The Green Bay Packers were content with Jordan Love’s rookie season being more about him learning the playbook than proving he was ready to become their next franchise quarterback, but now comes the time when the 2020 first-rounder will be expected to take what he’s learned and make it “his own.”
Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett spoke Tuesday about the “challenge” facing Love in his second year as an NFL quarterback, particularly when it comes to him maximizing his reps during an offseason and preseason that is once again expected to face restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Love did not play a snap of his rookie season in 2020 while serving as the Packers’ third-string quarterback behind Rodgers and backup Tim Boyle, which puts it at about six months since he last saw substantial reps during last summer’s training camp. That is all the more reason why Hackett and the Packers are hoping they will be allowed to hold on-field workouts this offseason and get Love the practice “he needs.”
Here’s what Hackett said about Love heading into Year 2 of his development:
“For him, I think it’s just growing more in the offensive system, even more than he has already, just making it his own. Obviously, we’re very excited if we can be able to practice (this spring) because I think that’s something he needs. Last time he was able to really get after the practices was in training camp, so if that’s what we’re dealt, it will be training camp when he’s really got to make some strides and get those full-time speed reps. Besides that, it’s about studying and he’s got to work on his own because we don’t get to see him and continually communicating and learning the system and working all his drill work and trying to better improve himself.”
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Too Early to Properly Judge Love
The Packers’ decision to move up and select Love would probably be more popular by now had Rodgers showed regression in 2020. The exact opposite happening — with Rodgers winning his third-career NFL MVP — has also only intensified scrutiny around the pick. But don’t forget that the majority of fans and analysts have not been given a real opportunity to see how Love handles himself in an NFL situation.
The evaluations on Love since the Packers selected him have come from two primary sources: his three years of tape at Utah State and his limited time in front of reporters during the open-to-media portions of training camp practice. While the college tape and pre-draft numbers were enough to make Love a projected first-round pick, some saw his inability to win the Packers’ backup job from Boyle as an early red flag.
In actuality, it is simply too difficult for anyone outside the organization to say precisely how much the 2020 virtual offseason impacted Love’s development. The Packers made the decision to draft him knowing the challenges they would face and may have always intended for him to be their No. 3 quarterback, as Boyle was dirt cheap to keep around and already acquainted with their offensive system.
The circumstances are hardly the same for 2021, though …
Packers Tease Love Debut in 2021 Preseason
Now, with 2021 free agency about two weeks away, the stage is set for Love to ascend to the backup role in his second season. Boyle is set become a restricted free agent with an uncertain outlook on whether the team will bring him back. If they did … well, that wouldn’t be such a good look for Love.
Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst, however, didn’t sound like someone who was preparing for a battle for backup quarterback this year. In fact, he mentioned Tuesday how much more difficult it was from an evaluation-standpoint to go without preseason games in 2020 and said — even if the league moves to 17 regular-season games and subtracts a preseason contest — he is looking forward to getting Love some live reps this summer.
“It was disappointing we weren’t able to get him out there in the preseason (last year),” Gutekunst said of Love. “Looking forward to (him playing) this year. The more the better. Guys get better through playing. Practice is always important, but the live-game reps are something that you can’t replace.”
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