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Hue Jackson Passing Game Preview: Going Air Raid with the ‘Shakes’ Concept

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: 

  1. Rhythm (Top of the drop) Seam route
  2. Corner
  3. Flat/Flare 

Pro Tip: Follow smart people on Twitter and listen to what they say!

Continue reading Hue Jackson Passing Game Preview: Going Air Raid with the ‘Shakes’ Concept

God’s Gift to Offensive Coordinators: The Mesh Concept

After several hours of film study, it is very clear that New Cleveland Browns’ head coach Hue Jackson wants to get the ball into his playmakers’ hands. The former Bengals’ offensive coordinator does an outstanding job identifying and exploiting personnel mismatches using formation and alignment to isolate and deliver the ball to his skill-position players in space. As a long-time play caller, the well-respected coach has a variety of pass concepts in his toolbox to put his star receivers in position to make plays. A noteworthy play that shows up on tape is the  Air Raid-classic ‘Mesh’.

Continue reading God’s Gift to Offensive Coordinators: The Mesh Concept

The Carolina Panthers’ Sweep Read

Breaking Down the ‘Sweep Read’ RPO

The idea behind RRO’s (run-pass options) is surprisingly simple: merge a pass play and run play into a single concept. The offensive line will run block while the receivers and tight ends run pass routes. The quarterback will decide whether to hand-off to the running back or throw a pass to the receiver based on the action (or key) of a single ‘read’ defender. The goal is to put the read defender in pass-run conflict by forcing him to choose between a run fit or coverage responsibility, making him wrong no matter what.

RPOs work particularly well in a no-huddle, hurry-up offense as they allow the quarterback to make quick, simple decisions without the need to make complicated line calls and pre-snap coverage reads. The passing aspect of the play allows the offense to get the ball to playmakers in space, as the pass routes consist of quick-game slants, hitches, and seams that are a broken-tackle away from going for six. Most packaged plays do not utilize intermediate or vertical routes (although this is changing) as the offensive line cannot block further than five yards downfield (a controversial issue within the coaching community as this rule is rarely enforced).

Let’s examine the various moving parts of an RPO by breaking down Cam Newton’s signature moment of the 2015 playoffs, a 12-yard touchdown scamper during the third quarter of the Carolina Panthers’ 49-15 NFC Championship victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

The Panthers have the game well in hand, leading the Cardinals 27-7 late in the third quarter. The NFL champs have driven the ball into Arizona’s red zone using an effective combination of pass and run calls that have the defense off-balance. Facing 1st and 10 from the 13-yard line, offensive coordinator Mike Shula dials up a beautiful RPO combining a quarterback ‘Sweep’ (popularized by Vince Lombardi with his classic halfback sweep) with a flare screen to the running back.

We’ll look at the run and the pass individually, and then put both together to see how they put the defender in run/pass conflict.

Let’s start with the running back flare. After aligning to the right of the quarterback, Panthers’ fullback Mike Tolbert motions pre-snap across the formation to the left flat. With three receivers to that side of the field, the offense has enough blockers to pick up the MIKE (middle linebacker), cornerback, and nickel. The strong safety is left unblocked; although he is aligned ten-yards deep making it unlikely he will make the tackle before a positive gain

The Quarterback Sweep is run to the right side of the field, opposite the running back flare. The concept is a variant of the famous Wing-T Buck Sweep (run by many coaches including Gus Malzahn, Urban Meyer, and Chip Kelly)

The backside (away from the play direction) tackle and guard will block the right defensive linemen and defensive tackle, with the center and frontside guard pulling to pick-up the cornerback and first defender that threatens to cross the face from the inside. The right tackle and tight end will down block the 3-technique (outside shoulder of guard) and defensive end, walling them off from the play. The only unblocked defender is the alley fill (responsible for the area of the field between the front seven and cornerback), although like the strong safety his depth will likely prevent him from making the tackle before a positive gain.

Putting the running back flare and Quarterback Sweep together gives us the RPO, or ‘packaged’ play. Because the play decision is made post-snap, the next question naturally leads to how the offense chooses which play to run.

