Before breaking down Denzel Ward, I’ve included links to a few of my favorite X’s & O’s resources. Each book has greatly influenced the way in which I think about the game of football. No matter what side of the ball you are on, you will find a TON of common sense, usable information in each. Great knowledge, great writing, and great coaches!
As the fourth overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft, cornerback Denzel Ward enters the NFL with sky-high expectations.
The following excerpt is taking from a comprehensive post breaking down Browns’ cornerback Justin Gilbert’s 2014 pick-six off Andrew Luck. The entire article can be read at The Orange and Brown Report…
Base pass shells like Cover 1, Cover 2, Cover 3, and Cover 4 are too limited to stop the college and NFL passing game in this age of explosive offense. Creative offensive minds have identified and ruthlessly exploited the weaknesses in the various coverage groups using triangle (and rub concepts against man defense) that vertically and horizontally stretch defenders, creating defined progression and reads for the quarterback. Any offensive coach worth his (or her) salt has several ‘coverage beaters’ in the playbook that take advantage of schematic weaknesses within all of the aforementioned coverage families (think the ‘smash’ concept against Cover 2 or the curl-flat against Cover 3). Most defensive coordinators have integrated ‘pattern matching’ rules into their defenses that require the pass defenders to read the receiver’s release at the line of scrimmage to determine who guards who (like a matchup zone in basketball) to counter ultra-efficient offensive play calling, but even modern-day pattern matching rules can be defeated with creative route design. How do defensive coaches counter these concepts while maintaining tried-and-true base coverages? The answer lies in trap coverages.
Trap coverage has been used up and down the college ranks for a number of years, but only within the last half-decade have we seen widespread matriculation into the NFL coaching ranks. College coaches like TCU Gary Patterson (whose Blue Special and Two Read are likely the most popular versions of trap coverage at the movement) have led the charge in modifying coverage rules within base concepts like Cover 4, both preserving the basic integrity and rules of the defense while changing individual rules and responsibilities. Trap coverages rely on three principles:
Disguise the coverage pre-snap
“Show” the quarterback a specific coverage before rotating to something different after the snap
Change the ‘usual’ read rules that determine individual responsibility after the receivers release at the snap
Gilbert’s pick-six of Andrew Luck provides a great example of all three principles in action. Without further ado, let’s go to the tape.
Nursing a seven-point lead with ten minutes to go in the 3rd-quarter, the Browns’ defense has Luck facing a second-and-ten from his own 12-yard line. The down and distance make this a likely pass, creating a great opportunity to set a trap. Pettine takes it one step further by running the trap behind a slot blitz from the field defensive back (most teams will slot blitz from the boundary side as the defender has less distance to cover). This is likely by design in order to force Luck’s eyes to the trap side as it is now has one less pass defender and any built-in hot routes will be to that side.
The following post is an excerpt from a comprehensive breakdown of RGIII’s 2012 Rookie of the Year campaign posted at The Orange and Brown Report.
In our final example, we will watch RGIII make a progression-based read running another West Coast classic, the Drive concept, or 2 Jet Flanker Drive (the Steelers often run this play to get the ball to Antonio Brown in space).
The following post is an excerpt taking from a comprehensive breakdown of Robert Griffin III’s 2012 ROY campaign posted at The Orange and Brown Report.
In addition to red zone and short down-and-distance play action concepts, Washington took several vertical shots downfield in positive down/distance situations. The offense hit two long touchdowns off play action in a 38-31 victory over divisional opponent Dallas in week 12.
In 20 personnel with twin receivers to the field (wide side), the offense hit their first big gain of the game through the air using a variant of variation of the Air Raid’s famous Y-Cross concept. The route combination features a deep crossing route (run more like a Dig here) from the X receiver, a seam route designed to clear out the middle of the field by the Y receiver, and a flat route by the H-back. The Z receiver (at the bottom of the screen) runs a quick hitch to act as a hot route will also keeping the cornerback from coming inside to squeeze the throw to the crossing route. Notice the triangle created by the routes
Washington’s second long touchdown came off play action, using a two-man Pin concept that integrates a post with an in-breaking Dig route. The H-back will cut block at the line of scrimmage to sell the play action before heading to the flat as a check down. In this example we can clearly see how the offense’s backfield flow causes defenders to use poor eye discipline, resulting in another explosive play.
The following is an excerpt from a comprehensive article breaking down Josh Gordon’s fit in the Hue Jackson pass-game posted at the Orange and Brown Report.
The ‘X’ receiver is in often in a unique position to run vertical routes due to the strength of the coverage generally being pushed to the opposite side, leaving the cornerback in one-on-one coverage with no deep help. Big, strong, fast wide receivers like A.J. Green and Josh Gordon feast in this spot.
Green caught a 73-yard touchdown in a week-five victory over the Seattle Seahawks running a ‘Go’ route against man coverage–although the play was called back for holding on the offensive line–on the backside of a ‘Trey’ formation (two wide receivers and one tight end to a single-side of the field).
The Seahawk’s are bringing five-man pressure, playing a 3-deep, 3-under coverage behind the blitz. Because the Bengals’ have three receivers to one side of the field, the defense ‘rolls’ (brings more defenders over) the coverage to the strength of the formation, appearing to force Green’s defender to play MEG (Man Everywhere He Goes) technique. This is a perfect spot for a nine route as Green should consistently beat the defensive back off the line of scrimmage , with the safety’s alignment just inside the left hash making it highly unlikely he can affect the play.
Green creates separation due to his outstanding release at the line of scrimmage. Let’s slow down the film to look at how he gets open and get into some route-running basics.