Green Bay’s preseason schedule has put Packers quarterback Jordan Love on the same field with a couple of players who can identify with the challenge he faces in replacing four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers.
New England’s Mac Jones, who became the Patriots’ starting quarterback about 18 months after Tom Brady’s departure, is in Green Bay this week for a couple of joint practices and an exhibition game with the Packers.
That comes a week after Green Bay’s joint practice and exhibition game at Cincinnati had the Packers facing Bengals backup quarterback Trevor Siemian, who succeeded Peyton Manning in Denver. Jones spoke after Wednesday’s practice session about the advice he’d give Love based on his own experience. The situations are a little different because Cam Newton was Brady’s direct successor in New England, though the seven-time Super Bowl champ still cast quite a shadow as Jones began his rookie season in 2021.
“Tom Brady’s the greatest quarterback to ever play in the NFL,” Jones said. “To follow up on him, it’s trying to chase the standard that he set every day. Honestly, we’re definitely two different players. That’s the only advice I’d have: Just continue to grow and be yourself. That’s all you can do is put your best foot forward and compete. It’s definitely big shoes to fill.”
Love backed up Rodgers the past three seasons. Rodgers’ trade to the New York Jets cleared the way for Love to take over in Green Bay, just as Rodgers started his career by backing up Hall of Famer Brett Favre for three seasons.
“Obviously, we’ve had some really great quarterbacks here,” Love said after a practice session that was highlighted by a 75-yard completion to Christian Watson. “The standard’s kind of set and you’re trying to continue to raise your game until you get to that bar and continue to go past it once you get there.”
The Packers have prepared their young offense for the first year of the post-Rodgers era by scheduling an extra set of joint practice sessions. They traditionally had practiced against just one team in training camp.
Love says these joint practices offer him something different than what he encounters in exhibition games. Love played two series Friday when the Packers opened their preseason schedule with a 36-19 victory at Cincinnati.
“I think there’s more looks in joint practices,” Love said. “I think the defense is giving us more looks that they might not do in a preseason game. They’re trying to work things as well, and we’re trying to work some new concepts, so I think you dive a little bit more into the playbook.”
Love believes he has benefited from all the work he’s done. Asked Wednesday whether he’s still thinking too much rather than reacting, Love gave an emphatic response.
“I don’t think so — at all,” Love said. “I think I’m out there playing right now. I think if anything, the reps that I’ve had over the years is just built-up confidence, seeing different looks, things like that.”
PATS WELCOME EZEKIEL ELLIOTT
Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson welcomed the arrival of two-time NFL rushing leader Ezekiel Elliott, who was in Green Bay on Wednesday after officially signing with New England.
“That’s my guy,” said Stevenson, who said he met Elliott in 2021 and that they’ve been pretty close ever since.
Elliott rushed for 8,262 yards and 68 touchdowns in seven seasons at Dallas, but is likely to have more of a supporting role with the Patriots. Stevenson figures to be the lead back after rushing for 1,040 yards and averaging 5 yards per carry while also catching 69 passes for 421 yards last season.
Stevenson said Elliott’s addition would help the Patriots “tremendously” while discussing what he liked most about his new teammate.
“The way he runs the ball, his determination, his relentlessness,” Stevenson said. “He’s just going to give it all he’s got.”
There weren’t any major fights during Wednesday’s joint practice. That was a major contrast from last week, when Packers guard Elgton Jenkins was involved in two skirmishes with Bengals players before getting removed from that practice session.
Packers coach Matt LaFleur said before the practice that he’d warned his players not to get in any scuffles.
“You ever seen ‘Peaky Blinders?’” LaFleur asked. “You know when Thomas Shelby comes in and says, ‘No fighting.’ Yeah.”
Green Bay’s surplus of talented cornerbacks and lack of depth at safety have the Packers pondering how to set up their secondary. LaFleur said Wednesday he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of moving cornerback Rasul Douglas to safety.
“We’re going to look at everything,” LaFleur said.
Douglas, who had four interceptions in 2022 and five in 2021, said he could understand why the Packers might want to use him at safety.
“You see somebody with a lot of picks, you’re like, ‘All right, if he was at safety, we know he could be more,’” Douglas said.