Fans and media are notoriously prone to hyperbole and overstatement. Take that into account when the Green Bay Packers’ fifth round pick Sean Clifford makes headlines for stellar pre-pre-season performances, like he did this past Tuesday.
According to Packers.com’s Wes Hodkiewicz, the Penn State product completed 9-of-11 passes for 75-yards, including an eight-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Cotton on fourth down.
Per ESPN NFL Nation Packers reporter Rob Demovsky, via Twitter:
“Sean Clifford might’ve run one of the best 2-minute OTA drills by a rookie fifth-round pick. Hit Jeff Cotton for an 8-yard TD to on fourth down.”
Demovsky would also go on to say that Jordan Love, the team’s designated starter, struggled during that same 2-minute drill, throwing an interception after a miscalculation.
This brief burst of success from Clifford (and lack of success from Love) was enough to generate buzz on social media about there being some sort of race for the Packers starting quarterback spot.
Jordan Love is the Packers’ no. 1 QB until he proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he isn’t.
However, that doesn’t mean that the soon-to-be 25-year-old Clifford’s greatest aspiration has to stop at beating Danny Etling for the backup position.
Clifford, who, ironically enough, inherited Aaron Rodgers’ locker spot, has intangibles through the roof. In college, he was a well-regarded field leader and a four-time team captain with a fearless streak, poise beyond his years, and all-around confidence in his game. He also proved himself to be a durable field presence, playing in 51 of 59 games in five seasons, not counting his 2017 redshirt season.
However, he is almost universally regarded by scouts as a quarterback lacking in NFL starter-level arm strength and long-range accuracy. His ability to read pass defenses and get the ball into receivers’ hands for big play opportunities has also come into question.
Realistically, Clifford is nowhere near as physically talented as Jordan Love and it’ll probably take a big, gigantic fail from Love (or injury) for him to see any real playing time this season. But way stranger things have happened than a no. 2 overtaking a no. 1 in the NFL.
And, yeah, of course, this was just one drill during OTAs.
Still, people have taken notice that Clifford can sling and he can keep his composure under pressure.
One of those people is The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman, who pretty much put this whole thing into perspective.
“It’s still very early, but he threw some dimes during his two-minute drill at the end of Tuesday’s open practice,” Schneidman wrote. “I definitely expect him to win the backup job over Danny Etling. I’ve seen people on Twitter (seriously, I think) say Clifford will be starting at some point. They need to slow their roll — he’s going against the backup defense in early June. That said, he has looked good early in showing why the Packers drafted him far earlier than he was expected to go after a mercurial career at Penn State.”