GREEN BAY, Wis. – Jordan Love has played only 28 snaps since the Green Bay Packers drafted him in the first round in 2020, and those came in this year’s preseason opener against the Houston Texans. But even if Love doesn’t take another snap, the Packers believe he’s ready to back up Aaron Rodgers.
That belief wasn’t shaken after third-stringer Kurt Benkert -- who started Saturday because of Love’s strained throwing shoulder -- was more productive against the New York Jets than Love was against Houston. Benkert excited the Lambeau Field crowd with twice as many scoring drives as Love produced a week earlier.
“I don’t foresee it going a different way,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said after Benkert went 18-of-25 for 151 yards with one touchdown and one interception in a 23-14 loss to the Jets.
“I don’t want to ever anoint somebody -- we’re always in constant competition -- but clearly I think Jordan’s done enough throughout practices where we feel comfortable where he would be the 2.”
Love played only the first half in the 26-7 loss to the Texans. He was scheduled to play into the third quarter but was pulled because he strained his right shoulder. He did not practice all last week and still has not been cleared to return. LaFleur said Sunday that the plan is to ease Love back into practice on Monday with some individual drills and then possibly give him some 11-on-11 work as long as there is no setback.
Love did some throwing off to the side every day last week under the watch of the medical staff.
“It’s just trying to get [Love’s] volume up, trying to get the velocity up [and] the distance just to see how he feels,” LaFleur said.
The Packers had made the decision to hold Rodgers out of all preseason games and planned to use August to prepare Love as much as possible for the backup role. He spent all of his rookie season last year as the No. 3 and never suited up.
Benkert understands the situation.
“I know my spot, I know my role, I know I’m the 3 guy,” Benkert said. “And I just need to be ready if anything happens.
“But it’s cool to have that dynamic of [being] on the sideline and Aaron’s pointing stuff on the iPad like, ‘Hey, this guy messed up, that’s not on you.’ He pretty much always has my back on stuff, which is pretty cool. It’s honestly the most fun I’ve had in a quarterback room with this dynamic, just everybody knows our role, and at the end of the day -- and on Sept. 12 -- our job is to help Aaron prepare as best as he can and do all of the stuff behind the scenes. I think everybody knowing what your job is and what your role is makes it really easy, and we can have more fun.”
Benkert has more NFL experience than Love. He’s technically considered a second-year player, but he has been around the NFL since 2018, when he joined the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent. He spent all of his rookie season on the Falcons' practice squad, all of 2019 on injured reserve (toe) and all of the 2020 season back on the Falcons practice squad.
Saturday was actually his second career preseason start; he also started the 2018 preseason finale. It didn’t go as well. He was 10-of-25 for 103 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns.
Benkert’s second chance was not without adventure. On two straight plays, he got his feet tangled with right guard Royce Newman’s and ended up on his back.
“I didn’t even know what happened, like, ‘Why am I on the ground?’” Benkert said. “Second time, I don’t even know what I needed to do to fix it. But I think we went to gun the next play and had a positive play. I’ve never run into that problem before.”
Somehow, Benkert managed to salvage the possession and turn it into a 19-play, 10-minute touchdown drive that he capped with a 5-yard, well-placed pass to tight end Jace Sternberger in the back of the end zone.
“That was the longest drive of my life,” Benkert said.
“The thing that I'm most proud of is that drive that could have gone to crap, and it didn't, and we ended up rolling with it,” he added. “I think that's kind of a testament to how I like to play. Just keep on going. I threw a pick and just got out the next drive and kept it going. Don’t be gun-shy because something went wrong. I just let them know that’s how I play and I’m going to do my best to take care of the football and make plays.”
Last season, the Packers kept three quarterbacks on the roster: Rodgers, Tim Boyle and Love (who was inactive for every game).
Benkert is making the case for keeping three again. If the Packers wanted him on the practice squad, they would have to cut him and expose him to waivers before they could bring him back in that capacity.
“I think Kurt has done a really nice job and [is] definitely going to make it tough on us to decide which way we want to go,” LaFleur said.