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Family Night shows that Jordan Love is still a work in progress

Expecting Love to look like a star in his first action at Lambeau Field would be unreasonable, but his inconsistency shows he still has plenty to work on.

Syndication: USA TODAY Dan Powers via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Green Bay Packers held their annual Family Night practice at Lambeau Field on Saturday evening, and fans of the team finally got to see 2020 first-round draft pick Jordan Love throwing in simulated action under the lights. Over the weekend, APC’s Justis Mosqueda did the hard work of putting together all of Jordan Love’s televised throws from family night, which you can see here:

Many pundits, myself included, have been attempting to piece together reports on practice reps, and any scrap of film available to get some reason on how he’s progressing, and this was our first look at some kind of game-like situation. It’s not a real game, it’s still a small sample size, but it’s just not great in both familiar, and surprising ways.

The most bizarre issue with Love’s performance is the lack of zip on some of his throws. Love had the best arm in his draft class by most accounts. If you need an example, just check the gifs in this Ringer article by Robert Mays and pay close attention to the example against Kent State, when Love fires a missile from the far hash of the 25 across the field on a line down to the two. It’s a great display of the arm strength necessary to make throws outside the numbers, especially at the NFL level. Love’s college numbers never projected an immediate starter, but throws like this are the reason he was a popular “toolsy” developmental prospect.

After you watch the gif in Mays’ Ringer piece, flip back to Justis’ compilation and watch Love’s first two throws. The first, an out to Amari Rodgers off of a 3-step drop, is both off target and has no zip. It’s a timing route, and I suspect Love knew exactly where the throw was going pre-snap. I also suspect the intention was to help him get going by giving him a simple, one-read throw on his first attempt. It did not go well.

Throws like this are supposed to be any quarterback’s bread and butter. You practice timing reps like this to build muscle memory and to build your sense of spatial awareness for your receivers. On this throw, it doesn’t look like muscle memory is driving things, it looks like Love is thinking the entire time.

His third step isn’t quite deep enough. He’s too upright on the throw, which robs him of some power. On this screenshot, look at how the 10 on his jersey is almost parallel to the 30 yard line. If you were standing in the end zone, you could read this clear as day.

Yes, he’s squaring up to throw outside, but given just how outside he’s facing, I’m not surprised he missed Amari. This looks to me like Love was thinking about hitting all of the individual steps of the throw. He never takes his eyes off Rodgers, he hits his steps from under center, he squares his body, and he throws. The problem is in the details of each step. His dropback doesn’t get him into ideal throwing position, he over-positions, and as a result, the throw is bad.

Once you finish watching this throw, move on to his second, which is a deeper out to Devin Funchess. Love completes this throw, but it’s a bizarre lollipop off of play action. Love does a few nice things on this play, keeping his eyes left then resetting for his eventual throw to the right side. It’s accurate, if slightly underthrown, and Funchess hauls it in for a big gain, but once again Love’s footwork is a problem on his reset. He’s still too upright, his arm gets ahead of his hips, and the power we saw in college just isn’t there.

There were a few positive takeaways. His fourth throw (at the 34 second mark), also an out to Funchess with a man in his face, had some zip and was right on target under pressure. His deep ball to Begelton, while ill-advised and wobbly, was actually on target and had some velocity on it. He also had a few nice touch passes to various tight ends.

With all of that said, Love’s mechanics are obviously still a work in progress. While this was a small sample size and anyone can have a bad day, it’s telling that Love was better the few times he was under pressure or on the move and got to stop thinking about his mechanics.

Love can definitely make plays for you outside of structure using his wheels and arm talent, but that can only take a player so far (and occasionally can cause you to lead college football in interceptions).

Every once in a while you will see Love compared to Patrick Mahomes, which is both unfair and silly, but it’s worth pointing out why it’s silly. Mahomes is obviously phenomenal on the move, outside of the structure of the play, etc. But Mahomes has Andy Reid coaching him, and Reid is an offensive genius. Mahomes is able to bail out the Chiefs when things go wrong, but he’s just as able to take advantage of Reid’s play-calling by hitting receivers in stride from the pocket. Reid takes every advantage of Mahomes’ gifts, but Mahomes also benefits greatly from some coach-generated big plays.

Matt LaFleur is no slouch when it comes to scheming guys open, but taking full advantage of Robert Tonyan leaking downfield means being able to hit Robert Tonyan between the numbers when he does so. Love may very well be able to get the Packers out of a sticky situation or two, but if he remains inefficient in structure his development will stall out. If you want to keep an eye on Love once the preseason gets started, watch carefully for his velocity on outside throws. As he continues to get more and more reps, he should be able to think less about his mechanics and his velocity should return.

Hopefully, newfound accuracy comes with it.