In Aaron Rodgers’ eyes, the reason the Jets’ offense functioned better in its second joint practice than its first had nothing to do with changes to the opponent, the weather or the play calls.
Quite simply, receiver Garrett Wilson practiced Wednesday against the Buccaneers after he did not practice last week against the Panthers.
Wilson getting open quickly saved the offensive line from a worse day than it had.
“No. 17 being out there just changes the dynamics of the whole thing because he’s so special,” Rodgers said. “The talent is really impressive. He makes difficult things look easy.”
Rodgers and Wilson connected four times during team drills, twice more during 7-on-7 and once during the two-minute drill, furthering what has a chance to rival any connection short of the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes-Travis Kelce as the best in the NFL.
“He throws it to a place I didn’t know I wanted it to be at,” Wilson said, “but that’s where it needed to be at — and it was open.”
Wilson had 83 catches for 1,103 yards and four touchdowns last season as the Offensive Rookie of the Year, while playing with four different quarterbacks.
If he stays healthy, he could be elevated into the conversation with Justin Jefferson, Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams and Ja’Marr Chase as the NFL’s best receivers by season’s end.
In fact, Rodgers already is affording Wilson the treatment that he reserved for Adams when they were Packers teammates.
“I told him I used to have a rule where I’d give Davante a little extra tick [before throwing],” Rodgers said, “because I knew if I did that, he was going to get open because he is really difficult to cover. I have to give that to Garrett, too, because sometimes you give him just a little extra tick — where you’re sitting on him — he’s going to be really open. That’s what he’s earned by his performance in camp.”
And in limited time, no less. Wilson returned to individual drills on Aug. 10, after he was held out of practices with an ankle injury.
“It was like the longest two weeks of my life,” Wilson said. “I tried to have the right approach and see the game from a different lens. Those first five days where I was strictly off my feet a lot, I just wanted to watch, see the operation and see how Aaron went about things with the receiver group. I feel like it was beneficial for me.”
Rodgers’ 65.3 career completion percentage is tied with Peyton Manning’s for sixth-best among quarterbacks who have played at least 10 seasons, and he has the lowest career interception rate (1.4 per 100 passes) in NFL history.
So, yes, he can make Wilson better with his accurate ball placement, whether into a tight spot or just enough out in front to allow for the spin moves, jukes and burners that make him a yards-after-catch threat.
“Every time I get a rep with him, it’s really valuable and always a learning experience,” Wilson said. “He sees football how I see it, where I’m open right now, he’s going to throw it right now. You don’t have to get through your whole route. It’s honestly rare, but as far as pick-up ball and how I grew up playing, that’s how it should be, to me.”
Rodgers and Wilson already sit next to each other in offensive meetings.
The next step in building rapport is sharpening their non-verbal cues so Wilson understands the meaning of a Rodgers head nod.
“We haven’t made the same mistake twice,” Rodgers said. “There is a lot of conversation around a lot of the ideas that we both have. He’s a creative guy as well, and he’s got a lot of ideas about certain ways to run routes.”
Creativity is important. Sometimes simple is better.
“He makes it easy for me, like, ‘Oh, the ball is right here,’ ” Wilson said, pointing to his chest. “I do a release and all of a sudden it’s like, ‘I’m going to catch that one. It’s right on me so I have to catch it.’ ”
Again and again and again.
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