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What the Packers Need to See in Graham Harrell During Third Week of Preseason

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What the Packers Need to See in Graham Harrell During Third Week of Preseason

The third week of NFL preseason is typically billed as a dress rehearsal for the regular season, with expanded game plans and starters on offense and defense playing into the second half in a last attempt to get things game-ready for Week 1. The final preseason game is then handed over to second and third stringers, giving starters a chance to rest and avoid any kind of injury that could spill into the first week.

On Thursday in Cincinnati, eyes will be carefully examining the extended look at the Packers No. 1 defense and the debut of running back Cedric Benson. But a major focus will again turn to backup Graham Harrell, who may have his most important snaps of his short NFL career coming in the second half.

In house, the Packers have remained steadfast in backing Harrell, who has completed just 52.9 percent of his passes with a passer rating of 55.6 through 17 series this preseason. Nothing about the comments made by coach Mike McCarthy, GM Ted Thompson, offensive coordinator Tom Clements, starter Aaron Rodgers or quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo since last Thursday have indicated that Green Bay is ready to dump Harrell and find another backup option.

But there is increasing pressure from the outside on Green Bay's eventual decision, with everyone from Colt McCoy to Tarvaris Jackson widely seen as better options than Harrell heading into the 2012 season.

The simple reality here might be that the Packers are forced to replace Harrell if the struggles he's had through two weeks continue or are exasperated in the second half Thursday night.

I, for one, still find it very difficult to envision the Packers giving Harrell the axe now. The support has been unwavering, and cutting him before the start of the 2012 would be a major change of heart from up-and-down the organization.

Still, the Packers need to see more from Harrell Thursday. Here's a quick checklist of the things Harrell needs to show in live-game action against the Bengals:

Improved ball placement

Ball placement has undoubtedly been Harrell's biggest fault through two preseason games. His knowledge of the offense is very thorough, and the majority of his drop-backs result in a decision that I would assume McCarthy and his offensive staff agree with. But the read is just one part of the process. Delivering an accurate, on-time throw is another, and Harrell has struggled in that area.

Harrell has simply left a lot of yards on the field with poor ball placement. His arm strength is clearly improved, but it's still not in the realm where he can get away without making pin-point throws. Check the tape for both games: Harrell routinely has receivers open—in NFL terms, where windows are small—but the throws either beat both the receiver and defender (see: overthrow of Andrew Brewer in fourth quarter vs. Browns) or allow the defender a chance to make a play on the football (see: Harrell's first throw vs. Browns, behind D.J. Williams on a slant).

If there's an improvement with his accuracy Thursday, we'll see a quarterback more capable of leading an offense to points. The big question, however: Are Harrell's problems with ball placement a product of the struggles within the rest of the second-team offense, or a problem that is intertwined in his football DNA? The latter would be a much bigger problem.

Challenging downfield

To be fair, Harrell has been working with receivers such as Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin, Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel—good receivers underneath but not exactly the definitions of a bona fide down-field threat. The fact that Harrell has rarely thrown the football over 15 yards isn't a huge shock.

But to play quarterback in this league, hitting throws beyond the 5-10-yard box is a must. It's very easy to see the Browns' first-team defense press the Packers receivers at the line while playing the safeties a few yards up. Having most of the No. 1 defense on the field was an obvious advantage for Cleveland, but this was a unit that was daring Harrell to throw the football down the field.

On Thursday, Harrell should be willing to take more shots down the field. When he finally started attempting those throws against the Browns, Green Bay embarked on its only scoring drive of the night with Harrell on the field. He needs to show a confidence in hitting throws more advanced than a five-yard out.

Continuing to build pocket presence

From the Family Night scrimmage to Week 2 of the preseason, Harrell has begun to build an increasing awareness in the pocket. Mind you, Harrell is still a long ways off from even approaching what Rodgers or Matt Flynn possess inside and outside the pocket. But getting reps against players wearing different colored jerseys is the only real way to build that internal clock.

Harrell still had problems with it last Thursday, with a couple of roll outs to his right sticking out. On one early, Harrell was late escaping the pocket and then threw short to Williams in the flat. On the next, Harrell was caught from behind in the end zone and was called for a safety when his attempt went just a yard or two out of the endzone.

There were positives though, too.

Harrell will never be the athlete that Rodgers or Flynn are, but he did step up in the pocket a couple of times to deliver throws or scramble. Given how poorly the second-team offensive line has played, it can only be expected that Harrell will need to manipulate the pocket to deliver throws Thursday.

