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By: Rivka Boord
We grade Aaron Rodgers’ 2022 interceptions to see how likely they are to carry over to the New York Jets
Has Aaron Rodgers declined, or will he play like an elite quarterback for the New York Jets?
That is one of the fascinating storylines of the 2023 NFL season. For the Jets, it’s a potentially franchise-altering question.
Rodgers threw 12 interceptions in 2022, the most he has thrown since 2008, his first year as a starter. His 2.3% interception rate was his second-highest since 2010. Furthermore, his 2.9% turnover-worthy play rate (via Pro Football Focus) tied for the third-highest of his starting career (he had a 3.3% rate in 2010 and 2017).
So many times, fans and analysts alike look at interception totals to determine how careful a quarterback was with the football. However, given the fluky nature of turnovers as a whole, picks are not a good measure of whether a passer actually protected the ball. Not all interceptions are created equal; knowing whether the quarterback made the correct read, what happened on the play, and whether the risk was worthwhile given the game situation is critical.
Therefore, let’s go back and grade all 12 of Rodgers’ interceptions to answer the following questions:
- What was the game situation?
- What was the completion probability (CP) of the pass at the time it was released, per nflfastR data?
- What was the team’s win probability prior to the interception, and how much win probability added (WPA) did it cost them?
- What was Rodgers looking at?
- Did he forgo a better option?
- Was it a good decision given all the factors mentioned above?
- How bad was the interception, on the whole? The Fault Meter is graded on a scale of 0-10, taking into account all the different factors. Zero means that it wasn’t Rodgers’ fault at all, while 10 means it was 100% his fault.
1. Week 1 @ MIN: trailing 17-0, 0:35 Q2, 1st and 10 from GB 35
CP: 29.7%, WPA: -1.41% (7.98%)
With 35 seconds left in the first half and the Packers down 17-0, Rodgers was flushed from the pocket and decided to toss up a lollipop 50-50 ball. He likely expected a better effort from Randall Cobb one-on-one against a safety on the play, but Harrison Smith simply got up higher and made the interception. Throwing across his body like that while on the move was not a great idea.
Normally, Rodgers would take the flat throw, but he may have decided to skip it because Tonyan was not looking back for the ball. Also, with only one timeout left and 35 seconds remaining in the half, perhaps he was afraid Tonyan would be tackled in bounds.
All in all, the play didn’t cost Rodgers that much in the game, but it wasn’t a good decision.
Fault Meter: 8
2. Week 3 @ TB: leading 14-3, 7:57 Q3, 3rd and 5 from GB 40
CP: 70.3%, WPA: -8.99% (87%)
This is the kind of play that happens to Rodgers if he does not have good receivers. He consistently throws with anticipation, expecting the pass-catcher to read the play correctly and adjust accordingly. If they make a mistake, it can result in an ugly interception. Although it appears to be a head-scratcher on live TV, the film indicates whose fault the turnover really was.
In this case, on a third-and-five play, Rodgers reads Lavonte David’s leverage and expects Robert Tonyan to bend his route flat in front of David. Rodgers threw the ball past the marker where he expected Tonyan to be, but the tight end ran an abysmal route, rounding it out upfield rather than cutting it very flat. As a result, the safety coming up from his position, who would have otherwise been tackling Tonyan after he picked up the first down, was able to slide and intercept the pass.
This one is on a tight end who was very overrated in his seasons playing with Rodgers. The only gripe I have with Rodgers on the play is his tendency to make anticipatory throws into tight windows. Without a receiver like Davante Adams, I’d like to see Rodgers account for the possibility of a mistake and play it a little safer in traffic, especially over the middle. However, this has been his modus operandi throughout his career: he throws it and expects his receiver to make the correct play.
PFF labeled this a turnover-worthy play (most likely, given that Rodgers was charged with one in the game), but when you factor in the decision-making, it really wasn’t much of one on Rodgers’ part.
Fault Meter: 2
3. Week 4 vs. NE: leading 7-3, 0:22 Q3, 3rd and 9 from GB 32
CP: 62.7%, WPA: -23.8% (72.1%)
This pick is about as bad as it gets. It’s reminiscent of Brett Favre’s final pass as a Packer, an interception in the 2007 NFC Championship Game that led to the Giants’ eventual game-winning field goal.
