Second-year head coach Matt LaFleur hadn’t previously gotten too specific about the relationship between the Packers’ two first-round quarterbacks since they began practicing together last month, mostly saying he was impressed with Rodgers’ tendencies to help Love — who quite possibly could replace him one day — learn the ropes as an NFL rookie.
In a recent interview with ESPN’s Dan Graziano, though, LaFleur offered a more direct example of how Rodgers took it upon himself to mentor Love as the QBs were watching tape:
“We were in the high part of the red zone, and you try to reach them how much faster stuff happens down there,” LaFleur told Graziano. “Jordan ended up throwing the ball a little bit late for the room we had. Would’ve been fine out in the middle of the field, but not in the red zone. Aaron stood up, unsolicited, and just broke everything down for him. ‘What are you seeing here pre-snap? If the ‘back on your left blitzes, where are you going with the ball?’ Talking to him about the timing and how your mechanics and your footwork have to change when you’re down there because you don’t have time to cross over. It was just really cool to see Aaron take that on himself when we didn’t ask him to, and I think that speaks to how he sees his role with regard to Jordan.”
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Graziano Emphasizes Love as ‘Project’ QB
LaFleur’s story about Rodgers and Love in the film room comes from Graziano’s series on the 2020 rookie quarterbacks, previewing the situations of not only Love but Joe Burrow (Bengals), Tua Tagovailoa (Dolphins), Justin Herbert (Chargers) and Jalen Hurts (Eagles).
While some — Burrow, Tagovailoa — have higher ceilings based on their respective situations, Love is definitively labeled a “project” quarterback who will almost certainly have at least two seasons to develop behind Rodgers as the starter. Not only does Rodgers’ contract present the Packers with little opportunity to get out before 2022, but Love’s lack of a true offseason and preseason this year has naturally slowed his development in the system.
At the same time, LaFleur seems fine with the progress of his youngest quarterback ahead of the first game of the 2020 season:
“I don’t know how anybody could expect anything, because he’s not coming into a situation where he’s getting the majority of the reps,” LaFleur said. “Aaron’s getting the reps with the ones, and (Love) and (backup quarterback) Tim (Boyle) are kind of splitting up the twos. He’s definitely into it, and he’s shown improvement on a daily basis, and I think his footwork and his mechanics have come a long way, and that’s the foundation for quarterback play. I think you’ve just got to show consistent improvement whether you’re getting the reps or not. The challenge is, when you get into the season, you’re not getting the reps. So how do you stay into it? You’ve got a lot of time you’re going to have to put in after practice to get that muscle memory and make sure your mechanics stay sharp.”
Rodgers’ Next Test Arrives Sunday
Rodgers, 36, faces no risk of losing his starting spot in the near future, but an important test arrives at noon CT on Sunday when the Packers kick off the 2020 season at the Vikings.
While Rodgers finished last season with more than 4,000 passing yards and the NFL’s lowest interception rate, there were plays, whole performances even, where the Packers’ two-time Hall of Famer showed signs of his momentum in the league slowing. If he wants to make Green Bay’s eventual decision between him and Love difficult — or even delay it some — he will need to regain some of the sharpness and excellence from his earlier seasons.
“I think the beauty is there’s a lot of conversation about other teams,” Rodgers told reporters on Wednesday. “Whether it’s Tom (Brady) in Tampa or the teams that were really solid last year with New Orleans and San Francisco, you know, Seattle and Philadelphia and Dallas with Mike (McCarthy) and what they’ve done with their roster. I like where we’re at as far as flying under the radar, even though we went 13-3 last year. We have a chance to prove what kind of team we starting out Sunday, and I look forward to the opportunity.”