Notebook: Backup quarterbacks get extra work in Rodgers' absence

Aug. 20, 2013

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Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo works with Vince Young, left, B. J. Coleman, center, and Graham Harrell during training camp practice Tuesday. / H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media

Injury report

New injury: Loyce Means (ankle).
Did not participate: WR Charles Johnson (knee), WR Randall Cobb (bicep), S Sean Richardson (neck), CB Tramon Williams (knee), OL J.C. Tretter (ankle), OL Bryan Bulaga (knee), OL Derek Sherrod (leg), TE Matthew Mulligan (elbow), WR Jordy Nelson (knee), DL Jerel Worthy (knee).
Returned: CB James Nixon (knee, ankle).


Backup quarterbacks Graham Harrell and Vince Young played extra snaps with the Packers’ No. 1 offense in place of Aaron Rodgers on Tuesday, though neither outperformed the other.

Rodgers was excused from practice because of a head cold, and coach Mike McCarthy said he expects his quarterback to practice Wednesday.

“Aaron is one of the many thousands of people that has a head cold,” McCarthy said. “I think he’s going to be fine.”

In Rodgers’ absence, Harrell took the majority of snaps with the starting offensive line, including both possessions in the no-huddle period that ended practice. But Young had his share of snaps with the starting line as well.

The two are vying for the No. 2 job, a battle that will go into the final preseason game. Most teams play their starters early into the second half in the third game, though it’s unclear whether McCarthy will pull Rodgers sooner because of the competition at backup quarterback. Harrell and Young presumably will play extensively the following week in the preseason finale at Kansas City.

“We’re going to let it play out on the field,” said Ben McAdoo, the Packers’ quarterbacks coach. “We’re not going to make that decision, the (video)tape’s going to make that decision.”

In practice Tuesday, Harrell looked sharp at times but also missed two open receivers in the no-huddle period — James Jones over the middle and Tyrone Walker on a go pattern behind the defense three plays later.

Harrell also threw the lone interception in the offensive portion of team drills — the Packers were game planning for Friday night’s preseason game against Seattle, so the scout team was running the Seahawks’ scheme in each drill. The scout-team interception came on a check-down pass that linebacker Terrell Manning picked off inside the 10.

“There were some rough plays there,” McCarthy said, “but that’s why we watch the tape.”

The snaps in practice suggest Harrell will play earlier and perhaps more than Young on Friday night, though the Packers are hoping Young has learned enough of their offense to have an expanded play list this week. Last week against the St. Louis Rams, Young had a 60.9 passer rating (5-for-9 passing for 26 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions) and put up no points.

“I just want to see him play,” McCarthy said. “He needs to throw the ball a little better than he did last week (at St. Louis), but I think it was obvious from Week 1 to Week 2 that he was more comfortable getting in and out of the huddle and is a little more composed where he can go out and play.”

Harris has leg up

Despite missing the first two preseason games, DuJuan Harris is the front-runner to be the change of pace from halfback Eddie Lacy to start the season, in part because rookie Johnathan Franklin’s good start to training camp didn’t last long.

Harris is expected to play this week against Seattle after missing the first two games because of a knee injury. Harris, in fact, has been getting the first snap at halfback in most team drills this week, ahead of Lacy, though it’s hard to see anyone but Lacy as the team’s primary back this season.

“A little bit of rust you could see on some of (Harris’) run reads the first day back,” said Alex Van Pelt, the Packers’ running backs coach. “But he’s trying to work himself back into shape, so he’s finishing to the goal line just about every run. The quickness is there, his feet are there, balance and everything you like to see is there.”

Franklin, a fourth-round draft pick, had a couple of big runs in the first practice in pads but since hasn’t done anything to stand out on the practice or game field.

Franklin at 205 pounds hasn’t been as natural in the Packers’ zone running scheme as the 230-pound Lacy. In two preseason games Franklin has nine carries for only 23 yards, a 2.9-yard average.

“(Franklin) was still trying to feel his way into the position, especially in our outside zone plays we were kind of tight in our tracks,” Van Pelt said. “If we’re off (at running back), that messes up everybody up front on the offensive line. But we got that cleaned up this past week.

“He’s still very talented. He hasn’t had a lot of clean looks to run through. Eddie had some really nice looks where somebody’s going to get through that hole regardless who the back is. Johnathan hasn’t been fortunate enough to get any of those good, clean looks yet. When they come you’ll see his explosiveness, his ability to make guys miss.”

Franklin’s best chance to play early in the season might be as a third-down back, where he’s a more dangerous receiving threat than fullback John Kuhn. Franklin has been a willing blocker, but he’s vulnerable to being overpowered by linebackers.

“We do need to work on the bull rush, when they lower their head and drop their weight,” Van Pelt said. “He’s working on that right now in fundamental periods in our protection unit, dropping his weight. The will, being on the right guy, and the fight in (Franklin) is there.”

Coleman helps chances

B.J. Coleman improved his chances of earning a second season on the practice squad with his play last week against St. Louis that included an improvised 9-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jake Stoneburner.

Coleman still is well behind Harrell and Young in the battle for the No. 2 quarterback job, but he again is practice-squad eligible. Coleman finished the Rams game with a 106.6 passer rating (8-for-13 passing for 86 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions).

The touchdown finished a 75-yard drive and came when he broke the pocket to his right and threw on the run to Stoneburner, who came back for the ball at the front pylon.

“What (Coleman) did right was his training kicked in and he didn’t fight it,” McAdoo said. “He’s been a pocket guy probably from the day he could walk. Coming here and all the time we spend moving in and out of the pocket, putting that scramble drill into effect … You saw it with Graham a couple times (against the Rams), at least three times. With B.J. on that play, he did a tremendous job. Once you throw that ball once you leave the pocket — the opportunity you give the receiver there on front pylon was encouraging.” and follow him on Twitter @PeteDougherty.

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