Rodgers sees a cornerback in off coverage and thinks he can hit the out. Though Lazard did also run a bad route, the ball would have been picked off regardless due to the location of the throw. Rather than placing it far outside and toward the sideline, Rodgers sort of lobbed it inside, where the cornerback got an easy pick-six (although he did so because of a great break to match Lazard’s poor one). The listed completion probability is 62.7%, meaning that Rodgers should have been able to complete the pass with a good throw.
I’m somewhat surprised that Rodgers didn’t target the man coverage on the other side of the field. He had determined that he was going to Lazard presnap, but it’s unlike Rodgers to at least peek at the other side. The receiver on the left (it looks like Romeo Doubs) was at least even with the cornerback, if not slightly stacked. Had Rodgers peeked in that direction pre-snap, he probably would have looked right to hold the safety and then thrown it up left, trusting his receiver to make a play.
Overall, this was a bad play, giving the Patriots the lead. It decreased Green Bay’s win probability from 72.1% to 48.3%, which meant that they were in a slightly disfavored position after the pick. Although they eventually won 27-24 in overtime, this play certainly did not make the victory any easier.
Fault Meter: 10
4. Week 8 @ BUF: trailing 27-10, 12:34 Q4, 1st and 10 from GB 47
CP: 82.4%, WPA: -2.08% (2.99%)
PFF did not label this a turnover-worthy play. They consider a ball batted up at the line to be unlucky. Without the bat, this is probably a completed pass. It also doesn’t appear that this is a bat Rodgers should have foreseen due to the defender’s low leverage; it was hard to account for a possible bat, unlike with a more upright defender.
The actual play was frustrating for the Packers, as Josh Allen had just thrown a pick of his own to give Green Bay some sort of slim hope. However, trailing by 17 in the fourth quarter against one of the league’s best teams, the Packers’ win probability was already very low. The pick itself didn’t cost the Packers that much.
Fault meter: 2
5. Week 9 @ DET: 0-0, 4:25 Q1, 1st and goal from DET 5
CP: 53.1%, WPA: -18.5% (64.3%)
Rodgers’ first game against Detroit was one of the worst of his career. He threw three interceptions inside of the opponent’s three-yard line. This first one was likely not listed by PFF as a turnover-worthy play because of the bat, and if not for the bat, it could have been a touchdown to Lazard.
Still, the side-armed, low-riding throw on this pass can’t let Rodgers off entirely scot-free. Additionally, based on how Lazard turned toward the ball, it looks like the throw itself was headed too far inside before it was batted.
4 :Fault meter
6. Week 9 @ DET: 0-0, 15:00 Q2, 4th and goal from DET 1
CP: 61.3%, WPA: -12.1% (58.3%)
On fourth and goal with a defender in his face, Rodgers tried to lob the ball to David Bakhtiari, who was a tackle-eligible on the play. Bakhtiari was initially open, and a longer toss would have likely resulted in a touchdown. Aidan Hutchinson made a terrific play to fall off and intercept the ball. Rodgers did not see Hutchinson and thought that he had an easy touchdown. If he had seen the edge defender peel off, he would have tried to get some more mustard on it, even falling backward.
This was a damaging play for the Packers. Not only did they lose a potential touchdown and over 12% of win probability, but the touchback also gave Detroit some breathing room rather than starting the possession at their own one yardline. This is sometimes a consideration for teams when going for it at the goal line.
I’m not going to blame Rodgers completely because of how good the play by Hutchinson was, coupled with the pressure that forced him to throw this ball while fading back.
Fault meter: 6.5
7. Week 9 @ DET: trailing 8-0, 9:23 Q3, 2nd and 9 from DET 22
CP: 49.9%, WPA: -10.6% (26.5%)
Rodgers was a beat late on this throw over the middle, allowing the safety to undercut the route. It could have been a touchdown if he released it one hitch earlier, even having to throw it past the squatting linebacker in the middle.
This pick was damaging for the Packers, as it lowered their win probability significantly. At 8-0, a touchdown would have meant the potential to tie the game. Instead, Detroit got a third interception and eventually won the game 15-9.
Fault meter: 8.5
8. Week 12 @ PHI: trailing 7-0, 10:32 Q1, 3rd and 4 from GB 15
CP: 52.1%, WPA: -7.07% (26.5%)
Rodgers did an excellent job to escape pressure up the middle, but he bookended that with a bad throw. If he had thrown the pass further outside and deeper to Lazard, Darius Slay would not have gotten a hand on the ball, and it could have been complete. Rodgers threw it flat rather than finding the grass over the top of the cornerback.
