Ah, what a difference a week can make in the life of a young NFL player. Jordan Love led three scoring drives in the first half of the Packers preseason game against the Saints. His first half stat line showed improvement (9-16/93 yards/1TD/0:INT/94 RTG). The Packers held on for a 20-10 home field victory.
The defense made enough plays (including an interception and a fumble recovery) in the first half to keep the Saints to a 59 yard field goal and a last second TD drive. The Saints last minute touchdown was only accomplished because tight end Tyler Davis made another critical error. Last week against the 49ers Davis had a throw go right thru his hands for a critical interception that led to seven points. Against the Saints, he fumbled after making a wide open catch and again it led to a quick drive for seven points for the opponent. Add in a drop for an interception at practice this week and multiple failures in run game blocking and you may have seen the last of Davis in a tight end roll in Green Bay.
Love not only had a better statistical night, his passes were on target. Every ball was delivered with commitment and only one, a second half toss to Amari Rodgers that was batted away at the catch point, was behind a receiver. Except for a couple of times where Love tried to scramble after not finding an open target, his balls came out fast and in rhythm.
The offensive line also showed improvement. Zack Tom and Royce Newman had some hole opening back side zone blocks that Tyler Goodson took advantage of, gaining 38 yards on five carries in the first half.
When the second half began, Chris Slayton made his introduction to Saints RB Abram Smith with a solid tackle for a one yard gain. Slayton seemed to be around the ball on many plays. He had five total tackles, 3 solo, but left even more on the field. If he can improve to the point he is making those extra plays, he has a chance to be a good lineman in the NFL. The defense, especially the play of the first and second team interior linebackers, has to give long time fans some small sense of relief. Yes, it is preseason and yes it is against second tier talent, but the tackling is better than Green and Gold fans have seen in preseason in sometime.
Love’s stats did not improve in the third quarter, but his accuracy and pocket presence still impressed. Accurate throws dropped by Hyman, Toure and finally Rodgers killed the Packers first third quarter drive. The long throw to Toure was especially impressive as Love put it right on the money with decent coverage by the Saints. Perhaps it was the rain, but unless the drops disappear, the top 3 wideouts will see most of the plays come prime time. The Saints Ian Book was dead to rights dead for a sack, but he slipped by Slayton and escaped, making the play and leading multiple drives where he moved the ball. Book, the former Golden Domer, had a gritty performance, at one point bowling right through Ty Summers’ tackle for a first down. Summers still seems a step slow in recognition and isn’t making noticeable special teams plays. McDuffie had six tackles and is playing ahead of Summers with the second team defense. Much has been said about the improvement of Kingsley Enagbare, the Packers 5th round draft pick. Enagbare had multiple noticeable moments of pressure or near tackles but ended the game with one assisted tackle.
The only noticeable injury was to Vernon Scott, which could leave the Packers dangerously thin at Safety.
Again, this game had no starters and it would be easy to file it away as a nothing outcome, but the improvement on both sides of the ball was noticeable and sometime during the season, there will be players that made the team tonight that will contribute in 2022. Let’s hope we see the same improvement next week. The best news is- We are watching football!!!