Packers - 30-34: Reinforcement Quarterbacks

Packers – 30-34: Reinforcement Quarterbacks


Most Important Packers – 30-34: Backup Quarterbacks

Part 9 of our 90-to-1 countdown of the Green Bay Packers’ roster includes three returning defenders (TJ Slaton, Isaiah McDuffie and Karl Brooks) and quarterbacks Sean Clifford and Michael Pratt.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Sean Clifford looks to throw against the Cincinnati Bengals during their preseason game in 2023.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers will take a 90-man roster to the field for the first practice of training camp on July 22.

Here is Part 9 of our ranking of the most important players on the Packers’ roster. This isn’t just a listing of the team’s best players. These rankings consider talent, importance of the position, depth at the position, salary and draft history. More than anything, we hope you learn something about each player.

No. 34: DT Karl Brooks

How would Brooks as a sixth-round pick acclimate to life in the NFL after dominating on the edge at Bowling Green?

Pretty well.

Brooks had four sacks (as many as first-round pick Lukas Van Ness), six tackles for losses (as many as former first-round pick Devonte Wyatt) and four passes defensed (as many as Jaire Alexander singularly and safeties Jonathan Owens and Darnell Savage combined).

Brooks finished sixth among rookie interior defenders with 25 pressures. Only three first-round picks, one second-round pick and one third-round choice had more. He was fifth in pass-rush win rate among rookies, as well.

“He has all the ability in the world,” Kenny Clark said after Brooks had a sack, strip and recovery at Detroit.

Brooks became the first Packers rookie with four-plus sacks and at least two fumble recoveries since Clay Matthews in 2009. Brooks and the Buccaneers’ YaYa Diaby were the only rookies to do it last season. He also blocked a field goal against the Vikings.

The new defensive scheme, which asks the linemen to attack rather than reading and reacting, should suit Brooks particularly well.

No. 33: LB Isaiah McDuffie

With De’Vondre Campbell and Quay Walker battling injuries throughout the season, McDuffie was summoned from the bench to start eight games. He was second on the team with 82 tackles and added five tackles for losses.

Along with the change in defensive schemes came a change on the depth chart. The Packers released Campbell and drafted Edgerrin Cooper in the second round and Ty’Ron Hopper in the third.

“That’s out of my control,” McDuffie said. “I come in every day ready to work with the mindset to get better. New guys in the room, I feel like they can contribute to the team, bring them along with us. So, no, I wouldn’t say I had any hard feelings toward it, but I would say at the end of the day, I know what I have to do. And if I go out there and produce and do my job, I’ll be on the field.”

McDuffie spent the offseason running with the No. 1 defense. Unless Hopper comes on strong during camp, McDuffie will be atop the depth chart for Week 1. How much he will play, though, remains to be seen. In the race to be the other linebacker on the field with Walker in the nickel package, McDuffie has the experience as a fourth-year player while Cooper has the elite athleticism. That will be a big battle.

For what it’s worth, the pass defense was 0.54 yards per snap better with McDuffie on the field compared to when he was on the sideline. The pass defense was 0.39 yards worse with Walker and 0.59 yards worse with Campbell.

“The biggest thing is running to the ball,” he said. “At the end of the day, I think I do that well, just getting to the ball, tackling the guy with the ball. I feel like they’re going to put us in positions to do that, and I’m excited about that.”

No. 31: QBs Sean Clifford, Michael Pratt

We’ve tried to refrain from ties in this series, but it’s hard to say Clifford is more important than Pratt or vice-versa. After all, however you rank them, whoever emerges as the backup quarterback in training camp will be one disastrous snap away from being the No. 1 quarterback for one play, one series or one month.

Clifford, a fifth-round pick last year, will enter training camp as the No. 2. He was the runaway winner with the job last summer, when he was the maestro of the 2-minute drill. With a year of experience in the system and attacking NFL defenses (at practice, anyway), Clifford should be even better.

Except he wasn’t better during the offseason practices. He failed to capitalize on his 2-minute opportunities and was picked off three times in one practice by safety Zayne Anderson.

“I got benched on national television, and I’m not afraid to say it because it’s those times that you know you can overcome anything,” Clifford said. “I’m not going to take two days and let that ruin a career that I’m really excited about.”

Quarterbacks coach Tom Clements called Clifford a “gamer.”

“A little bit of Matt Flynn in him,” Clements said before the start of OTAs. “Once the season started and he was running the scout team … he started to make plays throughout the year. He developed throughout the year, which is what you’d like to see. I think he’ll make a big jump from Year 1 to Year 2.”

Pratt was a seventh-round pick, but more than one scout considered him a better prospect than Clifford.

“Just evaluating the two players, we had a significantly higher grade on Pratt than we had on Clifford,” the Senior Bowl’s Jim Nagy said. “I think this guy at minimum could be a really solid No. 2 quarterback in the league and I thought, in the right situation, this guy could end up being a starter. I don’t know how or why he fell but, shoot, that could end up looking like a steal for Green Bay.”

In four seasons that included 44 starts, Pratt completed his career with 9,603 passing yards with 90 touchdowns vs. 26 interceptions. Plus, he rushed for 1,145 yards and 28 touchdowns.

Importantly, Pratt threw with better accuracy at the end of his career and resurrected the Tulane program.

“I think everybody, coaches and players included, believed in him. He didn’t give them any reason not to,” LSU assistant Slade Nagle, who was Pratt’s position coach in 2023, told Packer Central. “He was just a guy who laced his cleats up every day and went to work and went out there and competed his butt off. Obviously, he’s got good arm strength and so on and so forth, but I think most importantly those things are what led to all the success we had and all the success personally for himself.”

No. 30: DT T.J. Slaton

Kenny Clark is the Pro Bowler with the big contract. Devonte Wyatt has the first-round pedigree. It was Slaton, though, who ranked first on the defensive line in tackles last season.

A fifth-round pick in 2021, Slaton had 23 tackles in 2021 and 31 tackles in 2022. In starting all 17 games in 2023, he had 50 tackles. The run defense was 0.32 yards per carry better when he was on the field. He added two tackles for losses and two passes defensed; his lone career sack came as a rookie.

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 330 pounds, only offensive tackle Caleb Jones and defensive tackle Jonathan Ford – neither of whom played a snap last season – are heavier than Slaton. Slaton, though, isn’t just a big slug.

“TJ Slaton might be the biggest man-athlete that I’ve ever seen in my life,” defensive line coach Jason Rebrovich said. “If you put a basket right here, my man can two-step jump and dunk that basketball. So, is he athletic enough [for the new defensive scheme}? There’s no question TJ Slaton is athletic enough to play in this scheme and system.”

Slaton is entering his final season under contract. It will be interesting to see how he performs following the switch from read and react to attack. Given the Packers’ chronic problems against the run, Slaton will play a big role. Don’t pardon the pun.

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