This past weekend marked the beginning of rookie minicamp for the newest crop of Green Bay Packers. Like any rookie minicamp, there's the usual stories concerning the coach's opinion of the top pick, a key position battle, and where certain players might find their niche.
Yet it's a second year player that's perhaps making the most meaningful progress.
B.J. Coleman, a seventh round pick in 2012, is in Green Bay to work with the rookies and run the offense. This is the only time Coleman will receive the lion's share of the snaps. Come June 4, Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the starters arrive for camp. Accordingly, Coleman is making the most of his opportunity to impress the coaching staff.
Jason Wilde of ESPN Wisconsin talked to the Packers' head coach Mike McCarthy, as well as the young quarterback after Saturday's rookie minicamp practice. McCarthy had this to say:
I thought B.J. exhibited [an advanced understanding of the offense] as far as his command in the huddle, where to go with the football and doing things because obviously he's been here going through the offseason program with the rest of the team ... based on what I saw, I was pleased.
This year marks Coleman's first time through McCarthy's "QB School," a multi-week program that runs from March to April. McCarthy's began formulating the program during his time as an NFL assistant in the early 1990s and brought it to Green Bay when he became the head coach in 2006. The program is designed to introduce and refine concepts such as complex as base protections and adjustments to simpler aspects like calling a huddle. The program is chiefly responsible for the development of Rodgers and former decorated backup Matt Flynn. If Coleman wishes to add his name to the list of success stories, he'll have to gain mastery over the Packers' playbook. By his own admission, it's a work in progress.
I think part of it, if not the majority, is the playbook. And once you get into that playbook and you feel comfortable and you're not thinking so much, that helps you take your body to the throw a little bit quicker, which is going to make you more accurate ... A lot of times, you get thrown in there and you're like, ‘Oh man, I don't even remember the play I just called in the huddle.' You get to the line and then you're thinking too much. And then you're late. And the coaches are, ‘Why are you late?'
The big question for Coleman is whether he can usurp incumbent Graham Harrell to become the primary backup to Rodgers. Coleman's arm strength and superior athleticism work in his favor, but he still trails Harrell in the mental aspects of the position. There's time for Coleman to bridge the knowledge gap, but once training camp starts his snaps and one on one time with the coaching staff will diminish. Not only will Harrell assume much of the work, but the team will also give some snaps to undrafted free agent Matt Brown.
Another factor in determining Coleman's role is practice squad eligibility. Because Coleman has yet to register a single game on the active list, he's still qualified for another season on the practice squad. Harrell on the other hand was active for all 16 games in 2012. Accordingly, he'd be unable to join the practice squad if released. That means that unless the Packers decide to carry three quarterbacks in 2013, choosing Coleman over Harrell would result in the latter's departure. Thus, the decision boils down to a choice between having one backup quarterback or two. Given the conservative nature of the Packers' front office and the three years already invested in Harrell, it would take a tremendous training camp and preseason for Coleman to assume the backup role. That's probably too much to expect from a second year player, especially one that's only just now grasping Green Bay's offense.
Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Co. He has previously written for Lombardi Ave, College Hoops Net, LiveBall Sports, and the List Universe. He is also currently a senior writer for Beats Per Minute, an indie-music webzine. Follow him on Twitter: @JBHirschhorn