Regular Cheesehead TV reader (and all-too-infrequent commenter) “Paul Ott Carruth”, a former player and coach who wishes to remain anonymous, breaks down different aspects of the Packers from an X’s and O’s standpoint. Today he takes a look at Jarrett Boykin’s surprising contribution to the Packers victory over the Texans.
Did anybody notice the huge contribution Jarrett Boykin made to the Packers Sunday night? He had no catches to speak of and he motioned nicely in mop up duty. Did you see what he did? It was the best play of the night (in my humble opinion) and all he did was run a route and he scored a touchdown….without touching the ball. I haven’t gone completely off the deep end ladies and gentlemen. If you’ll oblige me for a little bit I’ll explain my madness.
The play in question is Jordy Nelson’s second touchdown reception of the night. It is a 2 x 2 formation with Aaron Rodgers in the shotgun. From left to right we have Boykin, Finley, Jones, and Nelson. In the back field we have James Starks off-set to Aaron’s left. The Packers have 11 personnel on the field (1 back & 1 TE). So why did I pick this play to breakdown? Simple. The Packers Achilles heel has been attacking the various forms of Cover 2, be it soft 2 read, Tampa 2, or 2 Man. Anyone who watches film has seen this so it shouldn’t be news to anyone.
If you look at Diagram 1 you can see the Texans were in a 2 high shell and they were in their Nickel sub-package. I’ve removed the front 4 because they are irrelevant to the discussion of the route concept and how the defensive coverage was attacked. Now, I said the Texans were in a 2 high shell. This is indisputable. What is debatable is if this was Cover 2 or quarters coverage. My inclination is to say it was quarters due to the fact the 2 deep safeties, while aligned outside the hashes, were hugging them tightly. Either way, by looking at the routes in Diagram 1 you can see that Finley occupied the deep safety and corner to his side. On the opposite side, Jones takes an outside release around the Nickel defender and bends back to the middle of the field, thus occupying the deep safety to his side. Nelson runs a nice double move on the outside to leverage the corner and viola….touchdown.
However, let’s get real folks. It isn’t that simple.
Let’s take a look at Starks. He runs a simple swing route, a staple WCO outlet route and complimentary release to Boykin’s Shallow Cross. Why is this important? Well, the Mike and Will linebackers are executing what is known as a “Banjo.” This is simply playing a man to man technique on 2 offensive opponents after they declare their stems (not releases). The Mike is initially going to run with Starks on the swing route and the Will is going to take a zone drop and wall off Finley on his vertical stem. However, once Boykin stems on a shallow cross, the Will picks him up begins to run with him, that is, until, Starks releases on his swing route to the outside, forcing the Will to pass off Boykin to the Mike while the Will engages Starks on the swing route.
Diagram 2 is where we see Boykin’s route pay off in the form of a touchdown. I’ve place the receivers at their points in the route when the touchdown was completed along with the corresponding defensive movements in coverage. The Mike linebacker becomes an irrelevant piece of the coverage because he “mugs” up on Boykin shallow. Couple this with the routes by Finley and Jones and you get isolation with Nelson on the corner. Nelson has to beat the corner with his route and Rodgers needs to beat the Nickel back with his throw. The Nickel defender didn’t get a deep enough drop to affect the throwing window and we all know what happens when you give the best quarterback in the league a large lane to throw the ball.
To further illustrate the importance of Boykin’s route, and James Starks for that matter, let’s look at Diagram 3.
This diagram is a pure “what-if” scenario. I’ve kept all of the routes the same with the exception of Boykin. I’ve put Boykin on a vertical stem and as a result, the Mike can now drop in to the throwing lane allowing the Nickel to get a deeper drop under Jordy’s route. Instead of beating one man with the throw, Rodgers would have to beat two defenders, causing him to hold the ball waiting for someone to re-adjust their route and to get open.
This has been the crux of the Packers’ offensive woes….uneven pattern and wholly vertical pattern distribution. There were several other times in the game when I witnessed shallow crosses and 5 yard in routes. The Alex Green catch in the flat in the first half came as a result of a natural pick play when Jordy Nelson motioned to a wing position off of the TE and ran a shallow cross underneath the vertical stem of the TE, thus, clearing out the flat area . It was classic West Coast offense. For the first time this year, the backs were used, on occasion, as alternate targets on designed routes instead of the simple protect, sift and sit for the checkdown mentality that has become so prevalent in McCarthy’s offense.
So what does this mean? To me it signals, for the first time, McCarthy is willing to attack all areas of the field, horizontally (width wise using vertical stems in the seams), and vertically (length wise, short to long and vice versa using shallow crosses). When you combine the two concepts you can end up creating what are called oblique stretches ( a topic we could save for another day). This also shows how big chunk plays of 20+ yards can occur as a result of running one man on a shallow to control the area instead of simply running every receiver 20 yards on a vertical stem.
You will hear many pundits say over the course of the week that if Alex Green can run like he did and be effective enough to make defenses honor the run, the Packers will be miles ahead of where they have been. This is true without question. However, if the Packer offense continues to attack all levels of the defense in the passing game, they will be light years ahead of where they have been. So thank you Jarrett Boykin. That was the best touchdown catch I ever saw you never make…..or something like that.