One year after coach Mike McCarthy said four quarterbacks were too many to give everyone an appropriate number of reps during an abbreviated offseason and training camp practice schedule, McCarthy on Sunday said he'd "like to" carry four quarterbacks.
"Not that Aaron is getting old, but we do a lot of fundamental work in camp, so you see the stress on Aaron," McCarthy said at the conclusion of the three-day rookie orientation camp. "We want as much competition as you possibly can throughout the quarterback position. It's the most important position, we feel, the way we train the quarterback here. We do a good job of that. I've always liked taking a young quarterback. You like to take one every year, frankly. So, yeah, definitely."
Harrell served as the No. 2 quarterback throughout last season. The Packers know what they have: an excellent decision-maker who plays the game fast but with limited arm strength and so-so production during preseason action.
Coleman, in some ways, is the polar opposite of Harrell. A seventh-round pick last year, Coleman's got a big-time arm but is still feeling his way through things after spending all of 2012 on the practice squad. That year of labor showed up at Friday's practice, the only one reporters were allowed to watch. Coleman looked much more in command of the offense and more sure of where to put the ball.
"What I had to see from B.J. is be in charge of the drills and be productive, and that was evident in all three practices," McCarthy said. "Now, there's a couple things that he'll learn from. Actually, this afternoon (I was talking to) B.J. coming off the field about a particular play in the final team period, so he's got ability. There's just some things that he's done in the past and the way he's played the position that are total opposite of the way he's being taught, so we got to get that part figured out. But I think he's definitely making a lot of progress."
The progress has been mental and physical. Quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo spent last season retooling Coleman's mechanics, especially in the movement part of the game, whether it's a designed rollout or throwing while escaping pressure. Moreover, Coleman's had 12 months to digest the playbook, so he knows the offense beyond his first or second option. He's also worked against an NFL defense for a year as Coleman and Harrell split the scout team reps last year.
"I think part of it, if not the majority, I think a lot of it is the playbook," Coleman said on Saturday. "And once you get into that playbook and you feel comfortable and you're not thinking so much, that helps you take your body to the throw a little bit quicker, which is going to make you more accurate. A lot of times, you get thrown in there and you're like, ‘Oh, man, I don't even remember the play I just called in the huddle.' You get to the line and then you're thinking too much. And then you're late. And the coaches are, ‘Why are you late?' So a lot of it, syncing everything up with your feet and the receivers, it really makes a difference."
The other quarterback taking snaps at the rookie camp was Illinois State's Brown. Unlike Coleman, who had a year of experience to fall back on, Brown got his first look at the playbook on Thursday and had to execute it on Friday by throwing passes to a bunch of guys he had just met.
"It was pretty tough," Brown, Illinois State's career passing leader and the Missouri Valley's Offensive Player of the Year, said on Saturday. "I was just getting involved in the system and starting to understand the complexities of the offense. There's a lot of stuff to know and a lot of stuff to learn. Your mind's going 100 different ways and 100 miles per hour. It's difficult but I'm up for the challenge."
On Friday, Brown really struggled. He was late throwing the ball and, as a byproduct, underthrew some passes and overthrew others. Brown said he felt more effective on Saturday. Asked on Sunday about Illinois State players Brown, sixth-round linebacker Nate Palmer and tryout receiver Tyrone Walker, McCarthy said, "They got better as the weekend went on, especially Matt."
Brown and the rest of the rookies will get a week to digest the playbook before organized team activities begin. McAdoo's advice?
"Just get in the playbook," Brown said.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.