It’s officially revenge season for the Green Bay Packers. The team’s first preseason game against the team that ended their season at Lambeau last year in the San Francisco 49ers. Not a fun one to think back on by any means, but a solid team from top to bottom that should give the Packers a few different looks and allow the coaching staff to get a decent assessment of what they’ll be working with going into the season. As always, there’s a few components of the game that will ultimately decide who comes out on top – I’ll dive into the 3 most important below.
1. Jordan Love Showing up and Showing out
Former first round pick Jordan Love has been called a magnitude of things, from bust to future franchise quarterback. The fact of the matter is that no one has an actual clue. No one. Maybe the coaching staff. He simply doesn’t have enough film out there. COVID offseason limiting his time with the team, followed by two rather average preseason games in 2021. People love to reference the Chiefs game where he looked anything but great, but fail to realize he outperformed Mahomes in a bad weather, harsh environment game. Not to mention that the Chiefs defense was amidst a 5-week stretch of being the best defense in the NFL.
But really, this year is a huge year for Love to show what he can do in the preseason. If he is able to get through his reads effectively, find the open receiver – or use his legs if there isn’t one – and keep his footwork clean, I believe the Packers will be in good shape when he comes on the field. There isn’t much more to be said than Love simply needs to showcase how much he’s developed over the past offseason and the 49ers are a great team to do it against.
2. Win the Turnover Battle
Trey Lance is expected to play in this game so the quarterback talent on the field won’t be lacking. However, that doesn’t mean turnovers won’t come into play. Look for defenders to be hawking for routes to jump to make splash plays and with the youth of both quarterbacks, I would expect some plays to be made.
Ball carriers in the preseason are also typically looking to make a name for themselves, but the second you start thinking about anything but ball security, the risk of putting the pigskin on the ground rises exponentially. The lack of experience is really what drives all of this, with players thinking it’s “TD or bust” as a Day 3 pick or UDFA – and they’re not wrong to.
If the defense can make a few plays and the offense can keep it ~relatively~ in check, I think the Packers will have a good chance to win.
3. Figure out how to Stop the Run Early
The 49er’s have shown the entire league, and especially the Packers, that they can run the ball well on any team in the NFL if they so choose. It’s unclear how San Fran will go about who plays at RB tonight but I can promise you this: they will run the ball and make the Packers defense show they can stop it before they unleash a deep shot, play-action pass 50 yard downfield. For that reason, the Packers need to figure out how to stop the run early and force the 9er’s to play out of their preferred system.
First round picks Devonte Wyatt and Quay Walker will surely help slow their rushing attack but the 9er’s have shown that they’re willing to run the ball until they can’t. Trey Lance’s rushing ability is something to watch for too, as he’s closer to a Jalen Hurts than an Aaron Rodgers in terms of being a “mobile gunslinger”. It’ll be interesting to see how the rookies handle themselves against a true ground-and-pound style offense. Overall, if the Packers can stop the run effectively and force Shannahan to get off his script early, the Packers should be able to have some fun and play freely.
BONUS: Romeo Doubs is going to ball out
This man has lit up training camp and appears to have a great connection with both Rodgers and Love (Rodgers/Doubs grab lunch
). If he can continue to ball out, be on the lookout for this receiving core to not be nearly as bad as some are saying.