GREEN BAY, Wis. — Vince Young still feels way behind the rest of the Green Bay Packers’ quarterbacks. Less than three weeks after joining the team, that’s understandable. But after Young’s performance in Friday night’s preseason game, he could be the Packers’ new No. 2 option.
Midway through the third quarter against the Seattle Seahawks, Young entered the game and led Green Bay’s offense on an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. He completed 6 of 7 passes for 41 yards and also rushed three times for 39 yards while playing only two drives.
“Vince Young, the dimension of running, that’s something that we really wanted to see,” coach Mike McCarthy said after the game. “I think you’re just seeing Vince get more and more comfortable with what’s asked of him. Very instinctive with big plays. I think Vince is definitely one of the players who took advantage of his opportunities tonight.”
Young’s competition for the backup quarterback job, Graham Harrell, was not nearly as effective against the Seahawks’ defense. Harrell came on in the second quarter for starter Aaron Rodgers and got to play with the first-team offense for four of his five series. The results were three punts and two turnovers.
“I don’t think about it,” Harrell said when asked about making the team. “I just try and make plays when my number is called and do my job, and that’s our job all the time.”
Harrell finished 6-of-13 passing for 49 yards. He nearly connected with tight end Jermichael Finley in the end zone, but replays overturned the original call and it was ruled incomplete.
Harrell was the second quarterback on the Packers’ depth chart last season. But as Young remained a free agent a couple weeks into training camp this year, general manager Ted Thompson decided to add more competition for Harrell and second-year quarterback B.J. Coleman.
“I’m still not happy where I’m at right now,” Young said. “I know (McCarthy) is not. It can always be better. I just know that it’s a lot of hard work that I have to put in.”
Young was clearly at a disadvantage given the timing of his signing with Green Bay. Rodgers has been impressed, though, with how quickly the 30-year-old Young has learned the Packers’ offense.
“This is a wordy system and a difficult system to pick up,” Rodgers said. “He obviously came in after seven installs had been put in already, so he was behind, but he’s been picking it up and showing improvements.”
Young knew he would be playing behind Harrell in Friday’s game. The plan was for Young to come in for Green Bay’s second drive of the third quarter, regardless of how many snaps Harrell had played before that.
With one preseason game to go, it’s possible that Young has played behind Harrell for the last time.
“It’s not really about me,” Young said, often deflecting questions about himself and answering them about the team as a whole. “I’m still taking it one day at a time. It’s a lot coming in. I didn’t get OTAs and I didn’t get a lot of camp in, so it’s a lot trying to catch up with signals. Eventually I want to get to no-huddle and stuff like that, but it’s going to take one day at a time. It’s going to take a lot of work behind the scenes.”
Young is approaching the one-year anniversary of the last time that an NFL team released him. That was the Buffalo Bills on Aug. 27, 2012. But Young doesn’t look at his current opportunity with the Packers as his last chance. He doesn’t believe his career is on the line.
“Not at all,” Young said. “Whatever happens, all I can do is give it my best and don’t hold no regrets. That’s all you can do as any athlete in the locker room, just go in and play football. You can’t have those types of thoughts in your head right there.”
Young had the support of the Lambeau Field crowd Friday. When Young first entered the game to replace Harrell, the 74,030 roared in applause. When he connected with fullback Jonathan Amosa for Green Bay’s only touchdown in the game, Young had officially won them over.
Young also has his teammates believing in him.
“He’s pulling the ball down and running it, not making bad decisions like he used to,” Finley said. “So I think he’s doing awesome. That’s my guy. I think he’s doing good right now.”
The Packers’ hope is that whether it’s Young or Harrell that neither of them has to play. If they are in the game, it means Rodgers is out. But being prepared with a solid backup quarterback can sometimes make or break an NFL team’s season.
“God willing it don’t happen, if ’12’ (Rodgers) goes down,” Finley said. “But it’d be a totally different ballgame with Group 1 in there (with Young). The pocket would be formed and he might be able to run more.”