This is a critical preseason for Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love. The third-year man out of Utah State has a lot to prove to the team that traded up to select him in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. With Aaron Rodgers back and now playing under a new contract, Love knows that barring injury, training camp and the preseason will be his biggest chances to show the coaching staff and his teammates what he can do. Thus far, things seem to be going well for Love.
When the Packers added Love to their team, they knew he needed time to develop into a quality NFL quarterback. The physical tools were there. Love has a strong arm and good mobility. He also showed leadership in college and had the ability to make all the throws needed to be successful at the next level. He also had the football intelligence necessary to play in the NFL.
While the tools were there, scouts acknowledged Love needed to work on different aspects of his game to realize that potential. He needed to work on his footwork and form, had to improve his ability to read defenses and make decisions. The offense he’d be running in Green Bay was also going to be a lot more complex than what he ran at Utah State and he would have to adjust to that difference.
Things weren’t easy for Love in his rookie year. There were no in-person OTAs or preseason games because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Controversy swirled around the team as the Aaron Rodgers drama with the front office played out in the locker room and in the press. He was the team’s third-string quarterback in 2020 and did not play a snap during the regular season.
In 2021, Love was promoted to the team’s primary backup quarterback. He even made his first NFL start in Kansas City and struggled in a 13-7 loss to the Chiefs. The Chiefs blitzed early and often and Love was not always able to adjust and make a play. There was definitely progress being made, but Love was a long way off from being ready to be a reliable starter.
This year, Love has gotten off to a good start in training camp. He has looked better in some key areas during practice. Love’s footwork appears to be better and more consistent. He has thrown the ball with more zip and confidence and appears to be doing a better job on his reads before the ball is snapped. His arm strength remains an asset but because of his confidence, the ball is traveling even faster and with more authority. He is more decisive and that helps inspire the confidence of his coaches and teammates.
“I think it does show growth, just to be able to trust that I know where the receiver is going to be, with pressure in my face, and still try to slow it down a little bit to focus on where I need to put the ball,” Love told reporters earlier this week. “[Previously] I wasn’t going to make those throws under pressure. I might just try to escape and throw the ball away. But being able to trust where the receiver is going to be, it comes down to that.”
Love seems a lot more self-assured right now and it shows on the field and in the locker room. Head coach Matt LaFleur has taken notice of Love’s progress as well. “I think that might have been one of his best practices we’ve seen in three years,” LaFleur said after Tuesday’s practice. “He made some big-time throws with pressure in his face. Some of those are questionable whether or not he’d have an opportunity to get them off but no, I thought he had a nice day. Now the key is to continue that, that consistency is what we want to see.”
Practice is one thing but game situations are something else. Love needs to continue to show that what he’s done in practice is the new normal we can expect from him in game situations. Friday’s Family Night at Lambeau Field is the next step, followed by three preseason games where Love is expected to start and play most of the game.
GM Brian Gutekunst has a big decision to make next offseason. He has to decide whether to pick up Love’s fifth-year option and whether Love is the man he wants to take over when Aaron Rodgers decides to retire. Love appears to have taken a step forward so far in training camp. Now he has to show he can do it against other teams in game situations. The next few weeks will be critical for Love and will help determine his future with the Green Bay Packers.
You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers