The fans won’t get to see Jordan Love as QB1 on a daily basis for the Green Bay Packers until training camp begins nearly three months from now. But behind the scenes with the offseason program just a couple weeks old, he’s laying the groundwork for the leader he’s expected, and plans, to be.
“He definitely understands that he’s the guy in charge, he’s going to be the guy in the huddle and he’s got to be an extension of us, and we’re excited for him,” LaFleur said as last weekend’s draft wrapped up, regarding how Love is carrying himself now that he’s officially taken the reins with the trade of Aaron Rodgers to New York. “We’ve got a lot of confidence in him.”
LaFleur reiterated that confidence from others is rooted in his fourth-quarter performance in Philadelphia last season, filling in for an injured Rodgers. With the Packers facing the eventual NFC champions, in primetime, on the road, and trailing by double digits, Love led two scoring drives worth 10 points that kept Green Bay in the game.
It was a dramatic improvement from his two stints of extended playing time in 2021, his first NFL start at Kansas City and the second half at Detroit in the regular-season finale. His play then was very uneven, but his growth was evident both in practice and game action in 2022. As he takes over on the field in 2023, he’ll be taking over off of it, too, a transition he gets to work on well in advance of the first meaningful game in September.
In the locker room, in the meeting rooms, during otherwise mundane offseason activities, Love already is conducting himself as the team leader he hasn’t been until now. He’s always known his place as the backup and properly deferred to Rodgers, but LaFleur can see him seizing the moment already and working to establish the necessary dynamic as the transition progresses.
“It is hard to lead when you’re not THE guy, and he knows he’s THE guy now,” LaFleur said. “He’s first of all earned the respect by his actions, the way he works, from all his teammates, I would say. I’m excited for him. It’s going to be a process but one that I know that he can handle.”
Love won’t be the only young player taking on more leadership in 2023, either. His top two receivers, Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs, have quickly become the elder statesmen at their position as the Packers drafted three rookie receivers over the weekend and haven’t signed a veteran.
As rookies a year ago who made immediate impacts – Doubs in the early portion of the season, Watson in the latter – they’re being asked to grow up even faster now. LaFleur is confident they’re up to the task having spent their rookie seasons absorbing all they could from accomplished pros Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Sammy Watkins.
“The older veterans that they were around a year ago really kind of set the expectations for them in terms of how we practice and our process,” LaFleur said. “But certainly, they are the veteran presence in that room, which is unique. I don’t think I’ve ever been around a room that young before.”
The overall youth at the perimeter positions will include not only Watson, Doubs and the three receiver draft picks – Jayden Reed, Dontayvion Wicks and Grant DuBose, plus another draft pick from last year, Samori Toure – but two rookie tight ends as well in Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft joining Josiah Deguara and Tyler Davis, who have yet to take on featured offensive roles themselves.
It presents an immense challenge for LaFleur and his coaching staff as they build a playbook for the upcoming season with a new starting quarterback while getting so many young offensive players acclimated to the NFL game. “It’s on us to try to develop these guys as quickly as possible and put them in situations where they can showcase their talents,” LaFleur said.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how much we can really put on these guys’ plates because typically, I would say the more veteran you are, the more volume you can carry in your offense. We’re going to have to figure that out throughout the course of OTAs and in training camp to see how this offense goes.”
The downside is there inevitably will be growing pains. The upside is a lot of young players will do that growing together, including a quarterback who has been waiting his turn and is eager to lead. “The challenge is how do you reinvent yourself each and every year knowing that the standards and expectations don’t change,” LaFleur said. “We’re expected to win. That’s what this business is all about.
“Certainly when you have a first-year starter at the QB position, we need everybody from coaches to every player on our roster to perform and produce at a high level and play complete team football.”