The Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills are set to face each other in the final week of the 2021 preseason. Aaron Rodgers was never going to see the field before the Packers’ open the regular season against the New Orleans Saints, which meant Green Bay’s three exhibition games were a chance for second-year quarterback Jordan Love to prove he has the ability to be the team’s franchise quarterback whenever Rodgers moves on. But the Utah State product had an up-and-down preseason opener, got injured, and missed the team’s next game. Now healthy, the Packers-Bills contest will be a prove-it game for Love.
Buffalo is expected to play its starters for a significant portion of the game, which means Love will no longer be facing a vanilla, preseason defense. Bills’ Head Coach Sean McDermott has built a career on pressuring opposing quarterbacks. His scheme is predicated on doing so with his front four, which leaves linebackers and defensive backs to focus on coverage. It will be Love’s biggest test as a pro.
Love missed a golden opportunity to face the New York Jets
The Packers had two joint practices and a game against the New York Jets in the second week of the preseason, and Love missed a golden opportunity to face a difficult defensive scheme. Jets’ Head Coach Robert Saleh was the defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers the last four seasons. San Francisco led the league in passing defense the last two years and was one of the best in terms of passer rating allowed and completion percentage allowed. Saleh’s 49ers defense was third in the NFL in passing yards allowed during his four-year tenure.
It would have been a great opportunity to face a tough scheme, Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers said during a press conference via Packerswire. He added, though, that it will be good for Love to get a taste of McDermott’s scheme against the Bills:
“This will be great for him.
“Starters, and that Bills defense is aggressive and throws a bunch of different looks, that will be good for him.”Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Jordan Love’s opportunity to face the Buffalo Bills
Green Bay’s game against Buffalo will be Jordan Love’s best opportunity to prove himself
According to The Buffalo News, McDermott said he plans to play quarterback Josh Allen and a majority of the Bills’ starters in the preseason finale. If Love missed his opportunity against the Jets because of an injured throwing shoulder, this is the best and final chance for him to show his development.
The Bills’ defensive starters include a rotation of Ed Oliver, Jerry Hughes, and Mario Addison up front, along with 2020 first-round pick AJ Epenesa and 2021 first-round pick Greg Rousseau. 2018 first-round selection Tremaine Edmunds has tallied more than 100 tackles each of his first three seasons in the league, and the 6-foot-5, 250-pound linebacker is a pest in the passing game as well, with 24 passes broken up and three interceptions the past three years. Buffalo’s secondary includes one of the best corners in the league in Tre’Davious White and a top veteran safety in Micah Hyde, who has 17 career picks.
The Bills’ defense is no joke, and if the majority of its starters play, Love will need to play the best football of his career to have any success.
Love needed this preseason to show he could be the future, and the Buffalo game is his last chance
Logically, the final preseason game is the last chance for any non-starter in the NFL to prove themselves. But Love is a special case because of his position within the Green Bay franchise. General Manager Brian Gutekunst traded up to select Love in the 2020 first round, which was a surprise for many, and likely kicked off the Packers’ rift with Rodgers. The 22-year-old has been under pressure since the day he arrived in Green Bay.
With Rodgers set to likely leave the organization at the end of the 2021 season, Love needs to show more progress in his development. He’s shown flashes of it, but not consistently. A strong game against one of the league’s best defenses — even in a preseason setting — would go a long way toward proving Love has what it takes to be a starting NFL quarterback.
All statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.