17

July

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

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.

2

June

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

I had an idea for a new Packers offseason gameshow while driving home from work today.

The first nine years of my adult life I had a job where I took a city bus to work. It was nice to not burn gas and spend half my salary on parking, but I always had to stay alert so I wouldn’t get stabbed. There are some, ahem, interesting people that rode the city bus on my route.

Now I have a job where I drive 30 minutes to work, in my own car. Yes, I’m burning gas (free parking, thankfully), but I don’t have to worry about getting stabbed. This frees up my brain and allows me to think of all kinds of silly things, like my idea for a Packers offseason gameshow.

I’ve already filmed the pilot episode, and am ready to share the transcript with all of you today. I brought back the ghost of Richard Dawson to host my show, mainly because I crack up whenever I see old Family Feud episodes when Dawson tries to make out with all the female contestants.

The name of the show is Will Johnny Jolly Play for the Packers Before…

Enjoy.

Richard Dawson: Welcome ladies and gentlemen to everyone’s favorite new favorite game show! The object of the game is to guess if Johnny Jolly will play a regular season snap for the Packers before another player currently on the Packers roster. It sounds confusing, but it’s not.

Even people who read Packers blogs should be able to understand it and play along at home. Let’s get started.

Female Contestant No. 1: I’m ready, Richard.

(Dawson leans in and gets a smooch)

Dawson: Will Johnny Jolly play a regular season snap for the Packers before running back James Starks?

Female Contestant No. 1: Oh, that’s a tough one. I wish Jolly participated in OTAs this week so we at least knew what kind of shape he’s in. But the injury-prone Starks could be on the chopping block with with Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin on the team. I’m going to say yes, Jolly will play for the Packers before Starks because Starks won’t make the team.

Dawson: That’s a logical answer. Time will tell if you’re right. And if you are right, you win an even longer kiss from me!

9

April

2013 Packers Position Group Analysis: Quarterback

Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers

Thanks to Aaron Rodgers, and the guidance of Mike McCarthy, the Packers are set at QB.

Packers quarterbacks:  That Aaron Rodgers guy is pretty good. Should he ever get hurt for an extended stretch (God forbid), things could go south in a hurry. Most teams are in the same boat as the Packers when it comes to quarterback. If the starter gets hurt, they’re screwed. Fans like to get all worked up over the backup quarterback. “Bring in a good backup,” they yell. “I want someone with experience,” they cry. Well, if the backup QB was good, he probably wouldn’t be a backup in the first place. And bringing in a veteran? I’ll take a low-cost young guy with a high ceiling over someone with experience who is overpriced, washed up, and probably no good, anyway.

Where are we now:

Here are the current suspects;

Aaron Rodgers (1st round)
Graham Harrell (7th round)
B.J. Coleman (7th round)

Listen to expanded coverage of this topic using the player below or download the podcast from the Packers Talk Radio Network on Itunes.

Listen to internet radio with Packers Talk Radio Network on Blog Talk Radio

Aaron Rodgers: The most physically gifted quarterback in the game. By now, we all know what Rodgers is good at. If we wanted him to be even better, I suppose we could point to his tendency to hold the ball and ignore underneath receivers. Sometimes it feels like Rodgers is almost too talented for his own good. He’s always trying to wriggle around the pocket and keep his eyes downfield, hoping a receiver comes open deep for a bomb. Sometimes you want to shake Rodgers and tell him that there’s nothing wrong with a “normal” five-yard pass every now and then. That’s getting really nit-picky, though. It’s not like Rodgers never throws underneath and always holds the ball too long.

Graham Harrell: Is Harrell the young QB who can be developed into something useful that I was talking about in the introduction? It didn’t look like it in 2012. Harrell’s arm strength is below average and he looks clumsy. But he’s still young. Real young. Matt Flynn didn’t look like much, either, at first. Don’t count out Mike McCarthy’s ability to make a bad young QB into a useful young QB. I wonder how long of a leash Harrell has. If he doesn’t show significant improvement over the summer and in training camp, do the Packers go with B.J. Coleman, or take another flyer on a QB late in the draft?

