Out routes, comebacks, back shoulder corner fades – Football 101

For more information on who the great Don Coryell was, click here on a good read. It’s a sacrilege he’s not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Maybe next season.

For a quick recap, Coryell was an aggressive coach who favored a pass first philosophy that helped the run game. He hated conservative dink and dunk offenses and wanted to force opposing teams to play catch-up. Since then, the Coryell system has undergone a few transformations.

There are three really tough throws to make in the NFL: the back shoulder corner fade, the deep out route and the comeback. They’re high risk, high reward passes that can win games and dictate the tempo and defense coverages. Make them and you’ve an offense with swagger.

In a high flying offense, they’re critical. They also help the run game because of the distance they’re thrown, they keep defenders from loading the box. (having a defense play close to the line of scrimmage)

Many go routes (fades) are easy for QB’s. Some only require the QB to launch up a rainbow pass in the general area of the WR and let him look back and adjust to the ball. Shake his defender, like a jump ball in basketball. It’s more about what the WR can do than the QB because he’s running while looking backward to see the ball coming.

However, the back shoulder fade means the WR is blind. If he’s running towards the corner of the end zone, the ball is coming over the top of his outside shoulder. Away from the QB and the DB. That pass needs accuracy and the right touch, plus velocity. That route requires the ball to be thrown at least 12 yards.

Unlike the post or even a straight fade route, the QB can’t just lean back and toss one up. These aren’t high arcing rainbows requiring more touch on the ball. The one good thing about these are if you’re good, no DB is getting it. It’s thrown on the other side of him and dropping down in the bucket.

It doesn’t take as much courage as the out route because usually these are thrown closer to midfield or farther. This means if intercepted, he has to turn around and run the other way allowing the offense more time to stop him.

The out route requires timing and rhythm with the WR. It’s thrown in anticipation and has to be bang on the money. It is thrown in the intermediate range, 12-15 yards. On third down want to see who has guts? See who throws these. They are a staple in a hurry up drive. It’s aggressive and stops the clock so another play can get off.

Finally, there’s the comeback, where the good and bad separate. QBs are judged on these. Why? Because once again, the QB is throwing the ball at least 12 yards, throwing in anticipation, and in a small space. On the rope throws. And usually, like the two above, the WR doesn’t have the time or space to adjust to a poor throw.

These are dangerous because if the coverage can read the play and jump in front of this pass, he’s already facing his end zone and not a lot of people between him a pick six. This is a pass the QB absolutely can’t telegraph and can’t throw poorly. Want to see a QB who tries and completes them? Your franchise guy who is kept a very long time.
option routes
The easiest are flats, slants, digs and curls. While a flat is thrown towards the sideline, it’s a short pass. The RB, TE or slot aren’t going but a yard or two before making a cut to the sideline. These are meat and potatoes plays for the big TE who can use his body to shield the pass and for speedy slots and RBs who can get open quickly. Dink and dunk heaven throws.

Slant is also a short pass, a good friend for the same as above. A curl is the opposite of a comeback, the WR is now facing the QB, same for digs, he’s in open field. This gives the receiver more opportunity to adjust to the ball.

Bottom line: the less a receiver is looking at the QB to make adjustments, the harder the pass. Those thrown beyond ten yards, but not a jump ball where the WR can see the ball coming well, are the hardest of all.

When people talk about arm talent, that’s what they’re referring to. Making those throws.

Shotgun Formation, the pros and cons explained – Football 101

NFL shotgun formation

The NFL uses three basic types of formations for the QB. Shotgun, pistol and under center. There are pros and cons to the shotgun formation, but every team uses it, including those operating mainly in a WCO system. In addition, teams will use more or less depending on who they’ll playing.

As we saw against the Patriots* at home, Blake Bortles operated frequently in the shotgun because they went away from run-first with the absence of Leonard Fournette.

The QB will line up 5-7 yards behind the Center who snaps the ball to him. Below is only a handful of formations out a very long list. In a pass happy offense, the choices of where the X, Y, Z, TEs, RB and FB line up is a long list.

  1. A generic 3WR set with a TE and RB.
  2. A 3WR set with a TE/RB and 3 receivers on the left side of the offense.
  3. A 2WR 2 RB set with a TE.
  4. A 5WR set with 4WR on the left side of the offense, which is aka an Empty set.
  5. A Shotgun Heavy with 2RB and 3TE.

Shotgun Formation,Shotgun Sets

As you can see, these are 5 simple examples; however, there are essentially endless versions that can be diagramed with teams creating new looks each and every week. Always bringing new tools to the chess match.

The shot gun formation is primarily for passing, so from the con standpoint, many running backs and fullbacks feel the QB is in the way. Plus, they’re getting the ball from a standstill instead of moving forward to get it, which gives them mojo when they hit the line. Hence, the formations are used more for a pass heavy offense. Running plays are a bit limited from the shotgun.

This leads to why is it called the shotgun? Since it’s considered a passing formation, teams regularly use more than two receivers. This means they are spread out across the field, stretching out a defense. There is an array of choices, like a shotgun can spread pellets.

A con is since the ball is traveling through the air before reaching the QB, there’s a higher risk of error. The other drawback is if the Offensive Coordinator isn’t creative, defenses will game plan and set up for a passing game. This can stunt the options.
The pros are numerous.

First, it allows the QB more time to read the defense because his eyes are down field from the snap. Second, it gives the Offensive Line more time to create a pocket. Third, if he hangs back, rushers are father away giving the QB more time to adjust.

