The Green Bay Packers played their first preseason game in Cincinnati on Friday night, after two days of joint practices with the Bengals, which the Packers won 36-19. First-year starting quarterback Jordan Love and the first-team offense played two drives and ceded the game to the backups after receiver Romeo Doubs’ touchdown catch at the end of the second drive.
Overall, it was a good week of practices for Love and he showed how easily the Packers could move the ball versus Cincinnati. He finished 7-10, with 46 yards, and one touchdown pass and showed a good command of the offense in a few areas.
Preseason games tend to only showcase basic pass and run concepts from the early days of training camp but Love flashed a couple of concepts that typically tend to give young quarterbacks trouble because the timing and pre-snap recognition is often sped up.
Quick game concepts
The Packers' very first play call was a three-step out of the shotgun Dragon concept (slant/flat) with a spacing concept to the left. It is designed to be read from right to left here with the quarterback working the slant/flat concept to the right with the progression going from flat to slant.
Love drops back and sees the WILL linebacker, usually the flat player, dropping to the weak hook, confirming to Love that the flat will be open. He gets confirmation of this as the defensive end peels with the running back to the flat. Easy completion and good recognition. Almost always, the hook defender will tell the quarterback where to go with the ball.
On the second drive, Love was able to convert a third and five with a quick throw to receiver Christian Watson running an “Omaha” route on Jet Omaha, an all out-breaking route by the receivers concept and another play where the quarterback essentially picks the most favorable side to throw against.
Love motions Watson over and gets a zone indicator with the coverage to that side, as they bumped over with the safety coming down. The Bengals are showing a mugged A-gap blitz look and press coverage backside so it could be man but the corner to Watson’s side backs up.
Love will have to confirm if it is zone or man quickly on his dropback and make the right decision. The linebackers bail at the snap, confirming zone coverage across except on the backside. Love comes back to the right and fires a quick pass to Watson along the sideline who catches it and gets the first down. The safety coming down to the flat confirms his first read is the throw as the stick window to the tight end is compressed.
A key feature of the offense under Matt LaFleur is the under-center play-action game and, while not a central feature with Rodgers outside of concepts like corner post and drift/strike, the Packers might lean a little more into these concepts to create easy throws for their quarterback.
With Love under center, they created some easy completions to move the chains, including a nice throw into a small window at the second level while Love was booting out to his left.
On the touchdown to Doubs, Love went under center again on a red zone concept, play action double cross, a play that the Packers have run a handful of times with success in recent years.
Double Cross concept is great in the red zone against single high. Hard Duo play fake, throw away from where the free safety helps pic.twitter.com/rKnXUIbEX8— Bobby Peters (@b_peters12) August 6, 2023
It was a play they had run during the Family Night practice last week in the team drill portion of the practice when Love connected with receiver Malik Heath in the back left corner of the end zone.
Love only attempted one deep pass, an incomplete pass down the left sideline to Christian Watson. The primary concept on the play is the double digs concept to the right from the two-receiver stack. On the left, Watson is singled up against the corner with the middle of the field closed by Dax Hill, the deep safety.
Love ultimately chooses pre-snap to throw the alert fade. It was not a bad decision and Love hit these fades in training camp, regularly, including in the joint practices.
But this is the red line drill in real-time. The red line drill is utilized to give the receiver room to run under a sideline go ball and have enough room to adjust and make a catch on the sideline. Watson doesn’t really give himself a chance here because he does not stack the corner behind him but Love also left a tad too far inside, allowing Dax Hill to race across to break up the pass.
I think Love would want that back and a better choice might have been the inside dig route because it had time to develop but I understand the thought process. You have a speedster on the outside singled up, use him.
Wide open miss
The only throw that was an obvious bad miss was the wide-open miss to rookie tight end Luke Musgrave. Love’s process was great right up until he uncorked a high pass over the middle that sailed out Musgrave’s reach.
The play concept in the Shanahan tree is called “Nascar” or “race wide” with an inside deep crosser/thru route over the middle, a six-yard arrow route in the flat, and a dig or “basic” route from the outside receiver over the arrow. If the slot crosser is eliminated, it becomes a high/low read on the hook defender for the dig route or arrow route.
Love stays with the crosser and it was the right decision. He waited until Musgrave hit the second window because he felt no pressure but the pass got away from him and sailed over Musgrave who would’ve had a substantial gain with an on-target pass.
Overall, it was a very solid outing for Love and the offense and one they will look to build off this coming Saturday versus the New England Patriots in Green Bay. The important thing to take away from this so far is Love is processing the game and plays he’s given very well. Granted it's not against first-team defenses but this weekend will be a very good test for him going against a Bill Belichick defense, which has been known to frustrate young inexperienced quarterbacks.