green Bay try and kick the tires on anyone else making a positive impact.
Rodgers is still young, and it would be foolish to write off his career this early on. However, his play hasn’t inspired a shred of confidence for a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations like the Packers. The team cannot afford to rely on a rookie that has yet to show he has what it takes. Time will tell, but it would seem this isn’t the year for Rodgers.