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QB battle in Green Bay -- for backup

The SportsXchange

GREEN BAY, Wisc. -- Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has set the stage for an intriguing quarterback battle in training camp this summer.

Not for the starting job, of course; Aaron Rodgers has that well in hand.

But, after not taking a quarterback in the draft and not signing a veteran passer in free agency, the Packers are going to let holdovers Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman fight for the No. 2 job. Harrell was Rodgers' top understudy last season while Coleman, a seventh-round draft pick, essentially had a redshirt year as he spent the entire season on the practice squad.

The competition could be heating up after McCarthy summoned Coleman to run Green Bay's second-string offense over Harrell in a two-minute drill at the end of an open OTA practice this week.

The 6-3, 230-pound Coleman responded with a touchdown drive that culminated with a long throw to undrafted rookie receiver Alex Gillett.

"B.J.'s got a ton of talent," McCarthy said. "He needs to play. We've got to get the game to slow down for him, and that's normal for a young quarterback where he is in his development. I feel good about those (two) guys battling it out."

McCarthy remains high on Harrell, 28, a second-year player who has been with Green Bay since the 2010 offseason. The 6-2, 215-pound Harrell, whose claim to fame thus far is setting NCAA passing records at Texas Tech, relieved Rodgers in four games last season and completed two of four passes for 20 yards.

Harrell solidified his status as the replacement for the departed Matt Flynn as Rodgers' backup going into last season by putting up big numbers in Green Bay's final preseason game. Harrell led three touchdown drives, finishing 13-of-15 passing for 223 yards and two touchdowns.

"I'm confident in our quarterback situation, and I think the most important part of our quarterback depth chart is there is a lot of room for improvement," McCarthy said. "Graham Harrell has improved every single year. I think he's definitely made another step this offseason. He's much stronger, he's more conditioned, he's done some things in fine motor-skill development I think you've seen showing up in the way he throws and releases the football.

"I feel good about his improvement. He has knowledge of the system. He needs to perform in the preseason at a high level; that's what you look for. He finished it the right way against Kansas City last year, but he has to have a good preseason (this year)."

The other quarterback on Green Bay's 90-man roster is Matt Brown, an undrafted rookie from Illinois State.

--Rodgers has been encouraged by what he's seen from the young prospects at quarterback this spring, but what is brewing at running back has piqued his enthusiasm for getting the season started.

General manager Ted Thompson went about trying to light a spark under the Packers' apathetic run game by taking two big-name college backs in the draft: Alabama's Eddie Lacy in the second round and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin in the fourth round.

Based on the investment made in them as high draft picks, Lacy and Franklin figure to be the top two contenders in training camp for the starting job. However, holdovers Alex Green and James Starks had the lion's share of reps with the No. 1 unit, while late-season starter DuJuan Harris sat out the minicamp and the last week of OTAs after having a cyst removed from his chest.

Lacy and Franklin were eased into the offensive scheme as McCarthy and his staff completed the installations this week.

"I like the young running backs. They're different players," Rodgers said. "Eddie is a bigger back; he can bring some power in the run game. And, you've seen Johnathan, he is a very shifty guy, he's got a lot of moves in the open field. He's a potential three-down back, which gives us an interesting backfield look."
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