Overall, I'm not sure what more Harrell can show on the poor-side Thursday to warrant getting cut. There are obvious faults, and if struggles again, one can only imagine why. We aren't likely to learn anything about Harrell that is negative and new against the Bengals. If the Packers do cut Harrell at some point, it will be for the same reasons we've discussed in the past.

But he can begin to rebuild some of the confidence he's shattered within the fan base with a better performance against the Bengals. This staff is also probably dying for things to point to for evidence in keeping Harrell. Even slight improvements in the three things listed above should help do the trick.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (66) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

jeremy's picture

I would like to see Harrell play one series with the starters. I think that could tell us a lot. Even Arron Rodgers looked bad with Herb Taylor at LT.

Beep's picture

Totally agree, MM should pull AR one series earlier than the rest of the 1st string to give Harrell a chance with a full arsenal and a more respectable front 5.

bryce's picture

I think we all know what the result of that would be. Although I would like to see it, just so that everyone would stop pretending that he's a NFL quarterback.

Jamie's picture

Re: outside pressure...

Ted is hard to read, but one thing we can take to the bank is public perception will not factor in. He will make his decision for football reasons...he won't cave.

Very good breakdown.

Rocky70's picture

The time was in April (around the draft) to bring in stronger competition for QB2. GB doesn't really have much choice but to go with GH. It's only 18 days until game 1 versus the 9'ers.

Pack Fans will have to cross their fingers every time AR gets up slowly after getting hit. If AR does miss some time in season 2012 & GB has to 'win' with GH to make any noise in 2012 ----- Well, to put it concisely, "TT ain't winn'in GM of the Year in 2012".

Franklin Hillside's picture

There's always a choice.

Tastes Great/Less-Filling.

Red Pill/Blue Pill


PackersRS's picture

Super Bowl be damned, what I really want is that GM of the year title!

Rocky70's picture

Extrapolate if you can. Then the meaning will be clear, maybe. (or you could just ask someone in the area)

Khawaja's picture

I say bring in a veteran anyways. Even Flynn didn't develop that fast. We can carry McCoy and Harrell and cut Coleman. I would Also love to see him play with the starters. That is the ultimate way to know if hes any good. But still. Missing open receivers is missing receivers. He didn't have pressure on every throw and a lot of those balls were uncatchable.

Evan's picture

I think cutting Coleman in place of Harrell would be a huge mistake. Coleman has huge upside.

That said, there are theories floating around that Coleman has only played 2 minutes in the preseason because the Packers don't want other teams to get video on him so they can sneak him onto their practice squad.

If I were GM (and thank god I'm not), I would bring in a McCoy or a Hasselbeck, cut Harrell and make Coleman the #3.

Rocky70's picture

You're exactly right about Coleman. TT/MM are trying some mirror-tricks with Coleman & the PS. They may regret it in the end. The guy's 6'3" - 230+ pounds with a canon for an arm. Strong character, film-junkie, quick feet & very coachable (all pre-draft analysis). He'll be difficult to hide on the PS.

Evan's picture

I totally agree. I'd be surprised if they were able to get him on the PS. Which is a shame, since I'm not a huge fan of carrying 3 QBs.

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

As Kosar said... If Graham Harrell got better, he'd be terrible.

I would love them to bring a vet in that could win 2 if Aaron was out 4. I don't think we'd have a shot at that with Graham, really don't. Nothing against the kid, it's just that he appears to not be a player at this level (basing that on the small sample size we have, the only thing I can base it on). Nothing would make me happier than him shredding the D Thursday... I'm not holding my breath however.

And Coleman needs to stay right where he is... He might be something in a couple years.


PackersRS's picture

Which veteran available would be able to win 2 games out of 4 with us?

If there is, what would be the cost?

Let's remember that Rodgers has played on 97% of the games as a starter. He has missed a grand total of 2 games out of 64. And one of them he was rested.

There is the issue of multiple concussions, but the guy is as durable as it gets (if you're not named Favre). The odds are that the job of the backup QB will be to hold a clipboard. Harrell is fine at that.

And we don't know if Harrell isn't capable of playing. The only time I came away impressed with Flynn was last year's preseason, which was his 4th year in this scheme. This has been Harrell's first offseason with the Packers, IIRC. He was brought in during the 2010 regular season, and last year didn't have offseason.

