For our first Buffalo Bills opponent preview of the year, we’ll take a look at the current starting quarterback for the New York Jets, Aaron Rodgers. We’re used to seeing Rodgers in green, but paired with yellow rather than white. I’m confident we’re all familiar with watching the man play, but at some point Father Time has to come calling, right? To see if there’s any indication of this starting to happen, we’ll do a stats dive.
Rodgers has been in the league long enough to give his season averages some validity. For this exercise, we’ll focus on rate stats over the years and do some mathematics. More specifically, averages, standard deviation, and trendlines. Will there be charts? You know there will be. We will eliminate his first three seasons, merely due to the low amount of attempts. Here we go!
Yards per game
I’m not a huge fan of per-game metrics, but it’s a suitable place to start. For Aaron Rodgers, 2022 marked his career low in this measure at 217.4 yards. The trendline shows a slight decline over his career. How meaningful is this? Eh. It’s hard to tell. It’s ebbed and flowed right along, but usually comes back to the 270s or so.
The standard deviation for this measure is just over 21 yards with a mean average of 256.8. That means only the 2022 season is more than one standard deviation below the mean. Evidence of true decline? Or more reason to think he’ll bounce back? My guess is the latter. I would say it’s highly doubtful he falls under 217 this season.
One reason I don’t love per-game metrics, especially for passing yards, is that it downplays the rest of the team. Maybe Rodgers just didn’t have to throw so much. Let’s turn our attention to more granular efficiency metrics.
Yards per attempt
Yards per attempt should correlate better with Rodgers himself, rather than the team. This shows a similar trendline, and like the yards-per-game chart, has 2022 as one of his career worst. Anything below 7.0 yards per attempt is more than one standard deviation from the mean, so again the 2022 season has some significance.
Rodgers has had a couple of instances with two years straight of decline, but never three. It’d be nice (for Bills and Green Bay Packers fans) if this was the first time. It’s hard to bank on it, but fingers crossed.
Interestingly, the trendline for completion percentage goes up. The 2020 and 2021 seasons are a major factor for this. Rodgers has had some volatility in this metric. So far, this is the most likely area to continue experiencing decline, as his 2022 performance of 64.6% is pretty close to his career average of 65.3%. And he’s had plenty of years below his average (since it’s an average and all).
This measure plus the last one are interesting to think about together. Remember that yards per attempt is influenced by all passing attempts. An incomplete pass goes down as zero yards for that attempt, dragging the average down. With completion percentage declining the last two seasons, it suggests that Rodgers’ passes aren’t necessarily traveling shorter distances (possible sign of age). Instead, the zeros are adding up.
Rodgers’ yards per completion has remained more stable if you care to look at the stats on Pro Football Reference.
Rodgers’ trendline here is close enough to flat to basically call it that. His career average is 6.2% for touchdown rate. Rodgers has dipped below for more than one year at a time twice now. It’s possible he remains under his average for the 2023 season. While the trendline is pretty stable, the yearly numbers are all over the place, making this a tough one to even guess.
For interception rate, Rodgers has become more careful with the ball as his career has progressed. That’s not surprising, naturally. Spikes do happen, though usually he falls right back down the year after.
Anything above 1.4% is higher than his average, and anything above 2.07 is more than one standard deviation above the mean. It’s a decently safe bet he’ll be below 2.0% this season, though... well, see below.
Like interceptions, Rodgers has gotten better at avoiding sacks the longer his career goes. Known as a fairly mobile QB, you’d think as he ages he’d be less able to avoid sacks. On the other hand, maybe trusting his legs less has led to smarter football. Either way, he was sacked less frequently than his average last season. Maybe it’ll be time for that to climb.
Aaron Rodgers will turn 40 this season, meaning there’s almost certainly some age-related loss of athleticism, reaction times, and more. That said, there’s nothing to suggest he’s fallen off a cliff. This could be the year, but that’s more wishful thinking than “analysis.”
That said, the biggest variable is the fact that he’s on a new team. I wouldn’t put much stock into the notion that chemistry with his targets will be a major factor. Maybe for Week 1 against the Bills, but not long term. He’s seen plenty of players come and go.
What about the Jets’ offensive line though? Is that a significant-enough change to think there’ll be an issue for Rodgers this year? A lot of current chatter suggests that could be a major issue. And while I’m not worried about Rodgers adapting to different targets, adapting to team culture could be a factor. With Rodgers’ seeming displeasure in Green Bay though, perhaps we should expect a happier, more effective Rodgers.