The Passing Chronicles: 2021 Preseason Week 3

Dusty takes a look back at the final Packers preseason game of 2021

Just like that, the 2021 preseason is done. The most notable thing about these last three weeks has been that we've finally been able to see Jordan Love in game action. Not a ton, but we got roughly 1 game worth of exhibition play out of him. And he looked fine! He did some good things and some not-so-good things. He showed the promise that led to the Packers drafting him in the 1st round, but he also showed the decision-making that led the Packers to view him as a project.

We also got to see a lot of other players. Some we fell in love with. Some we did not. And now, with cutdown day out of the way, we have a bright, shiny 53 man roster to look at. A head full of dreams and a heart full of promise.

Today, we're looking at a few plays from the final preseason game. Unfortunately, I was not able to track down the All 22 film for this game, so I'm sticking to plays that happened near the line of scrimmage. I would have loved to have really looked at the throw on the corner route to Reggie Begelton, but I couldn't find an angle that helped show everything, so I had to scrap it. Such is life.

To start with, we're going to look at a 3 play sequence at the goal line, 2 of which are runs. This is supposed to be The Passing Chronicles and I'm already lying to you. The preseason will make fools of us all.

Play 1

Packers are running an inside zone play to AJ Dillon [28]. Josiah Deguara [81] is the in-line TE on the left. The line is forming a hole to the right and Degaura is washing his guy down the line. Basically, his job is don't allow penetration into the backfield and allow for a clean hole to the other side of the line.

Deguara locks up Jerry Hughes [55] and Dillon finds a hole to hit. Not a big gainer, but it gets the Packers inside the 1 yard line for a 3rd and goal.

Play 2

On the very next play, Packers are looking to ram Dillon into the end zone. Jace Sternberger [87] is now an in-line TE on the left, and basically has the same job Deguara just did; lock up your guy and wash him down the line.

Instead, Sternberger gives up immediate penetration, allowing AJ Klein [54] to knife through the line and trip up Dillon in the backfield.

As I've said a thousand times. tight end is one of the hardest positions to transition into from college to the pros. Not only are you learning how to be a receiver, but you're also learning offensive line protections and FB lead-blocking responsibilities. It's usually not until year 2 or 3 that it clicks for a tight end. And, while Sternberger was never going to be an all-world blocker, you'd certainly hope that he would be further along heading into year 3.

Play 3

On 4th & goal from inside the 2, the Packers decide to throw it. They run mirrored slant/flat, with Reggie Begelton [84] and Sternberger running it from the right. Dillon releases through the line as an option in the middle. There is a single "high" safety, shaded to the left, so Jordan Love [10] is looking at the right side pre-snap. At the snap, one linebacker in the middle pulls up to the line while the other holds his ground in the middle, which gives Love a window on the slant to Begelton. 

Love hits the top of his drop and fires. Really nice placement on the throw, but Tre'Davious White [27] is able to undercut the route and make a diving play on the ball. 

Play 4

Let's move ahead a bit to another 4th down play. The Packers are facing 4th & 1 at the +44 yard line. Offenses can often show their overall philosophy in times like this. When you really need to pick up a few yards, what is your bread-and-butter play? For the Packers - as well as most outside zone teams - the answer for a pass play is simple: play action on an outside zone look and bootleg out the other side to find 2-3 receivers in view of the rolling QB (PA Boot, if you're into the whole brevity thing). That's exactly what the Packers do here.

It's 4th & 1 and Dillon is still in the game. Amari Rodgers [8] motions before the snap and is followed by a defender, indicating that this is likely man coverage. After the snap, Love does a good job selling the fake and the Bills respect the possibility of a run, so they crash the left side of the line. Amari Rodgers crosses under the line and emerges out the other side of the line, causing his defender to take a wide path over the mass of bodies near the line to keep up. He closes on Rodgers well and likely would have made the tackle short of the first down had Love thrown there.

But the defense crashing on the potential Dillon run allows Dominique Dafney [49] to slip through the chaos and emerge as the second-level receiver, running parallel to Love.

Love gives a slight fake to Rodgers to make sure the defender is crashing the flat, then throws a nice, easy pass to Dafney for the 1st down.

Play 5

We're going to end with the ugly: the heave-ho interception that occurred immediately after the throw to Dafney. It all falls apart before it ever really starts. Ed Oliver [91] is lined up across from Josh Myers [71] at center. It's a two-man route for the Packers - post/corner from Malik Taylor [86] and a post from Begelton. Bronson Kaufusi [45] is crossing under the line and is likely looking to block the edge to give Love extra protection on the right side to set up and take a shot downfield.

I say "likely" because we don't get a chance to see what his actual assignment is. At the snap, Myers gets shoved back by Oliver so violently that it kicks off a comedy of errors in the backfield. With his back leg, Myers trips up Kaufusi and Love. Kaufusi spills to the ground and Love tumbles into his drop. Without Kaufusi to provide protection off the edge, Love gets his head up in time to see a free rusher off the edge bearing down on him. He should have just drifted a little more and chucked this out of bounds. But Love, full of the invincibility of youth, declared, "I can make it," and chucked the ball to the heavens.

