It wasn’t a glamorous first career start for Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love. However, when putting the game into context and breaking down the All-22 film, there are still some positive takeaways from the 2020 first-round pick’s performance.
The Packers lost 13-7 to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, ending their seven-game win streak. Love was thrust into the starting role after Aaron Rodgers tested positive for COVID on Wednesday, giving the second-year QB only a few days of practice to get ready.
Love was asked to perform at a high level in front of one of the loudest crowds in professional football, and unfortunately the offense wasn’t able to do too much. Love finished the game completing 19 of 34 passes for 190 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Head coach Matt LaFleur took blame for Love’s struggles on Sunday, saying that he did a poor job setting up the second-year quarterback for success with some of his play calls, particularly against the blitz.
The Chiefs had no problem getting to Love early and often. The Packers quarterback was pressured on 48.7 percent of drop-backs according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), and the video below shows just how little time Love had to make some of his throws.
Jordan Love was under pressure constantly yesterday.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 8, 2021
Tons of blitzes, some rough OL play, and a couple bad snaps.
Here's just some of what he dealt with in his first career NFL start. #Packers pic.twitter.com/orkCA38k9l
It’s hard to evaluate a quarterback when he is constantly throwing under duress. That gets even harder when the center and quarterback are struggling to get clean snaps off.
Fortunately, we were able to see enough plays from Love in rhythm to get a sense of how he can play when the timing is working across the board. When making quick-decision throws, he showed good footwork, setting his feet to deliver accurate throws.
This is a good throw.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 8, 2021
Adams draws DPI here, but the ball placement is as good as you can ask for.
When his feet were set, Love threw some good passes. pic.twitter.com/LATWCtZ9Qx
These are the kinds of throws you would have wanted to see more of early on to get Love in rhythm.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 8, 2021
Like how he sets his feet, keeps his studs in the grass, and delivers an accurate ball. pic.twitter.com/jXP53ItLSr
When Love was confident in his protection and the play was designed to get the ball out quickly, he showed good footwork and delivered some accurate passes. Probably his best work of the game came at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
The three-throw sequence below shows some of the decisiveness that we just talked about, but pay close attention to the second throw. This was a situation where Love wasn’t comfortable hitting his first read, and instead was able to scan the field before finding an open Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a big gain.
I really liked this three-throw sequence from Jordan Love to open up the 4th quarter.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 8, 2021
A couple of decisive throws, and the second play he did a nice job of going through his reads to find an open MVS. pic.twitter.com/XWBTsXqBOT
Unfortunately, the throwing mechanics weren’t always precise, even when throwing from a clean pocket.
One of the bad habits Love has potentially picked up from Rodgers is not emphasizing his footwork on every single throw. Rodgers has made a career of making off-balance throws, but he’s one of only a handful of quarterbacks in NFL history to routinely deliver an accurate ball from a number of different throwing platforms.
This quick throw from Love could have been given Randall Cobb an opportunity to make a play after the catch, but by fading away as he release the ball, it lost all zip and forced Cobb to dive to haul it in.
A huge pet peeve of mine. Fading away from your throw.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 8, 2021
Loses all the zip on the ball. Cobb could have generated some YAC here but has to dive to match a catch. pic.twitter.com/D7uKe6WS5j
Love’s interception is another example of where he will need to clean up his footwork. With a clean pocket and an opportunity to hit Davante Adams on a back-shoulder throw, Love is caught hopping to his left. Not only does the hop mess with his pad level, but it also pushes him closer to pressure rather than staying in a clean pocket.
Keep an eye on Love’s feet as well. As he steps up to make the throw, he starts to leave his feet and throws off of his toes rather than keeping all of his cleats in the ground. This impacts the velocity and accuracy of his throw, allowing the Chiefs to get a crucial turnover.
Some rough mechanics from Love on his interception.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 8, 2021
Watch him hop as he prepares to make the throw, and then look at his feet.
You don't want to be making a throw off your toes. You lose all your zip. pic.twitter.com/YmnGkekJR6
Before moving on from mechanics, one other thing to point out is that Love’s throwing motion is slower than Packers fans are used to. It’s a bit more elongated, and something that LaFleur and the coaching staff may want to continue working on with the young quarterback. If Aaron Rodgers could fix his throwing motion after college, then perhaps Love could continue working on his as well.
Perhaps the biggest bright spot from Love’s debut was his mobility. As Rodgers continues to get older, his athleticism and legs have gone away. That’s to be expected for an aging quarterback, but it was nice to see what Love could do when on the move.
What might be Love’s best highlight from Sunday’s game was escaping the pocket will stiff-arming a defensive lineman before taking off downfield for a solid gain.
A reminder that Jordan Love stiff-armed a D-lineman on a scramble that almost went for a first down. pic.twitter.com/ht0P4UGgow— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 8, 2021
Finding other ways to get Love out of the pocket to utilize his legs is something that could help him with his development if he has to see playing time again. Some potential play-action rollout concepts could be a good way of doing just that.
This might have been GB's first successful PA rollout of the season. pic.twitter.com/8HaoZZtOlQ— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) November 8, 2021
All in all, it’s hard to get a clear view at what the future holds for Jordan Love. Fans calling for him to be immediately traded need to understand that context behind his performance, along with what he did well and what he will need to improve on.
Packers fans ready for the future may also want to take a step back. Love’s development is still a work in progress, and he could continue to benefit from playing behind someone like Rodgers, much like the future Hall of Fame QB did while learning behind Brett Favre.
There is still a chance that Love is asked to play under center again on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. Aaron Rodgers isn’t expected to be back with the team until at least Saturday, but LaFleur indicated after Sunday’s game that the veteran QB would be starting as soon as he’s able to.
If Love does play, however, it could be another great opportunity to evaluate the future starting quarterback in Green Bay.