Jacquizz Rodgers isn’t the largest or tallest guy on the Falcons roster; he’s actually rather diminutive. But when the Atlanta Falcons are on offense, he becomes a very good option in the offense.
Check out this interview between the NFL Network and Rodgers. In it Rodgers talks about a multitude of topics on the Atlanta Falcons, but his talk about what he did in the game against the Cowboys was even more interesting.
Rodgers talked about his two crucial receptions in the Sunday night game. On the Falcons final offensive possession of the game, the Falcons were up by only three point, and if they gave the ball back to Dallas with a bunch of time on the clock, it gives them an easy opportunity to score a touchdown, and an even easier shot to get a field goal. That field goal would send the game to overtime, a very precarious situation.
So who stepped up and made two big plays to get the Falcons in field goal range to put them up by two field goals? Jacquizz Rodgers.
The first play was a 31 yard completion to Rodgers. As he described it, Rodgers was a checkdown over the short middle of the field. Everyone else was covered down the field, and if there wasn’t an immediate option available, Ryan was going to checkdown to Jacquizz. Rodgers was open underneath the coverage, Ryan hit him, and the short running back played big. He broke a tackle, and used all of his blockers to squeeze every inch out of the play.
The second play he ran a route into the flat. On that play, Rodgers was the first receiver Ryan looked to. If he wasn’t completely covered, Ryan was going to hit him. He was open, and Rodgers got the catch. The biggest thing was what he did with the ball in his hands. He looked to be going for a gain of maybe two or three, but right as the defensive back was about to make the tackle, Rodgers stopped on a time, cut back to the inside, and started up the field. A gain of three that would have brought up a 4th down and a long field goal became a first down. Really huge play in a critical situation that allowed the Falcons to add a little insurance to their lead. Without that extra field goal, the Cowboys’ goal becomes much more doable.
Rodgers isn’t the fastest guy on the field. He doesn’t run over linebackers. But he’s smart, he’s shifty, he has excellent hands, he runs strong, and he always seems to execute exactly what the Falcons need, especially if they need a short gain in the passing game from a checkdown.
I don’t know who watched the New England Patriots during their record setting 2007 season, but they had a running back named Kevin Faulk. Faulk wasn’t super fast, wasn’t outstanding running between the tackles, and was pretty short guy. But he had excellent hands, was smart, and always on the same page with Tom Brady. He made one heck of a living being a checkdown back for Brady. I can’t even describe how many first downs he got for those Patriots. Jacquizz Rodgers reminds me of that type of guy. All of the other skill position players get a lot of glory, and a lot of attention from media and defenses. But the one guy who is completely forgotten can still beat you for a first down or even more. I think Matt Ryan has found a versatile checkdown/third-down style back that he can rely on for years to come.