‘D’ aims to stop Rodgers

To win, Ea­gles must limit Pack­ers QB

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Nick Fierro

PHILADEL­PHIA — The words “Aaron Rodgers” and “plas­ter” go to­gether for the Philadel­phia Ea­gles, not to men­tion every­one else in the NFL.

Rodgers is the gifted Green Bay Pack­ers quar­ter­back who of­ten turns pass­ing win­dows of two to three sec­onds into seven or eight or more with his abil­ity to backpedal, side­step or sim­ply sprint out of col­laps­ing pock­ets. He’ll even fire off his back foot, if nec­es­sary, to a tar­get that might need that long to pop open.

Plas­ter is the term used to de­scribe how the Ea­gles’ de­fen­sive backs and lineback­ers have to stay with their cov­er­age tar­gets for how­ever long Rodgers buys to give him­self a chance for a com­ple­tion. It’s never a pleas­ant as­sign­ment, espe­cially with your back turned and eyes off the quar­ter­back, not know­ing when the play will end or which way a re­ceiver may turn to get open.

Heck, the Ea­gles’ de­pleted sec­ondary — cor­ner­backs Jalen Mills (foot), Cre’Von LeBlanc (foot) and Ron­ald Darby (ham­string) are not avail­able — has had a tough-enough time plas­ter­ing for two or three sec­onds through the first three games, and those short­com­ings have been a ma­jor fac­tor in their 1-2 start.

Now they face the prospect of be­ing charged with some­thing that even the most gifted de­fend­ers of all time fail to de­liver more of­ten than not: cover­ing while Rodgers buys so much ex­tra time that it of­ten isn’t even fair.

On top of all that, just when you think you might have found a way to stop him, he hits you with a hard count that can force an off­side penalty, of­ten re­set­ting the whole ma­trix.

Ea­gles de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Jim Schwartz’s ner­vous smile on Tues­day said it all.

“I think you’ve just got to keep com­ing be­cause I think he does get rid of the ball quick some­times,” Schwartz said. “Other times he holds that sucker for a long time and scram­bles around,

“He has an arm that can chal­lenge any­where on the field, he is mo­bile, he can get rid of the ball quick, he’s a smart guy that’s been around, he can make a play with his legs. None of those things have changed.” —Ea­gles de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Jim Schwartz on Pack­ers quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers

and we saw that from [Lions QB Matthew] Stafford [last Sun­day in a 27-24 loss]. The ball was ei­ther com­ing out real quick or the guys were cov­ered, and he was try­ing to buy time and try­ing to make plays down the field. You’re talk­ing about two sim­i­lar guys as far as arm strength that they can chal­lenge ev­ery­where on the field. It puts an em­pha­sis on plas­ter­ing your cov­er­age, and it puts an em­pha­sis on guys be­ing tena­cious in pass rush.”

An in­ten­si­fied pass rush that can at least move Rodgers off his spot is the most ob­vi­ous so­lu­tion.

Prob­lem is, the Ea­gles haven’t done a very good job of gen­er­at­ing pres­sure through the first three weeks, and the bl­itzes Schwartz has called to try forc­ing the is­sue are mostly ei­ther too slow to de­velop or are picked up by op­po­nents who see them com­ing, leav­ing their re­ceivers with num­bers ad­van­tages down the field.

So feel free to add the term “Catch-22” to “Aaron Rodgers” and “plas­ter.” Be­cause that’s the sit­u­a­tion op­po­nents face when the Pack­ers’ of­fense op­er­ates at peak ef­fi­ciency.

Cor­ner­back Avonte Mad­dox looked ex­hausted just de­scrib­ing the ex­pected co­nun­drum.

“He def­i­nitely can ex­tend plays,” Mad­dox said. “That makes it hard when you have a quar­ter­back that can ex­tend plays. We’ve got to con­tain him the best we can and just play good cov­er­age.”

If there’s any hope for the Ea­gles, it’s that the Pack­ers of­fense hasn’t com­pletely clicked yet. It’s been their de­fense that has car­ried them to their 3-0 start, though their point to­tal has in­creased from 10 in Week 1 to 21 in Week 2 to 27 in Week 3.

And they’ve done all this de­spite not hav­ing much of a run­ning game, av­er­ag­ing just 3.4 yards per rush.

But when you have Rodgers, any­thing is pos­si­ble.

“I think you’re talk­ing about a guy that has tremen­dous con­fi­dence,” Schwartz said. “He has an arm that can chal­lenge any­where on the field, he is mo­bile, he can get rid of the ball quick, he’s a smart guy that’s been around, he can make a play with his legs. None of those things have changed.”

MIKE ROEMER/AP

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