After struggling through June's organized team activity, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has enjoyed an impressive training camp, and he played his best thus far against the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night.
"He did good," Packers head coach Mike Sherman said. "I thought he responded quite well."
Rodgers threw touchdowns to wide receiver Vince Butler against Bills cornerback Lawrence Richardson, wide receiver Craig Bragg versus Bills cornerback Therrian Fontneot, and tight end Tory Humphrey against Bills cornerback Rob Lee.
Toward the end of practice, he found running back Tony Fisher matched up against Wendell Hunter, a rookie linebacker and former University of California-Berkeley teammate, and hit him with a touchdown.
"He had pretty good coverage," Rodgers said. "I threw a pretty good ball."
Such plays seemed unthinkable a month ago.
In the OTA, Rodgers' head swirled as he tried to master the complexities of the Packers' version of the West Coast offense. His confusion with the offense caused him to lose confidence. With his self-assurance in the dumps, he lost his presence behind the center. He rushed his throws, and they sailed on him.
"You see the more comfortable I feel in the pocket," Rodgers said, "the better I play."
In the OTA, he had trouble with his reads and going through his progressions from the hot receiver to the safety valve.
"In minicamp, I didn't know where they were," he said.
He and quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell worked two hours-a-day following the OTA. Rodgers continued the work on his own in his hometown of Chico, Calif.
"I worked real hard after that minicamp to not come out and look like that again," he said.
Bevell focused on improving his timing and foot work, and the rookie has reaped the benefits.
"He's starting to get the ball out on time where he's supposed to go without an extra hitch," Bevell said.
Entering the 2005 draft, the 21-year-old had a reputation as an intelligent quarterback. Indeed he has proven to be a quick study.
"The mistakes I've made in minicamp --I've learned from them and haven't made the same mistakes twice," he said.
Although the Packers coaching staff expressed pleasure with their first-round draft pick, they could have easily landed the quarterback taking snaps on the other side of the field.
Had the Bills not drafted J.P. Losman, known for his strong arm and gunslinging style that bordered on cockiness at Tulane University, with the 22nd pick in the 2004 NFL draft, the Packers may have made him their choice three picks later.
Instead they selected speedy cornerback Ahmad Carroll.
Sherman even traveled to New Orleans to watch Losman work out last year.
"We had a very high interest in him," Sherman said. "I thought he had a good attitude. He's confident and he's a hard worker."
Losman made several nice throws during team and 7-on-7 drills, particularly to rookie wide receiver Roscoe Parrish.
Although training camp has not reached its halfway point, both teams can feel happy with the progress of their young quarterbacks and their respective draft decisions.
Rodgers, however, has kept a level head regarding Thursday's performance, realizing much of his success came against Buffalo's backups.
"You have to keep it in perspective. I'm playing with the twos and threes," he said. "A few years down the road I want to do it against the ones."