Fourth, he isn’t holding the ball as long for receivers to get in position. This can lead to less sacks. If the QB is under C, he has to drop back before he can make a pass, so at times he’s holding the ball longer.

Fifth, while the RB may feel inhibited with the run game, he’s in a better spot for passes out of the backfield. Not to mention, having a RB and FB beside him, gives the QB “Max Protection” assuming they don’t drift out for pass routes.

Finally, good OCs/RBs/ QBs (especially if he can scramble) can use the shotgun against its opponents by using the run creatively. Also, a QB can act like he’s taking the snap under Center, but drop back at the last second or the reverse. For this to work though, the QB actually needs to run some from under C.

General terms

  • 3WR – 3 wide receivers
  • 2TE – 2 tight ends
  • 3TE – 3 tight ends
  • 4WR – 4 wide receivers
  • 5WR – 5 wide receivers
  • 4 wide- 4 eligible receivers with a RB/TE in the backfield
  • 5 wide – 5 eligible receivers
  • Twins- two WR on one side of the ball.
  • Trips – three WR on one side of the ball.
  • Quads – four WR on one side of the ball
  • Queens – A pair of stacked receivers
  • Kings – A trio of stacked receivers

Don’t you just love football?!

Option Routes and why Jacksonville may struggle with them – Football 101

option routes

Option routes

On a play, one WR/TE/RB may be given the “option” of running two or three different pre-determined routes. It’s the WR’s call based on the coverage. He can decide at the line of scrimmage, or sometime during the play.

Not only must he need to read the defense, but must be an excellent route runner with good quickness to turn on a dime when he changes his mind if the defense bites, or leaves a spot open.

As of right now, experienced depth and chemistry with Blake Bortles is a little thin. On the tight end side, things don’t look much better. All those drops week 1 aren’t inspiring.

*to note: this is football 101, things are simply explained and usually/typically can be inserted into most sentences.

I stressed experience because it matters in reading defenses, plus it also relies heavily on the quarterback, too.

While there are dozens of various routes that can be run, only three options max are decided upon because a) the quarterback has to be aware enough of which routes he could run, while watching his other receivers plus the defense and b) only so many are realistic.

FYI, not many TE’s are given the option because their route running isn’t good enough, nor is their “sell”. However, when you have the best like Rob Gronkowski (Jason Whitten was better), they can torch defenses.

When the receiver and QB are on the same page, they’re extremely dangerous to defenses unless you have DB’s who can cover really well. This teamwork builds over time, the duo reading each other’s minds almost. The best way to pull these off is to have more than two players who can effectively run them.

Also need is a QB who is experienced enough to go through his progressions. Right now, our corps is iffy and the jury is out on how well Bortles handles the option with this raw group.

In the NFL, WR’s aren’t just trying to get open, the option can also be used to trick defenses to think the ball is going one way. Call it a dummy option. The stem route is crucial.

Below are the very basic routes. On an option, they could have the choice of a comeback, curl or a fade because his coverage is blown. Or maybe, at the LOS the WR starts out thinking slant, but turns it into a go. He could fake a flat, but instead turn back and run a fade or out. There are dozens and dozens of route combos based off this tree, but it gives you an idea.

Bad things happen when the QB/WR/TE aren’t on the same page. If the WR choses a comeback, but the QB doesn’t see it or lacks the arm for the throw, if you’re lucky, it’s only an incomplete. Some veteran WR’s know what skills their QB’s are better/worse at and even though a tougher route could give bigger gains, chooses the easier one.

A five yard gain beats an interception on a deep comeback. An inexperienced receiver or even a more seasoned TE, might not have enough knowledge to know, so they choose the glory play over what their QB excels at.

This is why Jax may keep options to a minimum, at least for 1/2 the season. With questions at the WR position, there may not be enough time to get that chemistry going. While the onus is on the receiver to pick the right option because of his skill at reading the defense (and beating coverage), the QB’s savvy can’t be overlooked.

Front 7 Tips – Football 201 from an NFL Scout

NFL Scout Report on front 7 tips

PART I. We’ve all heard about NFL Scouting, how do they make reports? What is in them? We’re going to give you answers with a real Scout’s data and his input. This installment is on Front 7 Tips.

I’m not going to reveal the NCAA conference or who the Scout made his reports for, but it covered every snap against ten teams and how one team and its players performed. I’m going to use the letter, “P”, as fill in when a team’s name was used or a player’s number.

When I read his first Front 7 Tips report, some of it was like looking at Greek, so I asked him to explain. His answers inspired me to start this series. Below is one page of analysis and then the explanations for each number. This is football 201, so I won’t be explaining as much as in the Football 101 series.
Tips:

  1. G Front team
  2. Will flip front on RB shifts
  3. Rock and roll safeties
  4. Will reduce in a ‘okie 4’ look
  5. Will show a muck-luck line on 3rd down
  6. Will flop fronts to TE motion/shift
  7. #P is a true N, strong, no feet
  8. #P is more athletic than P, more of a gap player.  Wreaked havoc against P in zone game when 4 hands didn’t get on him
  9. N/3T are cross-trained
  10. Will loop blitzers on 3+L
  11. Will run line games while #P is mugged
  12. DE’s are fast, speed rushers, will need help on 2+L, 3+L
  13. Will drop out of dbl mug look, double mug will look like a bear/pinch front
  14. #P will try to come across your face, but doesn’t always bring his hands
  15. LB’s and DE’s can be influenced in the zone game
  16. #P, if plays??, natural bender, disengages well.  P fan protected him when lined up over LG/LT.  When lined up on right, used TE and RB to chip.  Kept sliding protection to him. Also has ability to get his hands up in quick game. Will line him up to weakside as often as possible. Has had a lower leg injury.  Status unknown
  17. P and P went 5 against them and middle of field was open for all crossing routes and QB draw
  18. Against P, ran a lot of bomb/attack/wrap vs. Gold
  19. Will green dog the RB
  20. Showed P some true Okie fronts

After #1’s explanation, is a graphic for readers who are between 101 and 201. Obviously, below is just for you readers, it’s not needed for the pros. Hope you find how above translates into below to be informative.


Front 7

1. G Front teams: In a 4-3 base defense, typically the 2 interior DL are lined up in a 3 Technique (outside shoulder of the Guard) and in a ‘shade’ look (opposite shoulder to where the 3T) is. If they’re a G Team, that ‘shade’ now moves into what we call a ‘1 Tech’. He is now lined up on the inside shoulder of the guard.

Now it may not make a difference on some plays, it certainly has a few effects:

1. Changes the count in pass protection. It frees up the center to go opposite the nose and help clean up on the other side if they choose.

2. It changes the angle at which he gets blocked. If the center is looking to double team him with that guard, it changes how he’s going to approach that block and how it’s all going to time up. The guard needs to get his hands on him sooner because the Center is gonna be a hair late to get there to help.

3. If the nose lines up as a G, there’s more of a chance that he will slant (stunt) across the guards face and get into the B gap. This would mostly happen when there is pressure coming into the A gap from the 2nd level.

2. Will flip front on RB shifts: in a 4-3 base defense (the Denver Broncos are an odd *okie* 3-4 front team, but we still use the shading system that is used more in 4-3 defenses), there are different ways to designate where the 3Tech is going to line up and where the Nose is going to line up. Sometimes it’s set to where the TE (Y) is lined up.

Sometimes it’s based on hash marks. And sometimes, especially in 11 personnel 3rd down shotgun situations, the RB is the indicator to where the 3T will line up. Sometimes it’s opposite the RB, sometimes it’s to the RB.

Often teams will shift the RB to the other side to see if they can get the front to ‘flip’. Basically, that’s the old, ‘move move move’ thing where the defense either slides over, or the 3T moves real quick over the other guard. If they don’t move, you know you’ve got them locked into a front.

In this case: 1. When you move the RB and they flip the front, you know EXACTLY what front you’ll get, and you can dial up the exact run play that you want. 2. Moving the RB changes how the protection is going to change. If they flip, you can get them into exactly the front you wanna protect against.

3: rock and roll safeties. In basic 3 deep coverages, 1 safety has the middle 3rd of the field and 1 screws down to differing areas of the field depending on what the rest of the defense is called. Having rock and roll safeties just means that both guys can and will do both responsibilities, therefore making the qb’s presnap read even more difficult.

4: okie 4. True odd teams that are playing nickel, be it big nickel or regular nickel, will have a true bulldozer at NG, and 2 5T’s to rush the passer. Okie 4 is now where the NG and one 5T are lined up regularly, but on the other side, that 5 will reduce down into the inside shade of the tackle, and the WLB is walked up on the LOS.

5. Muck luck lines are what a lot of teams do on 3rd and long. They don’t particularly line up. They’re all standing on the LOS and at the snap, some will rush, some will drop. What this does is cause issues with the count for the QB as he can’t declare who the Mike is, therefore the lineman have trouble communicating who has who.

The Kansas City Chiefs run a version of okie 4. The Oakland Raiders used to, I would imagine they’re gonna be more of a Tampa 2 team now because that’s Jon Gruden’s baby. It also has very Belichickian principles to it.

6. TE motion to fronts. Same as shifting RB’s. Same concept.

7-9: true NG’s are road graters…farm strong guys who can battle a double team. They have to be thick on the bottom, and their ass better be massive. It’s a dirty work job. Bring your hard hat and lunch pal. 3 techniques are a slimmed down version of the NG, who are much more athletic. They don’t need to be quite as strong, but they need to be able to move their feet.

Their job is to be more of a disruptive force in the backfield. A lot of teams cross train their guys because college offenses run plays so fast that you can’t ‘flop’ your front.

10. Looping blitzers are self explanatory. Their goal is to not only come, but to get 2 OL blocking 1 blitzer and get the other blitzer a clean run through the backfield.

11. Line games: line games are like blitzes, only they just include D lineman. We see a lot of Tex and exit stunts. On a Tex stunt , the 3T will go across the face of the tackle, and the DE will loop around him hoping to get a free run to the qb. Similar to looping blitzers. (*editor note, I wrote about Jacksonville’s DL and their games=55 sacks.

12. DE’s are fast, speed rushers, will need help on 2+L, 3+L. Self explanatory.

13. Mugged LB’s: a lot of teams mug their backers. All it means is that their MLB will line up over the center on the LOS and he may come or he may back out. But again, in the count, he has to be counted in.

14. Bear front. This is a true 3-4 defense, only instead of a Nose and two 5T’s, now you have a Nose and two 3T’s. This is a fun stopping defense especially interior running games.

15…influenced backside DE’s and LB’s: these are guys who get nosy and try to chase down plays instead of staying home on the zone read stuff, or their backside responsibilities.

16 & 17 are about a player and explained

18Bomb, Attack, and wrap: these are 3 types of blitzes. Bomb is 2 LB’s going through both B gaps. Attack is 2 LB’s going through the A gap. And wrap is either a double A gap stunt or an A and B gap blitz to the same side. The trick is that this is a loop blitz. One guy goes first, and the other comes off his ass into the other gap.

19...Green dog the RB: this is something certain defenses use if the RB stays in on protection. If the RB stays in, the LB who has him, reads that the RB is staying in, so he now has to blitz. But he’s gotta make sure the RB is truly staying in for protection. But if he stays in, the LB picks a lane and attacks.

20True okie is just the old style 52 defense. It’s an odd front with two OLB’s on the LOS. A lot of teams have gotten away from this true front because they’re playing more nickel defense, and that OLB has been replaced by a Nickel Safety/Corner.  This is where okie 4 comes into the mix.

Ace Set: a staple in every offense.

ace set

The Ace Set is a common name for an offensive formation that uses one running back. It is run with the QB under center. The running back generally lines up behind the QB but can be staggered off to one side.

Each of the generic sets shown  are variations of the Ace Set, which are also known as single back sets, lone back sets and obviously the 1-back set.  These sets have been utilized in a lot of proficient offenses from Joe Gibbs running it with the Hogs in Washington, to more pass happy versions utilized by the top quarterbacks over the last two decades . Each team has variations of it as staples in their offenses.
Ace set formations

  1. 3WR/1TE set with a four-wide look
  2. 2WR/2TE with the 2WR in a Twins left look
  3. 2WR/2TE with the LTE and X in a Twins look
  4. 4WR Trips right look
  5. 4WR Trips left look

ace set

6.   3WR Twins on the right

7.   3WR with the Y in a wing/slot opposite the TE to even up the formation

8.   2TE/2WR

9.   4WR with 3WR in a bunch/trips set to the left

10.  4TE Heavy set

The Ace Set is a very dynamic formation system since it allows the receivers to line up multiple places, giving the defense various looks. However, they can run the same routes, same play same call, just based on the various formation and where they are positioned.
Screen Shot 2018-09-11 at 7.41.58 PM
11.  3WR/1TE with 2WR in a tight wing formation on the right hand side

12.  3WR/1TE with the back offset to the left and 4 receivers on the left hand side of the offense

13.  3WR/ 1TE with the TE/Z stacked in a “Queens” look and the back is offset to the right

14.  4WR and TE in the back field

15.  2TE/WR with the back offset to the right. The TE/WR are stacked in a “Queens” look.

 

Big Nickel, Regular nickel, learn the difference: Football 201

big nickel formation

Coaching defense in the era of 11 personnel, the rewards of throwing the ball down field, and the proliferation of the fullback has forced defensive coordinators to make nickel defense as big a part of their game plan as their base defense.

For argument’s sake, nickel defense will line up in some sort of 4-2-5 look.  The 5 in back are who we should spend some time on, as well as touching on who the 4 and 2 are (as opposed to base defense).

big nickel formation
Teams that play “Regular Nickel” are playing with 2 safeties, and 3 corners.

This allows the defense gets its best “cover” guys out on the field while still being able to have 2 high safeties in the back end.  Every coverage a defense has in its playbook is in play with this personnel. The issue though is they have forsaken their run defense when they take the Sam linebacker out of the game and replace him with a corner.

Some teams have resorted to pulling the Mike out for a corner, and leaving the Sam in the game to hedge on the run game.

If Down and Distance indicates that a run play is a threat on 2nd & 4 with 11 personnel and a team likes their “regular nickel” against this particular matchup, a team may be tempted to hedge its bets and leave the Sam in and hope they can cover up his warts as a pass defender with their back 5.

big nickel formation

There has been a movement with teams to play “Big Nickel”.

Basically, instead of having 3 CB’s and 2 Safeties, teams flip it and have 2 CB’s and 3 Safeties on the field.  What this says to an opposing offensive coordinator is “we are gonna play nickel defense against your 11 personnel group, but we will not hand you the running game on a platter”.

The 2 positives of playing big nickel are

1: getting the Sam LB out of the game.  He is typically the worst pass defender, so he’s a liability in the pass game, and he can’t carry the TE (Y) on deep over routes unless he’s an All-Pro-caliber Sam LB.

2: This is hedging the bet against the run game by putting a 3rd safety in the game. This is a guy who does not mind becoming a box player if he reads run.  He also is a better candidate to blitz than a CB would be.

Teams that play “Big Nickel” will typically play it on normal Down & Distance (where the threat of the run is greater) and on 3rd & Long will look to play “Regular Nickel” or just straight up “Dime” (6 DB’s) defense.

However, there is a bit of a downside to playing “Big Nickel”. Typical 3rd Safeties are not going to be able to cover a regular S (slot) receiver man to man. They can get eaten alive by guys like Cole Beasley on shallow crosses and all the quick game routes these types of receivers will run.

To give the 3rd safety help, teams have to either help him with giving the LB’s some coverage responsibility so the 3rd safety can cheat and get deeper. They can also flip it and give him help by playing the Free Safety behind him, therefore allowing him to sit and squat on the short and intermediate routes.

Either way, a DC is really stressing out the coverage on other players to try to help the 3rd safety. In addition, the combination of coverages you can now play are reduced as opposed to when you’re playing “regular nickel”.

As with everything in defensive football, the game is to always hedge your bets and play the scouting report and film evaluation. There is no perfect defensive scheme, so there are times when teams just have to pick a poison and then make adjustments as each play happens.

