GREEN BAY — Where will the Green Bay Packers put their No. 3 quarterback — on their 53-man roster or on their practice squad?
With uncertainty at several other positions and injuries complicating matters as the team works to pare the roster by the NFL’s 3 p.m. deadline today, there’s a good chance the Packers will risk losing impressive undrafted rookie free agent Taysom Hill on the waiver wire.
“Everything else that happens now is out of my hands. I hope I did enough and I hope I put enough film together to stick around Green Bay. Obviously, it would be a perfect scenario for me,” Hill said after leading a pair of scoring drives in Thursday night’s preseason-ending 24-10 win over the Los Angeles Rams. “If not, I hope there’s opportunities elsewhere.”
Earlier in the week, coach Mike McCarthy was asked whether his experience in 2013, when starter Aaron Rodgers suffered a fractured collarbone and missed 7½ games, affected how he feels about carrying three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster.
That year, the Packers had dumped all three of their training camp quarterbacks — Graham Harrell, B.J. Coleman and Vince Young — and brought in two quarterbacks the week of the regular-season opener: journeyman Seneca Wallace as the backup, and ex-University of Wisconsin starter Scott Tolzien on the practice squad.
When Rodgers went down, Wallace got hurt the following week and Tolzien was up-and-down, the Packers were fortunate former backup Matt Flynn became available in time to help them save their season. Since then, though, the Packers have not gone into a season with only two quarterbacks on the roster: They went with Rodgers, Flynn and Tolzien in 2014; Rodgers, Tolzien and Brett Hundley in 2015; and Rodgers, Hundley and Joe Callahan last year.
For five years (2009 through 2013), it’d been standard operating procedure for the Packers to go into the season with two quarterbacks on the roster and a developmental third QB on the practice squad. Now, it looks like they might return to that approach, whether it’s Hill or Callahan as the No. 3. Hill was more impressive in preseason, but the Packers could cut both and add to the practice squad whichever one makes it through waivers.
“I mean, ’13 is obviously part of your experience, part of your past. It’s important to learn from those situations,” McCarthy said. “But when you keep a third quarterback, he has to earn it. It’s really about the 53-man roster. I’d like to have four quarterbacks here in the building at all times. That would be the preference. But that 51st, 52nd, 53rd (roster spot) — wherever that third quarterback would fall in your thinking — those are positions that need to be earned.”
Hill got more opportunities Thursday night than Callahan. Hill finished 4-for-4 for 31 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown on which he scrambled and hit tight end Aaron Peck while on the move. For the preseason, Hill was 14-for-20 for 149 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions (124.8 rating) and also had a game-winning 23-yard touchdown scramble at Washington in Week 2.
Callahan, who put together an incredible preseason a year ago, finished 13 of 21 for 112 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions (75.9 rating). He played only two series against the Rams, completing both his passes as the Packers ran out the clock on the ground.
“I definitely got more playing time last preseason, so hopefully that kind of backs up what I did this year on the field,” said Callahan, who spent time on three teams’ 53-man rosters (Green Bay, New Orleans, Cleveland) last season. “Teams can see the tape and make their decisions. It’s going to be a little stressful, but I’m going to keep pushing.”
Gunter states his case
LaDarius Gunter spent the second half of last season as the Packers’ No. 1 cornerback when injury and inconsistent play reigned in the secondary. But he came into Thursday night’s game squarely on the roster bubble. To his credit, Gunter delivered the kind of splash plays that earn you a roster spot delivering a sack and an interception on a deflection.
“I definitely came up with a lucky one (on the interception), but it was much needed,” said Gunter, who had been working at the inside slot “Star” position during the second half of camp. “I feel like I put a good preseason together as far as the games and just getting better each week. (It shows) that I can be one of those guys that come in, make plays, take the ball away and just be myself.”
Like many other NFL teams, the Packers began making some of their cuts on Friday morning.
Among those who reportedly received news of their release were Peck, linebacker David Talley, cornerback Daquan Holmes, running back Kalif Phillips and nose tackle Calvin Heurtelou.
Earlier in the week, the Packers cut wide receiver Colby Pearson, running back William Stanback and long-snapper Derek Hart.
After the final cutdown, the Packers can establish a 10-player practice squad after those players have gone through waivers unclaimed.