GREEN BAY – There's a saying in the NFL that you never truly know what a young quarterback is capable of until he gets out on the field and shows what he can do.
While that's an adage Tom Clements subscribes to, the Packers' venerable quarterbacks coach also has had an up-close look at Jordan Love's development over the past 18 months.
Based on their time together, Clements had a hunch about what Love could do once he was finally under center. Through the first month of the 2023 season, that instinct has proven correct.
"He's pretty much the same way he's been the last year, at least when I've been with him," Clements said. "You always anticipate based on … how he's practiced and done in the preseason and years past, you have an idea of how he might do when he becomes the full-time starter, and he's confirmed our thoughts. He's a good player."
Love's first four starts as Green Bay's starting QB have been promising. He's completed 74 of 132 passes for 901 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions.
Love's passer rating hovered over 100 until last Thursday's 34-20 loss to Detroit, a game in which the 24-year-old quarterback was sacked five times among 11 quarterback hits.
Prior to that, the Packers did an exemplary job of protecting Love despite losing All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari after Week 1 and Pro Bowl left guard Elgton Jenkins after Week 2 to knee injuries. Love was sacked once among three hits during each of Green Bay's first three games.
Although Love and the offense fell behind early against the Lions, the 6-foot-4, 219-pound quarterback didn't back down in the face of added pressure.
Love stood tall in the pocket, went through his progressions, and fashioned a respectable 95.6 passer rating after completing 17 of 23 passes for 196 yards, one touchdown and a late interception in the second half.
"I was really proud of just how he stood in the pocket because that's not easy to do," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "That's the most he's been pressured, that's the most he's been sacked, that's the most he's been hit, and you've got to give him credit, because he stood in there and was still competing his butt off until the end of the game."
Last year, Clements ended a brief retirement and returned to coaching at the behest of then-Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. During his first stint as Green Bay's QB coach from 2006-11, Clements oversaw Rodgers' rise from a first-round prospect to NFL MVP and Super Bowl champion.
The byproduct of the reunion with Rodgers was pairing Clements with a new pupil in Love, the Packers' first-round selection in 2020. In their brief time together, Love has credited Clements with helping improve his mechanics and footwork.
Both Love's talent and skill development were evident out of the gate. He threw six TDs and no interceptions during the first two weeks of the season. Even when the stopwatch was sped up against the Lions, Love didn't back down.
"I think he's handled it pretty well," Clements said. "He didn't leave the pocket unnecessarily too often. Maybe occasionally he's done that in the first couple games, and he recognizes that. But he made some very good throws with some push up front from the defensive line and guys in his face. He stood in there when he had to, to make the throws."
After Love threw for just 50 yards with an interception in the first half against Detroit, both LaFleur and Clements were impressed by how their young QB responded. He didn't bolt from the pocket or throw the ball away in a fluster.
In reviewing the film, the coaching staff's main teaching point was the value of Love taking what the defense was giving him and not "passing up a completion for another completion."
Still, the game provided plenty of good film for Love to learn from. Most encouragingly, Love made several key throws in the second half to keep Green Bay in the game, including a 15-yard strike to Romeo Doubs on fourth-and-9 in the Lions' red zone.
After toiling against one of the NFL's top young pass rushers in Aidan Hutchinson, Love and the Packers now prepare for another of the league's elite when they fly to Las Vegas to play Maxx Crosby and the Raiders.
Green Bay hopes to keep the All-Pro defensive end at bay but the first month of the season has reinforced the Packers' belief that Love can handle whatever is thrown at him.
"I thought Jordan did an outstanding job of throwing with pressure in his face all night," LaFleur said. "I was proud of his effort in terms of he showed no flinch, and that's something you can't coach. I thought he made some unbelievable throws."