After exorcising their demons in Arizona last week, the Green Bay Packers will hit the road again this week in another challenging environment. Against an up-and-down Kansas City Chiefs squad at Arrowhead Stadium, the Packers will have an extra test without Aaron Rodgers under center, even with a commanding lead of the NFC North.
Today’s musings discuss why this might actual be an ideal time and situation for Jordan Love to make his first start if the Packers can protect him up front. Plus, is one Packers defender’s play making him too expensive for the team to keep long term? Without further ado...
If Jordan Love was going to be forced into action this season, this would have been the ideal scenario
Minus the negative publicity and positive Covid-19 test surrounding Aaron Rodgers this week, there are some positives in Love’s elevation into the starting role. In fact, this is close to how you would want your backup pressed into his first start in place of a franchise quarterback.
Of course, Rodgers’ recovery after testing positive is paramount and is serious in its own right. However, early signs would indicate he is on the mend. Normally in these situations, it is a devastating injury that sidelines a player like Rodgers, but it does not appear to be that way. Secondly, it is crucial for both Love and the Packers to see the second-year player get meaningful regular season reps. It is difficult for Green Bay to find a reason, outside of mop-up duty, to give those types of snaps to Love. Now, in Game of the Week action, Love will get to showcase his skills in front of a wide audience against Patrick Mahomes. A good showing only helps the Packers, whether that means raising Love’s trade value or giving Love confidence heading into an eventual starting role in Green Bay.
Sunday will be a good barometer for Love as well. Unlike during the preseason, he will have the full arsenal of weapons at his disposal, especially Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling who are expected to suit up. What kind of difference will it make throwing to starting-caliber receivers instead of fringe roster hopefuls? Love will play in a tough road environment at Arrowhead Stadium, but he faces a vulnerable Kansas City pass defense and now he at least has some exhibition experience to calm his nerves. He also will have a bountiful rushing attack behind him. Love executed screens, play-action passes, and rollout passes to tight ends throughout the preseason and those type of plays should be expected in numbers on Sunday.
Jordan Love has advantages in his favor and so do the Packers, with a 7-1 record and a comfortable multi-game lead in the division. There might not be a State Farm Insurance battle on Sunday, but the intrigue remains.
How much pressure will the Chiefs be able to put on Love?
Whenever an offense trots out an inexperienced quarterback, they can expect the defense to dial up the pressure early and often. For Kansas City, pressure has been hard to find in the early portion of the season.
The Chiefs have notched only 11 sacks this season as a defensive unit, a big reason behind their decision to trade for Melvin Ingram this week at the deadline. It is not a given that Ingram will take the field immediately this week for the Chiefs, but his presence could help re-shuffle the defensive front. Pro Bowler Chris Jones is one of the Chiefs defenders who has had a disappointing season after shifting to the outside of the line more often. Jones has earned just three sacks of his own since moving away from his productive interior position, but could return to that spot this week. Meanwhile, star pass rusher Frank Clark has just one sack this season himself, that coming last week against New York.
The offensive line has been strong for the Packers this season despite injuries, and if the team can add David Bakhtiari back at left tackle, it should be well-suited to protect Love against a struggling defensive front. But how well will they be able to slide and pick up the variety of blitzes Steve Spagnuolo might bring? That will be one of the bigger keys to Green Bay overcoming the loss of Rodgers.
Could De’Vondre Campbell be playing too well?
One of the early surprises of the Packers’ season has been the steady and playmaking performance from the inside linebacker Campbell. After signing a low-risk one-year deal in the offseason, Campbell picked up Defensive Player of the Month honors in the NFC this week, a rarity for Packers defenses of late. As the Packers have had to offset the losses of other stalwart players on the defensive side of the ball, they have been picked up by the rangy Campbell.
Perhaps so much so that it works against Green Bay. After seemingly finding a middle linebacker to build upon at long last, the Packers might find themselves unable to afford Campbell in the offseason if he keeps up his Pro Bowl level of play. At just 28 years old, Campbell is still in his prime. Despite inconsistencies in years past, he could certainly command somewhere in the neighborhood of $7-10 million as seen from Blake Martinez and Jarrad Davis over the past couple of offseasons.
Make no mistake about it, Green Bay will take all the impact plays it can get this season from Campbell. But as his accolades pick up, so will Campbell’s value on the open market.