GREEN BAY, Wis. – For the Green Bay Packers, the road to Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Ariz., will begin this week with the start of offseason practices.
To be sure, nothing will be settled during two weeks of voluntary organized team activities, the mandatory minicamp, and one more week of OTAs. Still, what happens on the practice field will set the stage for the start of training camp in a little more than two months.
This series of positional previews leads off with the quarterbacks.
The Sure Thing: Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers said he’ll participate in the minicamp and at least some of the OTAs. He is coming off back-to-back MVP seasons. With four overall, only Peyton Manning (five) has more in NFL history.
Of course, Rodgers would happily trade regular-season MVP honors for a Super Bowl MVP. At age 38, the clock is obviously tick-tick-ticking away on his window to finally win a second NFL championship. The Super Bowl season of 2010 seems a lifetime ago. Christian Watson was only 11.
Without Davante Adams and with so many fresh faces at receiver, would the team like Rodgers’ full participation?
“There’s some nuances but I don’t think it will be that big of a learning curve where it will set us back,” offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich said. “I think it will actually help us in the long run with Jordan (Love) getting a bunch of reps, all these reserve guys getting more reps where they can learn the foundation. Once Aaron enters in, then we can hopefully get rolling a little bit faster. So, I think there’s pros and cons to it, but I think it’s not going to be that big of a deal.”
The Big Mystery: Jordan Love
Love is moving ever-so-slowly into first-round-bust territory. He got a chance to start against Kansas City and looked out of his league against the Chiefs. And he played the second half of the finale at Detroit and struggled in that game, too.
Of the 50 quarterbacks with at least Love’s 62 attempts, he ranked 46th in passer rating, 44th in completion percentage and 47th in interception percentage. He threw only one fewer interception than Rodgers despite throwing 469 fewer passes.
Some of it’s perhaps not his fault. As a rookie in 2020, COVID wiped out the offseason practices and preseason. A shoulder injury limited him during last year’s preseason. He’ll get a lot of opportunity the next four weeks. He needs to take advantage.
“The next step for Jordan is just to play,” GM Brian Gutekunst said at the Scouting Combine. “He needs to play. He needs to get those preseason reps as much as he can. I thought last spring when Aaron was absent and he got all the one reps, he took a lot of growth, and he just needs to continue to do that. We’re excited for his development, but until these guys play, especially at that position but really any position, until you get in real live games and get that experience, I think it’s tough to develop.”
Worth Watching: Kurt Benkert vs. Danny Etling
Whether it’s the 53-man roster or the practice squad, the Packers will keep three quarterbacks. Benkert and Etling completed their college eligibility in 2017. By the time training camp begins, Etling will be 28 and Benkert 27. The Packers didn’t add a quarterback this offseason, so they perhaps like the potential in the strong-armed Benkert, who threw two picks last preseason, and the athletic Etling, who had an 86-yard touchdown run during his rookie training camp in New England.
“Like Danny, he’s an intelligent guy,” Clements said of Benkert. “He knows the system pretty well. I’ve enjoyed working with all these guys – Jordan, Kurt and Danny – so we’ve been working on the things that we used to do a lot in the old quarterback school we had here in Green Bay. I think each guy has enjoyed it and I think each guy has gotten better, at least at the fundamentals of the game and hopefully when we go 11-on-11, they’ll be able to show that.”