Backup QB position up for grabs

Training camp begins next week. Those stories less obvious now will become clearer and just as important as the regular season nears. In recent weeks has been analyzing those "other" potential headlines which could effectively define the preseason when it is over. Today, we look at Aaron Rodgers and his quest for the No. 2 quarterback spot.

Though he was the Packers' No. 1 draft pick this year, Aaron Rodgers essentially heads into training camp as the No. 4 quarterback on the team's depth chart behind veterans Brett Favre, Craig Nall, and J.T. O'Sullivan. That bottom position, however, could be rendered meaningless should he have a good training camp.

The Packers' No. 2 quarterback spot behind Favre is really an open battle. Head coach Mike Sherman named Nall the No. 2 quarterback after the June minicamp, but said that was "based on the quarterback position at this point." Sherman and the Packers know what they have in Nall, based on his three years with the team, but they have questions to answer with O'Sullivan and Rodgers. They acquired O'Sullivan from the Saints early last season and, of course, have only seen the rookie Rodgers on film and in two off-season minicamps.

Rodgers struggled at points during the June mini-camp and was documented for it, but really that was just a time for him to learn the Packers' offensive system. Much more will be revealed during training camp, and there is really no reason why Rodgers should not win the No. 2 quarterback spot when the regular season begins.

Rodgers said he felt comfortable with the Packers' offense at the end of the minicamp sessions, but that he just needed more repetitions in practice. He will shoot for the backup spot knowing that this is primarily a learning year for him.

"I'm not going to be number one, but I'm going to try and contribute to this team anyway I can," said Rodgers. "If that means starting the season at No. 3, that's fine. Craig's a great quarterback, he's been here for four years, he's a great backup, and we'll see what happens."

Nall has improved over the course of his career in Green Bay, but the Packers are at a crossroads with him with the addition of Rodgers and O'Sullivan aboard (whom the Packers traded for last October). With Rodgers a lock to make this year's team, Nall or O'Sullivan will likely be let go. Depending on how the Packers view their future, Nall could be the odd man out, giving him the chance to catch on elsewhere, which should be the next step in his career.

That battle between Nall and O'Sullivan then, could allow Rodgers to grab the No. 2 spot should he make the expected strides this summer. Though he made some mental mistakes in the mini-camps, he has appeared composed and willing to learn. He also has been saying all the right things and has moved on from the disappointment of dropping to No. 24 overall in the draft.

Also, Rodgers' much-talked about ball position in his drop-back and release has become a non-issue. He continues to hold the ball high near his head, with two hands, in a manner unique to most NFL quarterbacks. That gave some scouts concern headed into the draft, but was a technique Rodgers crafted in college. Packers' coaches do not appear concerned with it, nor should they. If anything, his technique could be better than a conventional one. He is comfortable with it, holds the ball where it is more difficult to get at for opposing defenders, and always has two hands on the ball. That conscious effort to keep both hands on the ball prevents him from getting "lazy" with it. In a lower position, he could easily hold the ball with one hand where it could be more vulnerable to being jarred loose. Perhaps most importantly, Rodgers has been known as an accurate passer with a quick delivery using this technique.

Clearly, the Packers' drafted Rodgers to be their quarterback of the future, but his first step will be to win the backup job this season. If he is unable to do that over Nall and O'Sullivan, though it is just his first year in the NFL, then the Packers may have made a mistake in selecting him. The only thing he is lacking behind his competition is knowledge, and he has appeared diligent in his efforts to catch up where he should be fully confident by the end of training camp. Then he will be able to let his talent take over, win the No. 2 job, earn the confidence of the coaching staff, and take his first step toward being the Packers' quarterback of the future.

Matt Tevsh

Editor's note: Matt Tevsh lives in Green Bay and is entering his 10th season covering the Green Bay Packers for Packer Report and E-mail him at

Packer Report Top Stories