Just like that, the 2021 preseason is done. The most notable thing about these last three weeks has been that we’ve finally been able to see Jordan Love in game action. Not a ton, but we got roughly 1 game worth of exhibition play out of him. And he looked fine! He did some good things and some not-so-good things. He showed the promise that led to the Packers drafting him in the 1st round, but he also showed the decision-making that led the Packers to view him as a project.
We also got to see a lot of other players. Some we fell in love with. Some we did not. And now, with cutdown day out of the way, we have a bright, shiny 53 man roster to look at. A head full of dreams and a heart full of promise.
Today, we’re looking at a few plays from the final preseason game. Unfortunately, I was not able to track down the All 22 film for this game, so I’m sticking to plays that happened near the line of scrimmage. I would have loved to have really looked at the throw on the corner route to Reggie Begelton, but I couldn’t find an angle that helped show everything, so I had to scrap it. Such is life.
To start with, we’re going to look at a 3 play sequence at the goal line, 2 of which are runs. This is supposed to be The Passing Chronicles and I’m already lying to you. The preseason will make fools of us all.
Packers are running an inside zone play to AJ Dillon . Josiah Deguara  is the in-line TE on the left. The line is forming a hole to the right and Degaura is washing his guy down the line. Basically, his job is don’t allow penetration into the backfield and allow for a clean hole to the other side of the line.
Deguara locks up Jerry Hughes  and Dillon finds a hole to hit. Not a big gainer, but it gets the Packers inside the 1 yard line for a 3rd and goal.
On the very next play, Packers are looking to ram Dillon into the end zone. Jace Sternberger  is now an in-line TE on the left, and basically has the same job Deguara just did; lock up your guy and wash him down the line.
Instead, Sternberger gives up immediate penetration, allowing AJ Klein  to knife through the line and trip up Dillon in the backfield.
As I’ve said a thousand times. tight end is one of the hardest positions to transition into from college to the pros. Not only are you learning how to be a receiver, but you’re also learning offensive line protections and FB lead-blocking responsibilities. It’s usually not until year 2 or 3 that it clicks for a tight end. And, while Sternberger was never going to be an all-world blocker, you’d certainly hope that he would be further along heading into year 3.
On 4th & goal from inside the 2, the Packers decide to throw it. They run mirrored slant/flat, with Reggie Begelton  and Sternberger running it from the right. Dillon releases through the line as an option in the middle. There is a single “high” safety, shaded to the left, so Jordan Love  is looking at the right side pre-snap. At the snap, one linebacker in the middle pulls up to the line while the other holds his ground in the middle, which gives Love a window on the slant to Begelton.
Love hits the top of his drop and fires. Really nice placement on the throw, but Tre’Davious White  is able to undercut the route and make a diving play on the ball.
Let’s move ahead a bit to another 4th down play. The Packers are facing 4th & 1 at the +44 yard line. Offenses can often show their overall philosophy in times like this. When you really need to pick up a few yards, what is your bread-and-butter play? For the Packers – as well as most outside zone teams – the answer for a pass play is simple: play action on an outside zone look and bootleg out the other side to find 2-3 receivers in view of the rolling QB (PA Boot, if you’re into the whole brevity thing). That’s exactly what the Packers do here.
It’s 4th & 1 and Dillon is still in the game. Amari Rodgers  motions before the snap and is followed by a defender, indicating that this is likely man coverage. After the snap, Love does a good job selling the fake and the Bills respect the possibility of a run, so they crash the left side of the line. Amari Rodgers crosses under the line and emerges out the other side of the line, causing his defender to take a wide path over the mass of bodies near the line to keep up. He closes on Rodgers well and likely would have made the tackle short of the first down had Love thrown there.
But the defense crashing on the potential Dillon run allows Dominique Dafney  to slip through the chaos and emerge as the second-level receiver, running parallel to Love.
Love gives a slight fake to Rodgers to make sure the defender is crashing the flat, then throws a nice, easy pass to Dafney for the 1st down.
We’re going to end with the ugly: the heave-ho interception that occurred immediately after the throw to Dafney. It all falls apart before it ever really starts. Ed Oliver  is lined up across from Josh Myers  at center. It’s a two-man route for the Packers – post/corner from Malik Taylor  and a post from Begelton. Bronson Kaufusi  is crossing under the line and is likely looking to block the edge to give Love extra protection on the right side to set up and take a shot downfield.
I say “likely” because we don’t get a chance to see what his actual assignment is. At the snap, Myers gets shoved back by Oliver so violently that it kicks off a comedy of errors in the backfield. With his back leg, Myers trips up Kaufusi and Love. Kaufusi spills to the ground and Love tumbles into his drop. Without Kaufusi to provide protection off the edge, Love gets his head up in time to see a free rusher off the edge bearing down on him. He should have just drifted a little more and chucked this out of bounds. But Love, full of the invincibility of youth, declared, “I can make it,” and chucked the ball to the heavens.
The ball didn’t make it to the heavens or to the corner of the end zone, Taylor was unable to make a real attempt on the pass (due to a subtle grab at the back of his jersey) and the Bills pick up an interception. The play was doomed from the start, but it didn’t have to end this way. It was 1st & 10 in a 7-0 game. Throw the ball away and live to fight another down. It’s something I hope Love is able to learn, but luckily he’s learning from a guy who has a lot of experience doing exactly that.
These preseason looks have been much less robust than my normal output, but I hope you’ve enjoyed them all the same. Looking forward to the start of the regular season and some deeper dives!
Albums listened to: Big Red Machine – How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?; Deafheaven – Infinite Granite; Angel Olsen – Aisles; Jake Bugg – Saturday Night, Sunday Morning