Can B.J. Coleman Make the Final Roster?
by Mike Conklin
August 22, 2012
B.J. Coleman has shown steady progress throughout training camp, and has the kind of arm and body type that fits the profile for an NFL quarterback. The Packers keep their opinions on players close to the vest, but indications are that they seem to like him. That begs the next question: Can they afford to cut him in hopes that they can re-sign him to the practice squad, or would another team snatch him up?
When it comes to shaping their roster on the final cutdown day, the Packers have gone with two quarterbacks each of the last three years. The last time they went with three quarterbacks to start the season was 2008, which was also the year that Aaron Rodgers took the helm as the starter. Surprisingly enough, the backup situation that year had several similarities to this year's team.
Although this isn't a perfect comparison, going into camp that year Brian Brohm played a similar role to Graham Harrell this year. The Packers invested fairly heavily in both. In Brohm's case, they spent a premium draft pick on him when he was chosen in the second round, and it went without saying that he would be the backup quarterback. Although there was some talk that the Packers should bring in a veteran backup to show Rodgers the ropes, after Brohm was picked in the second round...and many thought that pick looked like a steal at the time...there really wasn't much doubt that Brohm would end up being the backup when the dust settled.
Although the Packers haven't invested a high draft pick or a lot of money in Graham Harrell, they have invested considerable resources in him. He has been with the organization for over two full years now, and his coaches have spent countless hours grooming him. Mike McCarthy also has his quarterback guru status on the line. He has gone on record stating that he believes Harrell can do the job, and went into this offseason with confidence that Harrell would be the backup quarterback for the foreseeable future.
The 2008 version of the Packers spent a seventh round draft pick on a quarterback when they drafted Matt Flynn. This year, B.J. Coleman finds himself in a similar role. Flynn wasn't really expected to do much, and it was actually quite surprising when the Packers drafted him five rounds after having already spent a first-day pick on a backup quarterback. (Back then the second round was still on the first day of the draft.) Coleman was an interesting pick this year because of his textbook measurables for a quarterback, but after only having thrown nine touchdowns as a senior at a small college (Tennessee-Chattanooga) he hardly seemed like he would do much more than vie for a spot on the practice squad.
Like Flynn in 2008, Coleman has opened a few eyes by showing flashes in training camp. As was the case with Brohm in 2008, the fact that Harrell has had a less-than-stellar performance in games so far only clouds the situation further. At this point, Coleman looks like he could be a very intriguing player with more time and seasoning. The question is whether or not other NFL teams see it the same way.
Sneaking a quarterback through to the practice squad is an iffy proposition, as the Bears learned two years ago. They had spent a sixth round draft pick on Dan LeFevour, and wanted to sneak him through to their practice squad after the final roster cutdown. The Bengals snatched LeFevour up on waivers, and the Bears never got a chance to develop him. They ultimately ended up spending a fifth round pick on another developmental quarterback the next year (Nathan Enderle).
It is easy for fans to overvalue their team's players, and other NFL teams don't always see the glass half full the same way that fans do. Last year many people thought Tori Gurley was a slam dunk to be picked up on waivers, but he slipped through to the Packers practice squad. Graham Harrell had also been added to the active roster late in the 2010 season because the Packers were concerned another team was going to sign him, yet they cut him at the end of the 2011 training camp. He was able to slip through to the practice squad as well.
At the same time, there have been other cases when teams are caught off guard when a player is picked up on waivers after the final cutdown. In the case of the Bears and LeFevour, it must have been a surprise. LeFevour had a pretty miserable training camp and preseason, completing only 19 of 41 passes (46.3%) for 204 yards, 1 TD, 1 int and 6 sacks. He was a sixth round pick, so every team had several chances to draft him if they wanted to, and he didn't do anything to distinguish himself in August. Even so, he was picked up off waivers after the final cuts.
B.J. Coleman hasn't shown much yet, but it seems there have been more than enough good things to warrant further development. While Graham Harrell may still turn out to be the kind of cerebral quarterback that can overcome his physical limitations and become a serviceable quarterback, Coleman has the size and skill set that may possibly be molded into the kind of player that can net a decent draft pick if he continues to develops. (Admittedly that is a big "if.")
Although the Packers have managed most of the last three seasons carrying only two quarterbacks, they are still in the minority in that regard. Most teams still carry three quarterbacks on their roster. If Coleman goes out and performs in the last two preseason games the way he has been practicing lately, the Packers may just have to keep him on their 53-man roster if they want to keep him in the fold.
Of course, the Packers could continue to give him barely any playing time. Last week Coleman didn't even get on to the field until there was less than a minute left in the game. There is a conspiracy theory that the Packers have seen enough of him in practice already and they want to limit his exposure to other teams. Although that scenario does not seem likely, it will be interesting to see how much playing time Coleman receives in the final two games, and how he produces on the field when given the chance.
Many things can change over the course of the last two preseason games. Just ask Vic So'oto and M.D. Jennings. Last year at this time they were both considered long shots to make the team. After strong showings in the final two games, they found themselves on the 53-man roster and remained there all season.
Coleman may find himself in a similar position this year. Stranger things have happened.
Photo Credit: Scout.com