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Cardinals Defensive Gameplan For Aaron Rodgers

How good is Aaron Rodgers? In a nutshell - he's been unbelievable, despite playing behind a poor offensive line. So does he have a weakness?

It was only two season's ago that Packers fans were wavering at the idea of losing the great Brett Favre to an unproven quarterback that had stood in the shadow of #4 for three seasons.

Now as it stands, Rodgers has become a Pro Bowl quarterback who's already led his team to the playoffs in just his second season as a starter.

When looking through Aaron Rodgers 2009 stats, you won't find many flaws, and rightfully so. But there have been some situations in which Rodgers hasn't been at his best. In particular, it's been his production on 1st down - precisely with 8-10 yards to go. On that down, Rodgers has thrown 5 of this 7 interceptions. At the same time, his completion rate drops to 61.7%(-3), his yards per average drops to 7.49(-.71), and his quarterback rating drops to 82.5(-20.7). He's also been sacked 18 times out of the 50 for the year, and has only thrown 5 of his 30 touchdowns in that span. If the Cardinals can open each Packers set of downs by blitzing Rodgers and avoiding the big play down field, they'll force the Packers into 2nd/3rd and long situations.

To put that in perspective, on 3rd and 8-10, Rodgers completion rate is only 58.1% and he's only thrown 1 TD. On 3rd and less then 6 yards to go, Rodgers has thrown 10 TDs, 0 INTs, completed 73.1% of his passes, has a 154.6 QB rating. The Cardinals defense will have a long day if Rodgers is given that distance every time.

Therefore, the obvious area of focus will be to force Aaron Rodgers into a third and long circumstance. With a defensive line led by Darnell Dockett, the Cardinals need to get in Rodgers face and force him out of his comfort zone. To be fair, 17 of the Cardinals 41 sacks have occurred on 3rd down, meaning they have turned up the pressure when opponents have needed to convert.

I realize the Cardinals can pick their poison at times, either by dropping more men in coverage and giving the quarterback more time to make a play, or by sending more defenders after the quarterback and leaving a receiver wide open. In this situation I'd prefer the Cardinals to keep the pressure coming. 

Bill Davis didn't show his hand in their loss to the Packers, which is why I believe the Cardinals are winding up for this Sunday.  Third down has been Rodgers strong-suit, and the Cardinals will need to keep the blitzes coming even if the game is one the line.