THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP)
When it comes to quarterbacks creating something out of nothing, Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay and Russell Wilson of Seattle are the gold standard.
Fortunately for safety John Johnson III and the rest of the Los Angeles Rams’ defense, they already got a look at Wilson’s Houdini act and can use that experience to prepare for what Rodgers and the Packers might do on Sunday.
“We get good practice at just staying on our man, keeping our eyes on our luggage,” Johnson said Thursday.
Wilson was 13 of 21 passing for 198 yards and three touchdowns in the Rams’ 33-31 Week 5 win in Seattle, but the Rams were able to limit the number of off-schedule plays he was able to make.
“It’s the NFL, you’re going to give up a few plays, but as a whole I think we did pretty well in just keeping our eyes on our guys and maintaining that focus through the play,” Johnson said.
Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is just as concerned about Rodgers’ knack for improvisation, calling the two-time MVP one of the best ever in that aspect of the game.
“He’s thrown every scramble pass you can think of for big plays,” Phillips said. “If you’re in zone or man, you have to get close to the guy you have (in coverage) and stay with him the whole time. That’s where they excel.”
While Wilson will try to bounce outside and away from pressure, Rodgers is more likely to hang in the pocket to give his receivers a chance to come open.
Ndamukong Suh, who faced Rodgers regularly during his five seasons with the Detroit Lions, believes Rodgers’ ability to survey all areas of the field when a play breaks down makes him more dangerous than Wilson in scramble mode.
“He’s very active as a quarterback, especially pushing the ball down the field,” Suh said. “I think they’re both elite quarterbacks, but I have a little bit more respect for Aaron.”
Relishing the chance to chase down Rodgers again, the veteran defensive lineman ruefully laughed when reminiscing about the NFC North rivalry.
Suh said Rodgers usually does not talk to him on the field because “I don’t know if he likes me.” That’s fine by Suh.
“My response is when he’s getting up from the ground,” Suh said. “That’s what I’m excited for, or giving him a nice L, which I have done plenty of times in the past. That’s the ultimate goal going against an elite quarterback like that.”
Suh rarely had to face Rodgers when complimented by a rushing offense as varied and successful as what Green Bay has this season in running backs Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery. The trio is combining to average 4.4 yards per carry, and the Packers’ overall average of 4.7 yards per attempt ranks ninth in the NFL.
The Rams want to make the Packers one-dimensional, force Rodgers into throwing situations and unleash the pass rush anchored by Suh, Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers. If Rodgers is able to evade pressure and do “what he does best,” as Johnson said, the Rams will risk it.
“He’ll just hang in the pocket a long, long time sometimes for people to come open,” Phillips said. “It’s a tremendous challenge.”
NOTES: OLB Trevon Young (knee) did not practice Thursday. Young, a rookie from Louisville drafted in the sixth round, recovered a fumble against the 49ers on Sunday and has seen an increase in snaps since Dominique Easley was placed on injured reserve Oct. 2 because of a knee injury. … LT Andrew Whitworth and C John Sullivan each had the day off for rest.
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