A lot of things will be different for the Green Bay Packers in 2023. The most noticeable change is under center where Jordan Love is taking over for Aaron Rodgers who was the starting quarterback for the last 15 years.

Defenses knew Rodgers well and had a lot of film on the future Hall of Famer. They knew what he did best and what he struggled with and so they created defenses that tried to limit his most effective plays.

One of Rodgers’ strengths was handling the blitz. Because of his experience and his cool under pressure, when opposing teams sent extra pass rushers at Rodgers, he knew where to look to find an open receiver. That quick decision making made the passes he completed even more dangerous because receivers were facing more one-on-one coverage when they send blitzers and that could result in big plays for the offense.

Because Rodgers reacted so well, defenses didn’t blitz as often, knowing Rodgers knew how to handle it.

Quarterback coach Tom Clements admitted the Packers offense will “probably see more” blitzes this year with the inexperienced Love taking over under center.

It’s something the coaching staff knows they must be ready for. “We work on recognizing what the pressures are and who’s the guy to get it to if it has to come out quick,” Clements explained. “You have to be able see things process it and make a quick decision. So, when things are flying around and guys are blitzing, that’s when it becomes most important.”

Clements also knows it will take time for Love to learn how to react. “It’s a process,” Clements added. “You see it on film. You walk through the blitzes, so you understand where you’re vulnerable, where you’re not vulnerable. Then you do them [at] full speed and you just have to react, and just keep doing that and doing that. It’s like anything else, the more you do it, the more comfortable you are doing it and the better you should be doing it.”

Getting Love ready to handle more blitzers will be a key component in getting him ready for his first season as a starter.

Love has started just one game in his NFL career. It came against Kansas City in 2021 when Rodgers was unavailable because he had contracted Covid. The Chiefs blitzed Love often and he had mixed results in the game. He started the game slowly but improved a bit as the game went on. The Packers lost 13-7 but Love led the team on a 10-play drive that ended with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Allen Lazard that pulled the Packers to within one score with 4:54 left on the clock.

Unfortunately, the Green Bay defense couldn’t stop the Chiefs who were able to hold onto the ball and run out the clock, but over the course of the game, Love did show some improvement in reacting to the blitz.

His ability to adjust to what is likely to be frequent blitzes will be an important factor in Love’s development. Matt LaFleur, Adam Stenavich, Clements and the rest of the offensive coaches will have to make sure that Love knows his hot reads and that his receivers know what patterns to run when a blitz is on.

Defenses also knew they had to stop Rodgers and couldn’t let the four-time MVP beat them with his arm. This means the Packers saw fewer eight-man boxes and it helped them run the ball more effectively.

Defenses may take the opposite approach with Love now the starter. They are likely to place a great emphasis on stopping running backs Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon and dare Love to beat them with his arm. Until he proves he can do it consistently, defenses will continue to dare Love to throw.

LaFleur will have the challenge of setting up Love for success with the right play calls. At least initially, it is also likely Love calls fewer audibles at the line of scrimmage than Rodgers did because he is less experienced at reading defenses.

All these changes will be in flux over the course of the season. As soon as Love proves he can handle the blitz, teams will send extra pass rushers less often. Once Love shows he can beat opposing defenses with his arm, they will be forced to respect it and it will open things up for the running game.

This will be a season of adjustment and learning for the young Green Bay offense. The sooner Love and his young receiving corps learn to adjust, the sooner the offense can become a true threat again.




Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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