Much like Seneca Wallace the week before, Tolzien was thrust into duty last week after most likely getting very little work in practice leading up to that game against Philadelphia, as the Packers had to give Wallace extra attention to get him up to speed. Green Bay fell to the Eagles at home, but Tolzien was impressive, especially considering the difficult situation he was presented with.
Sunday was the first regular-season action in the 26-year-old Tolzien's career, so we don't have a lot to base our evaluations on. But going back to his college evaluations and some good moments in the preseason with the 49ers -- along with what we saw last week -- there are some critiques we can take away from this young player. First off, Tolzien isn't a physically overwhelming specimen. He lacks a big arm, doesn't have outstanding size and isn't a high-end athlete for the position.
A mostly short to intermediate passer, we also know that Tolzien isn't bashful or “Just a Caretaker” at the position. He will attempt difficult throws, including back shoulder throws, and plays the game with swagger and confidence. Because he won't be able to fit the ball into tiny windows like Rodgers can, he is willing to pull the trigger. Tolzien probably will have some rough patches with defenders getting their hands on his passes, but I see his boldness as a positive, especially considering the strong set of weapons he is throwing to in Green Bay.
Expect the Giants' defense to key on the outstanding Packers' running game and Eddie Lacy, and to dare Tolzien to beat them through the air. While I wouldn't argue with that strategy, the group of Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jarrett Boykin have a major edge over the members of the Giants' secondary. Lacy, who has logged at least 20 carries in every game since taking over as the lead back in Week 5, was outstanding after contact last week. The Packers might have found another quality wide receiver in Boykin, who is big and physical with adequate speed and good body control. I love the way Boykin attacks the football and, like Tolzien, he is not a bashful player despite playing few meaningful regular-season snaps.
The Giants better be aware of tight end Brandon Bostick, who could be yet another break-out weapon for this offense. Bostick is a big time athlete who might be ready to create matchup problems from different alignments all over the field, which is something McCarthy excels at creating.
Tolzien moved the Packers' offense consistently against the Eagles, although he did make a few ill-advised throws and threw two interceptions. But Tolzien also just missed on a few big plays and should do a fine job of getting his receivers to use their strong after-the-catch skills. A turnover or two by Tolzien would not surprise me in New York, but I expect a very successful outing by Tolzien in his second game and first career start.
Everyone knows this is Rodgers' team, but if Tolzien is as effective as I expect after receiving a full week of preparation time as the Packers' starter, Green Bay should be able to keep their head above water in the NFC playoff race while Rodgers is out. And in the big picture, Tolzien might end up as the ideal young backup to Rodgers.