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X's & O's: Jordy Nelson's 2nd TD vs. Texans...Thanks To Jarrett Boykin?

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X's & O's: Jordy Nelson's 2nd TD vs. Texans...Thanks To Jarrett Boykin?

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.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (26) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

CSS's picture

Great stuff, POC! I really want to see McCarthy and Rodgers show patience and employ this next time they get nothing but cover 2 and 2 deep looks. Are they willing to show patience when forced into a 60 minute game? That will be the real test to see if McCARTHY and company have turned the corner.

Pack Morris's picture

Very cool, thank you!

Turophile's picture

Thank you Paul Ott Carruth (and Aaron for putting it up). That was an excellent description of a play. For a moment or two there I felt I almost understood the game, heh. My IQ has jumped 10 points just reading this. Please post more, Paul.

I particularly like a critique of MM's designed plays, as few people can break things down well enough to show the reasoning behind the design.

This is the kind or article that may not get a ton of replies, but that is misleading. A great many of us fans are digesting this, you can be sure of that.

dat der Packer-backer's picture

Indeed.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Great job!
Love the play break down.

How many plays in this game were different then the previous 5 games, in terms of attacking the whole field?

Hopefully we will see more of this the rest of the season.

And honestly. I would like to see Boykin get more opportunity's. He was really good in the preseason.

anon's picture

Nice article. One point lost on me: did Boykin have flexibility in the route that we was supposed to run? Or was it just a pre-defined route?

For example, if Boykin adjusted his route based on the defense, then I could understand how we should be thanking him. If, however, he's just running the route designated by the playcall, then we should be thanking McCarthy.

Paul Ott Carruth's picture

An an honest answer is I don't know, however, typically routes that stem inside on crossers like that are not routes determined by coverage vs the shell of the defense (the safeties and corners). The only thing a shallow route like that will do is continue to run across the field away from man coverage or sit down in a window vs. zone. Boykin kept running. An example of a route adjustment vs. a deep coverage would be the fade converted in to a fade stop. Against a cover 2 the fade can be completed between the deep safety and the corner. However, vs. a cover 3 the route has to be converted to a fade stop or in route because the corner has dropped off to cover the 18-20 yard dead zone that would be open vs. cover 2.

Jersey Al's picture

Great stuff as always, but a bit of a reach to say a linebacker dropping into the throwing lane would have affected Rodgers' ability to complete a pass 40 yards downfield. The DB had good coverage. The pass was in a spot where only Nelson could reach it. That gets completed no matter what, unless Nelson drops it. So I disagree with your premise here, but still enjoy the play breakdowns.

Paul Ott Carruth's picture

Jersey Al...this was Jordy's second touchdown...the 21 yard reception. The 40 yard touchdown reception you are referring to was against man coverage against a single high safety look. In that case, there was no linebacker in the vicinity. The linebacker, in this cover 2 or quarters looks most definitely could have affected the throw. Not so much as getting his hands on the ball but allowing the Nickel defender to drop deeper in the coverage under Nelson's route. Because Boykin threatened the shallow area the linebacker chose to collision and defend that area. Also, because it was a mismatch for the linebacker, the Nickel has to maintain leverage and a shallower drop to help the linebacker on the route across the field in case the ball is caught by Boykin and YAC ensues. Most defenses do not cover any route that occurs within 5 yards from the line of scrimmage. That's why checkdowns are usually open. Defenses are content to come up and make the tackle. That's why I was surprised to see the Mike mug up on Boykin instead of dropping deeper. The Packer offense has shown its impatience by not taking those easy completions.

Jersey Al's picture

Sorry - that explains it. Should have read more carefully... Carry on! :)

Tarynfor12's picture

"That’s why I was surprised to see the Mike mug up on Boykin instead of dropping deeper. The Packer offense has shown its impatience by not taking those easy completions".

In your opinion,would the Mike LB not have mugged up if it was Driver and not Boykin?How much of Mikes' decision was based on player..DD/Boykin.

Paul Ott Carruth's picture

Well Taryn...now you're talking about the intricacies of the game and perhaps the most important one.....personnel match-ups. To answer your question directly....I don't know. I have hunch that the Mike would have collision the shallow route even if it was Driver executing it. Driver has lost a step. However, the only film the Texans would have had on Boykin would have been from the pre-season. How relevant is that film? I would tell you it means little. But who's to say. I think this has every thing to do with how Phillips coaches his unit. The linebackers are very aggressive and understandably so since they play a lot of man-free coverage which requires linebackers to play man coverage. It's kind of like the Packers defense in a sense. They are a man and man free team at their core so that's why when they play ultra conservative zone as they did against San Francisco and New Orleans they did so poorly. Defenses have to have the ability to play both man and zone but can't stray too far from what they do best nor can they keep sitting in what they've always done effectiveness be darned. It boils down to what has worked for us but also what is working today. It's really a delicate balance. Every other defender was playing a zone while those linebackers were executing man techniques on the underneath coverage. could have been by design (which is suprising) or just that those to LBs couldn't let their conditioned training let go for that one play. Tough to say really. But no, I don't think personnel had anything to do with the route design.

