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Containing Aaron Rodgers Is A Challenge The Defense Is Well-Prepared To Take On


It isn't easy trying to replicate Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the magic he can create on Sundays, but that is exactly what the Redskins are tasked with doing this week in practice.

Washington's schedule has been filled with some of the top teams in the NFL; as it stands now, the Redskins have played five playoff-caliber teams with the Packers and the NFC East- leading Dallas Cowboys still remaining. They've also seen their share of some of the league's best quarterbacks in Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo, among others.

Rodgers and the Packers are up next, and the Redskins are doing everything they can to prepare for the league's ninth-best passer and sixth-leader in touchdowns.

"I don't think [the preparation] will ever be perfect because he's one of the greatest quarterbacks to play in our league, arguably," said interim head coach Bill Callahan. "You do everything you can. You work the cadences, you work the breakouts, you work the scrambles and you work the movements."

That responsibility has primarily fallen on Case Keenum, who has been the backup since Dwayne Haskins was named the starting quarterback against the New York Jets in Week 11. Considering Keenum has the most experience at his position and has been in a variety of offensive systems, the move seems like a smart one for the Redskins to make.

The multitude of aspects to Rodgers' skillset makes that a challenge, but Callahan said Keenum has done "a great job" of giving the defense the best possible preparation.

"We try…to show as many deep balls and shots and movements and things of that nature as possible," Callahan said. "You only get so many reps during the course of practice, so we try to spread those out over the things that we're anticipating to see on an early down like we did today."

Some things are more difficult than others to replicate, though, and one of them is Rodgers' pre-snap cadences. He uses a variety of inflections in his voice to confuse defenders and draw opponents offsides. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky called Rodgers one of the best at getting opponents to jump.

"The biggest thing is if we do go offsides -- which I hope we don't -- we have to make sure we're still covered on the back end because he's going to throw the ball up the field," Manusky said.

Rodgers is in his 14th season with the Packers, but he has shown little, if any signs of aging. He has thrown for 3,065 yards -- which is the fifth time in seven years he has reached that milestone -- and is the ninth-most efficient quarterback this year, according to Football Outsiders.

It has also helped that Rodgers has a running game this year with running back Aaron Jones, who is the second-leading rusher in the NFC North with 645 yards.

But Manusky believes there is a way to make Rodgers and the Packers offense one-dimensional, and a large part of that is stopping Green Bay's running game. Last week against the Panthers, the Redskins held running back Christian McCaffrey to 44 rushing yards -- his third-lowest outing this season.

"We did a good job of stopping [McCaffrey], but we have to do the same thing against this team," Manusky said.

Stopping Jones will put the ball in Rodgers' hands more often, which means it'll be up to the Redskins' secondary, which leads the NFL in interceptions the past two weeks and ranks third overall, to contain him.

The secondary doesn't have to do it all, though. They also have the Redskins' pass rush, which also leads the NFL in sacks the past two weeks, to get pressure on Rodgers.

"If we can dominate the line of scrimmage, that will definitely give help to the defensive backs," said defensive end Jonathan Allen. "We just can't have Aaron Rodgers sitting in the backfield patting the ball. We have to get him moving off his spot, make him uncomfortable. I feel like if we do that, it gives us the best chance to win."

The pass rush also has to worry about Rodgers' scrambling ability, which he uses on occasion. Rodgers has 146 rushing yards this year on 33 attempts with a 4.42 yards per carry average. Allen isn't too concerned about that, though.

"If we rush four as one, rather than four one-on-ones, that really gives us the best opportunity," Allen said. "We have a guy in [Montez] Sweat who runs a 4.4, 4.3 [40-yard dash], so I like our matches if we get into a foot race."

It's rare to have to prepare for a player like Rodgers, but the Redskins have incorporated plenty of tactics through film study and practice. The most important thing Callahan said the team can do is make sure the defense is prepared for any situation.

"They're going to have to adjust and adapt and play throughout that challenge," Callahan said.

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