Rocky70's picture

"If there is, what would be the cost?"

It's your question. Answer it.

RS, always planning for the future. The hell with season 2012, let's all focus on 2013, 2014 and so on. (sarcasm)

Franklin Hillside's picture

A backup is the key to 2012? I've been looking at this "football" thing all wrong. I should stick to badminton.

Rocky70's picture

So you have 100% confidence that Harrell can lead GB to the playoffs ??

Badminton ?? Good choice. You may want to consider croquet, also.

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

Who said it was the key? Smarm all you like, but you're one play away from hitching your wagon to Graham fucking Harrell to take you to the promised land. I fail to see the humor.

PackersRS's picture

Hey, now, Kurt Warner and Tom Brady won Super Bowls as backups. So backups are important.

Coincidentally, there were questions about their quality...

PackersRS's picture

I'm going to post the definition, just in case.

"The rhetorical question is usually defined as any question asked for a purpose other than to obtain the information the question asks."

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

When Brady and Warner got on the field however, it was evident that they had "it'. When my two eyeballs watch Harrell, I see the antithesis of "it".

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

How about McCoy? I have zero doubt he could win at a 50% clip on this team. 5th, 6th, 7th rounder?

Small price to pay for peace of mind imo. Sure Rodgers has been pretty healthy thus far. What if something happens? This year. I would hate to miss out on a SB because our starter missed time and we were too naive to realize that our backup was always just one play away from being our starter. Just look to Chicago of last year for a reference point. If Graham looks no better tomorrow, and Ted fails to bring in somebody with a better pedigree... That would be negligent.

Rocky70's picture

It's all about pedigree. Any GM has to play the odds. The Pack are primed to be possibly be a dynasty but TT/MM still dwell on their own self-importance. That self-importance has convinced them that anything they do will work even if the odds say "no".

Sixteen years of BF with only 1 SB followed by a dozen or so years with AR & only one SB is really going to piss-me-off !!

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

" Sixteen years of BF with only 1 SB followed by a dozen or so years with AR & only one SB is really going to piss-me-off !!"

Aaron will get another ring, or two... But when it's all said and done I don't want to think about the third or fourth he SHOULD have had...

In my worst case scenario, we start off something like 7-0, lose Aaron for 6 weeks, Graham fucking Harrell leads us to a 7-6 record, Aaron comes back totally healthy and primed for a title run. We win the next 3, we're 10-6. Duh bears win the division at 11-5, we just miss out on a WC. Some team that everybody knows we're better than goes on to win the SB, and we have one less bite at the apple with #12. All because Graham fucking Harrell couldn't win 2 out of six to get us in...

Probably won't happen, hope it won't happen. Sure would be sad and unnecessary if it did though. Especially if it could be avoided with a late round draft pick.

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture


packsmack25's picture

Why would Colt McCoy want to be a backup in Green Bay? He's more likely to get a shot to play somewhere else. And TT isn't going to trade for a rental at a luxury position unless something catastrophic happens.

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

" Why would Colt McCoy want to be a backup in Green Bay?"

I'm sure he'd rather that then be a backup in Cleveland, which he is. I'm sure he'd love to get out of there... They handed a rookie his job. If you're going to be a backup, why not learn from the best on a stacked team?

" TT isn’t going to trade for a rental at a luxury position unless something catastrophic happens."

I sure hope Ted has more sense than that. That's like quitting smoking after you're diagnosed with lung cancer... Too late.

And it's only a luxury until your starter goes down.

Evan's picture

Especially when the cost is so low. McCoy can be had for a 5th or 6th round pick.

Besides, who cares what McCoy wants. I'm sure McCoy wants to be the starter in Cleveland. But that's not going to happen. There aren't any other starting jobs available, so why not come to GB for a couple years and fine tune your game.

PackersRS's picture

Low? For who? For Ted Thompson?

PackersRS's picture

What if a lightning bolt falls into your head?

Better get lightning bolt life insurance.

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

So the chance of being struck by lightning is on par with an injury in the NFL? Hmmm. Okay.

PackersRS's picture

Both, in their own context, are not significant enough to warrant that much effort.

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

Doesn't take much effort at all. I have life insurance which just took a phone call and a physical, The Pack just needs to throw a late round pick at Cleveland. Bingo, Bango, done. Super easy.

Rocky70's picture

I can see the headline.

