Ten Packers Training Camp Topics: #8 — Backup QB Competition?

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Graham Harrell has played in Green Bay's system longer than B.J. Coleman. But will Coleman's physical tools win him the backup quarterback job?
Graham Harrell has played in Green Bay’s system longer than B.J. Coleman. But will Coleman’s physical tools win him the backup quarterback job?

Aaron Rodgers is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL. And as long as he’s under center in Green Bay, the Packers will be in good shape at football’s most important position.

But behind Rodgers, incumbent Graham Harrell and 2011 seventh-round pick B.J. Coleman leave the team with a training-camp battle between a pair of unknowns.

Harrell has been in the system longer than Coleman, but the duo has combined to attempt just four regular-season passes.

Between garbage time and briefly filling in for a shaken-up Aaron Rodgers, Packers quarterback Graham Harrell played all of 32 snaps in 2012. But everyone remembers one of those 32 plays in particular.

On the first play after Rodgers was poked in the eye by Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins, the Packers faced a first-and-goal on the Saints’ two yard-line. Harrell came in for one play–a handoff to Cedric Benson.

But in the process of handing the ball off, Harrell tripped on Jeff Saturday’s foot and fumbled. The Saints recovered, making an already close game even more nerve-racking for Packers fans.

But despite the generally low perception of Harrell, there’s been some good Graham the past two preseasons.

Last summer in the preseason finale against Kansas City, Harrell posted a perfect passer rating of 158.3. He completed 13 of 15 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns without turning the ball over.

In Week 2 of the 2011 preseason, Harrell completed seven of nine passes for 81 yards and a touchdown–good for a 141.2 passer rating.

After losing Matt Flynn as an unrestricted free agent last summer, the Packers backup quarterback position has been a question mark. They still had Harrell but decided to spend a seventh-round pick on B.J. Coleman in hopes of adding some competition at the position.

Coleman was never a serious threat to Harrell for the backup spot a year ago, but this summer will be different.

Question: Will Graham Harrell back up Aaron Rodgers, or will B.J. Coleman?

Physically, Coleman (6-3 231) has the edge, but another year within the Packers system may be exactly what Harrell needed to be a solid NFL backup.

Under Mike McCarthy, a declining Brett Favre had one of the best seasons of his career, Rodgers has risen to the top tier of NFL quarterbacks and Matt Flynn earned $10 million guaranteed after making just two starts in Green Bay.

It will be interesting to see how Coleman responds to his first year under McCarthy’s tutelage.

Best guess: Harrell

The Packers will want to get a close look at both Harrell and Coleman in the preseason, so it’s tough to envision a scenario in which Coleman attempts just 18 passes–as he did last summer. The two will compete throughout training camp and the preseaso,n and the loser of the competition may be on his way out.

After this summer, the Packers may decide they’ve seen all they can see from Harrell. If he doesn’t show improvement after his fourth preseason in Green Bay, the Packers could decide to let go and move on.

Harrell has a lot to prove this summer, and I think he’ll be a pleasant training-camp surprise.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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  • Dobber

    The durability of ARod makes this battle seem unimportant, but without someone backing him up who can play capably in the event of a significant injury, the Packers season is always teetering on the brink of disaster.

  • Bearmeat

    Fact: If Arod goes out for more than 6 games, this team is not making the playoffs.

  • Tarynfor12

    “Harrell has a lot to prove this summer, and I think he’ll be a pleasant training-camp surprise.”

    I have supported Harrell and will for the last time defend him by placing total blame on the OL for that fumbled hand-off.

    With that,extending Harrell is unlikely and possibly losing Coleman from the PS would be the loss that hurts more longer term.I would sense that TT and MM are banking on Coleman to make the moving of Harrell a tad easier and hopefully in a trade of some sort than an outright release.

  • Barutan Seijin

    For those of us who remember Harrell’s lackluster pre-season performances, the fumbled handoff summed up his career & potential. That play says he’s the guy who doesn’t have ‘it’, to say nothing of the awareness, agility & improv ability that decent backup qbs have. It’s partly a matter of not having the physical tools. Harrell’s arm doesn’t open a lot of options for him. At the same time, he’s not really a scrambler, either.

    Harrell is 28. At this point, it’s probably safe to say that he’s at his career peak: making the team and a few completions in garbage time. Time to move on.

  • Stroh

    Harrell is at best a career backup w very limited to no upside. From what I’ve read Coleman has natural leadership ability, guys follow him. He also clearly has far more talent. Coleman will win the job! He would not make it to ghe PS again. Dump Harrell!

  • P.R.

    Might think I’m dumb but take the two back ups and trade for Tim Tebow, he’s more like Rodgers then you think, as far as QB’s.

    • Stroh

      LMAO. Nkt a chance. . Teblow sucks!

  • Jeff Lawver

    Man am I tired of hearing about Tebow. He is not anything more than a stopgap at the QB position.No more concussions for Rogers,please! We’ll never see another like him in. Not in Green Bay anyway.