GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Quarterback Aaron Rodgers wasn't expected to play in the Green Bay Packers' preseason game at Washington on Saturday. However, Rodgers was a surprise starter, played one series and looked to be in midseason form.
Rodgers led a 15-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that he capped with a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Martellus Bennett.
"I was looking for the offense to get off to a good start, get that first drive together," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after Green Bay's 21-17 win over the Redskins. "I thought our run-pass mix was excellent. Aaron played extremely well. We hit the target.
"That's why you wait the course of the week. There's different factors that go into how much you want each guy to play, and for the most part, I thought we came close to the play-time opportunities for all of our players."
Last year, Rodgers played just two series and 26 total snaps in the preseason -- all of which came in the third game. Rodgers then got off to the slowest start of his career.
It appears Rodgers will play more this August than a year ago.
One reason is Rodgers and Bennett -- an unrestricted free agent acquisition from the New England Patriots -- need to get in sync. On the touchdown pass, the 6-foot-6 Bennett lined up on 6-1 linebacker Zach Brown, and Rodgers took advantage of the mismatch.
"Yeah, it was good," Rodgers said of the touchdown throw. "I threw it a little low. He's been calling for it up high, but he had a great route. He had a nice release off the ball and had a lot of separation. I was thinking more jump ball before the snap -- I watched the replay and I probably could have put it to the corner on that.
"We'll just keep working on it. We've been working in practice inside on some of that stuff. He did a good job for us. He's going to be a big part of our offense."
Rodgers finished the night 6 of 8 for 37 yards and had a handful of difference-making plays. He caught the Redskins with 12 men on the field on a third-and-5 play to keep one drive alive. Later, Rodgers scrambled for 13 yards on a third-and-6.
"I think it's going to be a work in progress as we look to find our identity and what we want to do," Rodgers said of the offense. "We started with some two-tight-end stuff and got to some sub stuff pretty quick. No, it's going to be a work in progress. It was a good drive for us. We take some positives from it, but it's going to take more than one drive."
That's for sure. Still, McCarthy loved what he saw from Rodgers and a first-string offense most believe will be one of the NFL's best this season.
"He's a leader. He's a leader of your football team, he's a leader of your offense, he's the quarterback position," McCarthy said of Rodgers. "Everything that we do from an offensive perspective goes through the quarterback position. The system is designed on making the quarterback successful, starting with running the football
"But (Rodgers) gets the whole thing started. The ability to play with that tempo, to play a 15-, 16-play drive, to stress not only the defense but to stress yourselves, the conditioning and all of those things. That's clearly a reflection of Aaron being in the game."