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Notebook: Coleman bests Harrell, Young in backup-QB battle

Aug. 17, 2013
 

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Green Bay Packers' Jake Stoneburner, center, is congratulated by B.J. Coleman, left, and Andrew Datko after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter Saturday night against the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis. / AP
Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley gains a first down on a pass reception Saturday night against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. / Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Injury report

New injuries: Matt Mulligan (unknown).
Out: WR Kevin Dorsey (hamstring), WR Charles Johnson (knee), WR Randall Cobb (bicep), RB DuJuan Harris (knee), S Sean Richardson (neck), CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), CB Tramon Williams (knee), OL J.C. Tretter (ankle), OL Bryan Bulaga (knee), OL Derek Sherrod (leg), TE Andrew Quarless (quad), TE Ryan Taylor (knee), WR Jordy Nelson (knee), DL Datone Jones (ankle), DL Jerel Worthy (knee).
Returned: C Evan Dietrich-Smith (toe)

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ST. LOUIS — The Green Bay Packers’ backup quarterback competition saw a more even distribution of snaps between Graham Harrell and Vince Young on Saturday, but neither veteran candidate distinguished himself.

The biggest spark provided by a Packers quarterback other than Aaron Rodgers actually turned out to be fourth-string quarterback, B.J. Coleman, who finished 8-for-13 for 86 yards and led the offense’s first touchdown drive of the preseason after taking over the reins in the fourth quarter.

On the Packers’ first drive of the fourth quarter, Coleman led a 13-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a 9-yard touchdown pass to Jake Stoneburner — the first NFL score for both Coleman and the rookie tight end.

The second-year quarterback recently fell behind Harrell and Young in the race for the backup job behind Aaron Rodgers since throwing a pair of interceptions in the team’s Family Night Scrimmage, but made up some ground on Saturday.

“Everything I’ve done up until this point is been kind of by design,” Coleman said. “Nobody wants to go out there and throw picks on Family Night, but that’s a practice for me and that’s something I focus hard on is to put myself in uncomfortable positions.

“We came out here tonight and that’s in the past. You learn from it and you come out here, and those (receivers) made (plays) tonight.”

As for the two veterans earmarked as the likely backups to Rodgers this season, Harrell and Young combined for 10-of-19 passing for 70 yards in two quarters of offense that generated six points.

The 28-year-old Harrell continued to take the second-team snaps once Rodgers exited in the second quarter after three series and called a conservative game en route to finishing with 5-of-10 passing for 44 yards. Young came on to wrap up his second week in a Packers’ uniform by completing 5-of-9 passes for 26 yards with a seven-yard carry.

Harrell was the victim of a few drops but showed poise on early passes to D.J. Williams and Brandon Bostick. There were few spectacular moments, but Harrell left after leading a field-goal drive on shortened field before halftime.

“There were two big mistakes last week that were pretty obvious, but tonight, I did a better job of not making big mistakes that cost us and the second group, we moved the ball pretty well," Harrell said. "We didn’t have any three-and-outs, we did positive things each time. Just small things ended drives. We moved the ball productively. We’ve just got to find ways to get in the end zone now."

Young seems to intrigue McCarthy and the front office but missed a big chance at a would-be touchdown when he overthrew rookie Myles White on his first pass after entering the game in the third quarter.

Kicking continues

A week after not attempting a single kick, both Mason Crosby and Giorgio Tavecchio had opportunities against the Rams.

Since a miserable performance during the team’s intra-scrimmage two weeks ago, Crosby maintained he felt good about his routine and proved it on a pair of first-half makes from 34 and 48 yards to register the Packers’ first six points of the preseason.

The performance created some space for Crosby in an unexpectedly heated competition with first-year kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, who missed on his first attempt from 49 yards before hitting from 38 before halftime.

The pressure has been on Crosby since going 3-of-8 during the team’s annual Family Night scrimmage, but he’s responded by making all but one of his attempts in practice the past two weeks.

“I felt like I hit good balls. They obviously still went through, so that was a positive. I’ve just got to build off of that. I hit my 48-yarder as well as I wanted to.

“I look at it as situations, and yeah, I had a really bad Family Night, but since then, I’ve been hitting the ball really well.”

That carried into a 3-for-3 performance on Saturday. Crosby actually had his third attempt blocked, but it still went in from 30 yards as Packers extended lead to 12-0 with 11:23 left in third quarter.

Feeling Finley

Jermichael Finley is undoubtedly quieter off the field this training camp, but the sixth-year tight end was hard to difficult to silence against the St. Louis Rams on Saturday.

The sixth-year tight end keyed the Packers’ first three series with four catches for a team-high 78 yards, including a 33-yard scorcher across the middle from Aaron Rodgers on second-and-8.

On all three first-team offensive series, which ended in field-goal tries, Finley found open space in the Rams’ secondary and was the favorite target of Rodgers, who completed 10-of-12 passes for 134 yards and a 113.2 quarterback rating.

“It’s not things you do on the field, it’s things you talk about in the locker room off the field, that’s what we’ve been doing more,” said Finley of his relationship with Rodgers. “Now, he’s starting to get the trust in (me) to catch the ball. Everything is coming back tenfold.”

The 26-year-old tight end has been noticeably quieter in the locker room this offseason and taking a more stringent approach to the playbook.

It showed Saturday. Outside of one holding penalty that stalled the Packers’ first drive, Finley hit all the right notes with a catch on each series to pace the Packers’ offense, especially on the first series when 11- and 25-yard receptions resulted in the team’s first two first downs.

The Packers’ first-team offense has yet to score a touchdown on four tries, but Finley still provided a timely performance for a passing game currently without starting receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.

“I think that’s one aspect of our game on the offensive side, what we need to do is just finish,” Finley said. “We need to put points on the board and keep driving the ball like we have, but when we get into the red zone make them count.”

Extra points

■ Running back Johnathan Franklin was the Packers’ first kickoff returner Saturday night, and Jeremy Ross was the first punt returner. St. Louis kicker Greg Zuerlein hit a touchback on the opening kickoff, which was the Rams’ only full kickoff of the night. Late in the game, after their lone touchdown, they attempted an onside kick that was recovered by tight end Jake Stoneburner.

Ross picked up 10 yards on his lone punt return. Cornerback Micah Hyde had a 13-yard punt return; receiver Omariuis Hines had a 10-yarder; and Franklin and Brandon Smith had zero-yard returns.

■ Nelson was also among the team’s 15 inactives after undergoing a knee procedure that will keep him out the rest of training camp, but was on the field during warm-ups catching passes from Harrell.

Center Evan Dietrich-Smith was back with the first-team offense after sitting out Thursday’s practice with a toe injury, but three other players who returned to practice this week — receiver Kevin Dorsey, tight end Ryan Taylor and running back DuJuan Harris — remained inactive.

■ The Packers’ run defense gave the Rams fits throughout the first half, limiting St. Louis to 17 yards on 12 carries. Running back Isaiah Pead actually rushed for 11 yards on his first play for scrimmage, but the Rams gained only six yards on their next 11 carries.

“Last week and this week, I think we did a pretty good job with the run,” defensive lineman B.J. Raji said. “We have to build on that. That’s our catalyst.”

■ Second-year offensive lineman Don Barclay received the start at right tackle but continued rotating with four-year veteran Marshall Newhouse at the position throughout the first half.

■ Attendance for the game was 53,325.

— whodkiew@pressgazettemedia.com and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.

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