Slay actually had a chance to pick it off himself, but the ball deflected off his hand and up into the air. The fortuitous bounce allowed Jake Scott to intercept the ball. I’m not going to blame Rodgers 100% for this because he did a great job getting out of the sack and made a proper read, but it was just a poorly-placed ball.
Fault meter: 7.5
9. Week 12 @ PHI: trailing 20-14, 11:20 Q2, 1st and 10 from PHI 28
CP: 67.7%, WPA: -9.52% (40.3%)
This is likely another case of Rodgers expecting the receiver, tight end Tyler Davis (No. 84), to flatten the route. With the safety covering deep, Davis could have taken it more horizontally and made the catch. This was particularly the case with Haason Reddick dropping into coverage and trying to read Rodgers’ eyes. Instead, Davis ran vertically, allowing the safety to jump the route and intercept the ball. Unfortunately, it cost the Packers in their quest to hand the Eagles their second consecutive loss.
Once again, knowing that he has a no-name pass-catcher rather than an experienced veteran, I’d prefer that Rodgers play it safe. That’s not and has never been the way he plays, though.
Fault meter: 2
10. Week 15 vs. LA: leading 3-0, 0:39 Q1, 1st and 10 from LA 44
CP: 32.1%, WPA: -10.9% (76.3%)
Rodgers made the right read here, but Lazard just stopped running. Rodgers expected Lazard to carry his route deep and to the outside, but Lazard just didn’t even try. If he kept running, he had a chance to catch it.
Would the pass have been complete? Maybe, maybe not. But it was unlikely to be intercepted if Lazard didn’t give up on the play.
Fault meter: 1
11. Week 16 @ MIA: 20-20, 14:16 Q4, 3rd and 15 from MIA 39
CP: 23.1%, WPA: -3.81% (48%)
I see this as a missed defensive pass interference penalty. There really wasn’t anyone else open on the play. Rodgers appeared to check Cobb as he rolled to his right, but Cobb wasn’t open.
Trying to go for a shot wasn’t a bad decision despite the low completion probability. The throw itself wasn’t great, but the push that the defensive back gave moved Lazard off his spot. That should have been a pass interference penalty.
Fault meter: 4
12. Week 12 vs. DET: trailing 20-16, 3:37 Q4, 3rd and 10 from GB 33
CP: 26.1%, WPA: -8.53% (25.8%)
This play essentially ended the Packers’ season. With the team down by four and needing a touchdown, Rodgers saw the one-on-one press coverage on Christian Watson and decided to take a shot there. He saw the safety but just thought he could beat him deep. Even on a third and 10 play, taking that kind of deep shot into double coverage wasn’t advisable. There was enough time left in the game to throw the ball back shoulder and continue the drive.
There was a defender in Rodgers’ face when he released the ball, which likely impacted the throw; that’s why this is not all on the quarterback. Still, it did not appear that he was attempting to throw the ball to Watson’s back shoulder. It was an ill-advised decision in a do-or-die moment. The Packers did not touch the ball again and missed the playoffs.
Fault meter: 8.5
Rodgers’ average Fault Meter on his 12 picks was 5.33. He had four interceptions at two or lower, including three that were almost entirely his receiver’s fault.
If Rodgers had been throwing those balls to Tyler Conklin instead of Tonyan and Davis, there is reason to believe they would have been completed passes. However, Lazard is Lazard, which means his giving up on the route would have happened with the Jets, too.
There were definitely a few terrible plays in here. Rodgers’ pick-six against the Patriots was inexcusable. One thing you notice, though, was that a lot of these bad plays came with pressure in his face. This emphasizes the need for the Jets to protect their 39-year-old passer. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the Jets’ performance in pass protection could determine whether Rodgers plays like a top quarterback or the more inconsistent player we saw last season.
Furthermore, Rodgers’ film underscores how critical it is for him to have a competent receiving corps. He expects his receivers to read coverages properly and make a play on the ball. Miscommunication with his receivers can be more damaging for him than other quarterbacks.
In fact, this should serve as another testament to Rodgers’ greatness. Although he’s played with some excellent receivers over the years (Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson and Cobb in their primes) he’s also had many subpar options. That he kept his interception and turnover-worthy play rates low while also throwing with such anticipation is remarkable.
I do not believe Rodgers’ higher interception rate indicates his decline. It does speak to an injured thumb and a dearth of options. If the Jets’ weapons and line play up to par, I think they can expect a bounce-back year from their quarterback.
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Originally posted on Jets X-Factor