Scouting Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: Traits the NFL looks for

scouting wide receivers and running backs

In this NFL Scouting series, we will cover each position group. In the real report I used, there are pictures of the player in various movements, with comments about each. In order to keep anonymity for the Scout, I’m only using the words, no photos, or the handwritten notes used. Scouting wide receivers and tight ends gives you a glimpse into what happens in their world.

Unlike the QB report, this is one page, but there’s less to analyze with this position group than the guys under center. Even so, when scouting wide receivers and tight ends, not only do they put together these analyses, but visit games, watch film, analyze them at the combine, any bowls and often host them at their facilities.

While there was less to cover, they still went in-depth and beyond what the average fan would consider. Scouting Halfbacks and Fullbacks gives the reader a chance to see inside the minds of what NFL general managers are looking for. Hopefully, this will help you watch the game with more detail and talk with knowledge.

They break down film, have them do whiteboard work, talk to coaches, etc. The actual one below is based on, had photos showing:

  • route running
  • sticking defender
  • downfield avoidance
  • homerun ability
  • catch in stride
  • body shield DB at catch point
  • body control at top speed
  • fast twitch
  • threat red zone

When Scouting Wide Receivers and Tight Ends they look for

  • Catch outside the frame ⊃
  • Speed Cut 〉
  • Square Cut ⌈
  • Double Move ζ

Body

  • coverage recognition
  • ball reaction – see & adjust track ball
  • body unravels in stride/cuts
  • crowd catch
  • extend to pluck
  • ball vs body catcher
  • adjust body on the move
  • fluid athlete
  • separation from defender body position
  • release vs man press (body strength, hand strength)
  • hands (soft/hard)
  • excess movement in stride
  • natural ball catcher
  • burst in route stem
  • top end speed
  • burst in/out of cuts
  • jumping ability/timing
  • R.A.C. – burst/acceleration/elude/efficiency/toughness
  • extra gear to separate
  • initial quickness
  • build to speed
  • release vs zone/man
  • lateral elude/make you miss

Mentality

  • interest in run game
  • blocking tenacity
  • crack block
  • settle in voids/spaces underneath in pass game
  • scramble drill
  • make himself available to QB on run
  • work back to ball
  • find holes

Notes

Here are notes used when scouting wide receivers and tight ends. Notice that for most of the TE’s, he cared more about blocking than catching. That’s the #1 job in most scout’s eyes.

  • High points ball well. elusive in screen game. A little sloppy on his routes. Good feet. Question his game speed. Tough, but rough around the edges. Feel like game film would look different.
  • Long, good blocker. Facemask to chest type blocker. Finishes on his feet. Big frame and great bend. Put 30 pounds on him and he’s an athletic tackle. Really explodes through defender. Big legs.
  • Tough. Able to get to 2nd level. A little high on his drive blocks. Questionable hip bend. Hands like a WR. Queen TE. Does not look like he likes blocking.
  • Long legged strider. Runs with ease. Nice route runner. Comes back to ball well with ease. Good hands. Gets to you of his route with ease.
  • Runs through tackles. Elusive, fast and tough. Creative. Don’t know if he has a 4.4 speed, but would play well in the slot. Catches ball with hands. A little sloppy on his 3 cut. Goes and gets the ball. Good player.
  • Whoa tough as nails blocker. Refuses to be tackled solo. Uses body to box out smaller players. Football awareness high. Good bend and sink. Strong upper body. Could add 20 pounds. Good player.
  • Smooth route runner. High points ball. Basketball type player. Fluid movement, soft hands and hard to tackle. Climbs to 2nd level well on doubles Don’t know about brute strength. Skinny legs.

Hope this gives you insight into what the NFL looks for when scouting wide receivers and tight ends. Any questions, you can comment below.

Scouting Quarterbacks: read what the NFL is looking at

In this NFL Scouting series, we will cover each position group. The first will be scouting quarterbacks. In the real report I used, there was pictures of the quarterback in various movements, with comments about each. In order to keep anonymity for the Scout, I’m only using the words, no photos of the QB the below, or the handwritten notes used.

What’s fascinating about about the two page report is how detailed it is. When scouting quarterbacks, not only do they put together these analysts, but visit games, watch film, analyze them at the combine, any bowls and often host them at their facilities.

They break down film, have them do whiteboard work, talk to coaches, etc. Choosing a quarterback isn’t usually some whim, it’s a long process based on reports like below. The actual one below is based on, had photos showing:

  • stride
  • hit & throw
  • weight transfer
  • low take-away
  • ball sails position
  • level throw
  • throwing plane
  • ball carry during drop & pocket movement (*compact/2 hands on ball)
  • frame throws: shoulders, hips, lead leg aligned w target
  • slightly flexed front leg
  • high extended over the top release
  • daylight in the grip+adequate hand size
  • compact lead arm
  • hip torque
  • accuracy on the move

There were lines often on the photos showing the above notations.

After the snap how was his:

  • pocket awareness
  • vision
  • locate 2nd WR
  • force into coverage, release quickness
  • arm strength
  • quick/compact vs elongated
  • smooth fluid vs jerky
  • anticipation
  • short stroke
  • change release point
  • technician in mechanics
  • accuracy, short & long
  • touch
  • grip
  • resets quickly
  • balance
  • throws on the run
  • pocket mobility
  • lateral pocket movement
  • weight transfer
  • stride (short =2″-6″)

There’s more that they look at pre-snap.

