As training camp approaches, packers.com is examining Green Bay’s roster, position by position. The series begins with the quarterbacks.
GREEN BAY – Jordan Love had his chance to make up for some lost time.
With reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers sitting out the offseason program, Love took all of the Packers’ first-team offensive reps this past spring.
They’re snaps Love wasn’t afforded a year ago, when the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the physical offseason program, the entire preseason and limited his on-field opportunities during an abbreviated, three-week training camp.
But with Aaron Rodgers away from the team and Tim Boyle now in Detroit, the path was clear for Love to take everything he learned in the classroom over the past year and apply it to the practice field.
“We installed our offense and kind of threw everything at him,” Head Coach Matt LaFleur said of Love at the end of the offseason program. “He’s a guy who, again, hasn’t had the experience as some others. We’ve got to get him multiple looks at many different plays and really find out what he does best.
“(We’re) just trying to get a feel for how much he can really handle, and I think he’s done a great job of being intentional about his work, how he goes out to practice every day and I think it’s paying off for him. I think he’s made some progress.”
As can be expected with any top prospect, Love had moments of brilliance and opportunities for growth. Undoubtedly his best performance in a practice open to the media came on the second day of minicamp, when Love completed 21-of-30 passes and directed a successful two-minute series.
The 22-year-old quarterback flashed the arm strength and intangibles that made him a first-round pick, but also appeared more confident in the pocket and decisive with his throws.
Still, the Packers remain hopeful Rodgers will be the QB under center when the team reports for the start of training camp next week. The 37-year-old is coming off his third MVP season in which he led the NFL in touchdown passes (48), completion percentage (70.7%) and passer rating (121.5).
With one more season, Rodgers will surpass Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterbacks Bart Starr and Brett Favre for the most service time for a Packers player (17 seasons).
Amidst the uncertainly with Rodgers, the Packers signed three quarterbacks in the span of 28 days following the NFL Draft: veteran Blake Bortles (May 13), Kurt Benkert (May 17) and Jake Dolegala (June 10).
Bortles, the third overall pick by Jacksonville in 2014, has the most experience of the bunch. The 29-year-old quarterback has thrown for 17,649 passing yards in a seven-year career that included a trip to the AFC Championship Game in 2016.
In his first five seasons as a member of the Jaguars, Bortles worked alongside current Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who held the same position in Jacksonville. Bortles also gained experience in a comparable offense to what Green Bay runs during his season with the Los Angeles Rams.
“Blake and I were together for a long time and it was an up-and-down experience and that’s kind of how football is,” Hackett said. “We’ve been through a lot together. It’s just great to be with him because we know each other so well and just be able to have him around. He’s such a good leader just around the team, just a really good dude.”
Benkert and his long hair were a hit during the offseason program, as he flashed a live arm on the field and affable personality off it.
The 6-foot-3, 218-pound quarterback earned his roster spot after attending the team’s rookie minicamp on a tryout basis. Prior to joining the Packers, Benkert spent three seasons as a backup in Atlanta.
Those years of experience with Matt Ryan and Matt Schaub appealed to LaFleur, who worked with both veterans during his two seasons as the Falcons’ quarterbacks coach.
“Kurt’s had a couple of years in the league now with Atlanta and he can really throw the football,” LaFleur said. “It’s going to come down again to being able to do that in the preseason games, to really show us what he can do and what he’s capable of. But love the guy. He’s just been a sponge in that room. Always asks great questions and, he definitely has a chance to show what he can do this preseason.”
Jake Dolegala is a skyscraper at 6-foot-7, 242 pounds. He shattered several school records at Central Connecticut State, including career passing yards (8,129) and passing touchdowns (48).
Like Benkert, Dolegala signed with Green Bay following a successful tryout at the team’s mandatory minicamp in June.
Dolegala got his start in the NFL as an undrafted free agent with Cincinnati in 2019 and made the Bengals’ 53-man roster on the heels of a strong preseason (37-of-53 for 347 yards and two TDs).
Cincinnati cut Dolegala after training camp last summer but he resurfaced weeks later on New England’s practice squad, where he spent a majority of the 2020 season. He signed a futures contract with the Patriots after the season but was released following the NFL Draft.