The play decision hinges on a single pre-determined read man–in this case the MIKE (middle linebacker)–located behind the right defensive end. The read is very simple by design: If the MIKE widens with the running back’s motion, run the Quarterback Sweep as a run defender has now been eliminated from the box. If the MIKE stays flat-footed, throw the running back flare as the offense will now have blockers for the cornerback, nickel, and strong safety (the MIKE will not be able to make the play as he is out-leveraged by remaining inside the box).

Moving on to the play, we see how aggressively the MIKE widens with Tolbert’s pre-snap motion. Because Tolbert initially aligned to the right of the quarterback, his motion to the left changed his coverage responsibility from the WILL to the MIKE. You’ll see the WILL tear after him at the snap, taking another run defender out of the box. This is a great example of using pre-snap motion to confuse coverage assignments.

  • The left tackle and left guard do a great job walling off the right-side of the defensive line. Notice how the left tackle ‘swings the back door shut’ on the defensive end, while the left guard reaches the play-side shoulder and turns the 2-i technique (inside shoulder of guard)
  • The tight end and right tackle execute outstanding down blocks to seal the D-gap. Part of concept design’s beauty is the blocking angles created for the down blocks. It is much easier to execute the block on a defender aligned away from the play’s direction, as the angle allows the blocker a clean shot into the vee of the defender’s neck
  • The right guard (#70) pulls around the tight end looking to block the first player he encounters in the alley, while the center (#67) looks for the first threat to cross his face from the inside (in this case the free safety, as the WILL ran himself out of the play with the blown coverage assignment).
  • Cam Newton does the rest, reading his blocks and leaping over the final defender for six.

Ohio State Chalk Talk: Beating the ‘Bear’ Front

OSU fans were introduced to the “Bear” front after Virginia Tech Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster held the vaunted Buckeye offense to 327 total yards and 3 turnovers in an opening night 35-21 victory in Columbus last season.

After an offseason fueled by speculation into what Bud Foster had up his sleeve for Ohio State’s opening night rematch in Lynchburg, he pulled the ultimate rabbit out of the hat by utilizing the same defensive scheme that caused so much havoc last year, the same 4-6 “Bear” with jailbreak blitzes and a healthy dose of man coverage behind it.

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Previewing Flip’s Offense: WR Motion and the “Swap Boot”

Like many I have awaiting some specific, up-to-date information about what we should expect to see from Flip’s offense this season.  We finally got a nugget from Terry’s Talkin’ this week:

1. They have been throwing a lot of swing passes to receivers in motion, which appears to be a significant part of DeFilippo’s offense. That also might help the backs catch more passes.

Using this quote I went back to the lab to look for pass concepts that integrated WR/RB motion at the snap of the ball. Before diving into the play I want to ensure that everyone is clear that we are looking at motion as the ball is snapped, not motion-and-reset.

Motion (both “slo-mo” and “jet”) as the ball is snapped is used for a variety of reasons.  It can create angles to run inside-breaking-routes like a shallow cross, it can reduce the distance a WR needs to cover if his route will take him across the field, it can help the WR release “clean” at the LOS by helping him avoid jams and collisions within the 5 yard “hands on” zone, it gives the WR a small “spring” as he works to full speed in his route, it creates great angle for “cracks” on LB’s, etc.

The play we are about to look at is  very similar conceptually to Shanahan’s PA “Flood” concepts we saw last year, so parts will look familiar.  The two components of the play that caught my eye was the creative use of WR motion to “flood” the field away from the play action and the use of a “swap” by bringing the underneath route from across the formation.

Let’s look at the play and break down some film…

Continue reading Previewing Flip’s Offense: WR Motion and the “Swap Boot”


Welcome long-suffering Dawgs!

My goal is to bring Cleveland Brown’s fans a detailed look at the schemes, plays, and techniques we see every Sunday from our beloved football team!

This blog is a work in progress.  I’ll update the appearance and layout as I have time, but my main focus is to educate (and also learn from) those who want to “get up on the chalkboard” and look at the X’s and O’s of the game!

Check back soon for film breakdowns and chalk talk!