The Green Bay Packers host the Houston Texans in their first preseason game of 2021 Saturday at 7 p.m. (CST).
Here are five things to look for regarding the Packers.
1. Endless Love
Jordan Love, the Packers’ first round draft pick in 2020, will get the overwhelming amount of work Saturday — and throughout the entire preseason.
Because last year’s preseason games were canceled, this will be Love’s first preseason game. And because Love was inactive all 18 games last season, this will be his first game action as a Packer.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are headed for a divorce after this season, meaning Love is the future at quarterback. So, Green Bay wants to begin finding out what it has in Love.
And for those that will undoubtedly panic if things don’t go well, remember Rodgers was 3-of-13 for 15 yards in his first two preseason games.
“We’re always still trying to put our guys in great position to go out there and we want them to be successful,” Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said. “But at the same time, I know there’s that balance of trying to get too cute or whatever in terms of what we’re going to throw out there. Certainly I feel like there’s enough all-purpose plays within our plan that we feel good about that (Love) can go out and execute at a high level.”
2. Battle at corner
Cornerback Eric Stokes, the Packers’ first round draft pick in April, has had an up and down camp. Stokes has blazing speed (4.29) and good size (6-1, 194), but he has been picked on at times this summer.
Veteran Kevin King has been serviceable when healthy. That hasn’t been often enough, though, as King has missed 23 of 64 regular season games (35.9%).
King was also one of the goats of Green Bay’s loss to Tampa Bay in the NFC Championship Game in January. King gave up a pair of touchdown passes and had a late pass interference penalty that allowed Tampa Bay to run out the clock.
King, who missed the first 11 practices of training camp with a hamstring injury, returned from the non-football injury list this week. Still, he’s unlikely to play much Saturday.
That could give Stokes a chance to make a run for the second cornerback job, opposite Pro Bowler Jaire Alexander.
“What I like is his demeanor,” Packers defensive backs coach Jerry Gray said of Stokes. “When you see a young guy that’s not getting frustrated because he’s going against good players, that’s a good sign.
“Hey look, I may get beat on an out. I may get beat on a hitch, it may be a back shoulder fade. These are hard plays to cover, but the biggest thing is I don’t see him drop his head. I don’t see him do any of that. He’s coming back for more coaching points. That’s a good sign.”
3. Line dance
Green Bay standout left tackle David Bakhtiari, who suffered a torn ACL on Dec. 31, is unlikely to play in Week 1. That means left guard Elgton Jenkins will slide to left tackle early in the season.
Rookie Josh Myers will almost certainly start at center, but the two guard spots remain in flux. Lucas Patrick is the frontrunner to start at right guard for the second straight season, while Jon Runyan Jr. and Ben Braden are vying for starting spots, as well.
There should be more clarity in these position battles by Sunday.
“We’ve been putting a lot of different combinations out there and it’s great to have a lot of people that could potentially fill that role,” LaFleur said. “But typically that stuff will play out over the course of the next four weeks.”
4. Who’s No. 3?
Green Bay has one of the NFL’s top 1-2 running back punches in Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. The battle for the third spot is wide open, though.
Kylin Hill, Green Bay’s seventh round draft pick, has had a strong camp and has received some work with the No. 1 offense, of late. Patrick Taylor (6-2, 217) is an extremely large back who has struggled with consistency. And 2019 sixth-round draft pick Dexter Williams is trying to survive, despite rushing for just 19 yards in seven carries his first two years.
“Competition brings out the best in you,” Taylor said. “I feel like it makes everybody better. I’m excited for the competition.”
5. Wideout battles
Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Amari Rodgers are all locks to make the team. Randall Cobb — a favorite of quarterback Aaron Rodgers — is a shell of his former self, but will almost certainty to stick as well due to his tight relationship with the quarterback.
That leaves one, maybe two jobs open for a group that has some talent.
Devin Funchess has missed all but one game in the last two years, but is a former second-round draft pick who caught 161 passes and 21 touchdowns during his four years in Carolina. Patrick Taylor is a quality special teams player, while Equanimeous St. Brown has flashed at times during his first three seasons in Green Bay.
Youngsters Juwann Winfree, Reggie Begelton and DeAndre Thompkins will also be looking to make their marks.
“Well the way I look at it, it’s actually fun,” Begelton said. “If it was easy, would you really enjoy the process? Especially when you come out successful at the end? I know it’s a competitive room and like I said, at the end of the day it’s just fun.”