GREEN BAY—The backup quarterback competition took center stage for the Packers at Ray Nitschke Field on Tuesday with Aaron Rodgers missing practice due to an illness.
Graham Harrell took the majority of the snaps with the No. 1 offense, while Vince Young rotated in for a few plays here and there. Both also took snaps with the second unit as well.
The contenders for the No. 2 QB job are at vastly different stages in their knowledge of the offense, with Harrell much further ahead and the clear leader to become Rodgers’ top backup at this point. Friday night’s preseason game vs. Seattle likely will determine whether Harrell locks down the job or Young significantly closes the gap.
“There were some rough plays there,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said in generally evaluating the quarterbacks Tuesday, adding that he expects Rodgers to return to practice on Wednesday. “But that’s why we watch the tape. I’m curious to watch it.”
As has been the case throughout camp, Harrell and Young had their ups and downs.
Harrell had a pass deflected by linebacker Sam Barrington and intercepted by cornerback Jarrett Bush early on in practice, but later he looked sharp in throwing slants to receivers James Jones and Myles White and in hitting tight end Jermichael Finley on a crossing route.
In the final no-huddle period of practice, Harrell took all the snaps with the ones and converted a fourth down and third down with passes to receiver Jarrett Boykin, but he slightly overthrew receiver Tyrone Walker deep along the sideline on what could have been a big play.
“It’s always good to get in there with those guys. I missed some balls today,” said Harrell, who recovered from a rough preseason opener that included an interception and a fumble. He put together a much cleaner performance last week (5-of-10, 44 yards) that would have been better if not for a couple of catchable throws that fell incomplete.
“The first game, I think I did some things well, but a couple of bad mistakes made the performance not feel as good. I think in St. Louis I cut out the big mistakes and that was huge.”
Young hasn’t made any damaging errors in his two brief preseason outings, though he did miss White on a seam route in St. Louis that could have been a 29-yard TD.
On Tuesday, Young threw a nice fade to tight end Brandon Bostick for a TD during red-zone work, and he also fit a tight throw in to receiver Alex Gillett on an out route to the sideline.
Now in his third week with the Packers, Young’s timing is coming along, and he said he’s still trying to shake some old habits. Even just a few snaps with the first unit are beneficial in that regard.
“It helps you definitely to learn,” Young said. “When you get in the film room, you learn from the mistakes you did make, so if you get that play again, know where to go with your eyes.”
The “eyes” have to do with the progressions from the primary receiver to the secondary target and so on. Those progressions are different from what Young is used to, and the footwork is an adjustment as well.
“I’m getting there,” he said. “One day at a time still. I know there’s a lot with this offense.”
On defense, there’s plenty for the Packers to prepare for in Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, whose running ability should help Green Bay get ready for their first two regular-season opponents, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick and Washington’s Robert Griffin III.
“Russell is mobile; he can throw on the run. I think he sees the field very well,” McCarthy said. “I think he’s got a lot bigger arm than people give him credit for. He can make all the throws. He’s a dynamic player. It’ll be a great test for us and definitely get us ready for Week 1.”
Wilson certainly didn’t light up the Packers last year in Week 3, completing less than 50 percent of his passes (10 of 21) and compiling exactly half of his 130 passing yards on his two TD passes, a 41-yarder and the 24-yard “Fail Mary,” both to receiver Golden Tate.
McCarthy felt Wilson came into his own the second half of last season and, as a result, the Seahawks “took off.” Wilson was 8-of-12 passing for 127 yards and two TDs (141.3 rating) in Seattle’s preseason blowout of Denver last week.
“It’ll be a great look for us, getting familiar with running quarterbacks, somebody that likes to move, throw on the run,” safety M.D. Jennings said. “It will be a great challenge for us going into the regular season, and I think we can get better from it.” Additional coverage - Aug. 20