Backup plan: Flynn, Tolzien give Packers QB depth
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) After nearly a decade in the NFL, Aaron Rodgers doesn't need that many snaps in Packers preseason games.
There's not really much to prove for a quarterback who seems as sharp as ever in practice.
But backup play is at a premium, especially following a 2013 season during which Rodgers was sidelined for nearly two months with a collarbone injury.
Ten days into training camp, the Packers appear to have two competent candidates for a job that, realistically, few people in Green Bay would like to see either perform on a regular basis.
The first test arrives Saturday when coach Mike McCarthy's team travels to Tennessee to play the Titans in the preseason opener.
''Every time you step on the field, it's a huge opportunity, regardless of where you rank or where you are in the depth chart, it does not matter,'' quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said Thursday.
Well, there is one big exception.
''Obviously, Aaron is a little bit different. But after that, guys are going out to compete and compete against the defense, put up their best performance. The chips fall where they may,'' Van Pelt said.
The coaching staff hadn't decided by Thursday morning on how Flynn and Tolzien would split reps Saturday, though there should be plenty to go around. Rodgers doesn't expect a big workload.
''I don't want to put anybody out, but I would think it's going to be light work, as we usually do,'' Rodgers said. ''The thing about this team, as you can tell, we're a pretty deep team. We have a lot of athleticism and talent in different areas. One area especially is quarterback.''
Last year in training camp, Vince Young, Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman were among the candidates to back up Rodgers.
By the first week of September, all three were cut. The Packers signed Seneca Wallace and Tolzien, then added Flynn in November after Rodgers and Wallace got hurt. Flynn went 2-2 in four late-season games in 2013, helping to settle a Packers offense struggling without offense.
Wallace is now gone. But the offense appears to have benefited from having a full offseason of Flynn and Tolzien back in the system.
Flynn also has the benefit of having been somewhat familiar with the Packers already after having been drafted by Green Bay in 2008 before returning as a free agent.
Flynn is listed ahead of Tolzien on the unofficial team depth chart, though the order seems to be far from being permanently set.
''I've got to prove that I can still get the job done,'' Flynn said. ''I've got to prove that I deserve to be on this team.''
Still, offensive coordinator Tom Clements calls the process of getting the offense up to speed this preseason a ''much smoother operation'' with more experience behind Rodgers at quarterback.
The backups, perhaps even more than Rodgers, are tasked with getting younger players with whom they may be playing with on the second and third teams up to speed.
Tolzien has showed potential with his arm strength, and he performed admirably in two starts last season for someone thrown relatively quickly into the No. 1 quarterback job with just two months of preparation. According to Van Pelt, things are slowing down for Tolzien, which is a sign of a young player learning to grasp the system.
GOING UPSTAIRS: The depth chart also revealed a tweak in game day operations, with Clements going to the press box and Van Pelt staying on the sideline. Van Pelt moved over from coaching running backs to quarterbacks this year to replace Ben McAdoo, now the New York Giants' offensive coordinator. With the staff change, McCarthy said he preferred the quarterbacks coach to stay on the field.
THUMBS UP: Defensive coordinator Dom Capers likes how linebacker Clay Matthews has looked so far in training camp. One of the game's top pass rushers when healthy, Matthews missed much of 2013 with a thumb injury that required two surgeries. Saturday would mark the debut of what the Packers hope will be an improved pass rush featuring Matthews and free agent acquisition Julius Peppers.
SITTING OUT: Safety Morgan Burnett is among seven Packers - but the only projected starter - who will not travel to Tennessee. Burnett is recovering from an oblique injury, a week after missing a couple days with an ankle injury. McCarthy hopes Burnett will return next week.
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