Over the last seven games, Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love has been one of the NFL’s five best quarterbacks in EPA/play, an overall measure of a quarterback’s efficiency on a down-to-down basis. He’s ranked 5th in that period. He’s thrown 15 touchdown passes and five interceptions in that span of weeks since the October 9th Monday night game when it seemed like he might be a 1 season-and-done quarterback.
On Monday night in Week 14, he appeared to take a step back. Through three quarters, he was off-target on multiple passes and had a fumble and looked like he was in for a repeat of the first five weeks of the season when he looked shaky and uncomfortable.
He did have an interception though that can be chalked up to the bad winds that were swirling around the stadium. The ball appeared to flutter and wobble toward the end of the pass and there’s no reason a quarterback with that arm talent would have thrown a pass that wobbly, even with his mechanical issues. He did have another pass dropped by the Giants' defense on a wildly off-target throw.
Despite all of this, some signs suggest that hopefully his footwork and the timing associated with certain routes/concepts, will take a major step forward over the last remaining games and carry over into next year.
Two plays, one from Week 11 versus the Chargers and one from Week 14 versus the Giants, illustrate how this is happening. In the first article, I broke down several plays that show his footwork is wonky, primarily due to throws that take him off balance because his feet aren’t pointed in the right direction, not open to his target, and causing his arm to overcompensate and sail passes.
On the first play here in Week 11 versus the Chargers, Love was a hitch too late throwing the ball to Watson at the front left corner of the end zone.
The play is a 3x2 mirrored concept called “Pile,” a quick 1-step slant from the outside receiver with a deeper speed out on the two-man side, and the same from the 3-man side to the bottom of the screen except for an added corner route from the #3 receiver in trips.
The defense is in red zone quads coverage that distributes like a bracket coverage on all three inside receivers with outside leverage.
On his dropback, his hips and feet are pointed more down the middle of the field.
This timing and footwork is for a throw to the corner route. But since he throws the speed out, the hitch throws the timing off because of the wasted extra second to open flatter to the throw. As a result, Watson was unable to get both feet in bounds because the throw carried him out.
In Week 14 against the Giants on the road, the Packers lost by two but not before Love gave them a chance to win with less than 90 seconds remaining in the game.
The play call is “pile” to the right with a single speed out to the left from Malik Heath.
The defense is in an all-out cover-0 blitz with 3 defenders in coverage.
On Love’s dropback, his back foot hits the third step open to the target on the left, enabling him to open more to the target and plant his front foot to throw immediately to the speed out.
He doesn’t drift away from the blitz though ideally he could get away with some drift to the side he’s throwing. It’s not clear why he chose to throw into compressed space on the sideline overtaking the open underneath route.
A couple of reasons why that might be the case though is that 1) he preferred the more favorable 1-on-1 matchup to the left. The defender has inside leverage to that side protecting the middle of the field because he has no safety help and 2) a throw to the two-man side has the potential for the defender to be in a banjo alert and for the slot defender to sit on the quick slant inside,
The throw to the outside left is perfect though. It’s on time and accurate and showed that he has a greater understanding of leverages, coverage/blitz indicators, and can lead a game-winning drive if necessary. All of these will certainly factor into how the Packers finish the rest of this season as they currently sit in the 7th playoff spot.