Monday, August 20, 2012

In Defense of Graham Harrell

Hey, it could be worse.
Seriously, after re-watching the preseason game against the Browns, I'm going to stick up for Graham Harrell. I'd rather have him as the backup over Colt McCoy or Tarvaris Jackson. Harrell made some poor throws and he'd be an average replacement starter, at best, but he was let down by his teammates on his turnovers:

The second quarter INT that was returned for a touchdown, overturned by a penalty. Maybe the pass was a little off target, but it still hit TE Tom Crabtree in the hands, who tipped it up in the air for a gift INT to a nearby Browns defender.

The end of the second quarter Hail Mary. It wasn't the best attempt, but that's a pass you expect to be intercepted. When Football Outsiders ranks quarterbacks, it removes Hail Mary INTs from their definition of a turnover because it really isn't one.

The third quarter INT that was returned for a touchdown. I had been hoping to see some good things from TE Ryan Taylor this preseason, but he was held out against the Chargers due to a previous concussion. He returned against the Browns, but he tripped over his own feet on a crossing route and the Browns defender made a diving INT at the spot where Taylor should have been standing. If Taylor doesn't fall on his face, there's no chance that this pass is intercepted.

The fourth quarter intentional grounding in the end zone for a safety. It's been a mixed bag among the backups on the offensive line. Rookie Andrew Datko did a fine job in pass protection and the players at guard looked good, but on this play, the Browns' DE ran a stunt over center that neither the left guard nor center Evan Dietrich-Smith picked up, and the defender ran untouched right up the middle. That looked like Dietrich-Smith's responsibility, and Harrell had no chance.

On three bad plays (excluding the Hail Mary pass), Harrell was let down when a teammate made a bad play. His stats wouldn't have been great even if his teammates had helped him out, but it wouldn't have been a disaster either.

As a final note, if there was ever a competition between Harrell and rookie B.J. Coleman, it ended when Coleman's only attempt against the Browns was a pass he should have never thrown against even a college subdivision team. It looked like the receiver ran a different route, probably in response to the double-team he was facing, and Coleman failed to read the defense. The silver lining is that Coleman should have no problem passing through waivers, and they can stash him on the practice squad. The new question is whether they should keep Coleman under any circumstances.

As a final, final note, I liked what I saw from Datko against the Browns. He's a natural left tackle who's got great size and seems to move his feet well, but he was beaten against the Chargers when bull-rushed and he got no push when asked to run block against the Browns. If you're wondering why the Packers haven't ran the ball well this preseason, it's because their two tackles (Datko and Herb Taylor) can't get any push off the line. It looks like the shoulder Datko injured in college is still holding him back, and he might not be anything more than an emergency option until it's fully healed, but he could be very good by next season.


Anonymous said...

Agreed about QB positon. He'll be OK. He was let down on a few plays; he has much room to improve, but there is no need to panic. Nice blogpost.

PackFaninFl said...

I think the untold story of Graham Harrell's development is his growth from year one to year two. That's when a player is supposed to take that big jump to the next level. But his development was thwarted by the darned lockout. He missed that crucial off-season QB school that McCarthy is famous for! I think that has impacted his development...

But I'm with you -- it hasn't been all his fault! He's obviously improved his arm strength. And others have noted his improved presence in the huddle, etc. I say let's give him a chance before going for other teams' retreads...