Packers take backup QB appraisal to St. Louis
ST. LOUIS – The heavy downpours in Nashville last Saturday muddled the Green Bay Packers' first assessment of their backup quarterback situation in a 20-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
A glance over the stat sheet shows Scott Tolzien (8-of-12 for 124 yards) besting veteran incumbent Matt Flynn (5-of-10 for 49 yards) despite seeing seven fewer offensive reps (30-23).
However, what it doesn't say is how Flynn dealt with the Titans' defensive starters for three series and a relentless storm that drew a flash-flood warning from the National Weather service.
As the rain began to taper, Tolzien was able to challenge the second level of the Titans' defense more than Flynn, who didn't complete a pass more than 10 yards.
After a messy night in Nashville, the Packers should get a more accurate gauge of their lot today inside the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. Coach Mike McCarthy wouldn't say whether Flynn or Tolzien would work first after starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers' exits, but both should see extensive playing time.
"It's one of those games you wish you had no weather issues out there so you could get a good evaluation of everybody but that wasn't the case," quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said. "It will be good to be able to really see what guys can do."
Van Pelt agreed the quarterback competition likely will take every second of training camp to sort out. They'll take that scenario over last year when B.J. Coleman's struggles resulted in the Packers dusting off Vince Young to challenge Graham Harrell for the backup duties.
The end result was Flynn and Tolzien arriving in Green Bay under less than ideal circumstances. Tolzien was signed to the practice squad after final cuts, only to be promoted seven weeks later when Rodgers broke his collarbone.
Flynn saved the Packers' season with his November return. He supplanted Tolzien as starter and went 2-2-1 in games he finished.
The competition seemed to be narrowing during the offseason program until Tolzien got off to a slow start to camp. However, the coaching staff believes they've seen him turn a corner since the team's Family Night practice on Aug. 2.
"I like the rhythm in the passing game right now, the ball is coming out of his hand," Van Pelt said. "He's playing fast through his reads, through his check downs. That's something we've worked on so that was good to see."
The elephant in the room is whether the Packers would consider keeping three quarterbacks on the roster with Tolzien no longer eligible for the practice squad.
McCarthy says he has no problems doing so, but the Packers haven't started the season with three on the active roster since 2008 when Flynn won the backup job behind Rodgers over second-round rookie Brian Brohm.
The Packers have a backup plan if they should choose only one. They signed Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig following the draft for a small bonus. He worked three series in the fourth quarter last Saturday, but struggled.
He completed one pass for 10 yards to tight end Justin Perillo and was sacked twice. He failed to lead the offense into the end zone on the final drive.
Both Flynn and Tolzien have their virtues. Today, they face another test awaits in St. Louis with Rodgers likely only to see a handful of snaps.
"I have no idea," said Flynn of the possibility of keeping three quarterbacks. "It's hard to say, I was telling somebody this the other day, there's a lot of depth on this team. It's something that you can't really think about. You've got to go in there with the attitude that you're to be there guy."
The Packers' apparent preference to limit Eddie Lacy's preseason workload likely means another heavy dose of reserve running backs.
Veteran James Starks worked only one series last week, but impressed the coaching staff with his six carries for 49 yards on the offense's opening drive, which included a 20-yard touchdown run.
Lacy and Starks combined for more than 2,000 rushing yards a year ago, triggering the Packers to bring back the 2010 sixth-round pick on a two-year, $3.1 million deal.
"Midseason form," running backs coach Sam Gash said. "The guy looks good. Every day, he looks good. He's conscientious, getting every play and learning what he has to learn. He's being a good pro."
Tennessee rookie Rajion Neal, who had five carries for 39 yards against the Titans, didn't travel with the team because of a knee sprain.
DuJuan Harris, Michael Hill and rookie LaDarius Perkins should each see plenty of snaps. Harris and Perkins each have something to prove after combining for 18 carries for 36 yards in Tennessee.
Expect to see a lot of third-year outside linebacker Nick Perry against the St. Louis after playing the eighth-most snaps (26) of any defensive player a week ago.
Still, Perry largely went unnoticed against the Titans. He combined on one tackle.
Clay Matthews' return to healthy and Julius Peppers' signing takes some of the burden off of the former first-round pick, who played the end of last year on an injured foot and knee.
However, the Packers want to see more. He missed the entire offseason program due to the injuries and is still trying to carve out a role in the reshaped defense.
"The more reps we can get Nick, the better," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "He'd missed the offseason with the injury and it was good to see him out there. I thought he did some good things. I'm hoping we can get him as many, if not more reps this week. I'm hoping he takes another step this week.