Jordan Love gave the masses plenty to discuss following his two-touchdown, three-interception performance in the Green Bay Packers preseason opener, a 28-21 loss to the San Francisco 49ers this past Friday. Love had a mixture of bright spots and plays that exposed his relative inexperience. But if the Niners game is his floor, and he continues to improve on this preseason, the Packers will be in a great spot with a promising third-year player.
Looking solely at the box score, Love’s day against San Francisco isn’t anything to get too excited about. He completed 13/24 passes for 176 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions, and a 66.0 passer rating. The three interceptions certainly aren’t ideal, but Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur wasn’t about to throw Love under the bus for any of the turnovers. It didn’t come across as coddling of the 23-year-old quarterback but rather a rational and honest assessment of the throws.
Love certainly isn’t Aaron Rodgers. The Packers aren’t asking him to fill those shoes — at least not yet. But if there’s one trait that Love can continue to improve upon that could help him transition to the starting spot somewhere down the line, it’s not only being decisive with his throws but taking smart chances. Rodgers’ astounding touchdown-to-interception ratio is one of the traits that has elevated Rodgers into the highest echelon of quarterbacks. At 4.83, it far outranks the rest of the top four in NFL history, a group that rounds out with Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, and Tom Brady.
The clip below is an excellent breakdown by the mediocre former Detroit Lions quarterback turned actually pretty decent ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky. He expounds on how Love can improve his decision-making with in-game reps and learn via film and osmosis from Aaron Rodgers. The play in question is a route run by Romeo Doubs, which involves multiple factors:
- Beating his man off the line of scrimmage
- Controlling the leverage throughout the route
- And creating the type of window necessary for the quarterback to make the throw as the safety closes in
Watching Rodgers make throws like this is something that Packers fans have taken for granted, and it is one of the more difficult adjustments that Green Bay will need to make without Davante Adams; it’s all about technique rather than physical gifts. The longer Love holds on to the ball here, the riskier the throw becomes. Stepping into the throw and ripping it down the seam the second that the leverage swings to Doubs’ favor is something that Rodgers has mastered, and it’s something that Love must be able to do to succeed in the NFL. This pass fell incomplete, but it’s good decision-making by Love that he simply needs to execute at a slightly higher level.
One area that Love can maximize in his extended playing time this preseason is to further the rapport with the younger crop of wide receivers, particularly Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, and Amari Rodgers. He can be friends with Randall Cobb all he wants, but if there’s a future with Love in Green Bay, it will be with the selections from the 2021 and 2022 drafts rather than the 2011 class. Rodgers ascended to greatness with the help of the relationships he developed with the likes of Cobb, Adams, and Jordy Nelson.
Friday night against the 49ers certainly wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. But it was clear that Love had an eye out for Doubs’ No. 87 jersey, much like the way that Rodgers always was on the lookout for No. 17 over the past few seasons.
With Watson coming off the PUP list over the weekend, Love will have a bit more weaponry at his disposal as the Packers prepare for the New Orleans Saints in the second preseason game. Every media member that’s seen their summer practices says that Doubs is blossoming into a star. Conversely, Watson, the second-round pick the Packers traded up for, has some work to do to ascend the depth chart. The Love-to-Doubs connection is off to a good start. If the Love-to-Watson trajectory can similarly thrive, the future in Green Bay gets a little bit brighter.
Love will continue to get more chances this preseason, and it’s evident from the San Francisco game that it won’t be solely about the statistics in the box score. If he can continue to pick up on some of the traits that have made Rodgers so successful, it will fortify the strength of the quarterback room at Lambeau Field.