The ball didn't make it to the heavens or to the corner of the end zone, Taylor was unable to make a real attempt on the pass (due to a subtle grab at the back of his jersey) and the Bills pick up an interception. The play was doomed from the start, but it didn't have to end this way. It was 1st & 10 in a 7-0 game. Throw the ball away and live to fight another down. It's something I hope Love is able to learn, but luckily he's learning from a guy who has a lot of experience doing exactly that.


These preseason looks have been much less robust than my normal output, but I hope you've enjoyed them all the same. Looking forward to the start of the regular season and some deeper dives! 


Albums listened to: Big Red Machine - How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last?; Deafheaven - Infinite Granite; Angel Olsen - Aisles; Jake Bugg - Saturday Night, Sunday Morning 

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Dusty Evely is a film analyst for Cheesehead TV. He can be heard talking about the Packers on Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter at @DustyEvely or email at [email protected].

8 points

Comments (12)

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splitpea1's picture

September 01, 2021 at 04:05 pm

Play 2: Shows the importance of every man doing is job. Dillon likely pushes his way through is Sternberger can hold up a little better.

Play 3: Just picture-perfect coverage by White. Hopefully we can train Stokes to cover like that. We already have Alexander, but two shutdown corners would be awesome.

Play 4: Well-done by everyone involved.

Play 5: Not overly concerned, that's what preseason is for. Besides, you can't expect a rookie to be as ball security-proficient as Rodgers is. No worries--he'll learn.

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JerseyAl's picture

September 01, 2021 at 04:19 pm

I highlighted Play 1 for my "3 Plays..." post. I have to disagree with the statement, "Dillon finds a hole to hit..." Iif you run it slow motion (or pause it at about 16 seconds) you'll see Dillon choose to run right up Myer's butt when there is open space and a path to the end zone just slightly to his right. This was really clear from the end zone view on the broadcast, but as you said, we are not allowed to have such nice things until the NFL fixes gamepass.

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canadapacker's picture

September 01, 2021 at 07:23 pm

I agree and sometimes a back will make a rookie mistake or in this case an almost rookie mistake as Dillon hasnt really played a full season. But maybe he also thought he was a superhero and thought he could bulldoze over guys - but hopefully we will see more of the fast cut to where he can bulldoze guys rather than running over our blockers. One other note on this thing was that it was not a good pass IMO. And the same as the pass to Stearberger for the 25 yard gain in the Jets game ( or was it Houston?) in any case both passes while on targer were slightly behind. In these cases it didnt matter but to get the really big gains the ball needs to be where the receiver catches it and is on the way upfield. The other thing that might happen is the guy crossing like that might get really zapped if he needs to turn and focus on the catch. I dont know what AR was like in his second year but Love has not impressed me on his ball positioning so far.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

September 02, 2021 at 09:12 am

Rodgers didn't deal with Covid year 1. Hard to compare apples to apples. Took Rodgers awhile to get his mechanics down and if yoy watch hos 1st preseason game he scrambled a lot more than Love did. What Dusty was saying is we have seen promise in love but he needs work. Leading the receiver with his throws is one of those areas to work on but you have to admit the kid has a hell of an arm.

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canadapacker's picture

September 02, 2021 at 11:46 am

I know that and I said that before. My point was that I didnt want a receiver with our first round plck - as I felt that our guys were good enough and we needed defensive help ( in fact in hindsight maybe an Oline man). But it was quite obvious that he was NOT head and shoulders above Benkert in this preseason and I dont know why Gutey had to think that his little bit of move up indicated that Love was this tremendous talent. When AR fell to TT – it was because he was predicted to go Number 1 overall – when San Fran took Smith – the next 14 teams didnt need/want a QB with their first round selection – so TT got a steal. Now the only thing that Gutey got was a PO’d AR, the lack of help for the team immediately with a quality first round. So now he is trying to make Love into something that he is probably not going to be. The only thing I learned from Love’s preseason is that he does not have in game accuracy – even his touted completions – ie the pass for 25 yards to Stearnberger and last games pass to Kaufusi were behind although catchable. Maybe arm strength but NOT throwing the ball up>

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mbpacker's picture

September 01, 2021 at 08:14 pm

Thanks JerseyAl for the hard work to do this analysis, I really enjoyed it.

3 points
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greengold's picture

September 01, 2021 at 08:24 pm

Rock solid, Dusty, as always! Thank you for sharing that.

3 points
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MarkinMadison's picture

September 01, 2021 at 08:34 pm

I like the push from the left side of the line on play 1. Deguara was the key but Nijman and Patrick were also essential on the play. Their push on the second play was not as strong, though I get that the play failed for other reasons.

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Todd's picture

September 01, 2021 at 09:19 pm

Good stuff!

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Savage57's picture

September 02, 2021 at 05:15 am

My takeaway?

The success or failure of a NFL play isn't determined by who runs, throws or catches, it's determined by who wins those two precious yards at the snap of the ball.

3 points
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Jonathan Spader's picture

September 02, 2021 at 09:16 am

Hard part for Sternberger is MLF's illusion of complexity. When Stern is in the defense will know he's there to catch not block. Deguara is a a great blocker who can catch so can Lewis. Stern will get you some YAC but without the threat of being a blocker really brings down his value to a MLF offense imo. Good thing we have Robert Tonyan.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 02, 2021 at 12:04 pm

People love to bitch about play calling, but I think this clearly shows that plays work when they’re executed. When a play doesn’t work, it’s usually because it wasn’t executed properly.

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