While starter Aaron Rodgers is arguably the best quarterback in football, the options behind him are limited in talent and worrisome in terms of starting-caliber if Rodgers goes down. Or so says the masses who have written off both Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman as legitimate options.
The stats certainly say that both Harrell and Coleman have been nightmares so far this preseason.
In three games, Harrell has completed just 32-of-63 passes (50.8 percent) for 261 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. His passer rating is just 53.7.
Coleman has been even worse in limited snaps, completing 5-of-11 passes for 44 yards and one interception. His 18.7 passer rating is among the worst in the NFL this preseason.
While the stats say one thing, what does the film say about Harrell and Coleman as backup options?
We break down both backup options for the Packers through three preseason games.
There's no doubting that Harrell has put together some bad tape this preseason.
The Packers second-team offensive line has been a big part of the problem, but Harrell hasn't looked the part even when the protection is there.
Here's a good example of a clean pocket for Harrell, but with him just missing with ball placement. In watching his three games of tape, ball placement is a consistent issue.
The blocking is fine up front, and tight end D.J. Williams gets a clean release on his inside slant. It should be an easy pitch-and-catch for a first down. The pass from Harrell, however, ends up behind Williams and falls incomplete.
This is just one clear example of Harrell needing to make an accurate throw and not being able to deliver. For a quarterback with limited arm strength, these easy ones need to be automatic. For Harrell, they have been anything but.
A week later, Harrell gives us an example of the confidence that is lacking in his game.
Harrell goes playaction and bootlegs out to his right, with two tight ends dragging towards the far sidelines. At this point, Harrell has two easy throws, and especially the one to Ryan Taylor further down the field.
Harrell doesn't pull the trigger. You can sense the hesitation to unload the ball.
To be fair, he does scramble for a first down. But these are easy plays that need to be made with his arm. Rodgers completes that ball to Taylor in his sleep.
It hasn't all been terrible for Harrell, however.
Here's a play where Harrell makes the right pre-snap read and a well-positioned pass.
Harrell knows the linebackers to his left are coming on an overload blitz, which means he needs to make a "hot" throw. The hot receiver is Diondre Borel, who is running a quick slant to the area where the blitz vacated. Harrell makes that read and makes an accurate throw.
But like so many times this preseason, a member of his supporting cast lets him down. The throw bounces off Borel's hands on this third down, and the Packers have to punt. If Borel catches the pass, he would have been running awhile.
Overall, the negatives have far outweighed the positives for Harrell this summer. He has a long ways to go to be ready in case Rodgers goes down during the regular season.
A big-armed film junkie out of Tennessee-Chattanooga, Coleman represents the Packers' likely future at the backup quarterback position. He looks the part physically and has the arm to match.
But Coleman is green as the grass in Lambeau Field, and it has showed when the lights come on.
Coleman received one snap against the Cleveland Browns, and he threw an interception. Here's the screen grab:
Coleman and the receiver are obviously on different pages. He throws short, the receiver continues up field. But this was a big mistake. The cornerback easily picks off the pass and nearly returns it for a touchdown.
The cries for Coleman to leap frog Harrell died down the second that pass was picked off. That's a good thing for everyone involved, because Coleman simply isn't ready (by any stretch of the imagination) to be a team's backup quarterback.
I won't be all hard on Coleman, however. Here's a play where he made a strong throw after reading the right coverage (soft).
The cornerbacks are playing seven or eight yards off the ball, and Coleman simply turns and fires on the far slant. He took what the defense gave him. If anything, that's all you want to see in a young quarterback learning the game.
Overall, however, Coleman needs a year or two to get his NFL feet underneath him.
The Packers' backup quarterback situation remains under the spotlight. Neither Harrell or Coleman has done anything to remove the microscope either. But the team remains committed to both guys behind Rodgers, so I hesitate to expect any drastic move to replace either.
Green Bay will just have to cross its fingers that Rodgers can play in every game in 2012. Having Harrell or Coleman start any game—especially early—would likely be conceding a loss.
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