Training camp is nearing for the Green Bay Packers. As part of my preview, I will be highlighting all 91 players on the Packers roster as I make my way through each position group, diving into what I’ve seen during the offseason programs, where things stand, expectations, and more. I’ll also be making a final roster prediction as well.
Up first will be the quarterbacks, a position that has been the embodiment of stability for many years in Green Bay, but one this season that comes with a number of question marks. Most notably, how will this Packers offense perform with Jordan Love at quarterback?
"“I have confidence in myself,” said Love during his first press conference as the starting quarterback. “I have confidence in the team. We are going to take it day by day. I can’t say what will happen this year, what might happen next year, who knows? But we have a really good team and I think we are going to be able to work together everyday and just grow.”"
Other unknowns include who will be Love’s backup, and will the Packers sign a veteran to join that room? I discuss all those topics and more as I make my way through the Green Bay quarterback room.
Wins and losses aside, the ultimate goal for the Green Bay Packers this season is to figure out if Jordan Love can be their quarterback of the future. What can’t happen when next offseason arrives is that there is still uncertainty around that question because that could have a major ripple effect on how the Packers go about constructing their roster moving forward.
The big thing that Love needs to showcase is progression throughout the season. The main reason that a player is brought along slowly is so that the learning curve will hopefully be much shorter. As LaFleur said, patience will be required, and that’s absolutely true, Love is a first-time starter after all, but the mistakes that are taking place in Week 2 shouldn’t be happening – or at least not as often – in Week 7.
As one would expect, Love was up and down during the offseason programs. There were some well-thrown deep balls, along with some overthrows. He commanded the line of scrimmage and huddle well but threw some interceptions. Love was more often accurate when throwing from the pocket, but at times off target when scrambling. You get the idea.
Specifically, what I saw from Love was his aggressiveness, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. Rather, he was letting it rip. Instead of the indecisiveness we saw from him early on in his career, Love was getting the ball out on time–when a window was open, he was firing. He was also exploiting the defense over the middle of the field, a key element of the LaFleur offense and something we will see more of with him under center.
Lastly, Love’s cool confidence that he carries off the field is with him on it. Whether it’s a good play or a bad play, he doesn’t appear to get too high or too low. This calm presence is something that Brian Gutekunst mentioned this offseason as something that really impressed him about Love following that start in Kansas City in 2021 when just about everything went wrong for the offense.
The closer we get to the regular season, the more the results are going to matter, but through the offseason programs, LaFleur said that he was more focused on Love’s process, and that being correct. This includes his footwork, mechanics, and getting the ball out on time. If the process is right, the results will eventually follow.
Some other notable areas that Love and quarterbacks coach Tom Clements have been working on are his footwork, his ability to throw on the run, his hard count, and going through progression drills. Areas of opportunity for this Packers offense as a whole include attacking the middle of the field, along with efficiency on both play-action and deep balls–two areas Green Bay struggled with last season.
With a young quarterback room, the Packers really valued Clifford’s college experience, which included appearing in 51 games, almost 1,500 dropbacks, and about 2,800 total snaps. Along with that experience, Clifford’s intelligence, fit with the locker room, and athleticism also stood out during the pre-draft process. When it comes to being a backup quarterback and being that extra set of eyes for Love, that in-game experience, even at the college level, and knowledge of the game will be important factors when diagnosing and evaluating what took place on the field.
The big question for Clifford right now – and Etling – is whether he has shown enough to give the Packers the confidence that he can be the backup quarterback rather than signing one of the few veterans who are still available. During one two-minute period, we saw Clifford complete a deep out and then a corner route on back-to-back plays to move into the red zone. He then stared down a blitzer and threw a strike to Jeff Cotton in the front right corner of the end zone.
However, during the following open practice, Clifford’s two-minute period ended on the second play after he tried squeezing the ball into a tight window over the middle of the field that was deflected and intercepted. As LaFleur said following one practice, Clifford has done some nice things, but he’s a young quarterback as well.
I really do expect Clifford to be on the 53-man roster no matter what. It just depends if he’s the third option behind a veteran backup or the No. 2 quarterback behind Love.
Etling had bounced around the NFL as a 2018 seventh-round draft pick before landing with the Packers last offseason. He quietly put together a solid preseason in 2022, completing 77% of his 22 passes at 10 yards per attempt with one touchdown. He also showcased his athleticism, rushing for 73 yards and a touchdown on nine attempts, according to PFF.
However, the uphill battle that Etling is facing is where he’s at in his career compared to Clifford. Etling will turn 29 years old soon, while Green Bay just used a fifth-round pick on Clifford. Without a veteran quarterback presence, I don’t see the Packers keeping three quarterbacks. If the Packers do add a veteran backup before training camp, then I see Etling as the odd man out. LaFleur has alluded to there simply not being enough reps for four quarterbacks, which presumably means a cut at the position would follow.
As already mentioned, in the limited sample size I was able to see this Spring, I do think Clifford has been the better quarterback of the two so far.
Jordan Love and Sean Clifford
Matt LaFleur said during OTAs that once the team was through minicamp, they would know whether or not they would need to sign a veteran backup quarterback. So if that signing is going to take place, it will most likely take place before training camp, but my guess is that the Packers will stick with Sean Clifford and Danny Etling. While I do think there is value in having a veteran backup to be an extra set of eyes on the sidelines, in the film room, and on the practice field, Green Bay is clearly committed to weathering the storm on offense that comes with relying heavily on inexperienced players, and that will include at backup quarterback as well.
There is only so much we can glean from the offseason programs, but during the five open practices to the media, overall, Clifford performed better than Etling, which included an impressive two-minute scoring drive and, in general, throwing a more consistent ball. Clifford is also a 2023 draft pick who brings college experience and is a good locker-room fit, as several within the Packers organization have mentioned since drafting him.