The Packers entered the 2016-2017 season expecting to keep two quarterbacks. Then, undrafted rookie, Joe Callahan showed his worth after backup quarterback Brett Hundley sprained his ankle. Hundley entered the season still recovering, leaving the Packers in a position to keep Callahan, or leave themselves without a healthy backup for Aaron Rodgers.
Hundley healed and took his backup quarterback role back in a couple of weeks. Still, the Packers didn’t release Callahan until week six, when they needed to sign CB Demetrius Goodson from the practice squad due to injuries.
The coaching staff believed in him, considering the Packers have become very comfortable keeping only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. As the team likes to do so often, they were hoping to develop him on the practice squad, but the rookie was claimed by the Saints.
His time in New Orleans only lasted a week, before he was cut and claimed by the injury ridden Cleveland Browns. The Browns released him a month later, once the quarterbacks they’ve invested in were healthy, allowing the Packers to sign the undrafted rookie for a second time. In an interview with Wes Hodkiewicz of packers.com, Callahan details his rookie season.
The quarterback enters his second year in the NFL in prime position to steal another roster spot from the Packers. Although I’m not convinced the Packers ‘came close’ to dealing Brett Hundley during the draft, despite Micheal David Smith reporting just that. Hundley has two years left on his rookie contract, leaving the 2018 offseason as the Packers last opportunity to trade their prized asset.
Considering the team’s plan with their backup quarterback, and their fondness of Callahan, it’s to be expected that the team will keep three quarterbacks throughout the whole season. The former Division III player proved that he fit in the team’s system, showing the ability to move around the pocket in an Aaron Rodgers copycat fashion. Not only can he buy the team time by avoiding pass rushers, but he’s quick enough to get up field to steal a first down in a time of need.
At his best-case scenario, he could come in for the injured Aaron Rodgers, and manage the game. The team around him would need to play well, but he has the skill set to help the team move the ball down the field. When he does create more time by moving in the pocket, he doesn’t hold on to the ball to force it into a difficult window. He makes sound decisions, accurately throwing while moving outside the pocket.
He gets the ball out quickly when possible. Perhaps he lacks top end arm strength, but he managed to complete a 50 yard pass to Geronimo Alison against the 49ers. Callahan rolled right, away from heavy pressure, then set himself up for a big throw with three steps, and slung it down the field. The ball fluttered, and would have been dangerous had there been safety help over the top. Still, he showed the ability to create something out of nothing.
If the Packers find themselves in a position where he starts a stretch of the regular season the team would need to rely on his ability to create time, and the receiving staff’s training to extend plays. It’ll be hard to create big plays, so they’ll need to slowly move their way up the field, eating up the clock as they go.
His solid skill set and confidence to see where the pieces fall gives him an opportunity to step in and play the opponent tight, much like Matt Flynn in 2010.
Ted Thompson loves to replace from within. As they continue to try to improve the talent around Rodgers, the Packers will take whatever they can get in value for Brett Hundley between today and the 2018 training camp.
The front office will not enter the 2018 training camp without a plan for their second string quarterback. Callahan showing out last preseason just made the decision all that much easier. The team will have a established backup, much like they did with Scott Tolzien in 2015. This allows them to search for another talented prospect, such as Hundley, and develop him without the stress of game preparation their rookie season.
All signs point to the Packers retaining the former undrafted dark horse from Wesley University, giving them three quarterbacks. If he plays as well as he did last preseason, his perception may take a leap above skilled backup, perhaps giving the Packers another potential trade asset.
Obviously, by keeping a third quarterback the team will prevent themselves from having extra depth somewhere on the team. The 2017 undrafted rookie crop may play a deciding factor in who loses their roster spot. Should they have a rookie corner show potential, they’ll be more likely to cut an established backup defensive back.
Unfortunately, I’m not one of those guys who can play chess in my head, so we’ll leave it as; expect Joe Callahan to be a Packer the next two seasons.
Highlights from Callahan’s 2016 Preseason: