Preparing for any opponent in Week 1 is tough. Teams will field un-scouted looks, new wrinkles in their schemes and unveil other surprises. Preseason tape doesn’t help much because teams run vanilla concepts and don’t show their best stuff. So teams rely on past tendencies and past schemes to create the best gameplan that they can.
The Bears will have an even tougher task getting ready for Sunday against the Packers, because there’s not much tape on starting quarterback Jordan Love, at all.
The Packers traded up to select Love in the first round of the 2020 draft, but in the three seasons since he’s hardly played at all. Love has appeared in 10 games with only one start. In those 10 games he’s only thrown a total of 83 passes.
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“That’s all you can go by,” said head coach Matt Eberflus. “That happens all the time when you’re playing against a guy who’s just starting out, maybe his second start or a rookie. That’s all you can go by.”
Eberflus did say the Bears have looked at Love’s tape from Utah State a little bit, but the team is also wary of making too much out of too little.
“What we’re trying not to do is hunt up too many ghosts and say ‘We think he’s going to do this, we think this is going to happen, we think they are going to do these things,’” said defensive coordinator Alan Williams. “ What we have to focus on is what Green Bay has done up until this point and then see what they’ve done, and then look at Love in the preseason and see what he does well. The things that he does well. He gets the ball out of his hand, he throws a phenomenal deep ball, outside he has great touch, it seems like he makes good decisions, fast decisions, fast processor and so we’re just trying to look at what they’ve done in the past, what they have done in the preseason and just go from there.”
Eddie Jackson echoed the idea that Matt LaFleur’s Packers offense should look similar, regardless of Love coming in to lead the team.
“They’re not going to go totally away from it just because he’s less experienced than Rodgers,” Jackson said.
Jackson thinks there may be some truth to the idea that the Packers use more of LaFleur’s hallmarks now than in the past, simply because Aaron Rodgers does things only Aaron Rodgers can– and teams give him the freedom to do it. If Rodgers wants, he can make a variety of checks at the line– or change plays entirely– based on what he sees from the defense. Rodgers can go completely unscripted at times and find ways to make it work. That’s tough to prepare for on defense.
“I don’t think they’re going to give (Love) the same leeway,” said Jackson. “So we’ve just gotta go out there, play our keys and basically go off of some of the things we’ve seen in previous years and in the preseason.”
Similarly, DeMarcus Walker noted it’s just as important for the Bears to study LaFleur’s tendencies or discrepancies.
“You've got to really study him and how he is as a play caller, his philosophy,” Walker said. “See how when Jordan Love got in the game, was there anything changed? You got to take a look at Jordan Love, what talent does he bring. Is he a more athletic quarterback than Aaron, is his form better?”
You probably won’t find anyone who says Love’s form is better than Rodgers, since Rodgers is a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame, but most Bears say Love’s athleticism does pop out on the tape. Many players complimented his arm strength and his accuracy. In short, they’re getting ready to go up against a QB who is more than capable of leading an offense. However, they’re also expecting the Packers to help Love ease into the game.
“Gonna get some easy throws, stuff like that, play action,” said one Bears player. “So those are things everyone’s gotta be conscious of.”
Regardless of what the Packers do with Love, or what Love brings to the field, the Bears have the mindset that what they do on their end is more important to their success.
“You've got to go to your fundamentals,” said Tremaine Edmunds. “You've got to go back to the things you do well, do it at a high level and that's what you've got to key in on. Obviously the first game of the year everybody is going to give you some stuff that you're not going to see but our fundamentals, our keys and what we do well as a defense is going to put us in position to make plays.”