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Packers’ quarterback absences will affect player evaluation in Hall of Fame Game

If Rodgers and Hundley don’t play Sunday, it will be difficult to get a good read on the progress of the Packers’ receivers.

NFL: Green Bay Packers-Minicamp Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers open up their 2016 preseason schedule with the Hall of Fame Game against the Indianapolis Colts. With this game being a fifth preseason game for Mike McCarthy’s team, it seemed likely all along that Aaron Rodgers would not play on Sunday. However, at the present time, it appears that the Green Bay Packers will be down to two quarterbacks for the preseason opener.

Rodgers was given the day off from practice on Thursday, suggesting that he’ll get the weekend off from any game action as well. However, backup Brett Hundley also seems on track to miss the game, as he sat out practice each of the last two days after being injured on Monday. If both players indeed sit out, the Packers will be down to a pair of undrafted rookies taking all the snaps: Marquise Williams and Joe Callahan.

With those two players throwing the football, the Packers may be in a bit of a bind as far as player evaluation goes. For now, let’s compare the evaluation process to how it would be if just Hundley were playing, since it was unlikely that Rodgers would have played regardless.

With Hundley on the field, the Packers would have had one of the most productive passers in last year’s preseason throwing the football. Hundley is just a second-year player, but his quick ascent and understanding of the offense mean that the team can trust him to communicate the plays properly in the huddle and make good decisions with the football. He also has demonstrated better arm strength and accuracy than either of the rookies.

If Hundley sits, however, the coaches will be forced to line Williams and/or Callahan up against the Colts’ starting and second-string defenses rather than the reserves. It throws those two players into the fire to be sure, but it could have a cascade effect on the rest of the offense. If those players go through typical growing pains - such as throwing inaccurate passes, misreading defenses, or having communication issues with the rest of the offense - that will make assigning the responsibility for a poor play much more difficult. A good throw from Hundley that’s dropped? It’s simple to assign that to the receiver. What if an inaccurate pass from a different quarterback goes off a receiver’s fingertips or a first-year running back misses a blitz pickup? That’s a different story.

On defense, there should be no significant effect. The Packers’ defensive coaching staff can roll their players through as they had planned. The same goes for special teams. But when you’re splitting hairs between several wide receivers and tight ends fighting for roster spots and placement on the depth chart, you would like to have consistent quarterbacking so you can make an apples to apples comparison. For now, it is unlikely that the Packers will have that, at least in the first of their five tune-ups.