The Green Bay Packers are entering a new era. After repeating history by trading their post-prime franchise quarterback to the New York Jets, it’s time for 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love to take the reigns of the offense.
No longer shackled by Aaron Rodgers’ personnel demands, Green Bay has added a significant amount of young talent around Love for 2023 and beyond. We’re diving into how the Packers’ offense has been tailored to Love’s skill set.
How the Packers Have Built Around Jordan Love
The 2022 Packers’ offense was an absolute mess in comparison to the unit that produced back-to-back MVP performances in the two previous seasons. Both their passing game and running game became disjointed, lacking the precision and timely play-calling and playmaking that had previously given the franchise Super Bowl aspirations.
Despite a late-season surge, Green Bay finished 8-9 because they had wasted the first 12 weeks of action. Some of that was certainly on Rodgers for voluntarily skipping chemistry-building workouts. He also suffered arguably the worst season in his career, which isn’t shocking considering he turned 39 in December. But the offense fundamentally changed as well.
As the Packers worked in younger playmakers who had more explosive, downfield options who weren’t nearly as consistent as his usual cast, the functionality of the unit changed. While their big plays improved throughout the season, the efficiency of the unit plummeted. Rodgers’ distribution numbers directly affected his decrease in completion rate and increase in interceptions.
Rodgers suddenly jumped to the second-most deep-ball attempts but finished 14th in air yards per attempt. His clean pocket completion rate was a meager 26th, and his play-action completion rate was only 15th. Those numbers only make sense when considering that the scheme became more focused on short and deep passes exclusively, and the receivers weren’t doing a great job of getting open quickly.
Experience and improving the route combinations can help the latter issue. With Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs entering Year 2, it’s logical to expect both to become better players simply from maturation. Head coach Matt LaFleur has already said the team is “counting” on their young playmakers instead of adding more veteran presences.
But what’s more interesting is how Love projects into an offense with similar play-calling, and how the Packers have added talent around Watson and Doubs.
We know Green Bay has a solid running game. Lead back Aaron Jones is coming off a career season, producing 1,121 yards on 213 carries and chipping in another 395 receiving yards. His 2022 season probably saved his Packers career since the team could’ve saved $16 million in cap space.
Instead, Jones’ deal was restructured, and he’ll be in Green Bay through 2024 before his deal voids. Alongside AJ Dillon, we can be confident in projecting the Packers being close to a top-10 rushing attack because since LaFleur was hired, they’ve been effective on the ground.
Love and his young surrounding cast will be the X-factor for the team’s success. Entering his fourth season, Love has already bet on himself by accepting a one-year contract extension that comes with a lower guaranteed salary than the fifth-year option. If he performs even decently in 2023, he’ll surely cash in with a large multi-year deal as Daniel Jones did this past offseason.
Green Bay Confident in Love Despite Small Sample Size
However, we’ve only seen Love throw 83 passes in three seasons. LaFleur has praised Love, saying he’s made “huge strides” in his development and is ready to start. General manager Brian Gutekunst echoed this sentiment, saying the team is “moving forward with him” despite his lack of playing time.
With Watson and Doubs leading a cast of talent that was bolstered by Day 2 2023 picks Jayden Reed, Luke Musgrave, and Tucker Kraft, there’s a lot of speed and athleticism that has to be harnessed into actual production. Gone are possession threats who lacked the ability to create separation with ease, and instead filled roles over being dynamic talents. However, there’s a certain lack of polish to be expected with rookies, especially with most first-year tight ends rarely ready to contribute.
The vertical scheme Green Bay adopted in 2022 can help the young crew’s ability to elevate Love and vice versa. In college, Love thrived off chunk plays more than being a consistently accurate, timing-based thrower. In his final year of college, 37% of Love’s attempts were beyond 10 yards, which is about 6% higher than the average for all quarterbacks drafted from 2013-2022.
Love’s strong arm and ability to lob passes into tight passing windows downfield help to make up for his scattershot underneath accuracy due to inconsistent mechanics. Though he’s had time to work on this in practice, we haven’t seen the results of his work on the field. Love threw only 21 passes this past year, so the small sample size is meaningless.
The Packers have certainly added more speed with this most recent draft class. Reed blazed a 4.45 40-yard dash and profiles as a solid complementary slot piece. Musgrave is one of the most athletic tight ends ever, comparing to Giants star tight end Darren Waller, thanks to his phenomenal vertical leaping ability and straight-line speed. Kraft wasn’t far behind but is more of a long-strider who can be a slot option.
Expectations are for this unit to endure significant growing pains amidst exciting plays and smooth drives. Even though they’re immensely talented, the collective youth of the unit and Love’s nature as a variance passer will bring even more uneven moments than someone who stars within a system with great accuracy. However, Love could have more upside because he’s willing to improvise.
Outside of the obvious best-case scenario that sees Love and several of his playmakers see immediate stardom, the Packers’ 2023 season has to be about the progression from Week 1 to Week 18. The athletic peak for each playmaker is impressively high and complements Love’s skill set, so Green Bay now must harness their abilities and deploy them in a similar way as they attacked defenses in 2022.