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Battle at backup quarterback could be looming

Posted Feb 8, 2013

In-his-prime Aaron Rodgers keeps Packers solid at football’s No. 1 position


Over the next couple of weeks, packers.com will be examining the Packers’ roster, position by position. In the first installment, we look at the quarterbacks.

GREEN BAY—Barring injury or the completely unforeseen, the Packers won’t be staging a training camp battle to determine a starting quarterback for a long, long time.

There very well could be a competition for the backup spot behind Aaron Rodgers in 2013, though.

Current backup Graham Harrell has come a long way since arriving in the spring of 2010, 18 months removed from a record-setting college career at Texas Tech. He has soaked up every phase of Mike McCarthy’s quarterback school, and two-plus years of diligent work finally came together in the 2012 preseason finale, when he shined.

In an efficient, high-pressure performance he needed to quell the critics, Harrell completed 13 of 15 passes for 223 yards and two TDs – for a perfect 158.3 passer rating – to solidify his No. 2 spot.

This year, the Packers will be looking for the same type of progression from B.J. Coleman, a seventh-round pick last year who spent his rookie season on the practice squad.

Coleman looked out of his league at times during spring workouts following last year’s draft, but McCarthy, Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements and Quarterbacks Coach Ben McAdoo worked their magic and by the end of training camp, Coleman was confidently leading the two-minute drill. His accuracy had improved considerably, and now he gets a full offseason in McCarthy’s QB school, too.

Any number of scenarios could develop.

Harrell could continue his ascent, keep his distance from the competition and await a chance for when it really counts. More preseason outings like the ’12 finale will help fans forget Harrell’s regular-season debut, when an unfortunate stumble over center Jeff Saturday’s foot led to a fumbled handoff exchange at the goal line, nearly costing the Packers a critical Week 4 game against the Saints.

Or Coleman could close the gap, earn a bigger opportunity in the preseason and develop into the Packers’ next Matt Flynn, who was also a seventh-round pick. With Harrell the higher priority last summer, Coleman attempted only 18 passes in four preseason games, but he’s almost certain to show a stronger command of the offense in year two.

Or – and this is nothing but a wait-and-see proposition – the Packers could acquire more talent at the position in this offseason. Coleman was the first quarterback the Packers drafted since Flynn, in 2008, so spending an April pick on another developmental prospect is entirely possible.

The options are plentiful, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. What couldn’t be better for the Packers is an in-his-prime Rodgers continuing his top-flight play.

In 2012, Rodgers didn’t have the off-the-charts numbers that won him the 2011 MVP, but he still led the league in passer rating (108.0) and finished second in TD passes (39), while his eight interceptions were tied for second fewest among full-time starters.

Provided he stays healthy – and reducing the 51 sacks he absorbed would help in that regard – there’s no reason to believe Rodgers’ play will fall off as he turns 30 next season. The Packers have, and will continue to have, one of the league’s best quarterbacks.

The only question is whether he can match or surpass what he did in 2011, when he put together one of the greatest seasons an NFL quarterback has ever played. Awaiting the answer is the fun part.

 
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