Week 4 X’s & O’s: Steelers 2-Read Fire Zone Coverage

Week 4 Film Study–An X’s & O’s look at a key concept from the past week in the NFL:

Steelers 2-Read Fire Zone Coverage

The Steelers intercepted Joe Flacco on Thursday Night Football with a zone blitz pattern reading defense known as “2-Read Fire Zone.” 2-Read Fire Zone involves a 5 man pressure scheme with very specific rules for the LBs/DBs who are in coverage. To get a better understanding of 2-Read Fire Zone, let’s first look at what routes the Ravens are running on 3rd and 6:

Ravens Out/Drive

At the top of the screen, the Ravens are running a 5-yard speed out and a vertical. At the bottom of the screen, the Ravens are running a “Drive” combination, which involves a drag and a dig route.

The Steelers have the perfect defense called to not only stop the play but also force a turnover. First, the Steelers are sending a 5 man pressure scheme via a Fire Zone blitz using multiple DB’s. The blitz should make the ball come out of the Quarterback’s hands before he can fully identify the trap coverage behind it. Quarterbacks are often taught to throw “hot” by throwing the ball where blitzers are coming from, or replacing blitzers with the ball. 2-Read Fire Zone baits Quarterbacks into throwing to a trap:

Steelers Fire Zone 2-Read

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Week 3 X’s & O’s Concept Review

Week 3 Film Study–An X’s & O’s look at a couple big plays from the past week in the NFL:

Eagles Hi-Lo Concept with RB Wheel

The Eagles got there first win of the season on Sunday with some help from the Hi-Lo concept. The Hi-Lo concept is a man coverage beater which involves an underneath “mesh” (crossers), with a curl route over the mesh. Chip Kelly adds a wheel route from the Running Back for two reasons: to clear out Linebackers from the middle of the field, and to potentially hit a big play if the Linebacker can’t cover the RB up the sideline. Below, the Jets are in a Cover 1 scheme with Man-to-Man across the board except for a “Centerfield” Safety in the middle of the field:

Hi-Lo

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Patriots Four Tight End Red Zone Attack

One of the keys to New England’s 28-21 Week 1 win over the Steelers was their red zone success, where they were 4/4 with 4 TD’s. Three of the touchdowns came from a unique formation: Four Tight Ends and One Back– or “Aces.” Using a four Tight End set in this manner is difficult because it requires all four Tight Ends to be capable run blockers, and at least two of the tight ends to be above average receiving threats. The Patriots personnel fits; #47 Michael Hoomanawanui is a solid run blocker and #85 Michael Williams played Tackle for the Lions but Tight End at Alabama. Meanwhile, #88 Scott Chandler is an average run blocker and a massive target at 6’7 260. And of course, there’s all-world Tight End Rob Gronkowski. Let’s further analyze how the four Tight End set was used in Week 1 and how it will be used by New England going forward.

2nd Quarter, 4:06, 2nd & Goal at the 6:

NE4TETD1

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Mills Concept

“Mills” is a pass game concept used both at the NFL and NCAA level, originally made famous by Steve Spurrier. Mills is executed with a Post route from the outside Wide Receiver and a Dig route from the slot. In today’s NFL, it is primarily used as a Cover 4 or Quarter/Quarter/Half beater and is most often seen in offenses associated with Dirk Koetter, Norv Turner, Mike McCarthy, and Peyton Manning.  Mills is also sometimes referred to as the “PIN” concept (Post/In combo). This article analyzes the Mills Concept and how it can be utilized in various ways depending on personnel. Below, the 2014 Broncos run Mills against the Rams at the end of the 1st half on 3rd and 10 against a 2-deep safety look:

Denver Mills

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Dagger Concept

The Dagger concept is a pass game route combination that is commonly used both at the College and NFL level. Dagger is most often associated with Mike Martz and Norv Turner, and is similar to the “Hi-Lo” concept. In its most basic form, Dagger is a 3 man combination involving a vertical route from the slot receiver, a drag from the weak side for a horizontal stretch, and a 15 yard deep dig or square-in from the primary receiver:

Vikings 2014 Dagger

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Chip Kelly’s (Buck) Read Sweep

The Eagles Chip Kelly has taken the NFL by storm, bringing many exciting nuances and concepts to the league. One of these concepts is the Buck Sweep. Kelly’s Eagles run the Buck Sweep while reading an unblocked defensive lineman, making it more of a Read Sweep. Traditional buck sweep involves pulling both guards with the play side Tackle and Center blocking down, as pictured below:

Credit: Smart Football's "Does anyone still use Lombardi's Packer's Sweep"

Credit: Smart Football’s “Does anyone still use Lombardi’s Packer’s Sweep”

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Spot: The Versatility of a Common Triangle Read Pass Game Concept

The Spot scheme is a common pass game concept run at the high school level all the way up to the NFL. It is also referred to as “Snag”, and is known for its simplicity and ability to create both a horizontal and vertical stretch. Like the Stick Concept, Spot is a half field “Triangle” read. This scheme features a flat route as a horizontal stretch, a deep corner or 7 route as a vertical stretch, and the Spot/Snag route coming underneath at about 5 yards and settling in an open zone. Against man, the Spot route should work back toward the sideline if it is initially covered. The Spot route is also commonly referred to as a slant settle or a mini-curl, and is an easy completion and chain mover against zone. The Concept can be run from a variety of formations, and with or without motion. Additionally, offenses can change up which Receiver will run each route; this dictates how a QB will read the play. Generally, the Quarterback’s progression is flat to spot to corner. Below, the Patriots run the Spot Concept from a Bunch Trips set on the top of the screen, with a closed TE to the bottom:

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Yankee Route Combo vs. Single High Safety Coverage

I broke down the Yankee route combination for James Light Football here. The Yankee route combination is a common concept seen in the NFL, especially amongst teams with speed receivers. Washington and Buffalo are two teams that utilize the Yankee combo often with DeSean Jackson and Sammy Watkins. The Yankee route combo is a great concept for teams with a speed receiver and a credible running game.

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The Stick Concept & its Many Variations

The Stick Concept is one of the most popular passing plays in today’s NFL and NCAA. The scheme is simple and can be run with countless variations. The Stick Concept is a high percentage throw that minimizes how long lineman must protect. It can also be run as a part of a packaged play. In its most basic form, the Stick Concept is a three man scheme with a vertical stretch, a horizontal stretch, and the Stick route. The outside most receiver provides a vertical stretch and works for an outside release, the middle receiver provides a horizontal stretch and attacks the flat, usually via a speed out. Finally, the most inside receiver runs the “stick” route, attacking vertically for about 5 yards before sticking his foot in the ground and turning for the football. Below is an example from Week 1 of the 2014 season:

Roddy White Stick Route

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