3 things to watch as the Packers face the 49ers in their preseason opener

3 things to watch as the Packers face the 49ers in their preseason opener

Preseason is often a time for development and building chemistry.



It also can determine roster spots and final position battles, which is important for some Packers players when Green Bay visits the San Francisco 49ers at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.



3 things to watch as the Packers face the 49ers in their preseason opener



Here are three things to watch for the Packers.

1. Summer of Love

There’s no denying that 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love has improved.

He’s more confident, he’s more decisive, hie’ more fundamentally sound, he’s more in rhythm, he’s more accurate.



3 things to watch as the Packers face the 49ers in their preseason opener



That doesn’t mean the third-year backup quarterback would be ready to carry the Packers to the postseason if something catastrophic happened to four-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, but much like Rodgers in 2007, Year 3 seems to have flipped a switch for Love.

The next step after some strong practice performances is to play well in the preseason games. In Rodgers’ third preseason, he was outstanding: 37 of 59 (62.7%) for 382 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions (98.3 passer rating).



3 things to watch as the Packers face the 49ers in their preseason opener

“Year 2 to 3 is always an interesting year for development from a quarterback. I know I took a big jump,” Rodgers, who may not play at all this preseason, said when asked what he’s seen from his understudy so far in camp.

“(Veteran quarterbacks coach) Tom Clements, I think, deserves a lot of credit for harping on the fundamentals — the way that he always did for me as a young player. And it seems to (be) sticking for Jordan.”

The COVID-19 pandemic robbed Love and the rest of the 2020 rookie class of preseason action, but he did string some good plays together last summer before a shoulder injury at the end of the first half of the first preseason game.

He wound up playing 66 exhibition snaps and finished 24 for 35 passing for 271 yards with one touchdown, one interception and two sacks (89.1 rating).

Even with the inherent challenges of preseason football, Love knows he can — and must — do better.

“Last year, just getting those first game reps was huge for me,” Love said. “I made a couple good throws in that game, and then obviously I did have the shoulder injury. I think we only had one touchdown when I was playing last year, so that’s something I want to improve on: be able to score the ball. Just let everybody be able to go out there and showcase what they’ve got.”

2. Wherefore art thou, Romeo?

At every turn, rookie wide receiver Romeo Doubs has elevated his game.

He made a good first impression during the offseason organized team activity practices and minicamp, then showed up and popped off of Ray Nitschke Field from the first day of training camp.

3 things to watch as the Packers face the 49ers in their preseason opener

After making at least one “Wow” play (Rodgers’ word) a day in helmets-and-shorts practices, the pads came on and his playmaking continued.

Now, the next step: game action.

To prepare Doubs for this game — and, more importantly, the Sept. 11 regular-season opener at Minnesota and the subsequent meaningful games to follow — All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander has been seeking him out in 1-on-1 drills and during 11-on-11 periods.

Just as Alexander improved as a rookie in 2018 by trying to cover superstar wide receiver Davante Adams, Alexander is working to accelerate Doubs’ whenever they’re matched up.

“I felt like once he was getting a little too comfortable, that’s when I wanted to challenge him,” Alexander explained. “And I gave him, like, ‘game reps.’ I gave him the intensity of a game playing against me, somebody like me. And I wanted him to see what it was like. I wanted him to feel that.”

“I’m gonna talk some junk. But afterward, I let him know, ‘Hey, we going to need you. We going to need you in the long run, so just keep learning. Keep studying film. Keep going against me. It’s nothing personal.’”

Doubs has risen to the challenge so far, although Rodgers did feel the need to intercede on Doubs’ behalf with the cocky, shutdown corner.

“A-Rod was like, ‘Man, don’t be getting on my rookie.’ I’m like, ‘Look, A-Rod, I need to give him some tough skin,’” Alexander said. “Afterward, it’s all love. That’s all.”

3. Something special

Preseason special teams play is frequently an exercise in chaos.

With many veterans not playing on offense or defense, players whose primary regular-season roles could be on special teams are also playing extensively from scrimmage.

And late in the game, the return and coverage units are largely populated with players on the fringe of making the roster.

Nonetheless, given how atrocious last year’s special teams units were and the expectations that new coordinator Rich Bisaccia is going to turn things around with that 1/3 of the game, this will be a fascinating first game-action glimpse of what has changed.

One early sign of improvement has been in the effort and intensity level.

Watching film of last week’s Family Night practice, LaFleur saw lots of mistakes in every area, including special teams.

But, unlike in the past, those special teams errors weren’t made while being reticent and indecisive.

“Football is an imperfect game, and guys are going to make mistakes,” LaFleur said. “But how you balance that with making sure that you’re giving your max effort all the time (matters).

There were some plays we pointed out where technically maybe somebody wasn’t doing the right thing, but they were going at 100 miles an hour and made a play.

“It’s just a balancing act of, and we want guys to really go for it and not be afraid of making a mistake, because I just don’t think you can ever reach your full potential if you’re playing with a governor on. You’ve got to go for it.”


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