  • leadership
  • poise
  • judgement
  • defense recognition
  • pre-snap reads
  • primary/secondary WRs
  • blitz recognition
  • audibles
  • who call pro?
  • redirect protections
  • respect for the football

In the pocket:

  • feel for rush
  • pocket use
  • slide/step up
  • strength in pocket
  • make 1st rusher miss
  • temperament
  • squirrelly in the pocket

We’re not done yet on scouting quarterbacks. More items they look for:

  • catchable ball
  • make WR adjust
  • throw away from coverage
  • drive ball into tight coverage
  • hit WR in stride
  • trajectory
  • TOUCH: throwing angles
  • velocity
  • improvisation
  • finds passing lanes
  • trusts his arm
  • leadership-ability to command
  • voice inflection
  • knowledge of the game
  • game manager
  • clock management

Grades on these types of throws:

  • go
  • seam
  • shallow cross
  • dig
  • out
  • deep out
  • comeback
  • quick slant
  • bubble screen
  • check down

Here are the types of notes that can be made when scouting quarterback:

  • Touch, but power on his 8 cut through traffic. Elusive, quick, nice touch on the run. Eyes downfield on scramble. Power runner, looks for contact. Tough kid that’s quick. Very accurate on the run. Don’t know about pocket awareness. Gets to 2nd level well. Tough player. Needs to get stronger. Eyes downfield on scramble.
  • Steps up nicely in the pocket. Elusive. Big arm. Puts ball where only his guys can catch it. Gets away with some high school dare balls.
  • Bullet for arm. A little too reliant on arm strength. Throws off back foot sometimes. Confident. His highlights are based most off of 4 vert concepts. Quick feet. Can buy time on the move. Ball comes out high. Nice 3 ball. Stands tall and delivers strikes. Uses frame well. Drops ball well into coverage.
  • Long motion. Electric. Nice job looking off safeties. Would like to see more reads/routes, but system doesn’t seem to allow for it. Further evaluation needed. Athletic enough to play in both a pro and spread offense.

There you have it, what scouts look at, the type of items they look for and some notes they’ll make. Obviously, the bulleted items above will have numbers or notes and on their QB eval sheet will have many hand scribbled notes.

Learn about Stem Routes and why running them well helps the quarterback: Football 101

Over the last two seasons, we’ve seen inconsistent quarterbacking, but the receivers (and tight ends) weren’t consistently performing at their top-level. Plus, the depth behind them was poor. A very good QB can overcome, but weak play from receivers only compounds poor quarterbacking.

Why bring this up with Stem Routes? Because the Stem of a route begins the moment the wide receiver (or TE) pushes off. The black line below is the stem. As mentioned in the option route piece, WRs need to sell every route as looking the same. Running a Stem sounds simple: run until you turn (make break). It’s not.

*to note: this is Football 101, simple is used. Many sentences can use the words, usually or typically.

At the LOS, most plays will have a CB line up against them, either in soft press, hard press or off man (seven or so yards back from the LOS). That CB wants to mirror his guy, read his hips and respond. A good WR is able to keep his hips pointing one direction, sink them, plant his outside (or inside foot), and turn on a dime before the CB can react.

This creates separation.
It’s important to know that while the Stem starts at the line of scrimmage, mentally it begins much sooner: in the film room. Receivers need to know the CB’s who will be covering them. If he is an aggressive guy who likes to play hard press, then that first push at the LOS could be a step back. Why?

As covered in hard press, the CB wants to jam his guy, disrupt his timing so the route is shot. When the ball is snapped, the good WR takes a step back and lets his CB come at him, then pushes him aside and bam, he gone.

Remember in press, the hips don’t lie? The stem is all about the hips. If a receiver can get his hips inside, he’s open. That’s the size of an NFL window—the width of a pair of hips.

The dance between the WR and CB is all about who can get their hips to lie, read their opponents (and QB) and get the other to bite.

Rookie receivers tend to struggle with that part. They can run a route, catch the ball, but the ability to do what Diggs does in the below play, is tough to come by. Selling the stem and making the cut against the #1 CB.

Have a QB who can’t throw a rocket or on a dime, but still manages to make good plays? He has receivers who help him by creating space they can maneuver in. If the ball is a tad slow or off by a foot because there is separation, it lessens the chance of an interception. It also allows the receiver to adjust to the ball since there’s no defender draped over him.

Seasoned CB’s know which QBs struggle and they will try to jump a route, this makes selling the stem that more important. Get the CB to bite on a dig, but run a post, etc.

The below gif was against Aqib Talib in 2015 (who was tops), Stephon Diggs was a rookie in his first game against the top corner that season. Diggs keeps his head straight, his hips straight, plants his leg wide as if he’s going to go inside and instead runs an out route. Gets Talib to turn his hips out. Perfection.

Good Stem Routes should create separation.

My guess is Talib got over-confident. Didn’t expect this from some 21-year-old kid, so he got burned. That step sold it, look at all that space. The crappiest of crappy QBs can look like heroes if their WRs can give that barn door-sized window.

Jacksonville needs their young receiving corps of Marqise Lee, Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook and rookie DJ Chark to play at Diggs’ level who’s even better now. One step is all it takes to help or hurt Bortles.

Another trick WR’s can do on their Stems is a double (or triple) move. They can be used at any depth; it’s all about where the WR thinks he can shed his coverage. When he can get leverage off the hips, get the CB’s pointing away from where the route should end, he’s won. Even though he’s making more than one cut, it’s still the same stem because the route is about where the ball should be caught.

In summation, the stem is to trick the corner into going one way, while he goes another and to do that, he needs agility, speed, knowledge and a connection with his quarterback. Here’s to hoping our receiving corp can deliver.

