Back to the basics for Packers QB Jordan Love during OTAs

By: Paul Bretl 6/3/24

As Jordan Love strives to further elevate his play following an impressive end to the 2023 season, the focus for him is on the basics. Specifically, his attention is on refining his footwork and enhancing his pocket presence, crucial elements for a quarterback’s success.

“There’s always little things,” said Love on what he’s working on. “I think the biggest thing for me is just staying poised in the pocket, being able to say balanced in the pocket. Sometimes I get out of whack with my feet and I might start drifting in the pocket too much. Just pocket awareness, making smaller moves and understanding when I’ve got to get out of there.”

Footwork is the foundation for a quarterback’s success on any given play. As quarterbacks coach Tom Clements has said previously, he usually has a good idea of how the pass turned out by watching the quarterback’s footwork.

Footwork, the cornerstone of a quarterback’s performance, is more than just steps. It’s about executing the right drop to ensure timely throws, maintaining balance, and keeping the feet in constant motion. This synchronized movement with the quarterback’s eyes is crucial for a successful play. Any deviation from this can disrupt the quarterback’s mechanics, leading to inaccurate passes or mistimed plays.

This focus on footwork isn’t anything new for Love. Since Clements arrived in Green Bay, footwork has been the focal point of his teachings, and Love has made significant strides already. However, proper footwork extends beyond just being in the pocket. In today’s NFL, making off-schedule throws on the move is a must as well.

“Also throwing on the run,” said Love when further describing what he’s been working on. “Being able to escape the pocket and make those off-schedule plays is something I worked a good amount on.

“Also, just being comfortable, seeing the defense, going back and watching the tape, seeing things I could have done different with picking up protections and things I wasn’t doing earlier on that I started being able to pick up on later in the season. But I think the biggest thing for me is just pocket movement, making smaller movements.”

In addition to the individual drills that the quarterbacks go through, Matt LaFleur has heavily utilized 7-on-7 periods during OTAs to help further emphasize the footwork element at the quarterback position. LaFleur has made it known he is not a fan of 7-on-7 drills, largely because there isn’t a pass rush, but the focus right now is on having “perfect feet,” and this drill helps accomplish that.

“I’m not a fan of that,” LaFleur said of the 7-on-7 drills. “I just think it’s not realistic. It puts the quarterback, you know, I like the quarterbacks having to feel a rush.

“But what we’re making a big emphasis on is [having] perfect feet. Making sure the guys go through their progressions, having perfect feet and when they’re not, they hear about it. I just think, again, offseason, where we’re at, new defense, it’s important for them to understand the drops that we want them to take, so we implemented it.”

As has been established, footwork is the foundation – pun intended – for a quarterback’s success, and without the proper execution of it, the play is potentially doomed from the start. While that element will set Love up for success, the schematic test for Love and the Packers’ offense as a whole this season will be showing that they can counter the counters.

Opposing defenses have now had a full offseason to look back and digest Love’s tape. They’ve been able to really examine what he does well and where he struggles and will undoubtedly come up with game plans that try to take away the former while putting him in scenarios that exacerbate the latter.

“You might anticipate a defense maybe bringing a little more pressure,” said Clements. “Disguising a little bit more. Making it more difficult to see where to go. So that’s from a quarterback standpoint, if that happens you have to have a lot of film study and be able to react.

“I mean that was one of Aaron’s (Rodgers) best attributes is the he could process information very quickly and usually make the right decision and get the ball where it had to go. That’s something that we’ll have to see how defenses approach it, but that’s something you’ve got to be ready for.”

For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, it’s obviously important that Love and the offense counter these adjustments thrown at them but also do so somewhat quickly. Taking a week or two to adjust can have a big impact on potential playoff seeding. Instead, these counters need to be made on the fly.

With the experience Love has gained over the last year, his ability to process the play as it’s unfolding has improved as has his overall comfortability with the offense and the players around him. These will be key factors when it comes to countering the counters, as will his footwork when under duress. 

Ultimately, Love can diagnose the play perfectly, but if his footwork, and subsequently his mechanics, are off, then the odds of the play turning out successfully have already taken a potentially large hit.