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How, why Packers made quick decision on Young

The SportsXchange

GREEN BAY, Wisc. -- Nineteen days, 10 practices, three games.

That's how short of a look the Green Bay Packers needed with a previously decommissioned Vince Young to know he probably gives them a better chance of staying competitive in the event of a crisis at quarterback than Graham Harrell would.

Such was the big turn of events following Green Bay's lackluster 17-10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in a marquee preseason game at Lambeau Field on Friday night.

Less than 24 hours later, word spread fast that the start of the Packers' roster reduction from 90 to 75 players by the NFL-mandated deadline of 3 p.m. CDT Tuesday involved none other than Harrell.

The team made the release of Harrell official Sunday before the players returned to the practice field in the afternoon.

"A tough decision to release Graham, even more so on a personal level," head coach Mike McCarthy said after practice. "Graham has been with us for three years, very fond of him. I thought he was developing and he was getting better. But, at the end of the day, we talk about creating opportunities and performance, and we feel at this particular time we're going to go in another direction with the two remaining quarterbacks."

So, after allowing Harrell to serve as Aaron Rodgers' mostly idle top backup last season, the Packers would seem to be giving the enviable -- or dubious, depending on how one looks at it -- role of No. 2 quarterback to Young.

McCarthy, however, wasn't ready to anoint the former first-round draft pick and seventh-year pro at that spot less than three weeks after Green Bay signed him off the scrap heap. B.J. Coleman, a first-year player and the only other QB on the roster, hasn't been pigeon-holed as the No. 3 guy for the second straight season, at least not yet.

In fact, for what published depth charts are worth in the preseason, the Packers listed Coleman ahead of Young on their latest chart Sunday afternoon.

"We have two (backup) quarterbacks here, and the number two spot hasn't been answered," McCarthy said. "That's where we are. B.J. and Vince are going to compete, and they're going to take the majority of this football game."

McCarthy is referring to the team's final preseason outing, which comes Thursday night on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs.

His comments about putting the football in the hands of Young and Coleman for most of the game would be a good indication Rodgers won't see the field for more than a series or two. That would be in line with McCarthy's uncommon approach to this preseason, which has given Green Bay's unquestioned leader and arguably the NFL's best player limited exposure.

Rodgers has played only six series through the first three preseason games. The output by that No. 1 group, which has been short-handed from the outset of game play because of a few notable injuries, has been all of nine points on three field goals from Mason Crosby.

After making a surprise cameo appearance of just one possession in Friday's nationally televised third preseason game, which typically has been when McCarthy keeps his starters on the field into the second half, Rodgers feels his condensed workload this August has been sufficient prep work for the season ahead.

"I've played a lot of football," said Rodgers, a ninth-year veteran going into his sixth season as a starter. "I'll make sure my conditioning is where it needs to be for the first game (Sept. 8 at San Francisco), and we'll be fine."

As for Young, his grasp of Green Bay's complex system on offense in short order has gone a long way toward putting him within a week of possibly securing an in-season roster spot for the first time since he was with Philadelphia in 2011.

Young had been out of football after being cut by Buffalo last August until the Packers signed him to a one-year contract Aug. 5 for the veteran's minimum of $715,000 with no guaranteed money.

"Vince Young's making progress," McCarthy said Sunday. "He's more and more comfortable each week with our terminology and with our offense."

The Packers' comfort in Young, 30, at quarterback came to fruition Friday.

After Harrell struggled in five series after replacing Rodgers early in the second quarter, Young took over in Green Bay's second possession in the third quarter and promptly led the offense into the end zone for only the second time this preseason. Coleman had a touchdown pass in the 19-7 win at St. Louis on Aug. 17.

Young's first of two series against the Seahawks entailed 11 plays covering 80 yards, culminating with a 1-yard touchdown toss to rookie fullback Jonathan Amosa.

Despite the layoff of nearly a full year, Young exhibited some of the instinctive decision-making and elusive footwork from his prime with the Tennessee Titans. His big drive included runs of 21 and 18 yards sandwiched around a 16-yard completion to tight end Andrew Quarless.

Young, who gave way to Coleman in the fourth quarter, led Green Bay's quartet of quarterbacks Friday with a 130.7 passer rating. He completed six of seven passes for 41 yards and added three carries for 39 yards.

Even with Harrell out of the picture after he had an abysmal 53.8 passer rating by completing only 17 of 29 passes for 120 yards with one interception this preseason, Young admitted Sunday, "I'm not really feeling good about that right now," in regard to being the presumed the team's No. 2 QB.

"We're doing a lot of hard work behind the scenes," Young said of his integration in the offense. "I'm trying my hardest to try to catch up with the guys, but they're so more advanced right now. I'm trying my hardest to catch up with 'em right now."

If Rodgers indeed exits early or doesn't play Thursday, Young and Coleman could have a chance to run the offense behind the Packers' seemingly set starting line.

Don Barclay made the start at right tackle Friday for the second straight game. Barring an injury or a disastrous performance against the Chiefs, the job looks to be his over Marshall Newhouse, who regressed after being the starter early in camp.

Yet, the team's new depth chart Sunday still has Newhouse as the starter over Barclay.

"I feel very good about both Marshall and Don," McCarthy said. "I thought Don was very efficient in his time (Friday). I would say the same thing about Marshall. But, they both had plays where if their performance would have been better, I think it could have been potential big plays for us on offense. That's where that's at, and we'll see how this week shakes out. But, I feel like we're in very good shape there."

The Packers pared the roster to 85 players Sunday.

Besides Harrell, those released were running back Angelo Pease, defensive tackle Gilbert Pena and receivers Alex Gillett, Omarius Hines and Justin Wilson. All of them are undrafted rookies.

The team signed Zach Ramirez, an undrafted rookie from Portland State, to compete with veteran incumbent Crosby and first-year challenger Giorgio Tavecchio at kicker.

--Team correspondents for The Sports Xchange contributed material for this story.
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