GREEN BAY, Wis. – There’s a reason why Jordan Love was considered a first-round prospect in the 2019 draft, why a longtime scout raved about him and why the Green Bay Packers controversially moved up to select him.
Getting the lion’s share of the reps once again due to Aaron Rodgers’ holdout, Love showed exactly why during an eye-opening minicamp practice on Wednesday. One day after struggling to complete passes, not completing any passes thrown more than 5 or 10 yards downfield and leading a doomed two-minute drill, Love completed a lot of passes, threaded the needle downfield and got the offense in the end zone during a two-minute drill.
“I definitely feel it was a good day for me and for everybody else, as well, just bouncing back from yesterday's practice,” Love said. “On offense, you know, it wasn’t our best practice, all around and for me, as well. Being able for us to come out here and just bounce back today it meant a lot for everybody and just showed how much we're able to bounce back. It was a good day and the goal for now is keep stacking good days and be better tomorrow.”
Love was rolling from the start. His first pass was a play-action completion to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. It hit him in stride, which allowed the rocket-fast Valdes-Scantling to run away from the rocket-fast rookie cornerback Eric Stokes for yards after the catch. The second was a bootleg pass to tight end Robert Tonyan. He was wide open, but the ball was perfect and allowed Tonyan to maximize his yards.
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Love took the first 10 snaps and completed 5-of-6 passes, the exception being a breakup by premier cornerback Jaire Alexander.
“I think just with anything you have a little success early and your confidence starts to grow and then you’re able to go out there and execute at a higher level,” coach Matt LaFleur said.
After Blake Bortles took the next two snaps, Love was back on the field. He went 3-of-5 in this segment. On the second completion, it appeared Love looked off the defense to his left, which allowed Juwann Winfree to get wide open on a crossing route to the right. On the next play, Love completed his first bomb of the four practices open to reporters. Running back AJ Dillon got behind linebacker Krys Barnes on a wheel route. The ball, thrown about 30 yards downfield, was placed perfectly.
After Kurt Benkert took the next two snaps, it was Love’s turn again. He kept the momentum going with another sensational period in which he completed all four attempts. First, he coaxed defensive lineman Kingsley Keke offside and threw a deep ball to Allen Lazard, who leaped over two defenders for a gain of about 40 yards. Next, Winfree was wide open on a corner route and Love threw a perfect pass. After a Love scramble, it was a near-replay of his wheel route to Dillon. This time, it was running back Aaron Jones getting a step on linebacker Ty Summers for a huge gain.
At that point, Love was 12-of-15 passing for about 170 air yards. It was a stark contrast to all the checkdown passes Love completed during Week 1 of organized team activities.
“It just goes back to kind of taking what’s there,” LaFleur said. “And the opportunities presented themselves today for him to take some shots down the field. The one thing that I really think can be frustrating about our defense, it’s almost like an umbrella coverage back there and they’re going to make you check the ball down. That’s why I think that you just got to continue to read each concept to the best of your ability on each individual play.”
Love completed only 1-of-5 passes in the next period, though he might have had two completions had tight end Isaac Nauta not injured a hamstring. That set the stage for the two-minute drill to close his practice.
On Tuesday, Love missed completions to Tonyan on second down and Malik Taylor on fourth down. This time, he was sensational.
Starting at the 30-yard line with 1:45 on the clock and one timeout, Love got the ball past midfield with completions to Tonyan, Jones and Dillon. On first down from the defense’s 47, he found Equanimeous St. Brown open on the sideline for a gain of 23. A screen to Dillon and a slant to St. Brown gave the Packers a first-and-goal at the 8 with 31 seconds remaining.
Love threw ball away on first down and Alexander broke up a touchdown to Valdes-Scantling on second down. On third down with 19 seconds to go, Allen Lazard made a sensational leaping catch in the back of the end zone for a touchdown.
Love said he would be “100 percent” ready to start at quarterback in Week 1 if Rodgers remains absent. That didn’t appear to be the case on Tuesday, but Love’s 20-of-30 accuracy and series of big plays showed he could potentially be more than a safety net should Rodgers not return to the team he led for the previous 14 seasons.
“Obviously, this is a time where I’m getting a lot of extremely valuable reps that I might not have been getting in a normal circumstance,” Love said. “I’m just going to take it day by day. But that’s what I’m here for. I was drafted here to play quarterback, so I’ll definitely be ready Week 1.”