GREEN BAY – The Packers evened their 2022 preseason record at 1-1 with a 20-10 triumph over the New Orleans Saints on Friday night at Lambeau Field.
Here are five takeaways from the victory:
1. QB Jordan Love continues to build on a lot of good work.
After his first drive stalled when rookie receiver Romeo Doubs couldn't quite adjust to a deep corner fade along the Saints sideline, Love got the offense moving with two long scoring drives.
First, he drove his unit 73 yards in 14 plays for a field goal, unfortunately misfiring on a bootleg pass in the flat to tight end Josiah Deguara inside the 10-yard line. But then Love came back to direct an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 4-yard jump ball to Doubs that put the Packers up for good at 10-3.
Things got more erratic from there, with changing personnel and a couple of sharp downfield throws – a deep ball to rookie Samori Toure and a bullet over the middle to Amari Rodgers – that weren't completed. Playing into the fourth quarter, Love finished 12-of-24 for 113 yards with the TD, no interceptions and a 77.3 rating, plus three runs for 13 yards, including an 11-yard scramble on the game's first play. The stats don't jump off the page, but like last week they don't tell the whole story, either.
"I know the numbers don't necessarily reflect probably how I feel," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "He stood in the pocket and was throwing on rhythm. Unfortunately again we had too many drops.
"He was decisive. I think that's the big thing from him. I see a much more decisive player out there. I think that's going to lead to a much more effective player."
LaFleur feels that Love is "light years ahead" of where he was last year at this time and he's earned the confidence of the locker room. There are always some snaps he'd like to do over – the aforementioned Deguara throw, and two pass plays in scoring territory after safety Shawn Davis returned a fumble 37 yards, as both drives ended in field goals – but Love agreed with LaFleur's assessment that the game is slowing down for him.
"I think for me I've gotten more comfortable being decisive and being able to let it rip and not kind of waiting and being hesitant for a play to open up," Love said. "I think it just comes from being comfortable with the offense, understanding where the receiver's going to be, what plays are good versus certain coverages.
"I think I've definitely been taking some steps in that direction."
2. Doubs still has some rookie moments, but he sure looks like the No. 4 receiver behind the three veterans.
The fade pass on the opening drive was catchable and Doubs attacked it awkwardly, and he stumbled before dropping a slightly low dump-off throw over the middle.
But he hauled in a deep over route for 17 yards on a nice throw from Love with two defenders closing in, and his TD was a clean one-on-one win and solid pluck of the ball over the defender's back. With three catches for 24 yards, Doubs now has six grabs for 69 yards and two TDs in two preseason contests.
"It's not going to be perfect," LaFleur said. "There's going to be some lessons along the way. He's a guy that is pretty resilient. He doesn't get fazed by a negative play. He just keeps on playing. That's what excites you about him.
"He's been able to separate, which is something that's tough to coach. Guys can either do it or they can't. There's stuff to clean up, for certain, but he's a guy that we are excited about it. We'll see where we are Week 1."
3. The third running back spot won't necessarily come down to rushing stats.
Tyler Goodson and Patrick Taylor appear to be in a pretty close competition for the No. 3 back, and both were productive again.
Goodson ripped off runs of 9, 9 and 15 yards, and caught a pass for 10 yards, in a span of seven plays on Love's TD drive before the sledding got tougher behind other linemen. He finished with 42 yards on 10 carries with LaFleur complimenting his "burst" after the game.
Taylor, the bigger and more powerful of the two, had no rushes longer than 5 yards but still churned out 27 on eight attempts.
The decision in LaFleur's eyes, though, will be more about the third phase than strictly the offensive showings.
"A lot of it with our third running back is going to come down to how they do on special teams," he said. "That is an area where the third back has to be able to contribute. That's really where the battle lies with all these guys right now."
See scenes from the Friday night matchup between the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field on Aug. 19, 2022.
4. Speaking of special teams, much remains a work in progress.
The Packers allowed a 59-yard kickoff return to Saints receiver Kirk Merritt, had a hard time handling Blake Gillikin's monster punts, and multiple times had the wrong number of players on the field for a special-teams snap.
LaFleur wasn't thrilled and wasn't interested in talking about the miscues, either.
"It is what it is," he said. "That's something we're well aware of and we'll clean it up."
5. Several young players on defense made eye-catching plays.
Inside linebacker Isaiah McDuffie continued his strong second training camp with some impressive pursuit, and fellow inside linebacker Ray Wilborn led the defense in tackles with seven. LaFleur also liked the aggressive, competitive play at cornerback from Shemar Jean-Charles and Kiondre Thomas.
The surprise star, though, was probably safety Micah Abernathy, who was just signed nine days ago and managed to intercept Saints QB Ian Book as well as record a tackle for loss.
The backup safety competition already had been interesting with Vernon Scott (who exited the game with a shoulder injury) and Davis performing well. Now there may be another entrant on the rise in Abernathy, who went undrafted three years ago and has spent time in the XFL and USFL.