GREEN BAY – The road to the NFL has not been an easy one for Taysom Hill, with countless detours often standing in the way of the Packers rookie quarterback and his goals.
Hill sustained four season-ending injuries during his five years at Brigham Young University, limiting his opportunities and curtailing exposure to NFL teams during the pre-draft process.
However, Green Bay’s personnel department saw something it liked in Hill and the 27-year-old repaid the Packers for their faith with an overwhelmingly productive preseason.
Hill continued to impress during Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Los Angeles Rams, effectively guiding the Packers’ offense during two second-half scoring drives to help seal a 24-10 victory at Lambeau Field.
The 6-foot-2, 221-pound quarterback completed all four passes he threw for 31 yards and a touchdown in addition to picking up two other first downs with his feet, totaling 19 rushing yards.
Hill fashioned a 124.8 passer rating in three preseason contests, completing 14-of-20 passes for 149 yards with three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing). He directed scoring drives on four of his seven offensive series.
Now, like most undrafted rookies, Hill will wait and see whether it’s enough not only win the No. 3 quarterback job, but also a spot on the Packers’ 53-man roster.
“You could go back and look at the tape and say you could always do better,” Hill said. “At this point in camp, as you hope to not get a phone call over this weekend, I’m sure I’ll start to think of the things I could’ve done better.
“Overall, I was happy with the things I did with limited opportunities. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a part of Green Bay’s camp.”
With the Packers wanting to get primary backup Brett Hundley as much work as possible in Denver and during the first half against Los Angeles, Hill and second-year quarterback Joe Callahan needed to stay patient in waiting for their next opportunity.
When summoned to start the second half against the Rams, Hill picked up right where he left off after orchestrating a game-winning drive in the Packers’ 21-17 win over Washington two weeks ago.
With help from his former BYU running back Jamaal Williams, the rookie quarterback helped engineer a 17-play, 60-yard series at the start of the third quarter to eat more than 11 minutes off the clock.
After settling for a 28-yard Mason Crosby field goal, Hill then helped the Packers find the end zone on their next offensive series with his 25-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Aaron Peck.
Hill admits he thought about running it – he pulled the ball down two weeks ago for a 23-yard rushing touchdown against Washington – but saw Peck come free at the last minute.
“I certainly saw the green grass and thought about taking it,” Hill said. “The reason I hesitated as long as I did is I didn’t know what that corner was going to do if he was going to fall off and get in front of Aaron there. I also didn’t know how far I was off from the line of scrimmage. So after assessing that and seeing what the corner was going to do, we took the touchdown.”
Hill always has been known as a scrambler. So while his 10 carries for 71 yards didn’t come as much of a surprise, Hill’s ability to extend plays with his feet and keep his eyes downfield is what has gotten his teammates’ attention.
“I already knew what Taysom could do,” said Williams, whose five years at BYU ran concurrently to Hill’s. “When you watch him out there, throwing passes or when he’s running around, getting first downs, it’s nothing new to me. Taysom is being Taysom. Really, I’m just proud of him and the way he played in all the preseason games.”
Hill and Callahan were at the center of a hotly contested competition for the No. 3 quarterback job this summer. While the Packers will make their decision in the coming days, Hill feels fortunate he had the opportunity to showcase his skills this summer.
“Certainly, had some things that I overcame in college with injuries and stuff,” Hill said. “I love playing football, so I don’t want it to be over. I’d love to have an opportunity to be here and help this team win football games in any way that I can.”
Gunter’s star role: LaDarius Gunter has spent large chunks of the last two training camps learning the “star” slot cornerback position in the Packers’ nickel defense.
His growth at the position showed against the Rams when the third-year cornerback made two game-changing plays during their third offensive series in the first quarter.
First, Gunter sacked Los Angeles QB Dan Orlovsky off a corner blitz for a 6-yard loss on first down. Two plays later, he then picked off Orlovsky on a bobbled pass.
The turnover led to a Brett Hundley 13-yard scramble for a touchdown.
“Coming in, I never played too much on nickel,” said Gunter, who started at boundary cornerback in 18 of the Packers’ 19 games last season (including playoffs). “Just the more reps you get, the better you get, and I just want to get better each and every time I step on the field.”
Back to backup: After playing only a handful of snaps last preseason due to an ankle injury, Brett Hundley welcomed the opportunity to get as much work as he did this summer.
The Packers’ No. 2 quarterback played the first half of Thursday’s win over the Rams, completing 11-of-21 passes for 99 yards with two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing).
Hundley finished the preseason with an 88.8 passer rating after completing 48-of-76 (63.2 percent) for 482 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
While midnight has struck for playing time, Hundley is excited to get back to the business of backing up two-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers.
“In all honesty, yes, but I’m here for a reason,” said Hundley when asked whether it’s hard reverting to being a backup again. “I know Aaron’s taking over now and it’s the beginning of the regular season.
“I don’t think anybody in this league wants to be a backup, but you sort of know what you’ve got to do, and I’ve got to help Aaron prepare, I’ve got to prepare myself just in case I’m needed and just be ready at all costs and at all times.”
House debut: Davon House’s preseason debut was supposed to last all of one defensive snap, but then the seventh-year veteran cornerback tackled Rams receiver Brandon Shippen and decided he wanted a little more.
Two plays later, the Packers’ defense forced Los Angeles to punt after a three-and-out and House’s night was over.
“I was supposed to get out after the first play, but I wanted to finish the drive,” said House, who was making his preseason debut after missing the past three weeks with a hamstring injury.
“As soon as I got the tackle, they all looked at it. I was like, ‘No, no, no, let me finish this first and then I’ll come out.’”
Wait and see: More than 40 rookies and first-year players will be among the young Packers anxiously waiting to see whether they made the team’s opening 53-man roster this weekend.
While every player has his own way of handling the hours leading up to Saturday’s 3 p.m. CT deadline, rookie draft picks DeAngelo Yancey and Malachi Dupre plan on keeping a positive mindset and doing whatever they can to relax.
“It’s just letting the chips fall where they fall,” said Yancey, who had three catches for 67 yards this preseason. “You can’t do anything extra at this point. You just have to wait around and see. There’s no point in stressing about it. You just let the higher-ups handle what they handle.”