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  1. Ok, every now and again run across a play allows me to clearly illustrate what the quarterback is seeing and reading on any given play. I hit on a few route concepts earlier in the year -- in fact I think I hit on this one -- but we love football, right, so let's go over it again. Both teams Monday night ran a lot of what's known as the sticks concept. It's perfect against Cover-3 and it can give any type of man problems, also. But it really wreaks havoc on Cover-3. Basically, what it is, is this: you're going to have two receivers to one side. The outside most receiver is going to run a flat. The inside receiver is going to release and he has the option to run a hook if it's zone, or and out route if it's man. The quarterback is going to read the man over the receiver running the flat. IF THAT MAN runs with the flat receiver, he is going to throw the hook. Of course, if he sits inside and disregards the flat, then he'll throw the flat. Now here's the actual play. Julio is in a tight wing formation next to Toilolo. We've got 12 personnel on the field. You can see clearly the routes drawn up and the key defender Matt is looking at. Now note, this happens fast. Matt is only looking to this side of the field. And he's looking at the movement of that defender to tell him where to go with the ball. Here it is at the snap. Two steps into Matt's drop and he already knows where he's going with the ball. #52, Garvin's eyes are all on Toilolo, pretty much disregarding Julio. Matt gets to his last step. Before that back foot hit, #52 is screaming where to go with the ball. He's turning and running right at Toilolo.. and Julio sees it too. Don't ever let anyone tell you playing receiver is just about athleticism. There's a lot of nuance, a lot thinking that goes into this position. Receivers at the NFL level are oftentimes put in positions where they have to be able to read coverages as well as quarterbacks. Easy money. Nothing that groundbreaking. This is in every offense in the NFL. Something nice and simple to get your QB some rhythm and some easy yards. This is almost that long handoff you often see associated with the WCO. And you can run it from any formation, with any personnel grouping.
  2. Okay, it has been quite a week around here with our second straight loss. We're not quite in full meltdown mode, but there is a palpable sense of dread, especially with regards to the offense and one Stephen Ambrose Sarkisian. Well I am not here to allay anyone's fears or talk anyone into anything, but I'm just going to post up a few plays that jumped out to me that I really liked and I think demonstrated a high level of offensive acumen with regards to playcalling. And I thought it might be kind of fun for us to take a look at some base route concepts so you can kind of get into the mind of what the quarterback is looking at play-to-play. This first play here is from the Buffalo game. First offensive drive. Bear with me I might get a little chatty on some of these. There's a lot that goes into even the most simple play. Okay, here we go. Sark puts 12 personnel on the field: 1 back, 2 tight ends. But he does something clever with the formation. It's essentially a 3 receiver set with Hooper out wide to the bottom of the screen and Julio in the slot as the Y-receiver. You do something like this pre-snap to expose the coverage. If a linebacker or safety walks out on Hooper, you know it's man. If a corner goes out there with him, you know it's zone. Here, the corner is walked out on Hooper. It's zone. That's all the info Matt needs, so he motions Hooper back in-line to the wing. Now this is the actual route conept. Actually it's concept(s) beacause this play has two different route concepts. Sark has packaged this play with two different route combinations -- to beat man or zone. To the bottom of the screen with Julio and Hooper, you have what's called a Sticks concept. STICKS: Julio runs a stick route, a little hook, that can convert to an out route vs. man coverage. Hooper runs the flat right behind him. To the top you have a Slant/Flat combo between Sanu and Toilolo. SLANT/FLAT just like it sounds. WR runs a slant, TE runs the flat. Matt decides pre-snap that he is going to the Slant/Flat side. I can't see the safety, but It was Cover-3 by the Bills. He might have seen the safety leaning Julio's way, idk. But Matt decides he's going to the slant/flat. Now this is the cool part and you can play along with this on Sundays. In order to decide where to go with the ball, the quarterback is going to key the movement of a defensive player and that is going to tell him where to throw. Here it's the linebacker circled in red. If that defender goes with Toilolo to the flat, Matt will throw the slant. If that linebacker sits in that window, then Matt will throw the flat to Toilolo. Simple, right? Here we go. Matt has already made his decision by his last step. This is the beauty of the WCO. When the timing is working, the ball comes out so fast. The key defender sits. Matt is going to Toilolo. Easy completion. This is what you do early in the game to get your quarterback and offense some rhythm. Nice easy read. 9 yards.
