Packers 2024 Training Camp Preview: Quarterback

By: Paul Bretl 7/9/24

With Green Bay Packers training camp less than two weeks away, I’ll be doing a position-by-position preview, starting with the quarterbacks.

Roster: Jordan Love, Sean Clifford, Michael Pratt

Countering the counters: Opposing defenses have now had a full offseason to look back and digest Love’s tape. They’ve been able to really examine what he does well and where he struggles and will undoubtedly come up with game plans that try to take away the former while putting him in scenarios that exacerbate the latter.

“You might anticipate a defense maybe bringing a little more pressure,” said Clements. “Disguising a little bit more. Making it more difficult to see where to go. So that’s from a quarterback standpoint, if that happens you have to have a lot of film study and be able to react.

“I mean that was one of Aaron’s (Rodgers) best attributes is the he could process information very quickly and usually make the right decision and get the ball where it had to go. That’s something that we’ll have to see how defenses approach it, but that’s something you’ve got to be ready for.”

For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, it’s obviously important that Love and the offense counter these adjustments thrown at them but also do so somewhat quickly. Taking a week or two to adjust can have a big impact on potential playoff seeding. Instead, these counters need to be made on the fly.

With the experience Love has gained over the last year, his ability to process the play as it’s unfolding has improved as has his overall comfortability with the offense and the players around him. These will be key factors when it comes to countering the counters.

Emphasis on footwork: Proper footwork is at the core of what quarterbacks coach Tom Clements emphasizes in his teaching, and not only with Love, but with Aaron Rodgers as well. That element has again been the focus for Love this offseason.

“There’s always little things,” said Love on what he’s working on. “I think the biggest thing for me is just staying poised in the pocket, being able to say balanced in the pocket. Sometimes I get out of whack with my feet and I might start drifting in the pocket too much. Just pocket awareness, making smaller moves and understanding when I’ve got to get out of there.”

Footwork is the foundation for a quarterback’s success on any given play. As quarterbacks coach Tom Clements has said previously, he usually has a good idea of how the pass turned out by watching the quarterback’s footwork.

Footwork, the cornerstone of a quarterback’s performance, is more than just steps. It’s about executing the right drop to ensure timely throws, maintaining balance, and keeping the feet in constant motion. This synchronized movement with the quarterback’s eyes is crucial for a successful play. Any deviation from this can disrupt the quarterback’s mechanics, leading to inaccurate passes or mistimed plays.

Proper footwork also extends beyond just being in the pocket. In today’s NFL, making off-schedule throws on the move is a must as well.

“Also throwing on the run,” said Love when further describing what he’s been working on. “Being able to escape the pocket and make those off-schedule plays is something I worked a good amount on.

“Also, just being comfortable, seeing the defense, going back and watching the tape, seeing things I could have done different with picking up protections and things I wasn’t doing earlier on that I started being able to pick up on later in the season. But I think the biggest thing for me is just pocket movement, making smaller movements.”

In addition to the individual drills that the quarterbacks go through, Matt LaFleur has heavily utilized 7-on-7 periods during OTAs to help further emphasize the footwork element at the quarterback position. LaFleur has made it known he is not a fan of 7-on-7 drills, largely because there isn’t a pass rush, but the focus right now is on having “perfect feet,” and this drill helps accomplish that.

A big jump for Sean Clifford? The addition of Michael Pratt in this year’s draft doesn’t mean that the Packers aren’t bullish about Clifford. In fact, Clements expects the second-year quarterback to make a big jump.

“He developed throughout the year,” said Clements, “which is what you’d like to see. He’s doing a great job in this offseason. So I think he’ll make a big jump from year one to year two.”

As I’ve detailed before, my sense is that drafting Pratt was more so about adhering to an organizational philosophy that goes well beyond Gutekunst’s tenure as GM, where the development of the quarterback position is prioritized, almost regardless of what the depth chart looks like, and it was less about the Packers feeling a sense of urgency to find an upgrade for Clifford.

