GREEN BAY, Wis. -- As Matt LaFleur put together his script for the first practice after last week’s preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Green Bay Packers' coach knew he wanted to give Jordan Love another shot at hitting Luke Musgrave on a crossing route.
The two couldn’t make it work on the first third-down play of the game. Love sailed what would have been an easy first down over the wide-open tight end’s head.
It wouldn’t be enough to simply watch the film and point out what his quarterback and his tight end could have done differently.
“Obviously, you’re going to correct it on tape, but you have to, at some point, go back and do it,” LaFleur said. “Typically, you walk through it, and then you go out there and perform it live at full speed.”
And perform it they did.
This time, instead of Love flinging the ball out of Musgrave’s reach, it fell right into the rookie tight end’s waiting hands for a 21-yard completion.
That the play made it back on the script for the very next practice offered a hint that it -- and Musgrave -- could be a regular part of the Packers’ offense.
“Hopefully,” Musgrave said. “That’s the hope. That’s the goal.”
Nothing in Musgrave’s stat line from the preseason opener screamed instant superstar; he had one catch for 8 yards. But three of Love’s first six passes in the game were targeted for the rookie tight end.
It has been that way for most of training camp. In that same practice following the preseason opener, Love completed 17 of 23 passes, and four of those went to the second-round pick from Oregon State, who caught three of them for 46 yards. The only one they missed was broken up by cornerback Rasul Douglas in the end zone.
The Packers are starved for a big-play tight end, and Musgrave’s combination of size (6-foot-6, 253 pounds) and speed (4.61 40-yard dash, fourth fastest among tight ends at the combine) give them their best chance since perhaps Jermichael Finley a decade ago.
They haven’t drafted anyone at the position as high as Musgrave (No. 42 overall) in more than two decades -- Bubba Franks, 14th overall in 2000.
“He’s a special talent,” Packers safety Dallin Leavitt said of Musgrave. “He’s got more wiggle than people give him credit for and obviously everybody talks about his speed, but I think he does a good job making contested catches as well.”
Leavitt should know. He has covered Musgrave in practice on plenty of occasions. He has also been around some of the best tight ends in the league, which includes four years in the AFC West with the Raiders.
“I think Darren Waller is another level of it because Darren is almost like an X receiver,” Leavitt said. “I played a long time with Darren [with the Raiders]. In regards to speed and feeling that on the over route, yeah, I think [Musgrave’s] got that. But honestly, I would say he’s closer to Kelce than he is Darren, body type and all that.”
Musgrave will have to improve his blocking, but the Packers have rookie third-round pick Tucker Kraft and fourth-year pro Josiah Deguara for that from the tight end spot. The Packers just lost Tyler Davis to a season-ending knee injury, but undrafted rookie Austin Allen, a giant of a tight end at 6-8, could find his way onto the 53-man roster.
“We’ve just got to keep getting him the ball, keep feeding him, and see what he can do after the catch,” Love said of Musgrave. “He's going to be a really good player.”
And he appears to be willing to work for it.
At the end of the first day of training camp, LaFleur had just finished his final meeting of the night with his coaching staff, and on the way out, he saw two players still going over their practice notes and playbook: Musgrave and Kraft.
“They're not afraid of the work,” LaFleur said. “They're going to put it in.”
Musgrave knew the opportunity would be there for him, considering how high he was drafted and what the Packers lost at the position in free agent departures Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis. But he didn’t know what to expect from Love or the offense.
“I tried to come in with little expectations,” he said. “I’m really thankful. Jordan’s been doing an amazing job. I couldn’t ask for a better guy because he’s super approachable and he gives me opportunities, and I do mess up. The whole thing’s been awesome. It’s been pretty ideal.”