PHILADELPHIA — Aaron Rodgers took Doug Pederson’s old job and old locker. The comparison ends there.
Pederson never started a game in seven seasons in Green Bay while serving as Brett Favre’s backup over two stints with the Packers. He was 3-14 as a starter for Philadelphia and Cleveland and threw more interceptions (19) than touchdowns (12) in his career.
Rodgers replaced Pederson as Favre’s backup in 2005 and stood on the sideline for three seasons before becoming the No. 1 quarterback. He has won two NFL MVP awards, one Super Bowl MVP award, and led the Packers to the playoffs each of the past seven seasons.
When Rodgers leads the struggling Packers (4-6) against the Eagles (5-5) and first-year coach Pederson on Monday night, Favre’s former understudies will reunite.
“Obviously he was drafted there after I retired,” Pederson said. “I did invite him to a charity event that I had. He graciously came down and took part in that. Just rubbing shoulders throughout the course of the years, just playing against him or coaching against him, and I feel like I know him, even though we never played together. The Packer connection obviously helps. The fact that he took my locker, there wasn’t much left, so that’s pretty cool.”
Both teams need a win to maintain playoff hopes. The Packers have lost four straight games, while the Eagles are 2-5 since a 3-0 start.
Rodgers hasn’t had a losing record since his first season starting in 2008, but he’s hearing criticism while Green Bay slides backward.
“The quarterback gets so much credit when things go really well and when they don’t, he gets a lot of the blame,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “I think you have to be honest and realistic. We’ve kind of gone through some different variations of offense. … He’s been consistent. He’s gotten us through this storm and I think we’re very, very close to being where we want to be.”
Green Bay struggling on defense: Green Bay’s biggest problem is defense. The Packers have allowed 30 points in each of their last four losses and became the first team in the NFL this season to give up 40 or more points in back-to-back games with their losses to the Titans and Redskins.
Injuries have hurt the Packers on both sides. Running back Eddie Lacy and cornerback Sam Shields are out for the season. Guard T.J. Lang and linebacker Jake Ryan missed last week at Washington. Cornerback Damarious Randall has been out for several games. Running back James Starks was sidelined four games. Several others have been banged-up.
Lacy’s absence has turned the offense into a one-dimensional passing attack.
“Eddie’s a great player,” Rodgers said. “He was really doing some good things for us. It was definitely tough to lose him for the season. When you double that with James being out for a few weeks, definitely took us out of some of the stuff we wanted to do to start the season.”
At least the Packers have Rodgers and a strong set of receivers led by Jordy Nelson. The Eagles can’t rely on rookie Carson Wentz to throw 50 times a game. They are at their best operating a ball-control, balanced offense. Starting running back Ryan Mathews won’t play against the Packers because of a knee injury, so rookie Wendell Smallwood is expected to carry the load along with veteran Darren Sproles.
“I think we all see that when he touches the football, you see the explosiveness,” Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “Can you maintain that explosiveness on your 15th carry, if he ends up with that many carries? So we would anticipate that if he gets called into that action, he would. Then, obviously, the playbook has to be opened up a little bit more.”
The Eagles have been perfect at home, going 4-0 and outscoring opponents 108-38. The Packers are 1-4 on the road.