Although we saw very little of Clifford last season, one intangible trait that LaFleur often used to describe Clifford was ‘resiliency.’ Regardless of what had just happened, whether it be a turnover, a sack, or a missed throw, Clifford was very quick to bounce back and move on. He’s a competitor. 

However, a big part of Clifford’s responsibilities as the backup was running the scout team offense each week. In that role, just like many of the other Packers’ rookies, Clements saw growth in Clifford as the year went on.

“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.”

I’m sure if Pratt is able to come in and push Clifford, creating some additional competition, the Packers will be thrilled. All offseason, Gutekunst has continually mentioned the importance of competition within every room. 

With that said, don’t forget about Clifford either, just because there is a new quarterback on the team. The Packers are ‘super excited’ about what they have in him, as LaFleur put it, and with Clifford having a full year in the NFL and in LaFleur’s offense, he is going to have a massive leg up in any potential competition that takes place this summer with Pratt.

“As I said, usually there’s a big jump from year one to year so I anticipate that to be the case,” Clements said. “You just have to be ready to go. Sean is very into the game. If you watch him on the sidelines, he’s always talking to Jordan, learning, watching what’s going on out on the field. He loves football, so he just needs to continue to work and be ready.”

Michael Pratt had some promising moments but still has a way to go: There were a few occasions during team drills during offseason programs where Pratt was able to impress. During one two-minute drill, in particular, Pratt led the third-team offense into field goal range, which Anders Carlson was able to connect on from 46 yards. 

Pratt finished the drive, completing 5-of-9 passes for 46 yards, and from my vantage point, it looked like two of those incompletions would have been classified as drops.

Beyond the numbers that don’t mean a whole lot this time of the year, what stood out most was the process of it all. Playing full-speed, Pratt appeared poised in the pocket, he was mostly accurate, and got the ball out quickly, knowing exactly where to go with it.

“Definitely slowing down,” said Pratt on the speed of the game. “I think this week, you know, yesterday and today, I think everything’s really started to slow down a little bit. I feel like I’m at the point now where rookie minicamp and first week it was like hearing the whole call and it’s like thinking about the formation, thinking about the motion, thinking about the protection, thinking about the concept, like now once I get the call, I can kind of visualize the formation and the motion together.

“Think about the protection a little bit because I might need to change it and then the concept, now that I know the formation, it’s X this or Z this. I think it’s definitely starting to click a lot better and I’m able to operate a little faster and able to play a little bit faster.”

In the past, we’ve heard Matt LaFleur mention ‘letting it rip,’ when he’s discussing what he wants to see from Jordan Love or Sean Clifford. This doesn’t mean being overly aggressive or throwing the ball downfield just for the sake of doing so, but rather, being confident in what you see and the quarterback getting the ball out of his hands. On Wednesday, Pratt was letting it rip.

However, having said that, Pratt still has a ways to go. Ultimatley I believe that the learning curve that Pratt is and will experience will be the differentiator in deciding who Love’s backup quarterback is. Clifford having that familiarity and understanding of the offense, plus the added comfort level of the speed of the game, will help him separate himself from Pratt as training camp and the preseason unfolds.

“Any time you talk about the quarterback position, there’s so much information thrown at these guys, and it’s a big learning curve,” said Matt LaFleur. “But I think much as how we saw Sean (Clifford) adjust, I think OTA’s it’s survival mode because you’re drinking basically water out of a fire hose and you’re just trying to survive out there and I think these next five weeks will be good for him to kind of like decompress a little bit, take what he’s learned.

“He’s going to have to stay in the book and hopefully it will help him digest it a little better so when he gets to training camp he’s ready to roll. He’s done a nice job. I’m not saying he hasn’t. It’s just you don’t get as many reps as you’d like to at that position. That’s why we like to do a lot of the two-spots and today, we’re short in a couple areas so we didn’t do that. But yeah, I’m looking forward to when he gets back to camp, he’s already gone through it once, learned basically the entire install and to go through it again a second time I think will be really beneficial for him.”