Aaron Rodgers Report Card: How Did Super Bowl MVP QB Grade out in Packer Opener?

Dylan MacNamaraSenior Writer ISeptember 9, 2011

Aaron Rodgers Report Card: How Did Super Bowl MVP QB Grade out in Packer Opener?

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    Aaron Rodgers led the defending Super Bowl champions to a rousing 42-34 win over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night. 

    With a few minor exceptions, Rodgers played well throughout the opener, finishing 27 of 35 for 312 yards and 3 scores.

    But how did Rodgers play in all facets of the game? Sure, the Packers scored 42 points, but what could Rodgers have done even better?

    Let's break down Rodgers performance, review some tape and look at exactly what Rodgers did well, and what he can improve on heading into week two.

Accuracy

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    Aaron Rodgers has a number of special traits, but none more impressive than his accuracy. Rodgers has truly mastered the art of the back shoulder throw.

    In this instance, Rodgers hits Greg Jennings on a "fade-stop", a play that requires impeccable timing and precise accuracy. 

    Jennings stems the route for 8-10 yards, making the defender think he's running a fade into the corner. Rodgers throws the ball on a line, towards the receiver's back shoulder (as opposed to the endline). 

    If the DB gets a sense of what's happening, he can turn his head and should have a relatively easy play on the ball. 

    Rodgers hit a number of his receivers with back shoulder throws on Thursday and not just in the red zone. 

    He also showed great accuracy while moving around in the pocket and on the run. Hard to find many flaws in his performance.

    Grade: A

Pocket Presence

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    Pocket presence is something that can be hard to define and only noticeable when a play goes horribly wrong. 

    Some quarterbacks like Tom Brady, who athletically are way below even the league average, are able to buy extra time by by sliding left, right and stepping up in the pocket and away from pass rushers.

    Though Aaron Rodgers is twice the athlete Brady ever was, he doesn't often break the pocket to run. He has an innate ability to feel the pressure, find comfortable space in a collapsing pocket and deliver an accurate throw.

    True to form, Rodgers had elite pocket presence during Thursday's game. 

    Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is known for complicated blitz packages that create a number of problems, both pre-snap and post-snap, for quarterbacks.

    The Saints got to Aaron Rodgers just twice on Thursday night, once in the first quarter and once in the fourth. While the offensive line should definitely be recognized for a solid performance, Rodgers helped them out by time and again buying time and making quick decisions with the ball.

    Grade: A- 

Decision Making

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    One of Aaron Rodgers' gifts is the ability to stay poised while going through his progressions.

    Watch the play above. Rodgers takes a five-step drop, looking the entire time to his first and second reads on the left side.

    Seeing that everyone is covered, Rodgers works back to the right side, seeing Jordy Nelson sitting down in a soft spot in the Saints zone and nails him with a quick strike.

    This was a recurring theme throughout the game.

    Three touchdowns, no picks...enough said.  

    Grade: A

Leadership

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    Though it's hard to quantify an intangible quality like leadership, it's difficult to argue that Aaron Rodgers doesn't have "it". 

    Think of Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, Terry Bradshaw (were those last two bad examples?)...quarterbacks who won multiple Super Bowls and made those around them better.

    Whatever that quality it is, whether it's self-confidence, knowing the "right buttons to press"...whatever it is, Rodgers has it. His team knows that in the end, he'll get it done.

    And, just like Rodgers did last time he stepped on the field in a meaningful game, he delivered again.

    Points off for the team not being able to stick a "step on their throat" touchdown in there at the end of the game.

    Leadership: B+ 

Ball Security

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    Part of the reason Aaron Rodgers is able to take such good care of the ball is that he gets the ball out of his hands very quickly.

    Take a look at the above clip. Three step drop, quick release, hit the slant...touchdown.

    Defenders, even in a blitzing defense like the Saints deploy, don't have the time to get to Rodgers. He wasn't under pressure for most of the night, largely because he was able to get the ball out so quickly.

    Can't argue with no INTs and no fumbles.

    Grade: A 

Final Grade

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    27 of 35 for 312 yards and 3 touchdowns with no turnovers = 132.1 passer rating. That's tough to top. 

    The Packers beat one of the best teams in the NFC fairly soundly for three and a half quarters. Though the defense nearly folded near the end, and the Rodgers led offense couldn't get a final first down to ice the game, it's hard to find many, if any, flaws in Rodgers' performance.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL. Tom Brady is great, has been great, but no one combines as many positive traits as Aaron Rodgers does.

    If he stays healthy and the Packers defense plays to minimal expectations, Rodgers will be the league MVP in 2011.

    Grade: A