Tarynfor12's picture

Thank you for answering my queston.

I know the Packers WRs are/suppose to be able to play any spot/slot what have you,which was why I asked..MM trying to get a match-up in one spot to enable a better match-up elsewhere.

Role reversal...offense dictating to a defense instead of an offense taking what a defense gives you.

Really enjoy your breakdowns and replys.

Franklin Hillside's picture

This makes me realize I have no clue what's going on 95% of the time.

Thanks, Paul.

dat der Packer-backer's picture

:D

jr's picture

I really like the upside to alex green for the shallow routes as well, he catches the ball well out of the backfield and has shown that is is slipery enough to make a linebacker miss one on one. He's much more dynamic than the steady benson. GO PACK

MarkinMadison's picture

I think I said it last year, but I'll say it again. This stuff is gold. Bundle it up. Package it. Sell it. Lay out the different defensive schemes, different offensive schemes, the moves, counter moves. Cross index it. Explain why it works. The game moves so fast for most of us that even experts like you have to go, "maybe this, maybe that" on certain aspects of any given play (here quarters coverage v. cover 2). For those of us who didn't play past high school the schemes are so complex that we really only scratch the surface. This would be more valuable than any pre-draft guide.

PackersRS's picture

I'd buy it. And I'm a cheapskate.

ernie ernie's picture

Thanks. I was wondering why all the long 30 yard plus plays when teams like the Vikes were going short pass plays up the middle for that all important first down. I mean why not attack as many parts of the field you can and make coverage more difficult.
Again with the Vikes having a Harvin and or Pederson in the backfield makes it more dangerous.
If we had that speedy running back then our passing game would be even more dangerous than it is when people are defending the run.
My only issue and say it twice in the game: why are the receivers not going beyond the first down marker. Nelson got tackled two times one yard short of first down. This is a coaching issue they need to address. Know where the marker is and go past it.

AF_Cheddarhead's picture

Yes, and the defense knows where the first down markers are and defends them. Sometimes (most of the time) the receiver goes to the open spot, catches the ball, then tries to get the First Down with a bit of YAC. It is usually easier for the defense to knock the ball down than make a tackle for no additional yards.

Stop listening to the announcers so much!

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

My brain hurts.

GBP 4 LIFE

Rob's picture

Just wanted to add that articles like this are fantastic. Thank you.

2 share owner's picture

Excellent breakdown and dissection of a play, thanks Paul..... Keep em coming. Its guys like you who take the time to educate the packer nation, that is the reason Pack fans/owners are the smartest and and best in the league.

WisconsInExile's picture

Thanks, POC! Your stuff, and Matt Bowen's stuff, has done so much for my appreciation of pro football. I can't get enough of it. Save a handful of people, nobody appreciates how much intelligence playing and coaching pro football really takes. I'm beginning to see why guys with pure talent don't always translate into big time players, especially at skill positions (and the o-line), and why so few NFL coaches have rings.

WisconsInExile's picture

I would love to see 12 hit some of those drag routes on 3rd and short against Cover 2 looks. I think defenses are well aware of Aaron's tendency to exploit those situations for big plays, and I suspect that results in a very high completion percentage throw. I just don't think I've seen a Packers receiver run a drag route all season until this week, or more than a handful of crossing routes for that matter. That puzzles me, because McCarthy strikes me as an offense strategy wonk, yet it seemed--until lately--that McCarthy has only called plays from a very restrictive subset of his book. Has he drank to much of his own score fast/score often Kool-Aide?

Or does it seem more like a reflection of his trust in his receivers to make the correct adjustments? Cobb is noted for his football smarts, and is compared to a young Jennings by 12. McCarthy uses both in creative ways. He said Jordy would have to learn the expanded route tree this year in order to be able to lineup Jordy in the slot as well. Is there a chance he didn't feel like Jordy was able to handle it, and so kept leaning on Nelson and Jones to attack the corners? From a fan's perspective, it seems like without Jennings to move into the slot, we only saw a few targets of Finley and Driver across the middle--if we ignore Cobb's contribution. You wonder if having Cobb run drags, shallow crosses, and slants wouldn't scare the crap out of most defensive coordinators and open up more intermediate passes that the Packers covet.

Wild_Bill's picture

Thank you for the breakdown. I went back and read some of your other posts. GREAT STUFF!!

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