GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Jordan Love needs a preseason. For that matter, he needs an offseason. An actual offseason -- not one the quarterback spent in front of an iPad and using Zoom to communicate with the Green Bay Packers coaches.
When it came to on-field work, Love's rookie year was essentially a lost season.
Sure, he got a year's worth of meeting time, game-planning and living the NFL life. But as the third-stringer behind a starter (Aaron Rodgers) and a backup (Tim Boyle) who never missed a practice all season, it meant rarely -- if ever -- did Love take snaps with the Packers' offense. Instead, he ran the scout team in practice and was inactive for every game.
Combine that with the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions that reduced the offseason to a virtual one, shortened training camp and eliminated all preseason games, and Love isn't anywhere close to where anyone would like in his development.
"It's very important for Jordan to get as many live reps," Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said last week when asked about the development of his most recent first-round pick.
The proposed 17-game regular season likely would mean a reduction of the preseason by one game. Still, that would mean three more preseason games than Love got last season. Love threw 64 passes during team (full-squad 11-on-11) drills in training camp last August.
Some final numbers from training camp, part 3: Backup QB passing stats in team drills (11-on-11 full-squad periods only).— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) August 31, 2020
Tim Boyle: 47-of-82 (57.3 percent).
Jordan Love: 37-of-64 (57.8 percent). https://t.co/jnp8eAeIDj
"The way we [went] about practice with no preseason is Aaron kind of takes all the starter reps, then both Tim and Jordan would split the rest," Gutekunst said. "We feel very good about what he was able to do in the small window of development that he had. But I think this preseason and moving forward are going to be very, very important. And that's not just for him. It's for a lot of our younger players.
"But the quarterback position is unique in that way, and I think that it was unfortunate we didn't get that time last year, but we're looking forward to it hopefully this preseason."
Love needs it if the Packers are going to feel comfortable elevating him to the backup role -- Boyle is a restricted free agent -- and figure out if he's a realistic eventual replacement for Rodgers. Or, if they're going to recommit to Rodgers after his MVP season, then they probably need to put Love on display to drum up trade interest.
"After going through a season without preseason games, I realize how valuable and how important they are," Gutekunst said. "I do think with joint practices and some of the things that we've done in the past, there's going to be some opportunity to kind of allow a lot of those preseason reps to go to your younger, more inexperienced players -- which I think is going to be not only important from an evaluation but also a growth and development [standpoint] as we move forward.
"With Jordan specifically, I think it was disappointing we weren't able to get him out there in the preseason last year. Looking forward to it this year: the more, the better. Guys get better through playing, practice is always important, but the live game reps for all players is something you can't replace."
For now, however, teams don't even know if they'll get to work in person with players beginning on April 19, when offseason programs can open for teams with returning head coaches.
Last summer, Love looked hesitant during training camp practices, something the Packers believed was a by-product of not having in-person workouts in the offseason.
"It's gonna be a challenge for him," Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said last week. "Obviously we don't know what's gonna happen right now with how we're gonna be able to work with the players. I think always being in the system for a second year is huge for a quarterback -- understanding the language, understanding how we go about our everyday process and even just being able to get out there in practice. I think that's huge.
"So I think for him it's just growing more in the offensive system, even more than he has already, just making it his own. I think that's so huge and obviously we're very excited if we can be able to practice because I think that's something he needs. The last time he was able to really get after the practices was in training camp, so if that's kind of what we're dealt, then it'll be training camp when he's gotta really make some strides and get those full-time speed reps."