Pratt Delivers in Backup Battle Against Clifford

Rookie quarterback Michael Pratt’s smooth 2-minute drill at Packers OTAs hinted at his potential to challenge incumbent backup Sean Clifford.
Packers rookie QB Michael Pratt
Packers rookie QB Michael Pratt / Tork Mason/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin /
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – In what could be a heated battle to be Jordan Love’s backup quarterback, Michael Pratt struck the first blow against Sean Clifford at Green Bay Packers OTAs.

At the end of Wednesday’s practice, coach Matt LaFleur conducted a series of 2-minute drills.

Up first, the incumbent backup, Clifford, converted a third-and-4 with a 15-yard completion to Samori Toure, but the drive stalled in part because Clifford forced a deep ball to tight end Joel Wilson into triple-coverage. Next, it was Love’s turn. A third-down drop by Dontayion Wicks ruined his drive.

Going third, it was Pratt’s chance. The rookie seventh-round pick was sharp and poised in the first full-speed drill of the offseason. Completions to receiver Grant DuBose, Wison, receiver Dimitri Stanley and Wilson again all resulted in first downs.

The 12-yard connection to Stanley set up a first down at the defense’s 32. On his next play, a corner route to Malik Heath was dropped at the 8. A “sack” by Deslin Alexandre kept the offense out of the end zone, and the practice ended with Anders Carlson and Jack Podlesny making a couple scripted field goals.

“It was awesome,” Pratt said. “I think it was definitely a little bit, not nerve wracking, but today I kind of learned the whole 2-minute operation this morning about an hour before we went out there and did it. So, at first, I was like, ‘All right, I’ve got to figure it out,’ but getting to watch the first two groups go and getting mental reps in the midst of that definitely helped a lot.

“Once I got out there, it was kind of just fluid and everyone was doing their job.”

For Love, who is in Year 5 in the league and Year 2 as the starter, the goal in a 2-minute drill is to score. Same for Clifford, who earned the No. 2 job as a fifth-round rookie last year due in part to his consistent production in 2-minute situations. For Pratt, the bar for now is a little different as he’s new to the offense and generally playing alongside a bunch of players who also are new to the offense.

“You’re always looking to score, right?” coach Matt LaFleur said. “But I think more than anything, just the operation, the command, understanding the situation, making sure you take care of the football. That’s ultimately priority No. 1.”

Like “most rookie quarterbacks,” LaFleur has seen “a lot of inconsistencies” from Pratt through two weeks of OTAs. That’s to be expected, though.

“There’s a lot that he’s learning,” LaFleur said. “We’ve probably got 40 percent of the playbook in. A lot of the footwork is new to him. Obviously, the terminology and the things that we’re asking of him are just foreign. So, he made some plays – that was evident there – and I think some of the guys made plays for him, which you have to have.”

For Pratt, the key to handling the constant torrent of information has been memorizing “the most important parts” and growing from mistakes. That he played under four offensive coordinators at Tulane has helped him with another year of learning an offense.

“I think this week, everything’s really started to slow down a little bit,” he said. “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. 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.

“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.”

The offseason will conclude with one more set of OTAs next week and the minicamp the week after. That’s five more practices for Pratt to build a foundation for what could be a must-see battle against the impressive Clifford in training camp.

Pratt “has the tools to work with,” quarterbacks coach Tom Clements said before the start of OTAs. Learning the finer points of the play, and the footwork required to successfully operate the play, will be critical.

“Just continuing to learn every single day,” Pratt said of what’s next. “Mistakes are going to be made at every position – by rookies, by vets – but once you make that mistake, learn from it and don’t make the same mistake again.

“There’s a lot of things that are being thrown at us, especially all the rookies. Having to learn so many different things – formations, motions, protections, cadences. There’s so much more than just the play itself. So, just trying to take it all in and getting better every day. I think that’s the most important part.”

More Green Bay Packers News

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Latest news: Strengths/Weaknesses | Team Relative Athetic Scores | Triplets | PFF’s OT rankings | Tom Brady on Jordan Love | Top 10 plays | Bounce-back Alexander? | Fifth-year options


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Bill Huber

BILL HUBER

Bill Huber, who has covered the Green Bay Packers since 2008, is the publisher of Packer Central, a Sports Illustrated channel. E-mail: packwriter2002@yahoo.com History: Huber took over Packer Central in August 2019. Twitter: https://twitter.com/BillHuberNFL Background: Huber graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he played on the football team, in 1995. He worked in newspapers in Reedsburg, Wisconsin Dells and Shawano before working at The Green Bay News-Chronicle and Green Bay Press-Gazette from 1998 through 2008. With The News-Chronicle, he won several awards for his commentaries and page design. In 2008, he took over as editor of Packer Report Magazine, which was founded by Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Nitschke, and PackerReport.com. In 2019, he took over the new Sports Illustrated site Packer Central, which he has grown into one of the largest sites in the Sports Illustrated Media Group.