Scouting Halfbacks and Fullbacks: read what the NFL is looking for

In this NFL Scouting series, we will cover each position group. The first was quarterbacks. In the real report I used, there are pictures of the backs in various movements, with comments about each. In order to keep anonymity for the Scout, I’m only using the words, no photos, or the handwritten notes used.

Scouting halfbacks and fullbacks gives you a glimpse into what happens in their world.

Unlike the QB report, this is one page, but there’s less to analyze with this position group than the guys under center. Even so, when scouting backs, not only do they put together these analyses, but visit games, watch film, analyze them at the combine, any bowls and often host them at their facilities.

While there was less to cover, they still went in-depth and beyond what the average fan would consider. Scouting Halfbacks and Fullbacks gives the reader a chance to see inside the minds of what NFL general managers are looking for.

Hopefully, this will help you watch the game with more detail and talk with knowledge. They break down film, have them do whiteboard work, talk to coaches, etc. The actual one below is based on, had photos showing:

Style

  • one cut
  • slasher
  • compact
  • upright/erect
  • pick & slide
  • screen type
  • slippery

Overall Size

  • bruiser
  • diminutive
  • lengthy
  • high cut

Inside run

  • acceleration in hole
  • strength
  • balance
  • effort
  • burst

Outside run

  • stride
  • speed to corner
  • cutting ability
  • elude

Elusive run

  • make defender miss
  • vision
  • darter vs weaver
  • iline & open field

Routes

  • precise cuts vs round off
  • gather body
  • separation quickness
  • body stiffness to adjust on move
  • flexibility to adjust

Run after catch

  • acceleration
  • elude
  • toughness

Fumbler? Reason

  • carriage
  • carelessness
  • extra effort
  • physical make-up

Pass Pro

  • willing? effective?
  • adjust
  • vision/blitz recognition
  • inside power
  • outside lateral adjust
  • chip
  • cut block

This is an important list scouting halfbacks and fullbacks

  • instincts
  • vision (cutback), hole/block read
  • pad level
  • durability
  • stamina
  • workload limitations
  • center of gravity
  • ball security
  • suddenness
  • best in open space
  • hands? extends to pluck vs gather
  • balance after contact
  • elude (in open field)
  • balance
  • make defender miss
  • bender?
  • explosive speed
  • burst through hole
  • initial quickness
  • lateral bounce
  • leg/fee management on contact
  • short strider

All the lists above will have remarks, numbers, grades. In addition, after watching games and film, the scout could make notes like these, which were after a game. Each paragraph is a different player.

  • Squirter. Elusive, low to ground runner. Does not take a hit square. Good vision that belongs between tackles. Strong legs, keeps them driving. Runs through, not around you. Power game runner, question his vision. 1 cut and go. Not a HR hitter.
  • Keeps legs pumping. Tough, quick burst back. elusive, but one cut guy. Low center of gravity. Doesn’t get squared up to get t tackled. Little target. Can break away.
  • Nice hands, smooth mover. Breakaway speed, hides behind and sets up blockers well in screen game. Low center of gravity. Hard to hit. N/S runner. Great vision and elusive player. Doesn’t stop legs.
  • Shifty, breakaway speed. electric. Open field=gone. Runs through arm tackles. Low center of gravity. Good hands. Good patience and vision. Really pops off the screen.
  • Like him, more of an outside the tackles RB. does well squaring up his shoulders. Lines up in the slot at times, ran a fairly sloppy 5 cut, but cuts looked fine. Has ability, but for being a speedster, I question his breakaway.
  • Breakaway speed. elusive, but not a dancer. Downhill runner. Big body. Tall, but runs low. does not give a big tackling target. Long legged strider. Tough runner. does not turn down a tackler. Like this kid as both a spread and dot back.

There you have it, what scouting halfbacks and fullbacks look like, the type of items they look for and some notes they’ll make. Obviously, the bulleted items above will have numbers or notes and on their RB/FB eval sheet will have many hand scribbled notes.

Hope this was helpful, you can comment at the bottom of the page or send a direct message to @the_teal_zone on twitter.

Hard Press Coverage is an art form: Football 101

There are two forms of press coverages: hard and soft. In a second article, I’ll address soft coverage.

*To note, this is Football 101, so it’s a simple explanation and everything comes with a usually or typicallyso insert it in most things written.

The hard press starts at the line of scrimmage. The wide receiver (or tight end) and cornerback face each other with little space between. Once the ball is snapped, the CB has five yards past the LOS to push, slap, and bump the WR/TE, after that it can be called defensive pass interference in the NFL.

CB’s will watch the WR’s hips and keep his feet constantly moving, while shading towards the inside (if needed) because the goal (usually) is to keep the WR from making a break towards the center of the field. If he’s got the inside edge, he’s using his hands to prod, slap, and jam the WR while keeping his inside leverage.

The CB wants to jam his guy towards the outside so it gives his safeties more time to assess the play, makes it a harder throw for the QB, and is easier to push the WR out of bounds if the ball is caught. This is why he’ll often line up on the WR’s inside hip, this helps keep the WR from turning in.

This type of hard press is an absolute route killer, which results in one less open guy. It’s most effective on short routes and why having a good slot cover is imperative. Jax needs D.J. Hayden and Tyler Patmon to step up because they play a lot of nickel and the slot is key.

Smaller CB’s can struggle against big TE’s if their form isn’t perfect. A CB with long limbs can keep his hands on the WR while maintaining enough space to move and make plays on the ball.

