Aaron Rodgers‘ status for the Seattle Seahawks game remains in doubt. He’s eligible to be removed from the COVID-19 list the day before, but there’s a real chance that Jordan Love could be looking at a second start in Week 10 depending on how Rodgers’ test results turn out. Should that happen, there are several things that Packers head coach Matt LaFleur and the rest of the team could improve on to help better set up the young quarterback.
RUN THE FOOTBALL
One reason the Packers had been able to rattle off seven-straight wins was the balance they could find on offense. Aaron Jones was well on his way to another 1,000-yard season rushing and continued to be a dangerous threat in the receiving game. A.J. Dillon also stepped up to shoulder much more of the load, showing flashes of something special while still in a largely complementary role.
Jones and Dillon are arguably the most talented running back duo in the league. But the pair combined for just 20 carries, while Love had 34 pass attempts for the game. The Packers ran the ball 15 times in their season-opening embarrassment in New Orleans but have averaged 28 rushing attempts per game since. It’s not like Green Bay was down by an insurmountable amount and needed to throw to try to get back in the game, either. Kansas City put up a whopping 13 points.
LaFleur said as much himself. It should have been much closer to a 50/50 balance to help keep the defense honest.
PROTECT THE QUARTERBACK
If a quarterback has more time in the pocket, they’re generally going to have a better chance at succeeding. That’s not rocket science. But as the game progressed, it was clear that Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo had little reservation for blitzing Jordan Love.
Rodgers, a veteran quarterback, would be able to process the defense and find the opening. But Love wasn’t able to do that with any consistency on Sunday. KC only sacked him once, but the offensive line allowed seven quarterback hits, and Love was able to escape a few others with incompletions. The expectation is that All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari will be activated off the PUP list this week, but there’s no guarantee that he will play.
You can expect the Seahawks to bring more pressure on Love until he proves he can handle it. At the very least, the Packers could use a bit more Marcedes Lewis in extra protection. They could also use Allen Lazard in blocking schemes or use heavy sets with running backs staying in to block. There were too many times where Love was running for his life. He looked much more competent when he had a chance to exhale and throw.
HAVE A BETTER GAME PLAN
It sounds simple, but can you imagine how chaotic a week it was at Packers HQ? The news breaks Wednesday morning that Aaron Rodgers has tested positive, and with third-string Kurt Benkert out, Jordan Love became the only quarterback in the organization. A quick call to Blake Bortles helps fill out the QB room, but Green Bay has to wipe the whiteboard clean with its game plan for Rodgers under center and start filling in the gaps with what they think Love can do. Add in the firebombs that Rodgers dropped in his appearance on The Pat McAfee Show on Friday, and it’s understandable if the focus drifted away from the game plan.
However, it would behoove the Packers to create a Jordan Love-centric plan of attack to beat Seattle, hoping that Rodgers is cleared to play. That’s a better alternative than planning for Rodgers to come back and having to scramble once again. Make sure that there’s a heavy dose of the Jones-Dillon duo. Be sure there are blitz-beating routes that Love can identify early. The Packers have one of the best route runners in Davante Adams and players who thrive over the middle like Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard. Jones is under-utilized as a pass catcher, and Dillon has surprisingly good hands as well. Heck, mix in a reverse or a pass by Cobb to get really wild. Anything to show a bit more life than the offense did in Kansas City.
It shouldn’t look like an Aaron Rodgers offense because it’s not an Aaron Rodgers offense. Several times, it appeared that Love tried to mimic Rodgers-like throws, like back-shoulder passes to Adams on the sideline or off-platform throws downfield. Those might be there for Love at some point later in his career. But if LaFleur really is an offensive guru, he needs to be able to scheme players open. He needs to allow Love a more considerable margin for error to execute.
Say what you will about the so-called demise of the Kansas City Chiefs this season, but that stadium is still a difficult place to play. A home game, a full week to prepare, and more institutional support must lead to a better performance, should Jordan Love be called on to play again. All of Wisconsin will be waiting for the update from Adam Schefter’s Twitter feed on Saturday. But if it’s Love, there’s no reason that Start No. 2 shouldn’t be better than his QB1 debut last weekend.