Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love started this season off strong, followed by a stretch of bad play and performances that had many questioning if he was really the Packers' future franchise quarterback. A report even surfaced claiming that his future was uncertain in early November, three days after the Packers fell to the Vikings 24-10.
To be fair, that report took words from general manager Brian Gutekunst out of context. But in the four games since then, Jordan Love has rebounded, leading the Packers to a 3-1 record over that time and getting them to within one spot of a playoff spot after beating the Detroit Lions 29-22 on Thanksgiving Day and looking every bit the part of a long term franchise quarterback for the Packers. He tossed three touchdown passes on 32 total attempts to go along with 268 passing yards.
The Lions are no slouches either, as they are widely viewed as one of the best teams in the NFC and currently are sitting with the NFC’s third seed after this loss at 8-3. Love beat them with accurate and decisive throws all game from the first drive to the end. His pocket mobility and passing in rhythm have taken a significant step forward as well.
On his first touchdown throw versus the Lions in week 12, he showed off his arm talent, and ability to hit tight window throws in compressed space, and good coverage recognition.
The Lions are playing cover-1 “hole” or “plug” here in the low red zone. The man coverage indicators are the press corners and motion follow. Love knows to immediately find his man-coverage beater route to the left in 3x1. The concept has 3 in-breaking slant routes. Christian Watson’s route over the middle from the #3 spot in trips should open a throwing window to Jayden Reed.
There appears to be a route bust though, confirmed by Love post-game, and most likely the bust was on Watson, who ends up running an out-breaking route right into Reed, compressing the throwing window for Love. But since Love was on time and in rhythm with an accurate pass, the bust didn’t end up mattering. He planted the ball right on Reed’s chest in an extremely tight window.
You can get a feel for the route bust with the above picture.
Hitting throws in rhythm has helped the offense tremendously in the last several weeks. Here on 3rd and 10 in the third quarter recently against the Chargers, Love was already set up to fail after a 5-yard loss on a first down run play to start the series that set the offense behind the chains. After getting five yards back on second down, Love would need to find a way to get a first down but LaFleur’s trust in him gave him that opportunity.
The Chargers are playing nickel cover-1 “Dog” here so Love knows where he’s going pre-snap. A quick post-snap check of the defense on his drop-back confirms the coverage. The trips to the left is running a mini scissors concept with an outside alert go route to clear out the coverage. Luke Musgrave, the #3 in trips, is running a 10-yard out route.
Love takes a 7-step drop, hits the top, hitches one time, and starts to throw as Musgrave starts to cut to the sideline. The ball is low and outside away from the defender and Love took a shot just as he threw it.
Early in the Lions game on a 3rd-and-8, Love hit a nice conversion throw that showed excellent timing and rhythm on a similar play. The offense was immediately in a third and long after a first down run gained only two yards and a play action pass where two of Love’s receivers (checkdown and primary crossing route) fell down forcing Love to throw it away.
He does a nice job diagnosing the coverage on his dropback, a 5-man pressure with cover-1 behind it. Watson is out on the perimeter running a 12-yard out route. Love shows off his arm strength to get the ball out to the sideline from the far hash. He’s throwing the ball before Watson is into his break. The throw is a little high but Watson catches it after a nice adjustment and gets two feet down in bounds and the offense converts a third and long.
Even when making timing throws that require 3-step versus 5-step timing in the drop back within the same concept, Love’s footwork is as polished as ever and shows great command of what he’s seeing.
To the left of the formation, the receivers are running an “Omaha” quick out/stick concept that requires 3-step drop footwork and to the right, the mini dagger concept with an intermediate crossing route and a dagger route behind it requires 5-step drop timing.
On his drop back, he eliminates the quick game concept side of the play and must reset to the dagger side concept. Instead of hitching up at the top of his drop, which would require an extra second, he adds a quick kick-back that allows him to keep a firm, wide base while throwing the crossing route in over the middle of the field for an easy completion.
Love’s blitz recognition has been excellent too.
The motion by Jayden Reed here indicates man coverage. Love sees the nickel defender walk up to the line of scrimmage just before the snap and knows a nickel blitz off the edge is coming, confirmed by Alex Anzalone moving with the motion instead of the nickel defender. He knows in this instance his job is to throw into the blitz and replace it. He drops back, sets his feet quickly and fires a pass to Romeo Doubs to convert to a first down.
Perhaps one of the most impressive traits recently for Jordan Love is his off-platform, off-schedule ability. The most important aspect of being able to create off-schedule or throw from different platforms for a quarterback is keeping their eyes downfield on their targets
Against the Chargers in week 11, Love made a difficult off-schedule throw when left tackle Rasheed Walker got beat instantly after the snap. The pressure from the pass rusher over the left tackle combined with no space to climb the pocket forced Love to escape.
Most quarterbacks might just try to use their legs here but Love got his eyes back downfield after he found his escape lane and threw a bullet to Dontayvion Wicks over the middle of the field.
Love hit a similar off-schedule throw to Wicks versus the Steelers in week 10.
Perhaps his best throw of week 12 and arguably the season came on an off-platform throw over the middle to Malik Heath (No. 18).
The Lions are playing cover-1 “hole” with an underneath linebacker sitting in the low underneath zone. Love motions Tucker Kraft over to the right but the Lions don’t reveal their intentions, instead just shifting players with the motion rather than traveling. The indicators are the press coverage corners but that’s not necessarily a tell.
The Lions stunt the front and bring a fifth rusher on a delayed blitz. Love picks it up and feels the pocket to his right cave in with the blitz and also from his left as Walker gets beat inside. Love’s also looking downfield as he moves so the low zone defender moves with him. With a flick of the wrist and a quick change of his arm slot, he hits Heath downfield for an 18-yard gain.
If Jordan Love continues to play as well as he has, the Packers will find themselves on the brink of a playoff spot in the wildcard as the 6 or 7 seed. They have their toughest test of the season, at home this weekend versus the Kansas City Chiefs but outside of that game, the rest of the slate is very winnable. Even if he plays well and they lose, it would go a long way toward solidifying his status as the franchise quarterback.