25

February

Packers Graham Harrell: 2012 Player Evaluation and Report Card

Graham Harrell

Graham Harrell

1) Introduction: Was Harrell’s 2012 season the best ever by a backup quarterback? The second-year player from Texas Tech held the clipboard with perfect form. His posture and facial gestures while watching games from the sideline was second to none. His bored-to cup-to pour time — aka the amount of time it takes Harrell to snap out of staring straight ahead and being bored, sprint to the water cooler, grab a cup, fill it, and deliver it to Aaron Rodgers without spilling — was the best in league history. I can think of no other quarterback that is better suited to back up Rodgers than Mr. Graham Harrell.

2) Profile:

Graham “Mr. Wonderful” Harrell

  • Age: Ageless
  • Born: to play backup quarterback
  • Height: He’s bigger than the game
  • Weight: Harrell doesn’t wait for anything or anybody
  • College: School of Hard Knocks
  • Rookie Year: Doesn’t matter. Harrell has played like a veteran ever since setting foot on the field
  • NFL Experience: Watching Harrell play is an experience we all should cherish.

Career Stats and more:

3) Expectations coming into the season: Stay the hell off the field. The Packers kept extra beer in the coolers at Lambeau just in case Harrell ever had to enter a game. It is unclear whether the beer was intended to distract the fans from Harrell actually being in the game, or to calm the nerves of the Packers coaching staff who had to try and make sure Harrell didn’t injure any teammate by hitting them in the nuts with an errant pass.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Starr’s QB sneak in the Ice Bowl, Favre sprinting down the field after a TD with his helmet off in the Super Bowl, Kevin Greene telling Clay Matthews that “it’s time,” Harrell tripping over himself and fumbling at the 1-yard line after he entered the Saints game for an injured Aaron Rodgers. These are the greatest moments in Packers’ history (in no particular order).

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Being from Brownwood, Texas, I bet Harrell grills a mean steak. The offensive linemen probably appreciate that. I bet McCarthy does, too.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Harrell did just as good of a job tackling Colin Kaepernick as the entire Packers defense.

Season Report Card:

(A+) Level of expectations met during the season (Harrell exceeded my wildest dreams)

28

December

Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 16 vs. Tennessee Titans

My, where should we go for Hobbjective analysis this week?  I mean the entire game was essentially a highlight reel for the Packers, and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure how accurate much of the second half is in terms of execution because it’s pretty obvious that the Titans have stopped trying at some point and just want to go home.

One play that I think hasn’t gotten as much attention as perhaps is warranted is Ryan Grant’s first TD in the 4th quarter.  The reason why I say this is because it’s one occasion where the Titans should be 90% sure that it’s going to be a run but they still manage to get blocked out of the play.

The Situation: The blowout is almost over at 41 to 0 and the Packers just need to burn 12 minutes as the Titans stopped trying back in the 2nd quarter.  To make matters worse, WR Jeremy Ross (he of the “punt, pass and puke” play from last week) rips off a 58 yard return subbing in for an injured Randall Cobb.  The Packers start the play off at the 7 yard line.

The Formation: The Packers are in a “jumbo” 1-2-2 formation (1WR-2TE-2RB) where OG Greg Van Roten (64) is eligible and has lined up as a tight end inline with the right tackle.  Offset to the right of OB Van Roten is TE DJ Williams (84), one of their better run blocking tight ends.  RB Ryan Grant (25) is lined up 7 yards behind QB Graham Harrell (6) with FB John Kuhn (30) lined up directly behind the right tackle.  WR James Jones (89) is the lone receiver split out wide left and isn’t in the screen cap, and for all intents and purposes for this play is irrelevant.  On the offensive line, a further permutation has emerged with LT Marshall Newhouse (74), LG TJ Lang (70), Evan Dietrich-Smith (62), RG Josh Sitton (71) and RT Don Barclay (67) going from left to right.

