This is the first in a series of stories that’ll examine the Packers’ roster, position by position, leading up to training camp. The series begins with the quarterbacks.
GREEN BAY – A little less than 20 years ago, a young Packers quarterback named Matt Hasselbeck earned the nickname “Mr. August” for his shining performances in the preseason backing up Brett Favre.
The moniker might resurface in Green Bay in 2016.
This preseason could become the Brett Hundley show, as the second-year QB will be in the spotlight plenty. With five preseason games on the schedule and a polished veteran in front of him in Aaron Rodgers who will only need so many game snaps to get ready, Hundley will get every chance to show that his dynamite rookie preseason in 2015 was no fluke.
He may have difficulty improving statistically on his 129.6 passer rating from last preseason, which ranked second in the NFL. Completing 45 of 65 passes for 630 yards with seven touchdowns and just one interception was off-the-charts good for a rookie fifth-round draft pick.
Even if the numbers don’t get better, though, visible improvement is expected. Quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said this spring that Hundley’s footwork in the West Coast offense is “night and day” better than when he first arrived from UCLA, and he had some impressive days in the June minicamp when Rodgers was among more than a dozen veterans excused from practices.
Rodgers will get his share of snaps in the preseason. Re-establishing a rhythm with star receiver Jordy Nelson, developing a rapport with new tight end Jared Cook, and continuing to get in sync with young pass-catchers Jeff Janis, Jared Abbrederis, Davante Adams and Ty Montgomery are priorities that can’t be glossed over.
But Hundley’s progress will be the story at the quarterback position this summer, now that he’s had a full offseason in Mike McCarthy’s QB school and is the unquestioned top backup to Rodgers. The Packers felt so strongly about Hundley’s early development that they let Scott Tolzien leave in free agency and didn’t draft another quarterback in 2016.
It’s a far cry from where the Packers were at the position just three years ago, when they had no clear-cut No. 2 heading into training camp and then scrapped all the options at the end of the preseason and started over.
Since midway through that 2013 season, when Rodgers broke his collarbone, the Packers have carried three QBs on their 53-man roster, but that streak may end this year.
Joe Callahan and Marquise Williams will battle for the No. 3 job, but the winner could end up on the practice squad to free up a roster spot at another position.
After OTAs and minicamp, Callahan was probably ahead of Williams, though the race is by no means decided. An accomplished passer at Wesley College, Callahan is making a huge jump from Division III to the NFL. At just 6-1, he lacks ideal height for a pro QB, but if he can overcome the challenge of the faster pace of training camp, he could stick around.
Williams was more of a dual-threat QB in college at North Carolina, and he arrived in Green Bay almost a month after Callahan did, so he’s had some catching up to do. Coming from the Atlantic Coast Conference, he’ll have more experience under the bright lights than Callahan and won’t be afraid to show off his scrambling ability in a bid to win a job.