GREEN BAY, Wis. – Jordan Love’s professional debut will do nothing to convince anyone inside or outside the confines of 1265 Lombardi Ave. that he is the legitimate heir to the Green Bay Packers’ quarterbacking throne.
While Love led the offense to an impressive touchdown drive on the third possession of Saturday night’s preseason loss to the Houston Texans, he also botched a fourth down, fumbled and lacked the decisiveness coach Matt LaFleur was looking for from the second-year quarterback.
“I thought there was a lot of good things that he did,” LaFleur said afterward. “I thought he made really solid decisions. There were a couple balls that I think he’s got to just let it rip a little bit more and try not to aim it. I thought overall the command, getting in and out of the huddle, it was a pretty clean operation, which is positive.”
Considering it was Love’s first game action since the Senior Bowl in January 2020 – and he threw only six passes in that game – a bit of indecisiveness shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. No amount of practice can substitute live action.
“I don't think it's overthinking at all,” Love said. “I think it's just finding that rhythm, being able to let it rip all the time and not being hesitant about a throw or not.”
Love played only the first half, going 12-of-17 passing for 122 yards and one touchdown. That’s a passer rating of 110.4, a stat line fattened up by an impressive scoring drive.
For what it’s worth, Love’s debut was better than that of Aaron Rodgers. In Rodgers’ preseason debut, which came on Aug. 11, 2005, against the San Diego Chargers, he went 2-of-6 passing for 7 yards. He was sacked twice for minus-5 yards, meaning he had 2 net passing yards in five series on a rainy night in which, as he noted during an in-game interview, his headset went out. Rodgers’ career turned out all right despite the shaky preseason debut.
“I thought Jordan did a really nice job,” Rodgers said. “He was efficient throwing the ball, he took what was there. The key for him and any young quarterback is footwork. And if you watched him tonight on many of the plays where he threw the ball really efficiently, he was throwing on the right hitch or no hitch, and that’s when quarterbacks get in a rhythm. That looked good to me.”
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In his second season but deprived of a preseason as a rookie, Love went 6-of-6 for 89 yards and one touchdown during the Packers’ first-half scoring drive. In his other possessions in the opening half, he went 6-of-11 for 33 yards. The offense went nowhere fast on those drives, gaining just one first down in those six possessions. There was a fourth-and-2 in which Love turned the wrong way on a bootleg and could muster only a desperation heave to Devin Funchess that fell incomplete. Late in the first half, he was sacked and fumbled.
A “dinged” throwing shoulder on that play meant a premature ending to Love's debut.
Green Bay trailed 13-7 at halftime and lost 26-7.
Love played behind a makeshift offensive line. Not only was All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari out of the lineup, but so was his capable replacement, Elgton Jenkins, and right tackle Billy Turner. Moreover, the team’s top four receivers – Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb – plus playmaking tight end Robert Tonyan and running back Aaron Jones were inactive. That had Love throwing the ball to the likes of Funchess, Malik Taylor and Jace Sternberger.
Love’s best ball of the night was a 34-yard strike to Sternberger, a beautiful seam route that jump-started the team’s only scoring drive.
“That felt really good,” Love said.
Love’s Senior Bowl appearance came 572 days ago. It was Love’s first game action with his own team since Utah State lost to Kent in the Tropical Smoothie Café Frisco Bowl to cap the 2019 season. That was 603 days ago.
“Obviously, I think it's really hard to go without playing a live game that long,” Love said. “I don't think it felt any different for me going into it. It's still preparing the same way for the game. Obviously, just knowing that I haven't played in a while and been live, it just adds a little extra different element to it. But it felt good, it felt good being out there.”