Quarterback Jordan Love, to put it mildly, struggled versus the Raiders. In recent weeks, as a passer, he’s regressed in areas he previously did well in and it looks like he’s slowly losing his confidence the longer games go on and the longer he has to read out the field on passing concepts he was previously hitting on.
This season, he’s had one game over 60% completion percentage and it was in the loss to the Lions. Everything else has been in the 50s. His 71.9% on-target throw percentage is good for just 28th out of 39 qualifying quarterbacks in the NFL per Sports Info Solutions. In his first two games, he threw six touchdown passes and zero interceptions. In three games since week two, he’s thrown just two touchdown passes and six interceptions.
Granted, some of the interceptions fall on the shoulders of an inexperienced receiver corps. But Love is still showing that on some others, that he’s just not confident in what he sees and looks robotic going through the motions. Over the bye week, Matt LaFleur had an opportunity to correct this and craft a passing game plan for his young quarterback that utilizes his strengths and limits the ability of Love to make mistakes.
There are other issues with the offense beyond Love’s control, which will be covered at a later time, but for now, let’s focus on what Love isn’t doing well enough.
The first thing that stands out for Love in this game is the lack of patience and letting routes develop. It appears that when his first two reads are erased, he tends to speed up his processing and rush through his reads, often leading to misfires.
On this play, there was a receiver bust somewhere between Luke Musgrave and Christian Watson to the top of the screen. It looks like either an “omaha”/stick concept or a stick flat concept. Instead, both receivers run to the boundary on a flat route and a quick out. Love moves on and chucks a deep throw into coverage that is nowhere near its intended target.
He has a clean pocket and no pressure and he might have had a chance to hit the dig route coming open later in the down. Even if he doesn’t like that throw, he needs to recognize the deep crosser/post is covered and check the ball down.
His internal clock is moving too quickly. Later in the game, Love got the look he wanted on the same play as above but for some reason decided to make another full field read.
First, he turns down the stick, his first read, then proceeds to read out the play. At this point, there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with it, but late in the down, he bailed on a clean pocket when he had Watson streaking open between the safety and flat defender. He probably should’ve just taken the throw to the flat route, his primary on stick/flat. The indecision and hesitation are less than ideal.
Against the Raiders, he threw his first interception on the same concept as he threw versus the Lions, LaFleur’s drift/strike concept. In the Lions game, I put most of that interception on the receiver for running the wrong stem which didn’t create a horizontal stretch like it’s intended.
Here, Love is 100% at fault. He just blindly threw this into the coverage and did not see the underneath linebacker. This is a basic day one install read and he just flat out made an inexcusable throw. The Raiders are playing cover-6 (cover-2 to the strong side, quarters to the weak side up top) and have four defenders over two receivers (really just one with one being a check-down).
Linebacker Robert Spillane is just sitting in the throwing window reading his eyes and picks the pass. If Spillane doesn’t intercept it, linebacker Luke Masterson would have. Typically, there is a check to get out of this play and into the called running play versus split safety coverages but we cannot be sure he had the ability to do that since we don’t know the full play call.
Generally, the Shanahan tree offenses will run drift versus single high coverage because the windows are bigger, and versus split safety coverages, the windows are tighter due to the interior defenders sitting inside instead of the flat.
Another issue Love has is turning down his first read and having to go off-script unnecessarily. This was a throw he also turned down in week four versus Detroit. This is a 4-strong snag concept with a snag route, a corner route, and a swing route with what looks like a lead blocker in space if the ball goes to the swing. The single receiver on the backside is running the quick slant as the alert.
Love makes the right read here initially. Watson is the single receiver with the Raiders rotating their coverage post-snap to Tampa-2 with Watson having space to catch a pass to the left. Love drops back looking for the slant but doesn’t throw it. By the time he comes back to the front side routes, everything is covered and he has to go off-script. Versus the Lions, he took a sack. Here, he ends up escaping and throwing the ball away but that ball should have come out on time to Watson.
The last play is the most concerning. It’s just a classic turndown and shows that something isn’t quite right with his confidence and he isn’t trusting what he’s seeing at this point heading into week seven.
The play call is slant flat and is a quick game concept that has to be thrown on time and in a rhythm. But he is neither on time nor ready to throw in rhythm. On his drop back, he should be eliminating his primary and secondary reads to the left, where he opens looking at the snap. At the top of his drop, he should be resetting his feet to throw the backside quick slant outside to Romeo Doubs.
But he drops his shoulders and hops back, indicating that he’s dropping his eyes to the rush as if he feels a hit is imminent. He just chucks it out of bounds.
The last couple of games have been really concerning for Love. He’s going to need to string together a few good games going forward in the coming weeks but he’s also going to need LaFleur to find ways to simplify the play calling or give him answers to get out of certain plays versus certain coverages.
As an example, on Love’s second interception of the game, the Packers have a double curl concept called off-play action. It’s just a two-man mirrored route concept. The Raiders are playing cover-6 post-snap, quarters to the top of the screen and cover-2 to the bottom over Watson.
This is not a good play call versus this coverage because there is no one to threaten the safeties deep. It allows both curl routes to essentially be double-covered. Normally, against two deep safeties, the Shanahan tree gives the quarterback the ability to audible to a running play here but it’s not clear if he has that ability or not or if he had the ability but stuck with the pass.
The indicator would be that safety to the top of the screen. But he’s never any closer than eight yards to the line of scrimmage so that should be the indicator to get to a run play. Either way, the corner can sink and undercut the curl route because there’s no threat in the flat. He finishes the route for Watson and tips the pass to Spillane again. Watson also never really fights for that ball at the catch point.
Hopefully, LaFleur can manufacture some easy offense for Love while he sorts through some of his own issues reading coverages and trusting what he sees. Otherwise, they may get their answer on his future sooner rather than later.