A Hue-Jackson favorite that shows up over and over again on tape is the split-safety beating ‘Shakes’ concept, an old-school Air Raid classic.
The Shakes combo is a Cover 2-killer, putting the flat defender in a hi-lo bind while holding the safety on his hash too long to make a play on the ball.
In our example the concept is run with a flat route from the inside (#2) receiver in conjunction with a corner route (#1) from the outside receiver. The play is unique in that corner routes are rarely run by outside receivers, as the route is cut off by the sideline due to the compressed space along the edge of the field. In order to create room for the corner route, the wide receiver must use an inside release (release towards the middle of the field) while bending at 45 degrees, push vertical for 8-10 yards, and break back to the corner. This route must be precise, as there is little room for error due to the lack of space and timing with the quarterback’s throw.
Note: This image is pulled from an old Bob Stoops playbook. Be sure to ignore the quarterback progression. Several coaches much smarter than me in the passing game have told me they would read the play:
- Rhythm (Top of the drop) Seam route
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In our example Bengal’s receiver A.J. Green is aligned in the X position, running the ‘Shakes’ route with the tailback running the flat route.
Focus on the cornerback at the snap. In a Cover 2 zone (2-deep, 5-under) the cornerback has flat coverage responsibility. To keep the half-field safety on his hash the defender wants to force an inside release from the wide receiver, jamming to disrupt the route and prevent a free release into a 9/Post. He will then pass off anything vertical to the safety while keeping his eyes on the flats to break on anything short.
The jam and inside release is vital to the structure of Cover 2 as the half-field deep safety will be forced to widen from the hash towards the sideline too early if the receiver releases along the sideline. As Cover 2’s biggest weakness is the middle-of-the-field hole, if the safety widens too early teams will relentlessly attack the bare grass with dig and post routes.
The cornerback is unable to effectively jam Green as he releases inside across his face. As the all-world receiver pulls even with the defender we can see him move his eyes to the tailback running the flat route, giving Green a free release as he pushes upfield.
Next, move your eyes to the weak safety. Notice that while he does widen from his hash by three lateral steps, Green’s inside release and subsequent cut to the front corner of the end zone create too much distance to make a play on the ball. The route and timing must be excellent to pull off this type of throw; the constricted space to the boundary (short side of the field) leaves little room for error.
Check back tomorrow as we continue to break down staples of the Hue Jackson passing game.