One player at each Packers offensive position group to watch during Week 2 of OTAs

By: Paul Bretl 5/28/24

This will be the second week of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) for the Green Bay Packers, with Wednesday’s practice open to the media.

Last week’s practice that we were able to view was moving at a slower pace during team drills. Matt LaFleur mentioned afterward that this was intentional, with the focus being on teaching, and as the players get more practices under their belts, the pace will pick up.

“I think it’s gonna happen organically,” said LaFleur on when things will speed up. “We kinda approached the offseason last year in a similar fashion. That first week was more jog-through and then we started to pick up the tempo as we went.

“I obviously wanna be mindful and make sure we’re doing things the right way around here, but I think learning how to practice is part of the process. You got a lot of new guys in there and they gotta learn and we’ll pick up the speed as we progress later throughout OTAs.”

Also of note, there are two groups on opposite ends of the field that are going through 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills at the same time. One group is made up primarily of expected starters. On the other side of the field are the backups. Working with the ‘starters’ initially were only returning players. The rookies were with the second group.

So when the Packers were in their new base 4-3 defense, it was Eric Wilson next to Quay Walker and Isaiah McDuffie. Lining up next to Xavier McKinney was Anthony Johnson, while Rasheed Walker started at left tackle and Andre Dillard at right tackle with Zach Tom sidelined.

Eventually, we saw Jordan Morgan taking snaps at both right and left tackle. With Josh Jacobs out, Marshawn Lloyd was the second running back behind AJ Dillon, and Edgerrin Cooper saw snaps at linebacker with this group. This, of course, doesn’t mean Anthony Johnson will be starting come Week 1, but it goes to show that starting snaps won’t be handed out either. The rookies have to first show they can handle the new responsibilities being thrown at them.

“They’ve been great,” said LaFleur of the rookies. “I think that’s one thing, personally, that I have so much appreciation for Gutey and his staff for the type of people that they bring in the building.

“You can never be around enough high-character people that love the game of football, that are willing to put in the work and are very coachable. It makes it a lot easier to come to work each and every day. It gives you more excitement to come in here to try to build something special together.”

So, in preparation for this week’s practices, one of which the media can view, here is one player from each position group on offense that I’ll be keeping my eyes on.

Quarterback: Sean Clifford

Naturally, with the Packers adding quarterback Michael Pratt in the draft, that can lead to speculation around what that means for Sean Clifford. However, by all accounts, the Packers remain very high on Clifford, and as I wrote about recently, the addition of Pratt is more so about getting back to an organizational philosophy around developing quarterbacks than feeling the need to find an upgrade for Clifford. 

Clifford is now entering his second season in LaFleur’s offense, which should give him a big advantage over Pratt. Quarterbacks coach Tom Clements also mentioned how well Clifford progressed last season and that he expects a big jump in Year 2.

“Sean, he definitely did grow,” said Clements. He’s like a game-type gamer. A little bit of Matt Flynn in him. Once the season started, and he was running the scout team, and he started to become more familiar with our offense and then running opposing team’s offenses, you usually have a lot of similar plays, and he ran the scout team very well, ran the huddle well, he’s a good leader, and he started to make plays throughout the year.”

Running back: AJ Dillon

We know that Josh Jacobs will be the Packers’ top running back and has the ability to handle a full workload. Based on what offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich had to say, it does sound like Marshawn Lloyd is going to see his fair share of snaps this season as well. So my big question at this position is, what kind of role – if any – can AJ Dillon carve out? We know he brings reliability to the position, but he has to show more burst after averaging just 3.4 yards per rush last season. I’ve also pontificated on Dillon being used similarly to an H-back, so watching where he’s lining up and what he’s being asked to do will be on my radar.

“I think he’s definitely capable of that,” said running backs coach Ben Sirmans when asked if Dillon can play H-back. “I still remember a play we have called 18 Zoro where he helps the tight end blocking off the edge and roll up to the next level. 

“He did a great job with that and so many other things that we had him leading to even if he was blocking for a wide receiver so he can do some of those things and with him doing that, obviously it’ll make our offense a lot more diverse because you saw how he is catching the ball out of the backfield, especially the last half of the season, he can make things happen. Having him being that diverse is going to help this offense.”

Wide Receiver: Christian Watson

Going through individual drills last week, the speed and burst of a fully healthy Christian Watson was on display. From the sounds of it, with the help of UW-Madison, the Packers got to the bottom of Watson’s lingering hamstring injury issues were. But as LaFleur mentioned afterward, while they feel good about where things are at, only time will tell if they’ve truly solved this problem. When Watson is a full go, defenses are forced to defend this Packers’ offense differently. Watson’s presence not only brings big play potential for himself to capitalize on, but he also opens up opportunities for others with his gravity.

“Time will tell,” said LaFleur about Watson. “Certainly you’ve got to get through the entire offseason, into training camp. There’s a lot of volume in training camp, so we get through that, then we’ll feel pretty good about it. Both he and Stokes look like they’re probably in the best shape I’ve seen either one of them.”

Tight end: Henry Pearson

With Tucker Kraft sidelined with a pec injury, that resulted in more opportunities for Henry Pearson. Pearson signed as a UDFA following the 2023 draft and spent most of the year on the practice squad. He is listed as a fullback, just as Deguara was, and could be the top candidate to take those H-back snaps this season with his ability to move around the formation and impact the game as a blocker and pass catcher. A big opportunity awaits Pearson with the additional reps he’s going to get.

“Henry’s a guy, he always busts his butt,” said LaFleur during rookie minicamp. “I think there’s a great opportunity for everybody here, quite frankly. And that’s one of the things that we talked to the team about. It doesn’t matter, first-rounder, UDFA, if you’re a tryout guy, you;re here for a reason. You got an opportunity and it’s really on them to go out there and showcase what they can do and you got two days to leave a pretty good impression.”

Offensive Line: Jordan Morgan

It’s easy to see Morgan’s athleticism with how quickly he can move his feet, but I’m also quite curious to see where he is lining up and with what unit he’s working with. As already mentioned, last week we saw him taking snaps at both right and left tackle. Morgan spent his career at Arizona playing left tackle, but the Packers like his versatility, which will also allow him to play guard if needed. When Stenavich spoke with the media recently, he was non-committal regarding where Morgan would line up. That not only depends on Morgan but also on how everyone around him is performing as the Packers search for the “best five.” Along with making the leap from college to the NFL, as the Packers move Morgan around, there will be an additional learning curve with each new position they ask him to play. Not to be forgotten about at left tackle is Rasheed Walker, who is “a lot more confident” heading into Year 3.

“It’s a little bit extra,” said Morgan on playing different positions. “A little more studying and extra film work and extra on-field stuff. It helps a lot. It’s easy to pick up, just like I said, flip it. It makes it easier.”