Despite accounts of his improvement in the offseason and training camp practices, Graham Harrell has had back-to-back rough outings to begin the preseason.
On Thursday night in a 35-10 loss at Lambeau Field to the Browns, he failed to get the Packers' offense in the end zone on nine drives in relief of starter Aaron Rodgers. That, more than anything, stuck with him the most.
"We would like to score more points. That's the key," said Harrell. "We need to score points and finish drives and we didn't do that tonight."
Last week, in a 21-13 loss at San Diego, Harrell led two drives for touchdowns in nine tries. He was 15 of 27 for 135 yards with a touchdown pass in that game, but was just 12 of 24 for 100 yards with two interceptions against the Browns. His first half was particularly dismal with just three completions in 11 attempts for 10 yards.
"In the first half, they let their starters in and played man press and did a really good job of it," said Harrell. "Sometimes you just have to say maybe they did a nice job. I don't know, we'll see on film kind of what happened."
To be fair to Harrell, Packers receivers did drop three passes in the first half. But Harrell made some poor throws dictated by the Browns' tight coverage. And his mistakes, unlike last week against the Chargers, magnified the lopsided final score.
To be fair, Harrell deserves exoneration for the interceptions. The first was a Hail Mary just before halftime and the second was a pick-six by David Sims after intended target Ryan Taylor slipped and fell as Harrell released the ball.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Harrell was called for intentional grounding in the end zone, giving the Browns a safety after the offensive line failed to pick up a stunt by the Browns' defense line. Harrell also had to burn two timeouts during the game, one for the play clock running down and another for an alignment issue with his offensive unit. Working with the No. 2 unit seems to be a work in progress.
"I think that is tough at times," said Harrell. "The more reps you get with each other, I think the more consistent you can be. You can kind of feel each other out there a little better. That's something we have to do on the run and try to do a lot quicker and doing a better job of – everyone being on the same page and making things happen out there when there are so many moving parts. In the preseason that's the way it is, you're going to have a lot of moving parts."
Outside of his two touchdown drives last week against the Chargers, Harrell and the No. 2's have produced an anemic 123 yards and six first downs in 16 other drives.
Still, Harrell remains positive and would not necessarily say his performance against the Browns was a setback.
"I don't know. I'll have to take a look at the film and see," he said. "Like I said before, I think in that second half we did have some decent drives and we'll see why we sputtered out or what happened on those, but it will be interesting to see the film (Friday)."
Head coach Mike McCarthy saw both good and bad with Harrell.
"I felt the things that Graham did very well, I was very pleased with his scramble ability and quarterback runs for first down," he said of Harrell's 23 rushing yards on three carries. "That's something that I would not say was part of his game last year or so. I think he's really improved in that part of the pocket awareness. I thought he was put in some tough spots.
"On the negative side, he missed some throws. We'll take a close look at it and I can promise you that no one will correct or detail the play of the quarterback better than our coaches."
Outside of rookie B.J. Coleman, the Packers have no other backup quarterbacks on their roster. Coleman threw an interception on his only pass attempt of the night taking over for Harrell on the Packers final drive of the game.
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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org