Former Packers QB Hosted for AFC Roster Tryout: Report

Benkert Texans Tryout

Getty Kurt Benkert #7 of the Green Bay Packers warms up before a preseason game against the New York Jets at Lambeau Field on August 21, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

A former Green Bay Packers backup quarterback is starting to get looks as a possible roster addition now that NFL training camps are underway.

According to the NFL’s official transaction wire for August 2, the Houston Texans hosted 27-year-old Kurt Benkert for a roster tryout on Tuesday just one day after cutting loose their former No. 4 quarterback, Chris Hogan, from their 90-man offseason roster. While NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported that Houston “will stick with their three QBs” for now, he mentioned that “Benkert could be in play down the line” for the Texans.

The Texans are currently expected to roll into the new season with 2021 third-round pick Davis Mills as their starting quarterback after trading two-time Pro Bowler Deshaun Watson to the Cleveland Browns back in March. They also have a pair of veterans in Kyle Allen and Jeff Driskel slated to compete for the backup job behind Mills; although, adding a fourth arm to the room, such as Benkert, could up the level of competition.

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Benkert Has ‘Mad Respect’ for Packers

Benkert served as the Packers’ third-string quarterback for the 2021 season after winning out over veteran Blake Bortles and Jake Dolegala ahead of training camp. Green Bay kept him around as a protected practice-squad player for the entire season and promoted him to the game-day roster in Week 14’s game against the Chicago Bears as a backup for Aaron Rodgers while Jordan Love was on the COVID-19 list.

Once Rodgers signed a contract extension early in the 2022 offseason, though, the Packers had strong commitments to both him and Love — who is a 2020 first-rounder heading into the third year of his rookie deal — for the next few seasons and were left with little reason to keep around a backup-quality quarterback who wasn’t going to get a fair shake to make the 53-man roster. So, rather than letting Benkert compete for a practice-squad role again, general manager Brian Gutekunst opted to waive him in mid-June in hopes that he could find a better opportunity elsewhere during camps.

“I saw a lot of bashing of Gute on social media and I did not love it, but I know it was really not my place to tweet about it,” Benkert said on June 18 during a live stream on his Twitch channel. “But I want you guys to know, the way that he did it and went about it, mad respect for him and for the window that he cut me in to give me an opportunity to actually go somewhere and compete for another job to make the 53, knowing that there was no chance for me to make the 53 here. Like, (I) respect the s*** out of that.”

Could Benkert Push Driskel & Allen?

In terms of regular-season experience, there is no contest between Benkert and either Allen or Driskel. Allen has started in 17 games over his first four seasons in the league, including 12 games in 2019 for Carolina while Cam Newton was injured. He wasn’t the most efficient starter, completing 62% of his passes (303 of 489) and throwing 17 touchdowns to 16 interceptions, but it is still much more than the handful of kneel-down plays that dot Benkert’s regular-season resume.

Driskel isn’t quite as accomplished, but the former 2016 sixth-rounder has at least been given the chance to actually go out and compete in regular-season contests. He started five games for Cincinnati as a rookie in 2018 and played three games for each Detroit (2019) and Denver (2020) before a one-game stint in Houston last year. Over his 16 career games, he has completed 58.6% of his passes (202 of 345) for 2,120 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions and also added three scores with his legs.

The problem is … neither Allen’s nor Driskel’s numbers are very good. The Texans seem to genuinely believe they have something in Mills and are right to roll the dice on that in 2022 with a stronger quarterback class coming up in 2023, but limiting the backup competition to just two arms is short-sighted, especially when the two candidates have combined for eight wins and 18 losses over their NFL careers.

Even if Benkert is an unproven commodity, he has spent a full year learning from a four-time NFL MVP in 2021 and could be worth inviting to camp. Either he beats out one of the veterans for their roster spot or he pushes those veterans to earn it. Win-win.

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