Aaron Rodgers is coming off a 49-sack season in which he was hindered by a bum leg, his line was banged up for stretches, and the offense as a whole was out of whack before and after canning Mike McCarthy.
In 2017, Rodgers was on pace for 50-plus sacks despite playing in just seven games (22).
Cincinnati Bengals edge rusher Carl Lawson took Rodgers down 2.5 times in Week 3 of 2017, a six-sack day for the defense. The defensive end told NFL Network's Good Morning Football on Monday that Rodgers is actually easier to sack than some other QBs despite his mobility because he's always looking for the big play.
"Honestly, I think it's easier to sack Aaron Rodgers than most quarterbacks," Lawson said. "He sits there, and he pats the ball. At the same time, sacking him don't mean nothing if you don't do it for four quarters. You know, he came back against us.
"So, I mean, he's an easier quarterback for me to sack personally, because he sits there, and he probably gets eight to 10 yards in the pocket. He's got a great left tackle in (David Bakhtiari). So, he just sits there, he waits, he waits, getting that read. When he gets sacked, he doesn't get flustered. I only saw him get frustrated maybe one time when I did sack him, which was the third and a half sack that they took off (negated by a penalty)..."
Rodgers gunning for the big play was one criticism of the Packers QB the last few seasons as the team didn't live up to expectations. Taking sacks isn't exactly a new thing for Rodgers, who has 412 sacks in 14 seasons. Counting only his 11 seasons as a starter, Rodgers has been sacked 403 times (36.6 per season), including two seasons of 50-plus sacks and two more above the 45-sack mark. Packers fans have been used to seeing QBs sacked over the years, with Brett Favre holding the all-time record of 525.
For years, the Packers were willing to trade the sacks for the big plays. When Rodgers was divebombing defenses, the tradeoff worked great, and the splash plays overcame the negative ones -- as Lawson noted, the Bengals lost to Green Bay in 2017 despite six sacks. In a discombobulated offense, like we saw for long stretches last season, the sacks stung.
With the change from McCarthy to new coach Matt LaFleur, Green Bay is hoping a more diverse offense will consistently scheme quicker options for Rodgers. How this plays out will be one of the most interesting subplots to the 2019 NFL campaign.
So if Rodgers is easier to sack, which QBs are harder to take down?
"The toughest to sack? Those young quarterbacks that offensive coordinators like to protect," Lawson said. "Maybe a (Mitchell) Trubisky, or someone like that. The guys that sit there maybe like five (steps), get the quick reads. The guys that are like -- I'm not calling them not elite or nothing like that -- but the guys that kind of have more help in their offense than opposed to (guys like Rodgers).
"And Tom Brady. I haven't sacked him or played against him, I've just watched him. I watched the film and like 'Oh, he's getting that out in like 1.9, 2 (seconds).'"
To recap: QBs that hold onto the ball are easier to sack. Ones that get it out quick are harder to take down.
Sounds about correct.