The Packers are taking their first steps into a life lived without Aaron Rodgers. The quarterback's absence wasn't lost on at least one of his former offensive linemen.
"Just his presence in the locker room and the things that he brings to the game, the experience, all the stories that he had to tell and all that, he's gonna be missed in our locker room, for sure," Elgton Jenkins said Monday during an appearance on Good Morning Football.
After three years of waiting in the long shadow cast by Rodgers, it is now Jordan Love's time. Love will be expected to step into the starting role and handle it like a player who has had three seasons to prepare.
"When he first got in the league, he wasn't our starter, but the way that he walked around the locker room, the way that he approached the game, he always approached every game as a starter," Jenkins said of Love. "So we know that he's a good player and just ready to go on Sunday or whenever we play. In OTAs, I've seen a lot of good things from Jordan, a lot of leadership -- he stepped up as a leader a lot -- so I'm very excited for his future and ready to play with him."
With Love leading the way, the youth movement is in full swing in Green Bay. He's far from the only inexperienced player to fill an important role in 2023, though. Second-year wideouts Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs will also have to provide significant contributions if the Packers hope to return to contention in a new-look NFC North.
Despite lacking experience, Jenkins likes what he's seen from the youngsters so far.
"Man, I was looking at Luke Musgrave and Jayden Reed a lot. Our weapons, man, they got some serious speed, Jayden and Luke," Jenkins said. "Just being able to see them out there running and getting vertical up the field, running routes and stuff like that, it really put a smile on my face. I'm ready to see what's in store for those guys. I feel like the future's bright for those guys. … Luke Musgrave and Jayden Reed, I've got a lot of high expectations for those guys in Year 1, for sure."
Expectations are always present in a city that proudly calls itself Titletown, even if a title hasn't come to Green Bay since the end of the 2010 season. 2023 is refreshing, though, because after years spent chasing another one with Rodgers, the Packers don't quite feel pressured to deliver one this season.
They do, however, expect to compete. 2023 remains important, because it is Love's first chance to prove he can be a legitimate, long-term replacement for Rodgers.
"Winning the division is always the standard," Jenkins said. "Three NFC North titles, it's always the standard in our locker room and in our building. We feel like we're the best team in our division, and we're gonna go out there every week wherever and show that we are the best team in the division and the best team in the NFC."
The going won't be easy. Minnesota returns as reigning division champion, and after a turnaround 2022 season, Detroit has plenty to say on the matter. Chicago is feeling optimistic after a productive offseason, too.
But if Love can deliver, the future will look much more optimistic -- and before long, folks like Jenkins will stop yearning for Rodgers' presence in Wisconsin.