In the Green Bay Packers’ Week 1 victory over the Chicago Bears, Jordan Love completed 15-of-27 passes overall, throwing for 245 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions, with a quarterback rating of 123.2. And a key component of his and the offense’s success was attacking the middle of the field.
Of those 27 pass attempts from Love, 14 went to the middle of the field, according to PFF. He would complete nine of those passes, for a completion rate of 64 percent, and threw for 132 yards – or 14.6 yards per completion – with two touchdown passes.
The fact that Love threw to the middle of the field often should not come as a surprise as we often saw him doing it throughout offseason programs, training camp, and the preseason. This, of course, was intentional as doing so is a key element of the Matt LaFleur offense as it can create mismatches and gives pass catchers the opportunity to catch the ball on the move, while oftentimes in space, where they are able to pick up yards after the catch, especially with all of the speed that the Packers now have on offense.
A prime example of all this came on the 35-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Jones, who was matched up with a linebacker one-on-one with the entire middle of the field wide open for Jones to complete the catch and run. On Love’s other touchdown pass that was thrown over the middle, Romeo Doubs had a one-on-one opportunity that he was able to win, and Love had a wide open throwing lane to connect with Doubs, thanks to a crossing route along with a route in the flat helping to clear space in the middle portion of the field.
Although attacking the middle of the field is an important aspect of what LaFleur wants to do as a play caller, it was not something the Packers did often under Aaron Rodgers, who preferred to throw to the boundaries. According to Packer Report’s Dusty Evely, of the 67 quarterbacks who had thrown at least 100 non-RPO passes from 2019 to 2022, Rodgers ranked 65th in middle of the field usage.
On the flip side, former San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Grappolo ranked first during that same span, with Brock Purdy, in his small sample size, matching Garoppolo’s usage rate of 58 percent in his lone 2022 season. As we all know, the LaFleur offense stems from the Kyle Shanahan system, so it’s not a fluke that Love threw to the middle of the field on over 50 percent of his pass attempts as he did against Chicago.
A potential downside to throwing to the middle is that turnovers can become prevalent if consistently throwing into crowded areas. The LaFleur offense will help get the pass catchers into space, but it’s also going to be vital that Love take care of the football—something he was very good at against Chicago and has done well throughout the summer. Love has been diligent in going through his progressions and has struck a good balance of knowing when to take what the defense gives him and when to push the ball downfield or into a tight window.
With the speed that Green Bay has at receiver and tight end, the offense’s heavy usage of play-action, along with Cover-2 defensive schemes being used all across the NFL, the opportunity to take advantage of the middle of the field is going to be there for the Packers, and as we saw against Chicago, Love is going to be willing to make those throws.