  3. Right around the latter part of the 3rd quarter on Sunday, good ole Kyle dug waaaaayyyy down into the playbook and pulled out one of oldest West Coast concepts you could ever hope to find. By now most of you all know the history of the West Coast offense and how it evolved in Cincinnati, how the passing game became an extension of the running game, how Bill Walsh required running backs to be involved catching the ball in order to stress the underneath coverage of the defense. Well Texas is about as pure a representation of that as you will find and this particular play, what Kyle does with this old fashion concept, dressing it up with a reduced formation to create an alignment problem for the defense is just brilliant. Here is the play. Ignore the two routes at the top. They're irrelevant. When throwing this route concept the quarterback is focusing on the the bunched receivers to the bottom. Now this route concept is ideal against zone, particularly against teams that play Cover-2 because the YELLOW ROUTE (TEXAS) is going to attack right in the void. Ironically enough this play was a favorite of another great Packer coach who ran the WCO, Mike Holmgren. No zone this time, however. Here the Packers are in Cover-1. It's a lot tougher to throw this against man, but whatever. Hooper runs the flat. Hardy runs an over. Devonta is running the angle (aka TEXAS) route out of the backfield. Here it is just after the snap. Everything is actually looking good for the Packers. Both Sanu and Julio are jammed at the top. Hardy's route is taking him right into the linebacker playing the RAT underneath coverage even though the man who should be on him is badly out of position. Now this is the key thing to focus on because none of those other guys matter--look at the circled defender. He is supposed to be on Free out of the backfield, but look at where he is. Hooper's flat route is absolutely the key here. By design the route is screening off two defenders if the defense is in man coverage, which they are here. Look at all the space Freeman has to work. A split second later, the safety isn't even in the frame. #42 does make a great effort to get back into position and contest the throw. But Freeman is just plain better. I cannot emphasize enough just how incredible a catch this is. This is how you know everything is going right for you. Here it is in full speed. As I said, Texas is an old fashion route concept, but look at the way Kyle adapts it to fit the situation. Look at the reduced split of Hardy, creating a bunch formation with he and Hooper, which creates a natural screen against man coverage. The DB came up to press Hooper which means #42 never had a chance because he had to play over the top, giving Freeman all kinds of space underneath to work. This is an a example of how smart coordinators will use formations to stress the defense and create holes in coverage. For all of you who wonder how and why offensive coordinators choose a formation this is it.
  4. I'm kind of in a hurry today, so this one's gonna have to be quick. @BIRDLAND 2.0, I'm still gonna go over that second half for you. I promise. But for right now I wanted to talk a little about something that jumped out to me Sunday. It's nothing big, or highlight reel worthy, but I thought it was pretty cool when I noticed it. "Sticks" is one of those old, old fashioned route concepts. I don't even know if it's a WCO staple, I think it pre-dates the WCO, and everyone runs it. It's just a nice, simple route concept that can get your quarterback an easy completion to get him into rhythm if your offense is stuck in neutral. You'll notice a lot of teams with young quarterbacks will go to this and a couple of other route concepts like spot or flood or dagger to get their guy going. Basically, sticks is a horizontal route combination, and it puts the defense in a bind and it gives the quarterback options off of a simple read. For my Madden players, this is what it looks like. This is the exact play we're going to look at. This play from the second quarter. The Falcons are in what's called a Trio formation. Three wide receivers to one side, the Tight End is in-line all by himself to the wide side of the field. Now I LOVE this formation, because it puts the defense in a bind. Just about anything you run can jam them up because they are going to have to align funny to defend it, just like here and that is going to give away your coverage. You can run a spot concept, a flood, sticks, all of that is going to be open. Okay, now this is how you read it. Let me back up. I'm not 100% how the read system has changed with Kyle's WCO. It looks like a progression read system to me, but I'll explain it the way I know to read it using the coverage read system. In the coverage read system, you read defensive players (KEYS). Your key in the sticks concept is going to be the guy playing the receiver running the flat route. If it's zone, which it is here. Matt can tell it's zone because Julio is uncovered. If it's zone, key the flat defender. If he covers the flat route, throw the sticks to Julio. If he covers the 'stick" route, throw the flat to Sanu. If they are clouded to that side and the corner squats then look at the vertical. If that's covered, work your way back to the TE... but usually one of the first two reads is almost always open. You read that one flat defender and it's all but impossible to be fooled. And this look tells Matt one of them is going to be WIDE OPEN because the linebacker to that side is mugged up on the LOS, so he isn't a factor. The KEY defender here is pretty much going to have to play two receivers. At the snap, the two linebackers drop out. Looks like the Saints are in what looks like a 3 Cloud coverage. Matt sees it immediately. Look at what the key defender is doing. He's all over Sanu. And that linebacker doesn't have a chance against Julio. That's basically stealing. Here, you make the read in real-time. Key the corner over Sanu. The great thing about working from "concepts" is that they are easy to teach and you can run them from any formation. Now there are two different concepts working here. Matt can work the top of the screen with the tight splits, or the bottom with Sanu and Julio. Sanu motions from across the formation into the slot. The LB walks out over him. A linebacker on a receiver. Guess where #2 is going with the ball on 3rd and 6. And once again, the pre-snap read. The linebacker walks out on Sanu, so we know it's zone. Again, watch how the motion tips the coverage. Stealing. So, if you're ever watching a game and you wonder why an offense seems to start getting easy completions that look like nothing, but the defense looks inept, it's stuff like this. It's the coordinator going to his base concepts and stretching the defense in odd ways it doesn't wanna go. The defense didn't want a linebacker on a receiver. The motion put them in a bind and the linebacker knows he can't cover that much space -- he doesn't know what kind of route is coming, so he has to play it safe.
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