Jacquizz Rodgers Could Really Help Jay Cutler


Dec 28, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Jacquizz Rodgers (32) runs against the Carolina Panthers during the second quarter at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears made a relatively mundane free agent signing of running back Jacquizz Rodgers earlier this offseason that could really benefit quarterback Jay Cutler.  According to ProFootball Focus, Rodgers should help the Bears pass protection:

The Bears inked Rodgers on March 31st after the initial free agent market cooled.  The 25-year old running back spent the first four years of his career as a backup for the Atlanta Falcons.  He’s a bit of a role player, notching 87 touches on 360 snaps in the Falcons offense last season compared to 368 touches over 1000 snaps for workhorse running back Matt Forte with the Bears last season.  At the time of the signing, NFL.com noted that ‘Quizz could impact Forte’s playing time:

"In Chicago, Rodgers will provide depth to a running back group that includes starter Matt Forte and reserve Ka’Deem Carey. Forte’s limitations as a pass blocker could lead to some steady playing time for Rodgers, a strong blocker and receiver."

Wait a second, I thought to myself after I read that last paragraph.  Forte’s limitations as a pass blocker?  From my vantage point, Forte is a pretty complete running back, a 3-down player.  But looking into the stats was eye-opening.  Forte graded out as a -4.9 blocker according to PFF’s metrics while Rodgers graded out as a league best +6.9 blocker.

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I always take PFF’s grades with a grain of salt, but it’s telling nonetheless.  Forte might be a 3-down back more because he’s such a threat as a pass catcher than as an effective blocker.  Rodgers’ presence should help bolster a Bears pass blocking that struggled to keep Cutler clean last season.  Cutler was sacked 38 times last season compared to 19 the year before.

Rodgers will have some stiff competition for playing time in a crowded Bears backfield.  Besides the presumed starter Matt Forte, Rodgers will have to beat out rookie Jeremy Langford, second year runner Ka’Deem Carey, veteran free agent Daniel Thomas and second year runner and special teamer Senorise Perry.  Provided he can earn a roster spot, Rodgers should take some snaps for Forte, who’s had a disproportionate number of carriers over his Bears career.  I can see him as the Bears third down back in an Adam Gase offense that has employed more of a running back by committee approach.

The Bears backup running back battle ought to be an interesting one to follow when camp opens in Bourbonnais in just 3 weeks.

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