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Packers vs. 49ers: What to watch for

Preseason opener kicks off at 7:30 p.m. CT

QB Jordan Love
QB Jordan Love

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The Green Bay Packers' 2022 preseason opens Friday night at Levi's Stadium against the San Francisco 49ers.

Here's what's worth keeping an eye on.

Jordan Love gets the start at QB: Aaron Rodgers and several other select veterans will not be suiting up, according to Head Coach Matt LaFleur, so Love will be at the controls of the offense.

After getting his first preseason starts last summer, his first regular-season start in November, and an extended stint in Week 18 at Detroit, Love has continued to move forward in 2022 with some of his practices in training camp being his best work thus far.

He's had some rough moments, too, and he remains his toughest critic, but the progress has been evident. Now it needs to show up in a game situation again, whether he's facing San Francisco's starting defense or a reserve unit, which remains to be seen.

"I think he's really stacked days and I think you're really starting to see more consistency," General Manager Brian Gutekunst said of Love. "I think you always saw the flashes. I think you're seeing more consistent day-to-day decision-making, confidence and letting it loose when he sees it and not hesitating or maybe thinking twice.

"I know Matt's talked a lot about things slowing down for him a little bit. But one of the things I've seen, when he recognizes it, is trusting it and just really being more violent with his throws or more intent with what he's doing."

Three guys for two spots: With David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins sidelined, the Packers have been working three offensive linemen – Royce Newman, Jake Hanson and Zach Tom – for the two spots on the right side of the line.

All will play against the 49ers, with Hanson at right guard, the rookie fourth-round pick Tom at right tackle, and Newman handling either spot depending on who's in the game.

It's just the first of three preseason games, but many times the game action starts to bring clarity to a situation like this one that hasn't been settled in practice.

"Although we do feel good about the group, there's still a lot of growth in front of them," LaFleur said. "I do like the progress we've made. I think (Tuesday) was one of their better days, specifically in the run game.

"We still have some work to do in some of our pass protection, but again, it's that old double-edged sword. They're going up against a pretty good front and our front's been showing up."

Who shines, who shrinks: Some players who perform well on the practice field don't carry it over to the games. Others who aren't great practice players rise up when the lights are brightest.

Either way, the first preseason game establishes a baseline of sorts that young players are expected to either maintain or improve upon in the remaining games.

"The difference between what you do out there on that practice field and then when the lights come on – and there's no coach behind you telling you what's coming and being able to communicate and perform at the same time – I mean, that's what this game is," Gutekunst said. "The guys that make it in this league and play a long time at a high level, they're able to handle that environment and those atmospheres.

"This will be the first and best test to really see these guys. Whether they have good performances or bad performances, it's what they learn from that and how they carry it over to the two practices and the next game."

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