"TT refused to acquire an adequate BU QB in GB in season 2012 because, as he put it. "It sure seemed like alot of work so I just said ta' hell with it".

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

LMAO, they're talking on the radio out here how great Tyrell Sutton was last game... Ahh the good ol' days.

Rocky70's picture

Notice how Gurley & Borel are no longer "fan favorites". The new 'boy-wonder' is WR Jarrett Boykin. If only he could make the 53, he 'no doubt' would subplant GJ & Jordy as AR's newest weapon !! (note-sarcasm)

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

Every year there's 'a guy'. Some years they're right though. I mean just look what Vic So'to has done...

Walty's picture

Did you watch that Seattle game, though? Sutton looked like he had eyes in the back of his head. He was dodging defenders before they even knew where they were going.

It's amazing how many ex-Packers are on that team. Seattle is like a Packers practice squad.

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

I did see it and he did look pretty Damn good. Breno, Barbre, Flynn, Sutton, Schneider. I think I'm missing a couple.

Cole's picture

Wouldn't mind getting Matt Moore in here from MIA, since Tannehill looks like he's getting that job and they already have Garrard.

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

Sign me up.

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

Is Garrard back yet though?

packeraaron's picture

No, and won't be any time soon.

Evan's picture

I thought the same thing, but the Gerrard injury really puts a damper on that.

What about Hasselbeck? It'd be rather poetic for his career to come full circle.

Franklin Hillside's picture

The only reason Colt McCoy is better than Graham Harrell is because he's on another team's roster.

Evan's picture

And the fact that he's put up pretty decent numbers over 21 regular season games with next to no offensive weapons.

I think with some proper teaching, offensive consistency and playmakers around him he could be a very good backup QB.

Franklin Hillside's picture

"I think with some proper teaching, offensive consistency and playmakers around him he could be a very good backup QB."

You're talking about Harrell here right?

Evan's picture

Graham has had that for the last two years and we're seeing the byproduct of it.

If you can't see Harrell and McCoy play side by side and see that from basic stuff like pocket awareness and accuracy that McCoy is the far superior player (and 2 years younger, I'd add), then I don't know what else to say to you.

PackersRS's picture

"Graham has had that for the last two years and we’re seeing the byproduct of it."

Yeah, this is a lie.

Harrell didn't participate in any offseason (MM's qb school) with the Green Bay Packers until this year.

Evan's picture

You're right. I forgot about the lockout. But he was still in a full training camp and spent the whole season in the organization. Though I don't know how much teaching he gets on the practice squad.

PackersRS's picture

I don't think the coaches have enough time during the season to properly teach PS players, let alone the nuances of playing the QB position.

You're all throwing Harrell under the bus because of 2 preaseason games. Rodgers would've been cut if you were the GM. He was terrible his first 3 years.

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

Yep. He could assimilate pretty quickly imo. He's never had anything close to the cache of weapons the Pack would give him.

PackersRS's picture

What is decent?
74.1 QB rating?
1:1 TD INT ratio?
58% completion percentage?

The grass is greener on the other side.

But hey, there's also Tarvaris Jackson...

Evan's picture

For a guy in his first 2 seasons playing in that offense, yeah, I'd call it decent.

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

Oh, C'mon RS, you left out 'THE' caveat... That was with the Browns.

PackersRS's picture

True, true.

But Seneca Wallace had similar numbers with the same roster...

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

But Wallace was an established veteran QB by the time he got to Cleveland. Colt's #'s are from a rookie and second year kid who was still learning. Advantage, McCoy.

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

That's just far from an accurate statement. You make it hard to take you serious.

Evan's picture

Also, this.

Walty's picture

I understand if you don't want to throw the towel in on Harrell or spend a 5th or 6th rounder to get McCoy, but comparing the two is a bit ridiculous at this point.

McCoy has looked capable as an NFL starter in 21 regular season games with absolutely no talent around him.

Harrell has the experience of a few preseason games and looks pretty dismal.

Now, that could change, but at this moment, no GM in their right mind would rather have Harrell than McCoy, all other factors excluded. And that includes TT and MM.

PackersRS's picture

But there are other factors...

PackersRS's picture

BTW, are we in 2012? Because I'm pretty sure I've seen the same topic in 2008, 2009, 2010...

I kind of miss the Lounge...

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

Me too!

Franklin Hillside's picture

Also, this.

Evan's picture

Hey! That's my line.

CSS's picture

Fitz, remember these good times:


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