After 202 days, Green Bay Packers football is back.
Following an offseason consisting of trades, coaching changes and draft day drama, the green and gold will open the preseason in Santa Clara, California facing a familiar foe in the San Francisco 49ers.
With rookies taking their first in-game snaps and backups looking to carve a role on the team, here are three offensive players to keep an eye on this Friday night.
QB Jordan Love
If there was only one player to watch this preseason, it would be Jordan Love.
Love has seen limited action since getting drafted in 2020. In the games he has played he’s been up and down, including a disappointing game against the Kansas Chiefs where he posted a 69.5 passer rating after completing 19/34 passes for one touchdown and one interception.
But heading into Year 3, Love has been showing signs of true development.
Last Tuesday, Love had a pair of high-level passes including a throw on a rope to Sammy Watkins despite pressure in his face.
According to Wes Hodkiewicz of Packers.com, Love’s throw was “his best throw of camp.”
“One of his best practices we’ve seen in three years. He made some big-time throws, with pressure in his face,” coach Matt LaFleur said after last Tuesday’s practice.
Since camp has started, reports have indicated that Love has looked more comfortable in the pocket, his decision-making has improved and his arm is stronger.
On Monday, LaFleur attributed Love’s progression to the fundamentals of his footwork.
“He’s much more in rhythm, there’s more decisiveness, you see it in his footwork,” LaFleur said. “He’s not getting stuck at the top of the drop. It looks more fluid. It’s translated to his play. He’s throwing the ball accurately and making pretty good decisions.”
After a strong showing at family night, Love will need to show his growth improvement outside of a practice setting, to prove to the Packers that he is Rodgers’ successor.
WR Samori Toure
With the spotlight on Romeo Doubs throughout the first two weeks of training camp, seventh-round draft pick Samori Toure has been flying under the radar.
Toure, a 6-foot-3, 192-pound receiver from Nebraska was one of the few bright spots for the 3-9 Cornhuskers in 2021. In his lone season with Nebraska, Toure hauled in 46 receptions for 898 yards while scoring 5 touchdowns.
In practically every game in 2021 Toure created a big play including a pair of 50+ yard receptions versus Ohio State.
On family night last Friday, Toure was a touchdown machine, catching touchdowns in both 1-on-1 drills and in team sessions of practice.
Toure’s biggest play of the night came on a 54-yard bomb from Jordan love after he cut through two defenders on a deep post route.
As the Packers wide receiver room is still wide open, Toure’s performance in the preseason will be crucial for his path to the 53-man roster.
OL Zach Tom
The biggest mystery of Packers camp is what offensive line lineup the Packers will roll out week one.
Both Elgton Jenkins and David Bakhtiari currently reside on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list as they are both still recovering from knee injuries.
Because of this the Packers have been shuffling players around the offensive line.
One player that the Packers have moved all over the offensive line has been fourth-round pick Zach Tom.
Tom was a 3 year starter for Wake Forest. After redshirting his freshman year, Tom took over as the team’s starting center in 2019 before transitioning to left tackle his junior year. In his two years starting at left tackle, Tom gave up 4 sacks and 26 pressures earning him a myriad of awards including First-Team All-ACC honors from the league and associated press.
Tom tested well at the combine running a 4.94 second 40-yard dash and a 7.32 3-cone drill earning him an relative athletic score (RAS) of 9.59, a score eerily similar to Chargers tackle Rashawn Slater.
In recent years, the Packers have valued versatility in offensive lineman.
At camp, the Packers have played Tom at both left and right tackle in the first-team offense in the absence of Jenkins and Bakhtiari.
“To see him go from practice to practice at different spots and perform pretty well, that’s exciting,” Gutekunst said.
“I know it’s a different game, but he’s done it in college and he’s got the athleticism, and he’s got great technique. He really does,” LaFleur said. “For what he lacks, maybe in sheer size, he can really sink his hips and anchor and does a great job with that.”
The Packers are well known for finding talented offensive lineman on day three of the draft as players like Corey Linsley, David Bakhtiari and Josh Sitton among others, all were selected on the last day of the draft.
It’s still early, but early signs show Tom’s versatility will bode well for his role in the Packers 2022 campaign.