Jordan Love one of many standouts in Packers' preseason opener
Jordan Love turned his two drives into a touchdown while Carrington Valentine shined in his first NFL start. Josh Myers continues to raise questions, however.
The Green Bay Packers opened the preseason on Friday by defeating the Cincinnati Bengals 36-19. Of course, the score doesn't matter, but the Packers had plenty of positives to take from the game as well as valuable information about their new starting quarterback.
Today's edition of The Leap dives into the most important takeaways from the performance, including one particular starter who continues to flirt with losing his job.
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What stood out most about Jordan Love's two-drive preseason debut?
Jason B. Hirschhorn: From a processing standpoint, every one of Jordan Love's 10 pass attempts looked correct. Two of those plays -- a tight-end screen to Luke Musgrave and a quick out to Christian Watson -- didn't involve a true read. For the other eight, Love went through his progressions quickly and made solid decisions about which receiver to target.
Perhaps Love's best read came on his final play of the day. The Packers ran a high-cross concept with Chrisitan Watson and Romeo Doubs as the outside receivers. After identifying man coverage before the snap and seeing a single man in the back of the defense, Love essentially lets that deep safety dictate his throw. Once that safety commits to running with Watson, Love delivers the ball to Doubs who has beaten his man inside and found open space in the end zone.
Those strong decisions helped mitigate some of the issues Love had with ball placement. On his deep shot to Watson during the opening series, Love might have prevented Bengals defensive back Dax Hill from breaking up the pass by leading the receiver slightly more to the outside. In fairness, Watson could have provided a wider target area by leaving more space between him and the boundary, but Love still could have improved that throw. Similarly, the young quarterback probably could have led Doubs a bit more on the touchdown even if that didn't affect the end result. Love also flubbed a layup to Musgrave on the opening drive and could have done a better job with the screen as well.
Still, those moments mostly represent nitpicks. Love looked poised and operated efficiently, moving the sticks and producing a touchdown. He also didn't have a turnover-worthy play. The coaching staff will find far more to like than to correct with his tape from Cincinnati.
What are reasonable expectations for Carrington Valentine?
JBH: During the multiple weeks of training camp that preceded Friday's preseason opener, cornerback Carrington Valentine managed to work his way from the back of the depth chart to playing with the No. 1 defense. That ascension came with some caveats -- Eric Stokes remains on the physically unable to perform list and Jaire Alexander sat out some practices while nursing a minor groin injury -- but it remains an unlikely start for a rookie defensive back that nearly went undrafted in April.
For the inexperienced Valentine, the preseason tilt with the Bengals represented his first heat check in the NFL. The rookie passed the test with flying colors. In 29 snaps from scrimmage, Valentine allowed gave up just two catches over six targets for just 16 yards. He recorded pass breakups on two of those targets while corralling an interception on another.
Friday's game serves as just one data point for a player that will experience the ups and downs of the cornerback position at some point. One could quibble and say Valentine could have drawn a penalty for defensive pass interference on his PBU against Bengals wideout Andrei Iosivas. The rookie corner still has more to prove at this early stage.
At the same time, Valentine did everything the Packers asked of him in his first NFL game. Arguably no one on the defense had a better showing in Cincinnati, with Valentine's physical gifts manifesting in his play throughout the game. It doesn't seem crazy to think he could provide quality depth behind the starting corners. Given that Stokes has yet to return to the practice field, Valentine could realistically become the first guy off the bench should an injury occur.
Following the Packers' preseason opener, Josh Myers is …
JBH: … officially on notice. Josh Myers had struggled with snaps so far in camp, and that issue appeared to rear its head again in Cincinnati. During the Packers' second possession, he didn't snap the ball on a first-and-10 where the entire right side of the offensive line and the quarterback all moved. Though officially a false start on right guard Jon Runyan Jr., Myers seemed like the true culprit.
Whether or not Myers caused the penalty, Green Bay spent a significant portion of the game considering alternatives. After Love finished for the day following the touchdown pass to Doubs, the Packers kept Runyan in the game to get in some work at center. Zach Tom then took his turn at the pivot for a stretch before Runyan returned for more. Given that both Tom and Runyan seemed poised to start somewhere along the offensive line, this move strongly suggests the coaching staff has serious concerns about Myers starting.
It remains too early to say Myers has lost the inside track for the center job. The Packers practiced other players there during training camp and yet he still started this past week. But the longer these sort of experiments continue, the more Myers has to worry about whether or not he'll snap the ball to Love come the regular season.
What other takeaways do you have from the Packers' preseason opener?
JBH: Brenton Cox Jr. hasn't garnered much attention since training camp opened, but that could soon change. The undrafted rookie saw extended action on defense and special teams in Cincinnati, and the results underscored the Packers brought him aboard. In his NFL preseason debut, Cox tipped a pass that led to an interception, registered multiple pressures, and drew a holding penalty. He also made a nice tackle on kickoff coverage, a play that will not go unnoticed by Green Bay's front office nor by special-teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia.
The performance doesn't guarantee Cox a job, but it follows some personnel developments that help his case. Over the past few weeks, the Packers severed ties with veteran pass rushers Jonathan Garvin and La'Darius Hamilton, two players who would have otherwise competed with Cox for spots on the 53-man roster. Even with Rashan Gary returning from the physically unable to perform list, this constitutes a net positive for Cox's chances of staying in Green Bay past final cuts.
Meanwhile, Sean Rhyan continues to look like a totally different player than he did as a rookie. That doesn't mean he played flawlessly, but he demonstrated the type of physicality that convinced the Packers to use a third-round pick on him a year ago. Nowhere did the transformation seem more apparent than when Rhyan pancaked a would-be tackler to clear a path for Emanuel Wilson's 80-yard touchdown run.
Rhyan doesn't have an apparent path to a starting job at the moment other than an injury creating an opportunity. However, he finally looks like an NFL-caliber player, one that eventually factor into the offensive line later in the year or next offseason when Runyan and Yosh Nijman hit free agency.
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