Five things to look for in the Packers’ preseason opener.
Football fans are sometimes quick to write off preseason games as meaningless, but they give us a first look at the developing talent and future of our teams.
Here are five things to keep an eye out for in the Green Bay Packers‘ preseason opener against the Houston Texans:
Jordan Love’s first in-game snaps as a Packer
When the Packers selected Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 draft, it shook up the organization and the entire NFL. Many believed that the Packers were looking to move on from their future Hall-of-Famer QB Aaron Rodgers in the near future. Rodgers proceeded to have an MVP season and, after a tumultuous offseason, decided to play for the Packers for at least one more season.
Among all the quarterback controversy, fans have yet to see Love behind center in a real game situation. After COVID-19 prevented in-person training camps and preseason games last season, fans got first glimpses of Love from training camp over the last couple weeks.
Love has been inconsistent throughout training camp but has shown flashes greatness: sneaking throws through tight windows, lofting passes 40 yards downfield, and commanding the offense confidently.
If Love is the eventual heir to Rodgers, this preseason opener will give us our very first realistic impression (and likely overreactions) to how he fits into the team and what he can do with the football.
The 2021 draft class
Green Bay drafted a number of intriguing picks this offseason.
First-round pick CB Eric Stokes has been impressing in camp and looks like a perfect supplement to All-Pro Jaire Alexander. Considering the fact that he practices against the toughest QB-WR duo in the league (Rodgers-Davante Adams), he should have no problem adjusting to professional level football.
Second-round pick OL Josh Myers seems to have a lock on the starting center position after impressive performances in camp and high praise from Aaron Rodgers. Center was wide open for the taking after the Packers’ All-Pro center Corey Linsley became a free agent shortly after the season ended.
Third-round pick WR Amari Rodgers has been referred to as the second coming of Randall Cobb. They have similar size and playing styles and even have a brotherly relationship as Rodgers’ father coached Cobb in his breakout season in college. Rodgers will be the first true slot receiver the Packers have had since Cobb…and will now be mentored by him as well.
Seventh-round pick RB Kylin Hill has been “quietly having a good camp” according to the Packers beat. He’s been hailed for his speed and explosiveness as well as his impressive vision. He looks to bring a new kind of depth to the RB position in Green Bay.
New defensive coordinator Joe Barry
Players and coaches alike have talked about the sheer energy that DC Joe Barry has already been bringing to the defense. Stories of him participating in drills and demonstrating tackling form on the air have floated about through training camp.
Watching Barry live and in action must be an experience like none other.
Though the Packers won’t give away too much of their defensive scheme in the preseason, it’ll be exciting to get an idea of what this new defense could look like and get a look at the man who’s putting it into action.
The special teams unit
It’s no secret that Green Bay’s special teams has been subpar over the last several seasons. They finished dead last in the league for kickoff return average (18.9) and punt coverage (17.1) in 2020.
Mason Crosby has really been the only consistent special-teams member since the end of the Mike McCarthy era. The team has gone through a revolving door of punt and kick returners, and punter JK Scott had ups and downs over the last two years.
The Packers promoted assistant special-teams coach Maurice Drayton to special-teams coordinator in February. Rookie WR Amari Rodgers currently seems to be the primary punt returner after reps in camp. Rookie RB Kylin Hill shows strength as a kick returner as well.
Could there be a special teams revival in Green Bay this season?
Fans in the stands
After a year of empty Lambeau Field bleachers due to COVID-19, it’ll be refreshing to see the stands full of raging Packers fans once again.
Even though the preseason doesn’t carry much weight, fans will still be rocking and bringing an all-important energy to the atmosphere.
Considering how much the players feed off the audience’s energy and the year-long hiatus that they endured from it, it wouldn’t be surprising if the playing level is above average for a typical preseason game.
All in all, the preseason means we’re just that much closer to watching our team compete for a Super Bowl ring. Until then, we’ll see the young talent on the Packers and imagine what they could be for the franchise in the future.