The Green Bay Packers have a new starting quarterback this season for the first time since 2008. Jordan Love will be taking the reigns from Aaron Rodgers. Fifteen years ago, it was Rodgers taking over for Brett Favre.

There is a big difference in experience between Rodgers and Love. Rodgers has had 18 seasons in the league and was a starter for 15 of them. Love, meanwhile, has been in the NFL for three seasons and has started exactly one game thus far.

So, how will this change the Packers approach to playing their starting quarterback in the preseason?

The Packers Past Practices Under Matt LaFleur

Since Matt LaFleur took over as the head coach of the Packers in 2019, the plan was simple: Rodgers didn’t play. Rodgers knew the offense and his teammates, and he didn’t need to play in the preseason to be ready for the start of the regular season. He and Davante Adams already had elite chemistry.

Preseason defenses tend to be vanilla. Teams rarely blitz or do much to disguise coverages. The emphasis is more on one-on-one matchups and on not giving regular season opponents much to look at on film as they prepare for early-season games. So, for an experienced quarterback, there isn’t much to gain by playing in those games.

In the four seasons that Rodgers was the starter with LaFleur, he didn’t play in the preseason in any of them. Even last season, when the Packers were breaking in three rookie receivers in Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs and Samori Toure, Rodgers still did not take a preseason snap.

LaFleur felt the risk of losing his starting quarterback to injury during the preseason would far outweigh any benefit that would be gained by getting Rodgers out on the field for a series or two.

What Happens with Jordan Love?

Obviously, things are different with Jordan Love. The former Utah State star is entering the new season as a starter for the first time. Unlike Rodgers, Love can benefit from getting reps in the preseason and he needs all the work he can get to prepare for this new experience in 2023.

The Packers receiving corps is even younger this year. The Packers feature two high draft picks at tight end in Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft who are both expected to see a lot of playing time as rookies.

The team also has no wide receiver with more than one year of NFL experience on the roster. The lack of experience at the offensive skill positions (except running back), is a reason to give Love playing time during the three preseason games.

But how much playing time should Love get in the preseason? Should he play a quarter? A half? Should they play him more in the first two games of the preseason and then hold him out of the finale?

The goal for LaFleur should be to balance the need for Love and his young receivers to get experience working together in game conditions with the possible threat of Love getting hurt and missing regular season games.

The Backup Quarterback Battle

The Packers presently have two players on the roster fighting to be the backup quarterback but neither of them has ever appeared in a regular-season NFL game in their careers. Danny Etling spent last year on the Packers practice squad. He was originally drafted by the Patriots in 2018. He is now entering his sixth NFL season but has yet to appear in a game despite being on the roster of eight different teams over that time.

His competition for the backup quarterback job is Penn State alum Sean Clifford. The Packers selected Clifford in the 5th round of this year’s draft. He will certainly get some substantial playing time during the preseason to see if he’s ready to be the backup.

It is likely LaFleur wants to see both potential backups play in the preseason. How they perform in those games will go a long way towards determining who wins the roster spot and whether GM Brian Gutekunst needs to bring in a veteran backup.

It will be interesting to see where LaFleur draws the line this preseason. I would expect Love to play the first half of the first two preseason games and then maybe one series at most of the third.

The Packers coaching staff needs to find the right balance between getting Love and his young pass catchers ready for the season without losing them to injury in games that don’t count in the standings.



Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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