Tag Archives: Football

Trap Coverage and Pick Sixes

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.

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Creating Explosive Plays with the Pin Concept off Play Action…

The following post in an excerpt taking from a comprehensive look at RGIII’s 2012 ROY Campaign posted at The Orange and Brown Report.

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.

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RGIII’s Offensive ROY Campaign: Running RPOs

The following post is an excerpt from a comprehensive breakdown of RGIII’s Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign. Click here to read the entire article at the Orange and Brown Report.

A second concept that shows up repeatedly on RGIII’s 2012 game tape is the popular RPO, or run/pass option. Shanahan wisely integrated run/pass options in the Redskins’ offense because like Inside Zone with aN EMLOS read, Griffen experienced great success running the concept at Baylor.

The idea 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 receivers based on the action of a single ‘read’ defender. The goal is to put the read defender in a pass-run conflict by forcing him to choose between run/pass responsibility, making him wrong no matter what he does.

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 as the offensive line may not block further than five yards downfield (a controversial issue within the coaching community as this rule is rarely enforced).

In RGIII’s first game as a pro former Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan dialed up several RPOs to take advantage of his rookie signal-callers comfort with the concept.

Our first example combines split zone, a variation of inside zone in which an H-back Arc blocks across the formation, with a wide receiver Bubble Screen. The read man is free safety Kenny Vaccaro, who has crept up to linebacker-level to run blitz.

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RGIII’ ROY Campaign: Running Inside Zone

The the following post is an excerpt taking from a comprehensive piece breaking down RGIII’s 2012 Rookie of the Year. Click here to read the entire piece at The Orange and Browns Report.

A major component of RGIII’s initial success (and downfall) can be attributed to his use in the run game. In addition to his tried-and-true Zone Stretch, Shanahan integrated a variety of interior zone-based concepts including Inside Zone and the Triple Option to take advantage of Griffin’s’ exceptional ability to make the correct decision when ‘reading off’ a defender.

The 2012 Redskins’ bread and butter between-the-tackles run concept was basic Inside Zone with a backside read of an unblocked defensive player (usually a defensive end or stand-up outside linebacker). The idea behind the concept is simple; leave a box player unblocked to rebalance numbers at the line of scrimmage in the offense’s favor. Anytime an offense can put a blocker on every defender at the point of attack, the play will likely lead to positive yardage. Due to Griffin’s natural speed and athleticism, as well as his familiarity with the play concept from his college days, Inside Zone proved to be exceptionally successful.

Inside zone is likely the simplest zone concept to block and run. Each offensive lineman is assigned a certain ‘area’ to block. If there is a defender in that area (known as ‘covered’) block him using zone technique (short lateral/45 degree step towards the play, aiming for the defender’s outside number). If there is no defender in that area (known as ‘uncovered’), start with a lateral step and read the next near defender. If the defender moves outside (Figure 1) climb to the second level looking for a linebacker. If the defender moves inside (Figure 2), double team him by engaging the near shoulder, getting hip-to-hip with the other blocker, and moving the eyes to the second level in case a linebacker shows (note there are MANY ways to read and teach Inside Zone blocking technique; each coach has his/hers own preference).

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Playing Team Defense: When Run Fits Go Wrong

This post is an excerpt taking from a much-longer breakdown of the Cleveland Browns’ poor run defense posted at The Orange and Browns Report

In addition to poor technical fundamentals we often saw errors in role and responsibility due to communication and misunderstandingduring the 2015 season.

An early-season 28-14 victory over the Tennessee Titans provided a great example of errors in responsibility when strong safety Donte Whitner and OLB Armonty Bryant both attacked the same gap, leading to a 44-yard run by Titans’ running back Dexter McCluster.

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Getting Vertical with the Smash/Post Concept

The following post is an excerpt from a comprehensive look at Hue Jackson’s favorite pass concepts at the OBR. Click here for the entire article.

Our final route concept is known as the ‘Smash-Post’. The play design integrates another coaching-favorite, the ‘Smash’ concept, with a post route coming from the opposite side of the field. Like the previous ‘Shakes’ concept, ‘Smash-Post’ is a split-safety killer.

Before putting the routes together, let’s look at each individually to see how the combination stresses the two-deep safeties.

‘Smash’ is the classic split-safety beater, consisting of a short in-breaking route like a hitch or fin from the #1 receiver and a corner route from the #2 receiver (should sound familiar to the hitch/corner in ‘Snag’). The play works best against the Tampa 2 (two-deep, zone-under), as it puts the flat defender (the cornerback) in a bind by creating a vertical stretch using the hitch and corner routes. Jump the hitch and the corner route will be thrown over his head against a safety that has to cover the distance from hash-to-sideline. Sink to cushion the corner route and the quarterback will throw the high-percentage hitch in front of the cornerback with opportunity for yards after catch. In this case, the short bait route is run as a flat by the tight end. The specific short route doesn’t matter here; as long as it breaks in front of the cornerback he still faces a vertical stretch.

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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!

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Hue Jackson-Super Bowl X’s & O’s: The Counter Trey Read

After looking at the Counter Trey in a previous post, I want to breakdown another variant we’ll see the Carolina Panthers run tonight during the biggest game in franchise history. The film is pulled from the Bengal’s 34-21 week-six victory over the Bills.

First, a quick review of the concept. The original Counter Trey was popularized by Joe Gibbs’ Washington Redskins teams of the 1980s. It falls under the ‘power’ run game umbrella, as it is gap-blocked, requiring offensive linemen to both down block and pull. The ubiquitous play is run at all levels of football in a variety of offensive systems.

An element of misdirection is built into the concept as the running back will take a hard jab-step away from the play’s direction, often causing hesitation and pulling linebackers away from the ball (known as an ‘influence’ step). Used in conjunction with zone-blocked plays such as inside zone, the concept is an outstanding constraint (adjustment) to defenses that key the running back’s flow for play direction and over-pursue the ball.

I chose to breakdown this particular play as it constantly shows up on Panthers’ film (and is a Hue Jackson favorite), and should work well against Denver’s aggressive edge rushers (Miller and Ware). When game-planning for edge rushers that fly off the line of scrimmage, ‘trap’ blocks are a must-have. The idea behind a trap block is simple; give the defender a free release at the line, then bring a blocker across the formation to ear hole him from the side. This eliminates the edge rusher’s ability to beat blocks by shooting gaps, creating havoc in the backfield before the blocks can develop.

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Cleveland Browns Film Room: Beating an Odd Front with the Pin-and-Pull

With the announcement that newly-appointed Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson will call his own plays, a review of the 2014-2015 Cincinnati Bengals’ offense provides a potential template of what fans can expect next season. A review of the tape shows several tried-and-true run and pass-game concepts Jackson leans on to move the ball. Building off my previous post (Counter/Power), I want to continue looking at base run concepts the new play-caller ran last season.

Although Jackson is well-known for running a gap-based scheme (Iso, Counter, Power), a look at the game tape shows several zone-based concepts including tight zone, split zone, and outside zone. Today I want to break down a clever variant of outside zone that I’ve observed several times through six games, the Pin-and-Pull.

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