The name of the game is getting after the quarterback, and Jordan Love and the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line are going to have to contend with a Bears’ defensive front on Sunday that does a very good job of scheming up pressures.
“I will say this about Chicago’s defense,” said Matt LaFleur on Wednesday, “They do an unbelievable job of scheming up and creating pressure. Creating problems for an offense. I’ve got a lot of respect for how hard their team plays and it definitely shows up on tape.”
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Defenses will use schemed up ways to create pressures such as blitzes or with post snap movement through stunts and twists to create confusion along the offensive line, which hopefully – from the defense’s perspective – results in a free pass-rusher. The other reason a unit might do this is because the pass rushers are unable to win their one-on-one matchups regularly–the 2022 Bears fall into this category. Chicago ranked 31st in pressure rate last season.
This offseason, in an effort to bolster their defensive front and pass rush, Chicago added interior defensive lineman Andrew Billings and edge rushers DeMarcus Walker and Yannick Ngakoue.
Although the Packers came into the summer with a few questions along their offensive line, specifically who the starting right tackle would be along with whether or not Josh Myers would continue as the starting center, this starting unit held up very well during the preseason. In the first two games, on 19 dropbacks, Love was pressured only twice and wasn’t hit or sacked on either of those plays. In the preseason finale against Seattle, Love didn’t take a hit or sack in that game either.
“I think the O-line has done a good job,” said Love on Wednesday. “They’ve been able to handle those stunts, pressures, and things like that. Pressures that’s a lot of times when you’re the quarterback you’ve got know where your hot throws are. Be able to slide the pressure right away.
“But the stunts, like I said, the O-line has done a really good job. Just something you’ve got to be able to handle. Find a way to stay in the pocket, maneuver, and find those holes.”
Along with the play of the offensive line, Love has been able to showcase his pocket awareness this preseason, feeling the pressure very well before it gets there, navigating the pocket, and either buying time to get rid of the ball or taking off if there weren’t any receivers open. In the Seattle game, in particular, is where we saw this aspect of Love’s game really on display. His debut as a starter against Kansas City in 2021, although it didn’t end well, is another example of this as the Chiefs constantly blitzed Love.
It’s important for any quarterback to have a clean pocket to throw from consistently, but it’s especailly true for a first time starter, who also has an overall inexperienced group of pass-catchers along side of him. For some context, quarterbacks like Joe Burrow and Josh Allen completed less than 55 percent of their throws under pressure in 2022, according to PFF, while Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes and others were under 50 percent.
Success on the ground is going to be vital for the Packers offense. It will help open up opportunities in the passing game and this is also a Bears’ defense that really struggled to stop the run last season. As a result, we could see Chicago really try to take that element away by crowding the line of scrimmage, and forcing Love and the Green Bay pass catchers to beat them. The odds of this happening only increases if the Packers are without either Christian Watson or Romeo Doubs.
Adding blitzes and stunts to the mix are also meant to cause chaos for Love and the offensive line by throwing looks at them that they haven’t seen much of, or at all, leading to possible pressures and potential mistakes. Unlike down the road during the NFL season when there will be tape on the Packers’ opponents, in Week 1, to a degree, the Packers – and every other team – are going in a bit blind and into some unknown.
“You just got to know it’s going to be unscouted looks,” said Love about Week 1. “There’s going to be somethings that are new for them this year that they’ve been practicing that we’ve never seen before. So you just have to be ready for whatever. We talk about it in the meetings, just fall back on your rules. Throw what you see. Trust what you see. But it’s definitely going to be some looks you don’t see.”
Although, as LaFleur mentioned, Chicago does a good job of creating pressures through designed plays, this is something that the Packers should expect to see from most defenses early on this season. That, along with blitzes and late movement are meant to give Love different looks that he’s not prepared for, which could lead to turnover opportunities for the defense.
Green Bay has spent time during training camp practices and in the preseason preparing for these situations, but until they put on film that they can handle and, at times, even take advantage of defenses in these scenarios, they should anticipate a lot of different looks that will be meant to cause confusion for this young offense.
“Through training camp those are things you kind of do,” said Love on preparing for schemed up pressures. “We’ll do walkthroughs and things like that. We will roll through, so we can go through the operation of checking out of things. Maybe do a different play. Picking up what protection.
“But like I said, you’ll get a lot of good reps throughout preseason. Our defense did some good stuff during training camp. Threw some all outs (blitzes) at us. It’s just something you’ve got to be dialed in. Everyone’s got to be on the same page and able to execute.”