Jets QB Aaron Rodgers says he’s been working his ‘a– off’ to improve from last year

The 2022 season certainly didn’t go the way Aaron Rodgers expected.

Now it’s a new year and new team for Rodgers as he hopes to put last season behind him in Gang Green’s opener against the Bills on Monday night, which will be his first regular season game since being traded from the Packers last April.

Last year, Rodgers, 39, statistically had arguably the worst season of his career while the Packers finished 8-9 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2018. But the 19-year veteran said he isn’t necessarily looking to prove he is still the same quarterback that won back-to-back NFL MVP Awards in 2020 and 2021.

“Every year, you set personal goals and have an idea of how you would like to play,” Rodgers said. “It doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes, it’s statistically less than what you think, sometimes, it’s way more. It just depends on how the flow of the game and, what happens during red zone stuff and how good you are on situational football.

“But if you’re doing well on third down and the red zone, everything kind of takes care of itself. I do set little personal goals. I don’t share them publicly, but I’m not looking at this like I have to bounce back or anything. I just have to play like I know how to play.

“I’ve been working my a– off for the last six months to try and put a better product out on the field than last year and I expect to.”

During his 2020-21 MVP seasons, Rodgers averaged 4,207 yards, 42.5 touchdowns and 4.5 interceptions for the Packers. In 2022, Rodgers’ number declined. He passed for 3,695 yards, 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

His diminished numbers could’ve been because Rodgers was dealing with both a rib injury and a thumb fracture last season. His skeptics have pointed to Rodgers’ age, as he will be 40 in December.

During his time throughout preseason practices, Rodgers looked every bit of his former MVP self while he dropped several dimes to receivers Garrett Wilson, Allen Lazard and Mecole Hardman on several occasions. But the biggest question about Rodgers and the Jets offense is will they all be on the same page after playing just two preseason series against the Giants.

Throughout training camp, several star players missed significant time due to injuries. That doesn’t include left tackle Duane Brown or running Breece Hall, who was activated from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list more than halfway through camp. Nor does it include Dalvin Cook, who signed with the Jets on August 16.

Thursday was the first of three straight practices for the Jets. They worked without pads due to it being a humid, 93-degree day at Florham Park. Cook said he’s confident on where the Jets offense is heading into the team’s opener against the Bills.

“I’m part of a great group right now,” Cook said. “I’m looking forward to winning a bunch of games with these guys. It has been fun just these few weeks I’ve been here, just being around the guys.

“We know we got a good defense, it will give our offense a chance to do a bunch of numbers. So we just gotta go out there and do what we do.”

Rodgers and the Jets will face a tall task taking on a Bills team that has won the AFC East three years in a row. Buffalo’s defense finished sixth in the NFL in total yards (319.1) and second in points allowed (17.9) in 2022.

However, the Bills defense has been susceptible to giving up a lot of rushing yards in their recent losses. Against the Jets last season, the Bills defense allowed 174 yards on the ground in Gang Green’s 20-17 upset victory last November. Buffalo also gave up 172 yards in its 27-10 AFC Divisional Round loss to Cincinnati last January.

Although many people will want to see Rodgers throw the football up and down the field, the Jets could rely on their running game with Cook, Hall and Michael Carter to guide them to the victory.

“They got a couple of good veteran guys on the backend, the safeties,” Rodgers said. “I’ve played against Jordan [Poyer] a little bit. Played with Micah [Hyde], love Micah, one of the greatest teammates, awesome player.

“[Matt] Milano is an All-Pro player the last few years of his career. Upfront, solid, not just the edge rushers, but the interior guys. The defense plays really well together. Last year in Green Bay, we ran the ball on them pretty well, but we didn’t throw it well.

“The time of possession was huge, but we were down by 17, so it didn’t mean a whole lot. Obviously, they got some talent on the other side of the ball, Josh [Allen] is a phenomenal player. So we will have to keep up with them scoring.”