On the rise
This is true in part because he can’t possibly be worse than he was in those aforementioned first three exhibition games last summer, when he completed just 32 of 63 passes for 261 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions for a passer rating of 53.7. While he was certainly playing behind a shaky offensive line and with inconsistent wide receivers, such is life for a backup. Harrell did rise to the occasion in the preseason finale against Kansas City, though, achieving the maximum passer rating possible of 158.3 by completing 13 of 15 passes for 223 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. His two incompletions were an intentional throw-away after being flushed from the pocket, and an on-target deep pass down the left sideline that wide receiver Tori Gurley dropped. If he could be somewhere in between pathetic and perfect this preseason, it’d go a long way toward proving that he’s deserving of his gig.
Player to watch
When the season ended, even McAdoo himself had to confess that he wasn’t sure what he had in Coleman, a seventh-round pick who spent the entire year on the practice squad. Now, with a quarterback school, the rookie orientation camp (for which he was eligible because he never suited up in 2012), organized team activities and minicamp, Coleman should be improved. His knowledge of the offense should be light-years better than it was, and he should look more confident in his reads and progressions, instead of running for his life as he did last year in exhibition play. “B.J. has improved tremendously from last year. Fundamentally, he’s come a long way and still has a ways to go,” McAdoo said. “Because in the drill work, he’s a lot better. When you carry it over to the team stuff, (only) some of that carries over. You have to carry everything over into the team drills. He’s getting better at the system, how to protect himself and the reads and the footwork that go along with the pass game, but he still has some work cut out for him. At the same point in time, in training camp, when we go out there and are competing for jobs and not to improve, he’s got a chance. It’s an open competition.”
Realistically, Coleman would have to be a vastly different player to legitimately challenge Harrell for the backup gig, and that just seems unlikely. That said, Harrell knows nothing is guaranteed. Last year, there were reports that the Packers had expressed an interest in then-Cleveland Browns backup Colt McCoy, who’d been demoted after being a starter. Nothing came of that, but Harrell knows that general manager Ted Thompson scours the waiver wire and his free-agent lists for prospects at every position, including quarterback. Meanwhile, Coleman has a little competition of his own to contend with in undrafted rookie free agent Matt Brown. Packers coach Mike McCarthy certainly sounded like he wants four quarterbacks in the rotation when camp opens, and if Brown gets to stick around, perhaps he’ll surprise Coleman and push him for the No. 3 gig.
The reason Rodgers and the Packers offense saw a steady diet of two-high safety looks last season wasn’t solely the lack of a consistent run game. Defenses have figured out that all-out pressuring Rodgers is just plain foolhardy. Thus, they’d rather drop defenders in coverage and hope to fluster Rodgers that way. It’s sound thinking, given Rodgers’ numbers against the blitz. He completed 82 of 127 passes for 1,056 yards with 14 touchdowns and three interceptions (117.4 passer rating) against the blitz last season, and since 2009, no one is better against pressure. During that time span, Rodgers has posted a 115.3 passer rating, averaged 9.61 yards per attempt and thrown 62 passes that gained 25 yards or more against pressure.
“Ultimately it comes down to performance. (Harrell) has a very good grasp of the offense, he's very comfortable, he knows the adjustments, it flows for him. At the end of the day, Graham has to go out and perform. That's something that we go back to last year, he didn't have the greatest training camp, but he finished strong. I look for him to make improvements, I look for B.J. to compete with him. B.J. needs to continue to grow. He's got a lot in front of him and he has a lot of work to do too. Those types of questions will really be answered in the preseason.” – McCarthy, on the backup quarterback situation.
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.