The key to winning this match-up is: the hips don’t lie. CB’s should follow the hips, not the eyes or shoulders of the WR. Only the very best WR/TE can have their hips pointing in one direction and then break off in a another suddenly.

Chad Johnson was one of the best at these agile moves. Julio Jones is among the best at using his strength to break the jam and streak down the field. They are few and far between. This is why WR’s (especially the raw) struggle running routes against seasoned CB’s. Their hips don’t lie.

If this dance lasts past five yards, the CB is no longer jamming his guy anyway he can, he’s now running hip to hip (with some bumps and sneaky slaps) with the receiver. Good press guys will slap the hand as the WR is catching the ball. As long as contact is at the same time, it’s not a flag. This ritual between the two isn’t for the weak, it’s all mind games, athleticism and focus.

CB’s who can back-pedal, shove, bump, herd his guy at the same time and keep an arm free to intercept passes, are ones who often ones who make All-Pro and Pro-Bowls.
The next type of coverage is soft press, which will be covered in a separate article.

This film clip shows Jalen Ramsey as the guy who does it all.

Off man/standard coverage simply explained: Football 101

“Off man” coverage begins seven yards back. Why is off man in quotes? Because there really isn’t such a thing as off man coverage. Corners standardly line up this way. When they’re up on the line, that’s press. I’m guessing people started saying off man because the corner isn’t on his man and wanted to give it name besides standard.

As explained in the hard and soft press coverage articles, both begin close to the line of scrimmage. Hard is all about jamming the WR with the hands and body, while soft press is more about using body positioning to disrupt the route. Touch them after five yards and you get a flag. Both are used in man coverage.

*to note: this is Football 101, so things are explained simply and in basic terms. The words, usually and typically can apply to most sentences. Also to *note, WR or TE applies. Finally, there is a whole series of Football 101, if you have questions about formations, terms used, etc., we most likely have it in an article. Use search to find it or go through the Football 101 page.

Standard coverage is seen more in zone defense. He needs space because while he may be tasked to mirror one guy, he has to cover anyone who enters his zone. At any point in time during the play, another receiver (WR, TE, or RB) can come into the zone and it is the CB’s responsibility to pick it up.

In some ways, playing press is easier than zone because you only have one guy to cover. This should mean you’ve watched countless hours of tape on him and know how he runs, his and his quarterback’s tendencies. The downside is it’s tiring. The CB’s are running, backpedaling, and shuffling every single play.

Playing zone and “off” coverage allows CB’s to cover less ground. If they’re seven yards back, they’re watching the play develop in front of them. If they have a deeper zone then there’s usually not as much back pedaling at the snap.

The goal is to keep the play in front of them. If the WR gets within his cushion, the CB will break from his back pedal and begin running into his deep zone while covering that man. If the play is on the other side of the field, then his job is to begin pursuit.

This means, give up the short hops, but stop the intermediate to deep passes. If a team has really good inside linebackers who can cover, the CB’s job becomes easier.

Mentally, zone is more exhausting because the CB is watching several players at once. If you’ve got a team who likes the spread (using four or even five receivers), the CB could have three men to watch (plus the QB’s eyes).

In those cases, it’s impossible to have both (or three) CB’s play man press because someone(s) is free to roam. Guess the wrong guy and you better have great safeties to mop up (we do). However, generally once safeties are needed, you’ve got a big chunk play.

Sometimes, one section of the field plays man while one or two play zone. This can occur if a team has only one top talent like the Bengals with A.J. Green. They can put their best CB on the star WR and the remainder of the defense can cover the rest with either zone, man, or a combination of both.

If they’re running a combo scheme, then as the WR runs his route with the CB on his tail, he’ll end up double or tripled covered as he runs through other defender’s zones. This can be an effective way to shut a star player down. Just look at how Jalen Ramsey took care of A.J. Green in 2017.

If a team’s best CB can’t hang with a wily and speedy devil like Julio Jones, then the CB1 may decide to play standard man because he wants the space to turn quickly. Jones could knock a man down and blow the doors off before he realizes what’s happened if he plays him on the line. Not to mention, Matt Ryan isn’t a schlub in fitting a ball in.

Which brings us to another reason a CB may want to play back: the quarterback. Some QB’s love their dink and dunk or have a tendency to stare the receivers down. This means, why play press man when you can just watch the QB and jump any route? Squat like a toad, dare him to throw to the open guy in front and break up every pass he telegraphs.

http://www.nfl.com/m/share?p=%2Fvideos%2Flondon-games%2F0ap3000000849709%2FJalen-Ramsey-snags-diving-interception

Bad quarterbacks can make throws look good because of the space; however, once a defense gets a read on the QB, it’s often curtains. Routes get jumped, balls get batted, intercepted and a bad day ensues.

On the flip side, really good quarterbacks love zone coverage if they’re playing average defenses. They use their eyes to sell everything, but where they’re going, and good Offensive Coordinators will use that like a dream. Not to mention, that space gives them room to lead their receiver…right into the end zone. Even good defenses can get lost on occasion (see the SF game). Which leads us to why every team does use trickery.

Often, corners will line up as if they’re in zone in a standard formation, but actually they’re playing man press or the reverse. They’ll use this based on the QB, receivers and who they’re playing. It’s always about the art of illusion. We have a few articles on the different formations that can be used that apply to where the DB’s play, just search in Defense Formations.

In summation, playing in a standard “Off man” coverage (seven or more yards back from the LOS), gives the cornerback more choices and more room to make them. When to do so is based on the defensive play, trickery of the defensive coordinator, the skill level of the quarterback and receiver.