Packers backup QB battle: Hundley or Kizer?
GREEN BAY, Wis. — It’s quite possible that the extent of Aaron Rodgers’ playing time in preseason games will be limited to a touchdown drive that went five plays.
At this point in his illustrious career, the two-time NFL MVP doesn’t look as if he needs any more time. No need to expose Rodgers to a possible injury.
The guys competing to be his backup, though, could use all the snaps that they can get. It makes the Packers’ third preseason game on Friday night against the Oakland Raiders especially important for Brett Hundley and DeShone Kizer.
“This is kind of a unique situation when you know you’re not going to be QB1,” Kizer said. “But now it’s about determining what’s the difference between QB2 and QB3, and I think that in this situation it’s what you make it.”
In a best-case scenario for the Packers, whoever gets anointed the backup would not play a meaningful snap in the regular season since that would mean that Rodgers is healthy.
Green Bay went through the worst-case scenario last year.
The Packers stumbled to a 7-9 finish, finishing out of the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons, in part because the passing game struggled while Rodgers was out with a broken collarbone.
Enter Kizer after the Packers acquired the 2017 second-round pick from the Cleveland Browns in the offseason in exchange for cornerback Damarious Randall.
A competition for the second-string quarterback job was born.
“I’ll just say this — They’re both making progress,” coach Mike McCarthy said before practice on Tuesday.
“I’m really pleased with the step that Brett’s made since last year and it’s very apparent in just his whole operation and production of the offense,” McCarthy said.
“DeShone comes from a whole different perspective as far as his starting point and he continues to get better. Very pleased with the progress of both of those quarterbacks.”
Hundley is 15 of 23 for 185 yards with a touchdown and an interception through the first two preseason games. He started the preseason opener against Tennessee , then was the next quarterback in after Rodgers played his one series against the Steelers.
Hundley likes his body of work so far.
“And my goal is just each and every day — practice, game, no matter what — just keep improving. I think I’ve been doing that and leading this offense and doing well. Just staying consistent is my big thing,” Hundley said.
Since he has played earlier in games, Hundley tends to face defenses that may still have more starters or key players on the field. He said he doesn’t keep a tally of snap counts, though McCarthy estimates Hundley might be a little behind Kizer.
It’s just the luck of the draw with the length of drives.
“I could care less. To me, it’s just I take advantage of every rep I get,” Hundley said. “Whenever I’m in, I’m in, and that’s my goal.”
Hundley has the advantage of being in his fourth year with the Packers. While there might be certain tweaks to the scheme with Joe Philbin returning as offensive coordinator, Hundley has a general sense of what’s expected.
Kizer has his own unique experience as the starting quarterback last year for the winless Browns. He must pick up a new system in Green Bay, though his athleticism and arm strength have been evident on the practice field.
In preseason games, Kizer is 16 of 30 for 283 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions.
“You’ve seen them get a lot more comfortable, especially DeShone being new with the playbook and making a lot of plays,” Rodgers said. “Brett has just picked up where he leaves off every preseason — very efficient, leading the offense the right away and doing really nice things.”
It’s possible that the Packers may decide to keep three quarterbacks, too, on the 53-man roster. Whether that happens may depend in part on health at other positions on the team after the final preseason game on Aug. 30 at Kansas City.
“I think you look at it as more of a team perspective — and you’re trying to do the best thing for the team,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said.
“I come from a school where quarterback is pretty important and if you have guys that can play, you want to try to keep as many as you can and continue to develop them.”