GREEN BAY — For the third straight year, the Green Bay Packers have themselves a rookie quarterback who’s turning heads.
Two years ago, it was Brett Hundley, a fifth-round pick from UCLA who made it very clear very quickly he should have been drafted much earlier. Last summer, it was Joe Callahan, a little-known undrafted free agent from tiny Division III Wesley (Del.) who showed a Brett Favre-like knack for improvisation while Hundley scarcely played because of an ankle injury.
And now, here comes Taysom Hill, an ultra-athletic undrafted free agent whose BYU career was derailed by a series of significant, season-ending injuries but who’s had back-to-back impressive preseason showings.
A week after putting up a perfect passer rating (158.3) in the opener against Philadelphia, Hill led the Packers to a 21-17 come-from-behind win at Washington on Saturday night with a 23-yard touchdown scamper in the fourth quarter.
“Taysom, I thought played better this week than he did last week,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Sunday afternoon. “He’s put together two weeks where he’s made big plays.”
Indeed he has. Against the Eagles, it was a terrific 7-yard touchdown strike to Michael Clark in the final minute. On Saturday night, it was an impromptu scramble that reached the end zone — exactly what Hill told his teammates in the huddle that they needed to do, trailing 17-14.
“I know it’s the preseason. As a rookie to come in and get some opportunities to play, my priority is to make sure I put us in a position to win the football game,” Hill said. “One of the first things I said when I got in the huddle and was on the field was, ‘We’re out here to showcase what we can do. We’re also out here to win this football game. Let’s make sure we do whatever we can to win.’”
After playing in only one preseason game — and just two series at that — last summer, Aaron Rodgers started against the Redskins and was in midseason form, completing 6 of 8 passes for 37 yards and a touchdown (123.4 rating) during a 15-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Rodgers also caught the Redskins with 12 men on the field to keep the drive going.
Hundley then took over and went 9-for-10 for 107 yards and a touchdown (144.6 rating). Although McCarthy said Callahan made a couple mistakes “trying to do a little bit too much,” he has had a good camp and played well against the Eagles. Hill’s passing numbers (6 of 11, 49 yards, 66.1 rating) weren’t as sparkling as they were a week earlier, but he was the Packers’ leading rusher (six carries for 38 yards).
“All three of those guys do a good job with their legs extending plays,” said Rodgers, who didn’t play in the opener but will get his most extended preseason playing time next week at Denver. “It’s fun to see those guys get out there and play well. (I’m) happy for those guys.”
McCarthy said Sunday he wants his backup quarterbacks to look like Rodgers when they go into games. Halfway through the preseason schedule, that has been the case.
“What I’m looking for in Aaron Rodgers is for these three guys to try to emulate his particular mannerisms, the techniques, and those types of things,” McCarthy said. “Because that’s the way we play offense, and we play offense running everything through the quarterback position. So where one guy is as far as in front of the other, our goal is to have all four of them ready to play.”
Hawkins a hit
At midweek, cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt described Josh Hawkins’ training camp as “up and down.” Saturday night’s performance was a major “up” — and something Hawkins would like to use as a launching pad, perhaps to a starting job.
With two of the Packers’ four top cornerbacks — Davon House (hamstring) and Damarious Randall (concussion) — out with injuries, Hawkins started, played 37 snaps and had a terrific night. He finished with five tackles and three pass break-ups, and he made his presence felt from the opening drive (a third-and-12 tackle, an end zone pass break-up). Hawkins, who made the team as an undrafted free agent last year but played sparingly after a key mistake against Detroit in Week 3, now must build on the performance.
“Just don’t get comfortable. Don’t get comfortable,” Hawkins said. “Try to stay consistent, continue to keep working hard in the weight room, practice, film room. Continue to study my plays. Never take that step back. Don’t get comfortable and start backpedaling. That’s what I’m definitely going to do this year.”
Bennett makes his point
After his brother Michael’s decision to sit during the national anthem a week earlier, outspoken tight end Martellus Bennett decided to take a different approach — he drew a political cartoon and posted it on Instagram on Friday. No Packers protested during the anthem Saturday night.
Bennett, who founded The Imagination Agency as his creative outlet, said Sunday he drew the rough sketch on Wednesday and then sent it to some of his artists to flesh out the idea.
“Change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes effort — effort,” Bennett said. “Things just come along and it evolves over time. I think guys are doing a lot of different things, a lot of different battles, a lot of different things in the same war. At the end of the day, I think change will come not only for the black players, but white players.
“The entire world wants to see the world become a better place. I think everyone is starting to get more involved and trying to look at it more so as, ‘What can I do to do my part and how can I help out?’ I think that’s one of the coolest things right now.”
One week after his 68-yard punt return for a touchdown, second-year wide receiver Trevor Davis muffed a punt early, turning the ball over deep in Packers territory and setting up a Washington field goal. Davis was focused on moving forward Sunday. “You’ve got to able to put things behind you, no matter if you score a touchdown or drop a punt,” Davis said. … McCarthy said he didn’t have an update on defensive lineman Dean Lowry, who left the game with a knee injury and did not return. … House said he hopes to play against the Broncos. … Randall and wide receiver Malachi Dupre remained in the concussion protocol.