How can Brett Hundley make up for missed opportunities in the Hall of Fame Game and Friday night vs. Cleveland?
By perhaps getting the start on Thursday night vs. Oakland.
Hundley, who sustained an injured ankle on Aug. 1, returned to practice on Sunday. Aaron Rodgers led the two-minute drill at the start of practice, then spent the rest of the afternoon running the scout team while Hundley took all of the first-team reps with the offense. That signals Rodgers might be kept on the sideline for the second consecutive preseason game.
Coach Mike McCarthy has taken varying approaches with Rodgers’ playing time in past preseasons. Last year, Rodgers threw 19 passes in the opener vs. New England and five the following week vs. Pittsburgh before sitting out the final two games. In 2014, Rodgers sat out the first preseason game, threw a combined 33 passes the next two weeks, and didn’t play in the finale. In 2013, Rodgers threw a combined 24 passes in the first three preseason games before sitting out the finale. In 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012, Rodgers played in all four preseason games, though only for a series in the finales. In 2010, Rodgers played in the first three preseason games but not the fourth.
“I don't have a set plan,” McCarthy said after the Cleveland game. “But I think history will tell you he’ll play next week.”
The need to get Hundley back into the swing of things could sway McCarthy’s usual thinking. While he led the NFL in passer rating last preseason, Hundley is only a 23-year-old, second-year player. While Rodgers has looked sharp at practice and knows the offense frontward, backward and sideways, Hundley is young and needs reps. Plus, there’s still the matter of figuring out if either of the undrafted rookies, Joe Callahan and Marquise Williams, are worth keeping on the payroll once the regular season begins.
Hundley looked incredibly sharp for a second-year player who had missed almost two weeks of practice as well as the Cleveland game. During one four-play sequence, he hit Jared Abbrederis on a deep crossing route, Richard Rodgers and Davante Adams on slants, and had exceptional touch and accuracy in floating a corner route to Justin Perillo for a big gain against double coverage. In the previous sequence, he coaxed the defense offside and connected with Abbrederis on a deep pass.
“I felt good out there,” Hundley said. “I was surprised, too. Coming off of two weeks, it’s hard to jump back in and get right with the flow of things, but I felt really good. It’s staying in the playbook, mental reps, looking at the film. When you get out there, it’s like you’re stepping back in to where you were.”
With the decision to let Scott Tolzien sign with the Colts in the offseason, this was supposed to be Hundley’s time to make the next step in his progression. Instead, he missed almost two weeks and missed out on two of the five preseason games.
“It sucks. Easy to say. It sucks,” Hundley said. “But you’ve just got to make the most of it. That’s the best way you’ve got to approach the situation and that’s what I had to do. You’ve got to make the most of it. If you can’t play, you’ve got to figure out some way, somehow, to make the most of the opportunity.”
Regardless of whether Hundley starts vs. Oakland or simply gets a lot of playing time, he is excited for the opportunity. After completing 69.2 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and only one interception in the preseason last year, Hundley spent the entire regular season in mothballs, as Rodgers started all 16 games and Tolzien threw all of four passes in mopup duty.
“I’m dying to play,” he said. “I haven’t played in a year – at least full-go. To get back out there, it means the world to me.”
Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.