The preseason hype trains are typically reserved for rookies or players returning from significant injuries. This is the case for the Green Bay Packers rookies Romeo Doubs, Quay Walker, and Christian Watson. They’ll also (hopefully) have big names returning from injuries suffered last year, like Robert Tonyan and David Bakhtiari, just to name a couple.
Yet, the intrigue swirling around third-year backup quarterback Jordan Love might steal the spotlight again.
One thing that isn’t up for debate, in any capacity, is that Aaron Rodgers will be the quarterback for the Packers for as long as he wants.
Love could look like the next coming of Tom Brady this preseason, and it wouldn’t carry much weight as long as Rodgers sticks around. Green Bay almost burned that bridge once, and there’s a less than 0% chance they’d go back to the well after Rodgers stated this offseason that he will finish his career with the Packers.
Still, Love’s performances this preseason will carry a lot of weight even though he’s locked in to be the backup to Rodgers again in 2022. Love is in his third year, and rare is the first-round quarterback who hasn’t been a starter by their third year in the NFL. For Love, this preseason could serve as an audition in a variety of ways.
If Love struggles in the exhibition games, it’s possible that Green Bay could consider moving on after the season. Judging that solely off how Love looks in the preseason might be a bit harsh, but it’s the only concrete look Green Bay will have at him in game action before he returns to the sidelines for the regular season.
Even though Love hasn’t had much opportunity to showcase his abilities, it’s understandable for the Packers to want to see consistency — at minimum — by Year 3. They need some glimmers of hope from No. 10 in the preseason.
If Love can show that he has a much more firm grasp on his game entering this year, the Packers will be in another awkward spot next offseason. But the decision will at least be easy. If Rodgers is back, it’s his gig. If not, Green Bay could hand the keys to Love.
Then there’s Door No. 3. That scenario involves Love excelling this preseason, Rodgers sticking around for a couple more years, and Green Bay deciding to trade Love at some point between this season and next.
While the Packers don’t know how many wide receivers will make their final roster or what the first group on the offensive line will consist of come Week 1 against the Minnesota Vikings, they know that Love is their backup QB this year. What they don’t know is what will shift between now and the end of the preseason that could leak into next offseason.
In some ways, this can be viewed as a prove-it spot for Love. He’s well aware these will be the only game reps he gets, barring something unforeseen happening with Rodgers.
So far from training camp, there have been good vibes around Love’s play. Matt LaFleur recently discussed it.
Yeah, I was talking to him, that might have been one of his best practices we’ve seen in three years. I thought there was a lot of great things that he did, he made some big-time throws – with pressure in his face. Some of those are questionable whether or not he would have had an opportunity to get them off, but I thought he had a nice day.
General manager Brian Gutekunst seemed to echo similar thoughts about Love’s growth.
I just think he’s in Year 3, he hasn’t played in as many games as we would have liked him to play, because of COVID and getting injured, but you’re seeing a more confident guy. ‘I know what’s going to happen before it happens.’ I think that’s really important for a quarterback, all players, but especially quarterbacks.
If Love can come out this preseason and light the world on fire, it will give the Packers an immense amount of comfort knowing that they have a stud in waiting for their legendary QB. It also could put Green Bay in a perplexing spot moving ahead as they decide how to navigate a trade scenario for Love, or even thinking of the impossible: having him back up Rodgers again next year.
The latter option seems incredibly unlikely if Love does take steps forward this summer, and, quite frankly, it wouldn’t be fair to the former Utah State product. This preseason will tell the Packers a lot, but it also may leave them with more questions if Love shines.