GREEN BAY – Green Bay Packers rookie receiver J’Mon Moore drove his route hard through the numbers, selling his man on a deep route before angling to the sideline and reaching out for a ball he probably didn’t think would be there given the caliber of the guy on the other end of the throw.
This was a rookie orientation camp, so Aaron Rodgers. Brett Hundley and DeShone Kizer, all quarterbacks who have thrown that route in actual NFL games, were nowhere to be seen.
Moore hauled in the laser throw just before stepping out of bounds for what would have been at least a 20-yard gain.
“Great ball,” said Moore, a fourth-round pick out of Missouri. “I don’t know who it was, but it was a great ball. I know it was No. 6 or No. 8.”
For the record, it was No. 6, Tim Boyle, an undrafted free agent from Eastern Kentucky who threw 14 touchdowns passes and 26 interceptions in three seasons at Connecticut and one at Eastern Kentucky. Moore is going to get to know him much better over the coming months.
General manager Brian Gutekunst signed Boyle not because of his statistics but because the rookie can drive the ball down the field and into tight spots with great accuracy. He signed him because the Packers haven't had a first-year quarterback with these kind of mechanics and athletic ability since selecting Rodgers with the 24th pick in the 2005 draft.
“He throws a tight ball, it's a spiral, the ball comes out quickly,” said former NFL quarterback Todd Collins, who at the request of Boyle’s agent, Dan Smith, worked with the rookie this offseason. “There's not a lot of wasted motion in his delivery.
“We worked on the strike points of the intended target on a lot of these passes and where they should be, and he could hit them. Now, hitting them by yourself on the field in shorts … everything is a lot different when the bullets start flying.”
Collins, a second-round pick in 1995, played 16 years in the NFL, including an eight-year stint with the Kansas City Chiefs, where Mike McCarthy was his quarterbacks coach for one season. The following year, Packers quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti was an offensive assistant on the Chiefs staff.
McCarthy still incorporates some of the concepts and terminology he learned in Kansas City under offensive coordinator Paul Hackett, so Collins, well-versed in that offense, prepared Boyle for what he would encounter on his first couple of days on the job.
Boyle played under four offensive coordinators in college, all of whom ran something different, so he was used to learning new philosophies and terminologies. He said he didn’t feel overwhelmed on his first day, which is what typically happens for most rookie quarterbacks in McCarthy’s system.
“When I got here it wasn’t foreign to me,” Boyle said. “I felt good for learning a new offense the night before. I think I did a good job. I still need to learn all the terminology.”
Since drafting Rodgers, the young quarterbacks the Packers have attempted to develop have been better in the classroom than on the football field. The club has invested time and effort into quarterbacks who are too short or too slow or too weak-armed to have much of a chance in the NFL.
Going back to Graham Harrell and Matt Flynn, the Packers have done more with less and the results have been poor. Long shots such as Scott Tolzien, Matt Blanchard, B.J. Coleman and Joe Callahan lacked key athletic ingredients and fizzled out.
McCarthy and Gutekunst covet athletes now.
They drafted Brett Hundley, a Rodgers-type athlete, in the fifth round in 2015, signed undrafted all-around athlete Taysom Hill last year and traded for strong-armed and mobile DeShone Kizer during the offseason. Boyle represents a do-over with Hill, who was released on the final cutdown and lost on waivers to the New Orleans Saints.
Boyle’s athletic ability, at least when it comes to testing, is comparable with Rodgers. At 6-3½, 232 pounds, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.75 seconds, registered a vertical jump of 35½ inches, a broad jump of 9 feet, 9 inches, a three-cone time of 7.03 seconds and short shuttle of 4.49 seconds.
By comparison, Rodgers ran the 40 in 4.77, had a vertical of 34 ½ inches, a broad jump of 9 feet, 2 inches, a three-cone of 7.38 seconds and a short shuttle of 4.32.
Just to show he was built to last, Boyle performed the bench press, which most quarterbacks don’t do. He lifted 225 pounds 16 times. Still, it is Rodgers’ flexibility and pocket awareness, not his bench press, that has made him the best player outside the pocket in the NFL. Boyle has been mostly a pocket passer and must learn to use his athletic ability to buy time to survive in McCarthy’s offense.
Pro scout Chad Brinker came back from visiting Eastern Kentucky and made a case for signing Boyle despite his lackluster stats and unsettled time at UConn. In researching the 23-year-old Boyle, the Packers found out he was offered scholarships to Michigan, Florida, Notre Dame, Oregon and Boston College coming out of Xavier High School in Middletown, Conn.
After de-committing from Boston College because of a coaching change, he decided to stay home and play for the Huskies. Four games into his freshman season, Paul Pasqualoni was fired and interim coach T.J. Weist made Boyle the first quarterback in school history to start as a freshman.
He finished the year completing just 44.4 percent of his passes for no touchdowns with eight interceptions.
“I was just an 18-year-old kid, trying to figure it out,” Boyle said.
In his second start, he was sacked eight times and threw three interceptions in a loss at Cincinnati and in his fourth and final start of the year he threw three more interceptions. After the season, UConn hired Bob Diaco, who had a different offensive coordinator in each of the next two years, and ultimately settled on a different quarterback.
Boyle transferred to Eastern Kentucky in 2016, redshirted a year and then started all 11 games for the Colonels last season, posting a 119.4 rating. He completed 201 of 327 passes (61.5 percent) for 2,134 yards, 11 touchdowns with 13 interceptions during a 4-7 season.
To play for McCarthy, Boyle must cut down on his interceptions, which are a huge red flag for pro teams.
“This past year, I wouldn’t contribute them to bad decisions,” Boyle said. “There were tipped-ball sacks, a screen pass to a running back and the ball goes through his hands, just a lot of tweener stuff.
“Yes, it’s my job to hold onto the ball. I think there were maybe six that were bonehead plays. I don’t think it’s an issue.”
The Packers thought enough of Boyle that they released Callahan. McCarthy has been patient with young quarterbacks and if Boyle makes it into training camp, he will play in exhibition games. Hundley and Kizer will fight it out for the backup job, while Boyle hopes he forces the Packers to wrestle over his status the way they did with Hill.
“I think the potential is there; he has the physical tools,” Collins said. “I believe he can mentally study and be able to handle all the offenses. He doesn't have any mechanical flaws that I think are going to consistently make him misfire or give him accuracy problems.
“It's just going to be a matter of ‘Can you make the plays under pressure with live competition against NFL-quality talent?’”