Wink Martindale won’t be getting a pet snake anytime soon.
The Giants’ defense coordinator doesn’t trust them. Just as he doesn’t trust numbers — like a career-low 7.2 yards per completion — that suggest Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is less dangerous than ever in his first season without a favorite target for Davante Adams.
“It’s like owning a python and saying, ‘Don’t worry, it doesn’t bite,'” Martindale said. “Aaron Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers. For me there is no difference. I think it is as effective today as it was 5-6 years ago. He plays at the highest level.”
Rodgers has the lowest interception rate (1.3 percent) and seventh-highest touchdown rate (6.3 percent) of all time among quarterbacks with at least 1,500 career attempts. But the Packers’ road to a 3-1 start includes surviving an unusually high seven turnovers and No. 21 in scoring offense (18.8 points per game).
After trading Adams, Rodgers throws in at rookies Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson, newcomer Sammy Watkins, Allen Lazard and an old reliable Randall Cobb. He called out the young receivers for too many drops during training camp — and the answer is a group ranked No. 2 in the NFL in yards after catch.
“I have heard of that [Rodgers and the Packers] since I was a Lil Wayne fan as a kid,” said slot cornerback Darnay Holmes, referring to the rapper and Packers superfan. “You look forward to competing against the guys that have them. The recipients are smart technicians.”
No, the Giants don’t buy anything over a struggling Packers offense as long as Rodgers throws the ball.
“It’s really hard to read,” said safety Xavier McKinney. “Obviously he saw everything in the game. That always makes it difficult when you’re playing Hall of Famers. You have to stay true to yourself and try to make a few plays.”
If the Giants stay too true to Martindale’s identity, there could be a mismatch. They lead the NFL by blitzing 45.3 percent of defensive snaps, but Rodgers has been a notorious blitzer with 52 touchdowns and six interceptions when hitting five or more rushers since 2018.
When the Buccaneers blitzed him on 41.7 percent of his dropbacks in Week 2, he was taking six hits, completing 77.1 percent of his passes and having a 103.9 quarterback rating. In the first three games of the season, Rodgers threw a pass on target (instead of a sack, a scramble, a dump, or an aborted pass) in 100 percent of the snaps where he was blitzed, according to Pro Football Focus. .
“We played him differently every time,” Martindale said, referring to his three matchups against Rodgers when he was an assistant coach with the Ravens. “The way of attacking him changes from year to year [with] who he has with him. What sets him apart…is just the great football mind he has. He puts them in the right running game, he provides the right protection, he knows the pressure is coming.
As if that wasn’t challenge enough, Rodgers has the unique ability of a hard counter known for sidetracking players and getting free spins.
“We practice hard counting every week and the signs of when it might be coming, but he’s one of the best at it,” said defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence. “It’s just about being disciplined and watching the ball and listening to some of the things that are telling you something.”
Former Giants safety man Logan Ryan always viewed his job as a one-on-one against the quarterback. McKinney doesn’t quite see it that way now because it would be a lot to put a young player in the newly launched secondary school.
“We’re working as a unit, and together we’re going to try to mess with his head a bit,” McKinney said. “We have a lot of smart playmakers who can play in different places without making mental mistakes and covering things up. That was our strongest point.”
When the strength-versus-strength chess game is over, Martindale might meet “pain in the butt” Rodgers somewhere else for the last laugh.
“When I’m retired and sitting on a golf cart somewhere in Florida and hitting a golf ball,” Martindale quipped, “I hope he’s in front of me in the foursome. And I’m going to hit him with a golf ball.”