A first-time starting quarterback
Jordan Love gave us plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the upcoming season with his play throughout training camp and in the preseason. But with that said, he is still a first-time starting quarterback–growing pains feel inevitable.
I look at the second joint practice with the Patriots as a glimpse into what this season could look like at times for the Packers offense. In joint practices, defenses are much more willing to show a bit more than what they would in a preseason game, where every snap is being put on film. So New England threw a lot of looks at Love, including blitzes, a variety of personnel, and late movement in the secondary–all things I expect most defenses to throw at Love in an effort to cause confusion.
To Love’s credit, he handled all that well during the first joint practice. However, on Day 2, with the Patriots being more familiar with the Green Bay offense in terms of timing and what they like to run – which is similar to the regular season where opponents are watching film and making adjustments to what the offense does – moving the ball became very difficult for the offense. For much of camp and the preseason, Love did well taking what the defense gave him, but you could tell during this practice with New England he began to press a little bit, leading to inaccurate throws and trying to fit the ball into tight windows, which resulted in takeaways for the Patriots.
We also saw inconsistency from this offense during situational drills, which included the two-minute and red zone periods throughout the summer practices. There didn’t seem to be a lot of middle-ground from the offense this summer, as we saw in the preseason. Either things were clicking, and Green Bay was moving the ball, or things stalled out pretty quickly.
Turnovers this season, at times, will feel like they are inevitable. Points very well could be at a premium. This offense has the ability to move the ball and pick up chunk plays, but how does Love – and everyone else – respond when it’s tough sledding, or they are down by 10 points? Once they put on film what they are good at and opposing defenses then try to take that away, can Love and this offense counter?
The safety position
This was one of the biggest unknowns about this Packers team heading into the offseason, and it still remains that way. The team still hasn’t announced who will be starting next to Darnell Savage Week 1–although that does appear to be Rudy Ford’s role for the time being. However, as recently as the New England game, GM Brian Gutekunst said that no one had been consistent enough through the first three or four weeks of training camp to earn that second starting spot, which, on its own, is a bit concerning.
I guess if you’re looking for some optimism, it’s not as if the play of the safety group this year has to be lights out to match what we saw a season ago. In fact, as Joe Barry has pointed out, simple consistency will go a long way. This means effective communication with the rest of the secondary pre-snap. Doing your job and being positioned correctly, along with being sound as a tackler. Last season, coverage breakdowns, miscommunications, and missed tackles were far too prevalent.
With Anthony Johnson being a late Day 3 pick who is still somewhat adjusting to a new position – this was only his second offseason playing safety – my guess is that, at least right away, his role is small, while Dallin Leavitt and Zayne Anderson are special teams players. That leaves either Ford or Jonathan Owens to play next to Savage. With Ford and Owens, the Packers have two players who have shown in the past that they can provide some reliability as tacklers, but the biggest question mark around this unit is if they have enough coverage ability amongst the group. Those responsibilities are likely to fall on Savage, which isn’t exactly comforting after his play in 2022.