Packers' Jordan Love likely to see more preseason action, LaFleur says

CINCINNATI -- The Green Bay Packers liked most of what Jordan Love did in his preseason debut as their new starting quarterback Friday night, but it was a couple of things he couldn't quite pull off that made them likely to play him at least once more before the regular season.

Love was efficient in his two series in the exhibition opener against the Bengals, completing 7-of-10 passes for 46 yards and a touchdown in the Packers' 36-19 win at Paycor Stadium.

He spread the ball around to five receivers, including a pair to potential new No. 1 Romeo Doubs: one on a contested 9-yard fade for the touchdown and his longest completion in the form of a 12-yard crosser.

Love wasn't pressured even with All Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari getting the night off. And he completed four of his five play-action throws.

But two throws -- his two longest attempts -- left him and coach Matt LaFleur wanting more.

Love's lone deep shot, a go route to speedster Christian Watson down the right sideline on the opening drive, arrived in stride, but Bengals safety Dax Hill had enough time to close the gap while the ball sailed through the air and broke it up. On the next play, Love simply overthrew a wide-open rookie tight end Luke Musgrave for what would've been a sure first down but instead led to a punt.

"That was the one I wish I could get back, that throw over the middle to Luke," Love said. "Man, just missed him. That's an easy throw, routine throw. Just couldn't come up with it. But other than that, I thought we played well. I thought all the pass game was in stride. Obviously, we had the one down the sideline to Christian where the safety made a really good play on it."

LaFleur said he didn't think Love put too much air on the deep ball to Watson. In fact, he has urged his quarterback to do just that on deep balls. But he could have used his eyes to freeze Hill in the middle of the field for a second longer, something his predecessor, Aaron Rodgers, mastered.

"It did look like an accurate ball, but what can he do to maybe hold that safety just another step so he can't make a play on the ball?" LaFleur said.

That kind of nuance will take time, which could be why LaFleur wants to play Love at least once more in the preseason.

"I would anticipate him playing some more, as well," LaFleur said. "Whether that's next week or whether that's versus Seattle [in the preseason finale], we'll kind of see how the week goes, see how practices are going. We've got two big practices coming up against New England that are going to be really good for him, and we're just going to play it by ear."

While Love was the focus of the night, rookie Emanuel Wilson became the feel-good story of the night.

An undrafted free agent out of Fort Valley State who began training camp as the Packers' No. 6 running back, Wilson rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns, including an 80-yard score, on just six carries. And he did it on the 14th anniversary of his father's death.

"Throughout the whole week, I was really like, 'Dang, I'm really playing on the day my dad died,'" Wilson said. "It's also a blessing to go out there and do what I need to do."

The emotion of Wilson's night even got to Packers' starting running back Aaron Jones.

"I know what he's gone through," said Jones, whose father died in 2021. "Me and him have communicated about it previously and so I knew tonight was special for him and after his first [touchdown], I just told him that, 'Hey, that was for your pops. He's here. He's watching. He has the best seat in the house.'

"And I was like, 'Go do it again,' and he just kept having a night. You can't help but think his dad was out there on the field with him, so I just think that was very special and I can relate."