Green Bay Packers Vs. San Francisco 49ers: 5 Things To Watch

The Green Bay Packers begin exhibition play Friday when they travel to San Francisco for a 7:30 p.m. game.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and many of Green Bay’s starters won’t play. But there is plenty of intrigue.

Here are five things to watch:

1. Summer of Love

Packers third-year quarterback Jordan Love, who’s had a somewhat disappointing start to his career, has shown dramatic improvement this summer. But there’s a major difference between doing it on the practice field and when the lights go on.

With Rodgers sitting, Love figures to play the overwhelming majority of the game. And the Packers would love nothing more than to see their 2020 first round draft choice continue to make gains.

“I think he’s much more in rhythm,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said of Love. “I think there’s much more decisiveness, I think you see it in his footwork. He’s not getting what I call ‘stuck’ at the top of the drop where both feet are hitting at the same time and he’s just kind of sitting there.

“It just looks more rhythmical, just looks more fluid, and I think it’s translated in his play. I think he’s definitely thrown the ball pretty accurately and has made pretty good decisions. You’ve got to give Jordan a lot of credit for taking the drill work to team, and hopefully we can take the practice to the games.”

2. Line dancing

Green Bay’s offensive line has been inconsistent this training camp. Considering the Packers’ top two linemen — Elgton Jenkins and David Bakhtiari — are out with ACL injuries, that’s to be expected.

But it’s also important for the group to begin establishing some chemistry in the likely scenario that Jenkins and Bakhtiari open the season on the Physically Unable to Perform List.

That’s why the Packers will start with their No. 1 offensive line, which will include left tackle Yosh Nijman, left guard Jon Runyan and center Josh Myers. Royce Newman is the probable starter at either right tackle or right guard, while the other starter figures to be either Zach Tom or Jake Hanson.

“I know we have a lot of confidence in those guys and they, I think they are young players, but those guys have got pretty significant game experience,” Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said of his offensive line. “I like the depth of our group, and certainly getting those two all-Pro guys back changes things a little bit and I’m confident those guys will get there.

“But even without those guys, I really like how the guys are working. They’ve got a tough test every day with the group they’re going against, and that’s only going to make it better as we head into the season.”

3. Wide open wideout battle

Green Bay’s wide receiver battle is as wide open as its been in years.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Packers kept five receivers. It also wouldn’t shock anyone if they kept seven.

Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson (if healthy) are locks to stick. Others like Amari Rodgers and Sammy Watkins are good bets, while players such as Juwann Winfree, Samori Toure and Malik Taylor are squarely on the bubble.

Lazard was asked Tuesday what he’d like to see from the wideouts battling for jobs.

“Just growth. I think seeing how they work from the first day of camp,” he said. “The most important thing is just knowing the playbook. As long as you know the playbook, then we can grow from there.

“If it’s not fully knowing the playbook, then it’s high effort and showing you just care and showing that it provides value to you of being in that room and what it means. Because it’s not just a privilege to be able to play and put on this uniform. It’s the standard that we have to uphold. So, to see those guys play hard, fly fast and obviously have a lot of fun and hopefully things work out.”

4. Dominant defense

Green Bay believes it will have one of the top defenses in football this year. And the Packers will be tested against San Francisco second-year quarterback Trey Lance, the third overall pick in the 2021 draft.

The Packers are unlikely to play many of their front-liners for long — if at all — Friday. But Green Bay should have a chance to show why it’s so confident in its defense.

“Yeah, it’s fun man,” cornerback Jaire Alexander said of playing on this defense. “Those guys are excited. They be turnt up. That’s what I like. This is the defense I’ve been waiting on since I first got here.”

5. Special — or not?

Green Bay’s special teams have been abysmal for the better part of two decades now and finished 32nd in the league last year.

The Packers finally gave more than lip service to those units this offseason with the hiring of special teams guru Rich Bisaccia. Green Bay also added a handful of players whose main contributions will be special teams.

The Packers will get their first look at Bisaccia’s units Friday, and several jobs such as kick and punt returner should begin to come into focus.

“Special teams will be very important to us,” Rodgers said. “Breaking even at bare minimum, but we’ve got an incredibly accurate kicker (Mason Crosby), we’ve got a great holder and punter (Pat O’Donnell), and with some of these starters playing teams, I think you’re actually going to see probably an uptick.”