Aaron Rodgers leads solid set of Packers quarterbacks
JUL 09, 2013 5:24p ET
This is the first in a series of 13 previews leading up to the Green Bay Packers' July 26 start of camp.
Rating (1-to-10 scale): 10
Projected starter: Aaron Rodgers (9th season)
Backups (asterisks indicate players expected to make the roster): * B.J. Coleman, *Graham Harrell
There is no reason for the Green Bay Packers to worry about their quarterback position until at least 2020. That's when the new contract signed by Aaron Rodgers expires after paying him an additional $110 million in an extension that was agreed to this offseason.
Rodgers has added a notable achievement to his resume in each of the past three years. First it was being a Super Bowl champion in 2011. Then it was being named the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 2012. Now, despite it not directly being an on-field accomplishment, Rodgers can call himself the highest-paid player in league history.
Rodgers took a step back -- well, five steps back -- in the eyes of his peers, with NFL Network's Top 100 Players countdown dropping him from No. 1 a year ago to No. 6 this year. Quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning were both rated higher than Rodgers, but the Packers are in good shape. Unlike Brady and Manning, Rodgers is in the prime of his career. Long after Brady and Manning have retired, Rodgers should still be tearing through defenses at Lambeau Field.
There is work to be done, however. Green Bay's offense needs to find a way to get Rodgers better opportunities in the passing game this upcoming season. Last year, Rodgers was sacked an NFL-high 51 times. That's more sacks than what Brady and Manning took combined. That can't happen again, and Rodgers is at least partially responsible for making sure it doesn't repeat itself. While coach Mike McCarthy hopes the switches he made on the offensive line are helpful, Rodgers needs to decide if the extra hits he takes are worth the possibility of a play opening up downfield at the last second. Rodgers often made spectacular throws in those situations, but he also got hit more than any team would want its franchise player to absorb.
Rodgers had an all-time great season in 2011. When Rodgers retires in a decade, it's difficult to imagine that he ever ends up having a better statistical year than what he did during the Packers' 15-1 season. Between his NFL-record passer rating of 122.5 and his ratio of touchdowns to interceptions (45:6), Rodgers was named the league's MVP for a reason. Though Rodgers likely won't approach those type of numbers again, that doesn't mean he can't add several more Super Bowl rings to his collection in the coming years. In fact, it might be better for Green Bay's offense if Rodgers isn't asked to do that much. Having a more balanced offense would keep opposing defenses guessing more often than they had to last season.
The Packers have a significant advantage over the vast majority of NFL teams because of Rodgers. The teams with veteran quarterbacks -- even elite veteran quarterbacks, like the Patriots and Broncos -- are hoping they can hang on and contend for a couple more years. The long list of teams with young quarterbacks are all hoping they see enough improvement from their signal-callers to become consistent Super Bowl contenders like Green Bay already knows it is.
Best position battle:
Graham Harrell will enter training camp as the Packers' No. 2 quarterback. When the regular season begins, it's possible that could change. The threat of second-year player B.J. Coleman is going to push Harrell to have to play his best during preseason.
A perfect passer-rating game by Harrell in the preseason finale last year may have saved his job. Up until that point in preseason and in training camp, Harrell did very little to give the coaching staff much faith in him. But, everything that Harrell did against the Kansas City Chiefs in that game was more than any NFL team could ask for from its backup quarterback. Unfortunately for Harrell and the Packers, it didn't translate to his one meaningful regular-season moment. That came when, after Rodgers had to be sidelined for one play, Harrell took over at the goal line in a situation that should result in a touchdown nearly every time. Harrell took the snap, stumbled back and fumbled the ball, turning it over to the New Orleans Saints in a game that Green Bay escaped with a one-point win.
Coleman is still relatively raw, but he already showed signs of great improvement during minicamp this year. Coleman is strong and confident, and he has a personality that commands respect from teammates. As disheartening as it would be for Packers players if Rodgers got injured, Coleman is the type of person who might be able to rally his teammates in a difficult situation.
The question that McCarthy and his staff will have to answer when making a decision at backup quarterback is which player gives Green Bay a better chance to win if Rodgers has to miss any time. It's Harrell's job to lose, but Coleman will have a chance to take his spot.
Ranking against the rest of the NFC North:
1. Packers; 2. Lions; 3. Bears; 4. Vikings
Rodgers is the best of the best within the division. However, there is a lot of talent at quarterback that the Packers will go up against six times this season. It's still unclear just how good Detroit's Matthew Stafford is. After a breakout 2011 season, Stafford fell off in every statistical category last year. As a result, the Lions went from a playoff team in 2011 to a 4-12 record last season. In Chicago, Jay Cutler is still unpredictable after seven years in the NFL and four seasons with the Bears. Cutler is 30 years old, so if he's ever going to become a better quarterback and leader than what he has been so far, it will have to happen soon. Considering the Vikings have Adrian Peterson in the backfield, Christian Ponder should have better looks downfield than any quarterback in the league. Ponder just isn't there yet as an NFL starter. Having Greg Jennings and first-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson should help Ponder improve, but he's currently in a distant fourth among quarterbacks in the NFC North.
"I think Graham's done a great job. I think he's really improved. I think you saw it last year throughout the season as he became more comfortable. I look at him as being in the same spot that Flynn was when Flynn was in his last year with us. We're very confident in the offense and it means more to him to be successful every day in practice like you saw just a slight shift with Matt, and it was no surprise when Matt got a chance to play how well he played. I think B.J. has made some good improvements as well. He's blessed with a quarterback coach who stays on him just like I had with Tom as a young player."
Follow Paul Imig on Twitter
+ SHOW COMMENTS +