Quick thoughts on Packers position groups: Quarterbacks

Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur engages with Jordan Love (10) as he participates in minicamp practice Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis.Cent02 7g5lqijkew5hy1rt71c Original
Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur engages with Jordan Love (10) as he participates in minicamp practice Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis.Cent02 7g5lqijkew5hy1rt71c Original /

We’ve reached the quietest portion of the NFL calendar and a perfect time to take a closer look at each of the Green Bay Packers’ position groups as currently constructed on the 90-man roster.

In this series, I will be going position by position and sharing my thoughts on what I’ve seen and heard through the offseason programs, expectations within the position group, questions I still have, and really anything else that is on my mind.

Up first, we, of course, begin with the quarterbacks.

Current roster: Jordan Love, Danny Etling, and Sean Clifford

– During the five practices between OTAs and minicamp that were open to the media, Jordan Love was clearly targeting the middle of the field. Although I wasn’t charting every throw by any means, I’m confident in saying that’s where most of his pass attempts went. Attacking the middle of the field is a key element of the Matt LaFleur offense as it gets the pass-catchers in space with the ability to pick up YAC, especially with all of the speed that Green Bay has at receiver and tight end. The middle of the field was not used heavily with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. In fact, in an article from Dusty Evely of Packer Report, Rodgers ranked 65th out of 67 quarterbacks since 2019 in the percentage of over-the-middle non-RPO passes that went past the line of scrimmage. Jimmy Garoppolo of San Francisco, who plays under Kyle Shanahan which the LaFleur offense stems from, ranked first out of the 67 quarterbacks during that span, throwing to the middle of the field nearly 60% of the time. In a much smaller sample size, Brock Purdy used the middle of the field at a similar rate last season.

– There was one minicamp practice, in particular, where Love was really using the hard count heavily. Although he didn’t get the defense to jump offsides, there were a few instances where he did force them to tip their hand, whether it be identifying a blitzer or some late movement. However, the offensive line would also false start a few times as well. I asked Love after practice if this was an area of emphasis for him, and he said it was. For one, it’s a good test for the defense, but it’s also important that the offensive line learns what his cadence sounds like, so there aren’t those false start penalties.

– Rewinding back to the 2021 preseason, I still very much remember Matt LaFleur saying that he wanted Love to ‘let it rip,’ which didn’t mean being wreckless with the football but rather being confident and trusting what he sees. During these offseason programs, Love had no issue letting it rip. Of course, there were some decisions he would like to have back, but he was aggressive and in a good way, for the most part, meaning not hesitant.

– Other key areas of emphasis for Love and quarterbacks’ coach Tom Clements have been footwork drills, movement drills, and progression drills. Footwork is the foundation for whether a pass is going to be accurate or not, and it was one of the first things that Clements began working with Love on when he arrived last summer.

– I said this about Love following his first press conference as the starting quarterback, but he has this even-keeled confidence about him that carries over to the practice field as well. Whether a good play or a bad play, you’re going to get the same player afterward. This aspect of Love is something that Brian Gutekunst mentioned earlier this offseason as something that really stood out and impressed the team during that game in Kansas City in 2021, where just about everything went wrong. After each play, especially those that didn’t end well, it was common to see Love speaking with his teammates and, as he said, diagnosing what went right or what went wrong.

– Play-action is one area where this offense can really improve this season. In 2022, there was little difference in efficiency, specifically in yards per attempt or completion percentage, when the Packers utilized play-action versus when they didn’t. There are a number of factors that contributed to those issues, including a lack of rushing attempts, an injured offensive line early on, up-and-down play from Aaron Rodgers, and a young group of wide receivers.

– Throughout the offseason programs, LaFleur said that at this stage for Love, it is about nailing down the process more so than the results. If Love can consistently get the process right, which includes getting in and out of the huddle, making the right reads and adjustments at the line of scrimmage, along with his mechanics, both in the pocket and on the move, the results will follow.

– Depending on the practice or the drill, Sean Clifford or Danny Etling was the second quarterback. But as I wrote in my recent roster prediction, I have Clifford making the team over Etling. There are two primary reasons, one being that the Packers just spent a fifth-round pick on Clifford and the second being that he throws a better football, from what I saw.

– Gutekunst and LaFleur have kept the door open in regards to the Packers adding a veteran quarterback. If they do, LaFleur said that they would make their decision following offseason programs, so realistically, a signing could happen at any time now. A few remaining options include Carson Wentz, Teddy Bridgewater, and Joe Flacco. The role of the veteran backup will be to assist Love through his first season as a starter with a pair of experienced eyes on the sidelines, in the film room, and on the practice field.

– If the Packers do make an addition, a cut will likely follow since their roster is at full capacity, and it will probably come from the quarterback position. With a lot of inexperience on the roster, LaFleur wants the young quarterbacks to get as many reps as possible, and that becomes a lot more challenging when there are four on the team.

– Overall, and as you’d expect, there was good from Love during OTAs and minicamp and not-so-good as well. He threw some beautiful downfield passes, was in and out of the huddle quickly, and commanded the line of scrimmage. As already mentioned, he exploited the defense over the middle and threw a nice ball from the pocket. On the flip side, there were overthrows on some downfield targets and some decisions he would like to have back. His mechanics also weren’t as tight when throwing on the run. Again, nothing at this stage of the game that should come as a surprise for a first-time starter.