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Atlanta Falcons: Creating The Blueprint For Optimal Offense In 2015

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The most complex offenses in the NFL normally come from the combination of multiple simplistic concepts. The Atlanta Falcons' optimal offensive scheme for 2015 would include a few variations on various concepts that would be easy for any offensive player to understand.

The offensive scheme in 2014 under Dirk Koetter was a bit extreme in the amount of option routes for the receivers, and at times, you could see when Matt Ryan and his receiver made different reads on the route. It led to interceptions on multiple different plays when Ryan attempted passes to Harry Douglas specifically.

Rearranging the offensive scheme to play to the team's strengths and weaknesses is something that new head coach Dan Quinn and new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will do in 2015 and beyond. Atlanta should see an offensive resurgence if it bases its offense on the following principles.

Outside Zone-Blocking Running Game

It's elegant in its simplicity. The outside zone-blocking scheme is designed to have the blockers all work in unison to attack the defense and create open lanes even though they won't attempt to create the same open hole on every play, every time.

With the current Falcons personnel, Atlanta would design the running game to take advantage of the speed and athleticism that most of its linemen possess. Creating open holes and letting the running backs do the mental gymnastics simplify the scheme for the linemen.

This way, they can focus their complexities to stopping pass-rushing stunts while they pass block. They can allow their athleticism and will power to do the work in the running game instead of trying to be the powerful road-grading blockers they just aren't.

It also helps the Falcons running backs take advantage of their skill sets. From Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman to Antone Smith to Terron Ward and Jerome Smith, the Falcons have a bunch of running backs who will make their living off of vision and burst.

Freeman and Coleman in particular should see success because of the similarities from their college schemes to the wide zone-blocking scheme. Add in Antone's excellent ability to maintain pad level and sprint past any and every defender, and the Falcons could have a dangerously good committee.

They may never have a true lead back in zone scheme, but they don't need that as much. Coleman and Freeman with Antone mixed in could combine for an over 2,000-yard rushing season where the Falcons average over 125 yards per game. That rushing game would allow Atlanta's passing game to thrive.

High-Low Passing Concepts All Over the Field

One of the simplest concepts in the game of football is also one of the most effective. The idea behind setting up multiple receiving options on a section of the field to force a defender to pick either the deeper or shorter throw to defend is called a high-low concept. You can see an example below:


The "high" route on this one is a deep-in by the inside slot receiver while the "low" route is a drag executed by the outside slot receiver. The idea is to have the safeties or corners trail and cause some havoc inside with guys running into each other if they are in man.

However, the Jacksonville Jaguars showed a zone look. Against a zone, the high-low is most effective because it forces the linebacker to make the wrong read. If he takes the low read, the high is open. If he takes the high read, the low is open. Because of that, the offense should always win in these concepts.

Atlanta ran some of these in 2012 to 2014 under Dirk Koetter, but it wouldn't hurt to throw out more of these concepts under Kyle Shanahan. Atlanta has the right receivers to be effective in these concepts and should be able to effectively use guys like Levine Toilolo on high routes in the end zone for some touchdowns.

The Falcons should also use it all over the field because it's a good way to attack defenses and expose weaknesses at either of the cornerback spots. It's easier to force a cornerback on the outside to defend a tight end-wide receiver high-low route combination on the weak side than the strong side.

But, both sides should be attacked so that players are held accountable and so the offense can utilize the mismatches the scheme creates. Using a combination of Julio Jones and, say, Justin Hardy on the strong side could force a safety into making the wrong read.

If a safety decides to attack the low route that happens to have Jones running it and lets Hardy get behind him, Hardy can cause damage on the deep pass by burning his cornerback. The Falcons have many more combinations to utilize and should make this a featured part of the offense.

Rollout Passing Game with Naked Bootlegs and Overload Concepts

One of the staples of a Shanahan offense is the rollout on the back side of a stretch play. The Falcons in the mid-2000s did a great job utilizing the rollout passes on the naked bootlegs to give Michael Vick easy high-low reads on one side of the field.

They have done similar schemes with Ryan but only sparingly. If Atlanta incorporated more rollout passes into the attack, it could have similar concepts attacking defenses. One of Ryan's most memorable passes was a rollout against the Baltimore Ravens that scored a touchdown in the waning minutes.

If the running game works out the way it's supposed to, Ryan could destroy defenses on the back end with passes to the tight ends and receivers. Once Ryan starts to tear defenses apart through the air on the back side, defenses will start to respect the naked bootleg.

Doing this keeps one more defender from flowing to the ball, and it allows the running game to be that much more effective. It's a never-ending cycle that needs both sides of the coin to be effective. The stretch rushing attack needs to gain that four- to five-yard average.

And the passing game needs to be able to take advantage off the back side being cleared. It's a matter of pure numbers on the back side. With more guys attacking the ball on the play-action fake, the receivers need to outnumber the defenders on the back side of the play for it to work.

Atlanta has the speed to take advantage of the mismatches and create these overloads on the back sides. It just needs the receivers to get open and the running game to create the proper ability to have the fake on the front side be effective.

A Moderate Amount of Screen Passes to Wide Receivers and Running Backs

The big issue with Mike Mularkey's scheme was the complete lack of screens in it. The issue with Dirk Koetter's scheme is too many screen passes, and all of them were similar concepts to just wide receivers. The Falcons need to figure out the balance.

Part of Buddhist philosophy preaches that moderation is the way to enlightenment. Kyle Shanahan should take this into account when thinking about screen passes. Sure, the Falcons have arguably the most explosive players to take advantage of these passes in Julio Jones and Antone Smith.

But the Falcons need to make sure they don't overdo it. A screen pass to Jones or Smith shouldn't be the bread and butter of the offense the way it was under Koetter. Atlanta should use screen passes as supplements to the running game and ways to keep the pass rush off of Ryan.

That's the ideal way to keep the effectiveness. Running back screens should also be more common than receiver screens within the offense because the likelihood for a bigger gain is there due to having better blockers in place. Atlanta can only have an offensive resurgence if it holds screens in moderation.

http://m.bleacherreport.com/articles/2477721-atlanta-falcons-creating-the-blueprint-for-optimal-offense-in-2015 Edited by Sidecar Falcon
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If we can mix in these concepts with things the offense already does well, we could finally have an unstoppable offense. We always knew we had the offensive talent to be a powerhouse, we just happened to have a HC that believed in sitting on leads.

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If we can mix in these concepts with things the offense already does well, we could finally have an unstoppable offense. We always knew we had the offensive talent to be a powerhouse, we just happened to have a HC that believed in sitting on leads.

Agreed. I think we are finally optimizing an offense towards the players strengths, rather than trying to force a square peg through a circular hole.

Edited by Sidecar Falcon
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Great write up.

The skies the limit with Ryan under center. Our old offense relied on us throwing deep routes with a damaged offensive line and no threat of a run game. It worked when teams respected Turner in 2012 but the next year it didn't matter. You can see the moment it fell apart during the NFCCG when Turner left hurt.

Once we get that running game moving, Ryan can do so much more.

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We have a premier QB-WR crew; we have a completely revamped OL which will utilize a ZBS that complements their good foot speed and athleticism. To this embarrassment of riches we add HC Kyle Shanahan, one of the brightest young offensive minds in the NFL. An OC who has the football DNA and the creativity to take this talented offense and mold it into a top three or four squad in the NFL.

While some may still express grave concerns about this OL, I have no qualms whatsoever in believing that this unit will keep Ryan clean and will open up some holes for our RB's to establish that aspect of our offense. This offense is poised for an explosive new chapter in Dirty Bird history.

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