Insider: Thumbs up to Hundley, down to Cobb injury
When his second series as the Green Bay Packers' starting quarterback ended with an interception that was returned for a touchdown, it looked like rookie Brett Hundley was in for a long, long night.
His start Saturday night against the Philadelphia Eagles went against the grain of a traditional third preseason game, when starters play their most snaps. With Aaron Rodgers out, a decision made to protect him from an offensive line missing 60 percent of its starters, Hundley got prolonged exposure to the Eagles' starting defense.
By the time he exited, Hundley didn't just withstand the test. He passed with flying colors.
Showing athleticism, toughness and composure, the Packers' fifth-round pick bounced back from the early mistake to complete 22-of-31 passes for 315 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. And he did it in only three quarters.
Hundley's ability to scramble — he added three carries for 15 yards – was no surprise. But his 10.2 yards per pass attempt and 111.6 rating were unexpected. Maybe most impressive was his determination to not allow one terrible mistake to define his night.
What does it mean for Hundley? Not a lot in regards to this season. On a team led by Rodgers, Hundley knows his place will be on the sidelines. He isn't overtaking Scott Tolzien as Rodgers' primary backup. Tolzien, who was cleared from a concussion but did not play Saturday, has had a spectacular training camp himself.
But Hundley stands a very good chance of making the 53-man roster. Even if that means keeping three quarterbacks for the second straight year, Packers general manager Ted Thompson doesn't have much of a choice. The film Hundley has shown 31 other NFL teams is too good for the Packers to be confident he'll sneak through waivers and onto their practice squad.
Down the road, it looks like the investment Thompson made in Hundley could return significant value. Not bad for a fifth-round pick.
In a "meaningless" exhibition, Randall Cobb laid out for a pass thrown by a third-string rookie quarterback.
Cobb is the Green Bay Packers' top target in the passing game now, and he can be excused. This is what an ultra-competitive, No. 1 receiver does. He sees a pass. If necessary, he dives for it. Cobb couldn't help himself.
Still, there's something unsettling about watching a team's No. 1 receiver laying out for a pass from a quarterback (Hundley) he'll probably never share the field with this season in a game that doesn't count. Especially when that receiver is slow getting up before walking into the tunnel that leads to the locker room, and not returning to the game.
The severity of Cobb's "shoulder injury" was unknown during Saturday night's game. Without wearing his uniform, Cobb was able to return to the sideline for the second half. Regardless, the question has to be asked. Why did Packers coach Mike McCarthy allow Cobb to play against the Eagles?
When the Packers kicked off to the Eagles, they were without their starting quarterback and three starters on the offensive line. This wasn't exactly their regular offense, even before right tackle Bryan Bulaga exited with an ankle injury midway through the first half.
Without Jordy Nelson, whose season was lost to a torn ACL, McCarthy probably saw value in letting Cobb get some reps as the team's top receiver. Still, that value is minimal without Rodgers throwing the passes.
Think about it. Can you even remember whether Cobb caught the pass? (He didn't.) McCarthy's decision seems like a high risk with little chance of a significant reward.
Did you notice?
• Sam Barrington had a boom-or-bust night. The Packers' inside linebacker made some open-field tackles and was mostly stout against the run. He paired with safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to stuff Eagles running back Ryan Matthews on third-and-goal from the 3-yard line. But Barrington also was exposed in coverage, getting beaten for touchdowns twice. So while he led the Packers with eight tackles, he'll also need to even out his consistency.
• Rajion Neal may have separated himself from the competition for the Packers' third tailback job. The one skill he has over competitors Alonzo Harris and John Crockett is his ability to be a polished receiver out of the backfield. Neal had three catches for 58 yards during the Packers' two-minute offense before halftime, a drive that ended with his 36-yard touchdown catch and run. Neal seized his opportunity with Harris out because of a hand injury, finishing with five catches for 61 yards and adding four carries for 23 yards.
• The Packers had a clean start to their preseason, but the mistakes that usually accompany this time of year have become more prevalent. They had 15 penalties for 128 yards Saturday, a number that is sure to make McCarthy unhappy, especially because penalties are becoming more of an issue each week. The Packers had four penalties for 30 yards in their opener at New England, then nine penalties for 101 yards last week in Pittsburgh.
• Jeff Janis caught his fourth touchdown in seven preseason games with the Packers, but it was his first Lambeau Leap. Janis' other three preseason touchdowns have come on the road. The former seventh-round pick's progress has been promising. Janis will be expected to play a significant role after Nelson's injury last week.