Today’s video is about the adjustments and techniques that different defenses use to help cover up their passing weaknesses. As stated in the video, these adjustments are often what separate good passing defenses from great passing defenses.
This is because the great defenses limit what I like to call “easy” or sometimes “manufactured” yards for the offense. As a defense, we want the offense to have to line up every play and do several things right to get yards: they need to protect the quarterback, get receivers into routes on a timely manner, read the defense, make a difficult throw, and then catch the ball.
As an offense, if we do any of these things wrong we can end up with a bad or even negative play. Over the course of an entire game, we may end up in a position where we have to throw the ball 40+ times, and it is impossible for us to lineup in that many normal passing plays and not make potentially disastrous mistakes. However, there are plays where we can eliminate one or more of the needs of a passing play (the quarterback reading the defense, protecting him, etc.). This is where manufacturing plays for easy yards comes in to help us take the pressure off of our team for some of those passing plays.
Today, instead of talking about the defense, I’m going to discuss the lack of easy and manufactured plays for the offense. Simply put, I believe too many of Winston’s passes are normal drop-back passes. This is not a knock on his skill, however. The best quarterbacks in the league, including Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, have manufactured plays in their offense that give them easy yards and what I consider to be plays off. Now let’s look at some examples.
(The video may not play at the correct time, the play is at 10:06)
In the first play we are looking at the Packers during a game-winning drive in week 5 against the Cowboys. The Cowboys are showing blitz and the Packers know they have numbers to the bottom of the field. The play is just a short out route by the inner-most slot receiver and the outside two receivers just block. It looks so simple because it is. There are no reads for the quarterback and no other options for the receivers. In a game winning drive with arguably the best quarterback in the league the Packers take responsibility out of Rodger’s hands and use a manufactured play to get yards. If you watch the Packers you will see this play or at least the same style of a downfield pass with receivers running fake routes to block at least once a game.
(The video may not play at the correct time, the play is at 0:36)
In the second play we are looking at the Chiefs in their week 1 win against the Patriots. The Chiefs are in the red zone which is a very difficult area of the field to throw the ball. The Bucs have had an issue in this area of the field, only being able to convert 50% of their red zone trips to touchdowns while the Chiefs are 4th in the league at 65%. In the play, the Chiefs give Alex Smith two reads.
First, he looks to his right to their amazing tight end Travis Kelce. He has an option for quick pass here, but he’s honestly almost never going to throw this pass. Its purpose, to me, is to act as a look-off while Kareem Hunt is slipping out to the opposite side. To the left side of the play, all three receivers are running rub routes to create a bunch of trash for the Patriots defenders to run through. The outside two receivers barely even try to run legitimate routes while the inner-most receiver transitions his rub route to a corner-post for a kind of smash concept with Kareem Hunt’s route.
While this play is a bit more nuanced than the last, it is still very simple for Alex Smith. He looks off the defense to the right with maybe a read to Kelce and then looks back left for a pretty much automatic throw to Hunt. If the defense did collapse fast on Hunt, Smith has a high-low stretch with the corner-post, but that is going to be less than a 10% scenario and I would consider this to be a one read play. Again, the offense is taking the burden off the quarterback’s shoulders and they are eliminating his need to read the defense.
The last play is going to look very familiar and doesn’t need an intro. I believe this is the closest the offense has gotten to taking the load off Winston’s shoulders. Even still, I think Winston has reads on the two front side receivers before moving to OJ Howard, but this play does simplify a lot for the offense. Winston has easier reads, the entire offensive line can down block and not drop back into pass protection, and Howard has an easy route and uncontested catch. It would be pretty hard to screw this play up, but that is exactly what this offense needs.
I have heard the commentators in the Bucs games call the passing offense “vanilla” and this is exactly what they are talking about. I believe the offense could use some creativity and innovation like we are seeing around the league to help lift the load on the offense. Make no mistake, normal drop back passes are not the devil and every team needs to be able to do them to succeed and the Bucs do them well. However, we also need plays off- especially Jameis Winston.