30

November

Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 11 at New York Giants

So in an effort to forget about the Packers dismal showing against the Giants, I instead decided to analyze something completely different, namely the first and only pass that one Graham Harrell has thrown in the National Football League.  Some of you might know but Harrell was the only backup quarterback in the NFL who had never thrown a pass in a game (though it has to be said that Saint’s backup quarterback Chase Daniel had one pass under his name).  Also throw in Harrell’s disastrous first outing where he fumbled a handoff to running back Cedric Benson in the red zone that resulted in a touchdown for ironically the Saints as well.

The situation: The Packers aren’t doing too well, down 38 to 10 with only a couple minutes left in the game.  Head coach Mike McCarthy has already thrown in the towel by pulling out starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers and has inserted his back up Graham Harrell.  After a slew of running plays, McCarthy finally gives Harrell the green light to chuck the ball.

The formation: The Packers are in a 2-1-2 personel (2WR-1TE-2RB) in a classic I-formation with WR James Jones (89) split out wide to the left, WR Jordy Nelson (87)  split out to the right and TE Tom Crabtree (83) inline with the right tackle.  In the backfield, FB John Kuhn (30) is lined 5 yards directly behind the ball with RB James Starks (44) directly behind FB Kuhn.  Under center is QB Graham Harrell (6), while the offensive line is composed of LT Marshall Newhouse (74), LG Evan Dietrich-Smith (62), C Jeff Saturday (63), RG Josh Sitton (71) and RT TJ Lang (70).

The Snap: QB Harrell play fakes the handoff to Starks while FB Kuhn initially goes behind the right tackle.  After the fake, Starks shifts to his left to help out the LT while FB Kuhn goes to help out the right tackle and TE Crabtree, who has stayed behind to block.  Both WR Jones and WR Nelson both run fade routes.

First read: QB Harrell’s first read immediately after the play fake is to WR Jones to his left.

Second read: QB Harrell decides against throwing to WR Jones resets, and shifts over to his right, looking at WR Nelson.

3

October

Packers Stock Report: Breathing a Sigh of Relief Edition

Jeff Triplette

Jeff Triplette proves he’s worse than a replacement ref by signaling Saints ball after an obvious Darren Sproles fumble on a kickoff return in the fourth quarter.

Whew. Glad the Packers escaped that one a winner.

Normally if a Packers’ opponent is flagged for holding on the go-ahead fourth-quarter field goal minutes after a star running back drops an easy third-down catch, the Packers should consider themselves lucky for winning.

Not the case this week. The real refs blew a couple more calls on Sunday, and the Saints late misfortune was actually some long overdue breaks for the green and gold.

Also, one more note about that holding call: Don’t forget that the refs had called holding on two previous extra points, one against the Packers and one against the Saints. For some reason, they were looking for holding on kicks on Sunday and actually calling it.

I don’t buy the make-up call argument at all, so if someone tells you that was a makeup call just go Cutler on them and walk away.

Rising

James Jones
What a day for Jones. He intercepts a touchdown pass intended for Jermichael Finley (more receivers should try this given Finley’s inability to catch the ball) catches another touchdown that was actually intended for him, and ices the game with an amazing catch while getting taken to the ground by the defender. Jordy Nelson is showing signs of life, but Jones has been the Packers best receiver through four games.

(One more note on Jones: I was at the game on Sunday and I don’t think people appreciate how great that final catch was. Fans were too busy yelling at the refs to make sure the interference got called that they didn’t notice Jones actually catching the ball. Take the time to watch that catch again on replay if you can.)

Randall Cobb
I couldn’t figure out why Cobb didn’t play more against the Seahawks. I think McCarthy said something about matchups, but that’s nonsense. Cobb is good enough to play regardless of matchups. If Cobb continues improving, he might end up looking a lot like Darren Sproles, the Saints RB/WR/KR that is impossible to stop if given a little room to operate.