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Benkert, Dolegala Ready for Unexpected Opportunity

With Aaron Rodgers sealed in bubble wrap and Jordan Love nursing a strained throwing shoulder, the Packers will go with Kurt Benkert and Jake Dolegala on Saturday vs. the Jets.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – A little more than three months ago, Kurt Benkert was unemployed.

A few days ago, so was Jake Dolegala.

In the most preseason thing about preseason football, they’ll be the Green Bay Packers’ quarterbacks for Saturday’s preseason game against the New York Jets.

“I don’t want to rule him out yet, but I’d say it’s probably unlikely” that Jordan Love will be available following last week’s shoulder injury, coach Matt LaFleur said. And, of course, there’s a better chance that Aaron Rodgers will start a preseason game for the Packers in 2031 than he’ll start a preseason game this year.

This was supposed to be the Summer of Love. By the end of Saturday’s game, he should have had about six quarters of action under his belt. Instead, it’s going to be a Bonanza of Benkert.

As an undrafted rookie with Atlanta in 2018, Benkert was the Falcons’ starting quarterback for the preseason finale. It didn’t go well, with Benkert going 10-of-25 with two interceptions and a 19.2 passer rating in a 34-7 loss. For the preseason, he had zero touchdowns and four interceptions.

He’s a better player now, though, after working behind Matt Ryan for three years with the Falcons and now Rodgers.

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“Footwork is the biggest thing,” Benkert said. “I’m honestly re-doing all my footwork that I learned in Atlanta to here. Because Aaron does it a little bit differently. It’s just a whole new world of footwork that is a little more next level for me. If you saw me in OTAs, which I didn’t get many reps, but I was so uncomfortable. Now, I’ve had more time to kind of see Aaron do it live and try to replicate it. I think the footwork is what’s helped me become more of a pro than anything because it keeps your internal clock ready.”

The good and bad of Benkert was on full display last week vs. Houston. With Love on the sideline, Benkert came out slinging the football. But he also had a hand in two turnovers, took the blame for a sack and failed to lead a scoring drive in five opportunities.

“I got more reps during the game than I have probably all together since I’ve been here,” he said. “So, that was sweet to kind of get that rolling, but knowing that I’m going to get those (No.) 2 reps this week in practice has been great just to iron out some kinks before the game, help me settle in a little more, sit in the pocket a little more and work on some things I wanted to work on.”

Dolegala entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2019. He made the Bengals’ roster following a sterling preseason in which he completed 69.8 percent of his passes with two touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 100.1 passer rating. With the Bengals using the No. 1 overall pick of the 2020 draft on Joe Burrow, Dolegala was released and spent most of the season on New England’s practice squad.

Amid the Rodgers kerfuffle, the Packers signed him following an extended tryout at the June minicamp. When Rodgers backed down and decided to report to training camp, the Packers released Dolegala. He spent about a week in New England before he was released again. With Love’s injury, Dolegala re-signed on Wednesday.

“I’ve just been playing a little ping-pong between here and the Patriots,” he said.

Dolegala knows the reality. Maybe he’ll be in Green Bay for a few days. Maybe it will be a couple weeks. But, for someone in his shoes, any opportunity to produce some fresh film is an opportunity you take. And, who knows, maybe he’ll completely outplay Benkert on Saturday.

“I don’t know what the future holds, but while I’m here, I’m going to work and take advantage of the opportunity,” he said.