GREEN BAY – The Packers held a non-padded practice Thursday at Nitschke Field that was closed to the public, the last portion of full-speed work before Saturday's preseason finale vs. Seattle.
Here are five things we learned:
1. Of all the strong rookie performances throughout training camp, the most consistent might've been turned in by receiver Jayden Reed.
Tight end Luke Musgrave, quarterback Sean Clifford and cornerback Carrington Valentine all have been standouts as well. But the second-round pick from Michigan State was put in the slot with the first-team offense from the start of camp, and there was hardly a day he didn't show up making plays.
Thursday was business as usual for Reed in that regard. Though he did have a drop, and was well-covered by Jaire Alexander on one of his initial routes to the end zone, Reed snagged two TDs during red-zone work – one on which he came wide open over the middle, and another where he pivoted right at the goal line to make the grab in front of nickel corner Keisean Nixon.
Then in an end-of-game situation, he made a diving/sliding catch downfield to get the offense into field-goal range, with Jordan Love & Co. getting the ball clocked in time.
"It's always 1 percent getting better every day," Reed said of his approach to camp.
2. It's no surprise Clifford was named the No. 2 QB, but now it's official.
In his pre-practice news conference, Head Coach Matt LaFleur declared Clifford, the fifth-round pick from Penn State, will be Love's backup, ending any potential lingering speculation a veteran acquisition might be pursued.
Clifford pretty much silenced such whispers early on with his impressive play, which he built on through the first two preseason games by directing several scoring drives, and in a number of two-minute drills commanding the No. 2 offense.
Backup QB at times functions as an advisory role, which doesn't necessarily fit a rookie, but Clifford said he'll handle whatever Love needs him to.
"I am older than him, so the wisdom is there," he joked, referencing that he was born 3½ months before Love. "Every day you grind to not only try to perform on the field but also mentally prepare yourself off the field for every situation, constantly trying to better yourself.
"I've played a lot of football. Not in the NFL, but I have played a lot of ball, and although the NFL is a little bit faster and obviously better, at the same time I feel confident all those reps in college did get me prepared for this moment."
3. Through the ups and downs the past month, rookie kicker Anders Carlson feels he's where he needs to be.
During the main portion of Thursday's practice, Carlson went 5-of-6 on field goals, with the only miss coming from 47 yards when he hit the left upright. He was good from 33 (PAT), 42, 44, 45 and 53.
At the conclusion of practice, LaFleur called the team together and had Carlson line up for a 50-yarder, with all the players surrounding him and distracting him in any ways they could, which included hollering, chanting and squirting water bottles at him.
He missed wide left, regrouped, and then made the second try amidst the continued distractions.
"That was fun, man. That was fun," Alexander said. "He needs that. We need him to make a bunch of those this year, so that's perfect."
Carlson said he was getting squirted with so much water, it was running down his facemask while trying to line up the kick. The team did that once during OTAs, too, and he made the initial try.
"It's good stuff to put you in a real game situation," he said.
As for his preparation for the season, he added, "Definitely some growth to go but I think I'm where I need to be mentally and physically. I think I can perform when I need to. I think practice, I need to clean up a little bit sometimes, but I like where I'm at."
4. It's hard to get a read on the pending roster decisions at receiver.
For what it's worth, second-year pro Samori Toure and undrafted rookie Malik Heath were taking a lot of reps with the first-team offense this week. Fifth-round rookie Dontayvion Wicks was doing so last week but then injured his hamstring in the preseason game vs. the Patriots and hasn't practiced this week.
Meanwhile, seventh-round rookie Grant DuBose has come on strong since finally getting medically cleared from a back injury after a long layoff. He took his first 11-on-11 reps in an NFL practice last week, caught two passes for 27 yards against New England, and now has one more outing to state his case for a roster spot.
His approach is to play it cool and see what happens. No one even knows how many receivers the Packers will keep on their initial 53.
"I just want to go out and put my best foot forward, put some good things on film," he said. "It's the last preseason (game). It's no secret, jobs on the line. But it's football.
"I've been sidelined since rookie minicamp, so I've been in here with guys have been competing three months before I have. Of course there's thoughts … to kind of make up for the time lost, but you don't want to get too overwhelmed. You try to stay level-headed, and the plays are going to come to you. You just go out and do the things you're coached to do, and the ball will find you."
5. Going into the regular season somewhat shorthanded at tight end has been discussed.
At another offensive perimeter position, the Packers lost Tyler Davis for the season to a knee injury but didn't add anyone new.
It's a position LaFleur likes to utilize in a variety of ways in his offense, but he broached the idea of using an extra offensive lineman as a tight end in certain packages, which could then factor into the numbers kept at other spots as roster decisions are made.
"We'll adjust as need be," LaFleur said. "That's not something that's totally off the table."