EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has a transaction suggestion for the Packers.
"I think they should trade him," Zimmer quipped when asked by Twin Cities media members about quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The quarterback has been a proverbial thorn in the side of opponents since taking over as Green Bay's starter in 2008. As a member of the NFC North division, Rodgers has started 17 regular-season games – and won 11 – against the Vikings in that time frame.
"I've been in the NFL 20-some years, and I can't remember a guy that does the things that this guy does," Zimmer said. "Obviously, we've played against [Tom] Brady and Manning, Peyton Manning, other Mannings, all these guys. This guy, when you combine everything – his arm strength, his intelligence, his escape ability, the way he sees things, [is on another level]. I think they should trade him."
Rodgers on Sunday led the Packers to a 35-31 comeback win over the Cowboys.
When asked if he observed "any new wrinkles" by the quarterback on a drive that started with just over one minute left on the clock, Zimmer said it was just Rodgers being Rodgers.
"[They let] him have the ball," Zimmer said. "He's too good at that. He beat Cincinnati with 21 seconds left. He beat Dallas with no time left, basically. If he's got the ball in his hands, then you've got a chance to end up losing the football game. He does what he does, that never has changed."
Here are four other topics Zimmer covered in anticipation of the Vikings-Packers matchup this weekend:
Look back at photos through the years featuring games between the Vikings and Packers.
1. 'He's elusive'
Rodgers is strategic in his approach in finding escape routes and making defenses pay.
"He's elusive," Zimmer said. "He's so smart. He sees where the open space is, he knows what the coverage is. A lot time he's just playing with you as far as where he can go. He knows, 'Hey if I can give them a little extra time, I'm going to get this.' At the end of the game he tells the tackle, 'Hey I'm going to roll out to my left. You pin the guy inside. I'm going to go to my left.' He does that."
Because Rodgers so often finds ways to escape the pocket, Zimmer said the defense in turn needs to be strategic in how it approaches him.
"If you're rushing four guys, there's going to be a spot [open], and even in the past when we've rushed five, they'll bail out. One guy will get a little too nosey, and he'll bail out of there. He's just good," Zimmer said. "He's got a great spin to get out of there when he feels the pressure.
"There's a fine line, you either turn it loose and let it go, and if he gets out, he gets out," Zimmer added. "Or you're careful with him, and then it's going to slow down your pass rush. You've got to kind of pick your poison with everything."
2. Game planning for Rodgers
There's some advantage to playing a team twice each year and having more familiarity with its system and its players.
Regardless, however, Zimmer said that Rodgers requires more time to plan for.
"He can do so many things; you have to be on top of everything that you do. He can get the ball out so fast if you pressure him," Zimmer said. "He sees it, and they've got a good scheme. They do a good job of trying to attack the coverage that you're in. I think he has a lot of flexibility and things that he can change at the line of scrimmage."
He added that Rodgers has a knack for getting opposing linemen to draw a false start penalty.
"He's great on the hard count. He's unbelievable on the hard count," Zimmer said. "He gets guys to jump, and it's a bad deal."
3. New face at RB
While the Vikings are largely familiar with the Packers, one new face on the roster could also pose a challenge.
Rookie running back Aaron Jones has stepped up in the absence of Ty Montgomery, who suffered a rib injury. In the past two games, Jones has rushed for 174 yards on 32 carries and has two touchdowns. He recorded 125 yards against Dallas, averaging 6.6 yards per attempt.
Zimmer said Jones was one of the running backs the Vikings looked at leading up to this year's draft.
"We thought he was good," Zimmer said. "He's got good quickness. He was good coming out of the backfield catching the ball. He was good on the runs, cuts. Yes, that gives another dimension. It's different than when they had [Eddie] Lacy because it's a different style of back, but it helps getting the run game going."
4. Keenum's done 'really nice job' filling in
When asked about the main trait he looks for in a backup quarterback, Zimmer said he thinks it's largely beneficial to have a second-string passer who can step in and play "without a lot of reps in practice."
He added that ball security is a big emphasis, in addition to being a smart player.
"Part of it is, how does he get along with the starter? There's a lot of other factors involved other than just the ability," Zimmer continued. "You'd like to get somebody that's got familiarity with the offense a little bit. Also, that kind of fits in what you're trying to do."
While Vikings quarterback Case Keenum didn't have much familiarity with Minnesota's offense, he did fit a number of the other criteria when he signed as a free agent this spring. Zimmer has been impressed thus far with the four games Keenum has played in place of Kyle Rudolph, who has been dealing with a knee injury.
"He's a smart guy, and he's done a really nice job of coming in," Zimmer said of Keenum. "He's been getting a fair amount of reps. He's done a nice job with the things he's done. He's taken care of the football well."