Insider: Thumbs up to Hundley, down to Thornton
Fifth-round draft pick Brett Hundley has looked every bit the rookie quarterback in training camp so far and among other things has been wont to follow up a good throw by sailing the next one 10 yards over the receiver's head.
But Monday he had his best showing of camp when he led the No. 3 offense to a touchdown drive against the No. 3 defense in a 2-minute drill. Actually, he faced an especially tough setup: only 1 minute, 22 seconds remained with no time outs, the ball at his own 35 and trailing by four. Hundley converted two big third downs on the drive and threw an 8-yard touchdown pass on fourth down on the final play for the win.
"It was a great drive, and I hope to keep building on that," he said. Hundley went 7-for-9 passing on the drive along with two spikes. He managed the clock well and showed poise. On a third-and-7 he hit rookie tight end Kennard Backman with a strike down the middle seam for a 26-yard completion, and later on a third-and-5 he hit Larry Pinkard on a slant for 9 yards.
The fourth-down touchdown came with the clock running in the final 15 seconds after an in-bounds completion. Hundley lined up the offense, then with 3 seconds left hit undrafted rookie tight end Harold Spears on a post pattern.
"It was just two shell (coverage at safety), you have the corners (up) and you alert the post," Hundley said. "If you like it you take it, and Harold ran a great route, beat the guy across his face. The (middle linebacker) went with the running back and there was a window for it."
Hundley appears in line for extensive playing time in Thursday night's preseason opener at New England. In practice Monday, he worked as the No. 3 quarterback ahead of Matt Blanchard, and Blanchard didn't get any snaps during the offensive periods. Last year, Aaron Rodgers didn't play in the preseason opener, so if coach Mike McCarthy rests his starter again in this opener, Hundley might play close to half the game.
Second-year defensive lineman Khyri Thornton hasn't done much to distinguish himself in training camp and will need to raise his play in the preseason games or be in danger of getting cut at the end of camp despite his high draft status.
Thornton had a pedestrian camp last year as a third-round pick but saved the Packers from a tough roster decision when he landed on injured reserve because of a hamstring injury in the preseason finale.
There's playing time to be won on the defensive line with early-season suspensions to Datone Jones (one game) and Letroy Guion (three games pending appeal), but Thornton hasn't done anything yet to seize a job. He's probably at best No. 7 on the depth chart just behind Josh Boyd and Mike Pennel and faces real competition for a roster spot from sixth-round pick Christian Ringo; plucky holdover Bruce Gaston, who was signed from Arizona's practice squad to the 53-man roster in December last year; and undrafted rookie Lavon Hooks.
Thornton (6-3, 315) is more of a run stopper than pass rusher, but regardless he's been uninspired in one-on-one pass rushing drills. Monday was a typical day — he went 0-2 without creating problems for backup linemen Josh Walker and Matt Rotherham. Preseason games count more than practice, so Thornton will have four shots to impress when it matters most. But the clock is ticking.
Did you notice?
■ Backup quarterback Scott Tolzien was penalized twice for delay of game during team drills Monday. McCarthy's policy is to pull a player when he commits a pre-snap penalty, though it's hard to remember him ever doing that with a quarterback. That is until Monday, when he pulled Tolzien after the second infraction.
■ For the first time in camp, McCarthy on Monday played artificial crowd noise through the speakers on the sidelines of Ray Nitschke Field to practice silent counts and simulate a road game for his offense. In past years, McCarthy regularly played either crowd noise or loud music in at least some periods from the start of camp.
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PeteDougherty.