Film Study: LaFleur's Playbook - Dagger

Last week we talked about Spacing, a quick-hitting concept designed to pick up 5-7 yards.So what do we do this week? Why, we go back to pushing the ball down the field, of course. Welcome to the Dagger concept.

Dagger itself is a two-man concept; a vertical push from the slot receiver and a dig from the outside receiver. In this case, that action takes place on the left side of the formation. The idea is have the slot receiver draw the attention of the safety then have the dig work behind it, in the space created from that push.

The Titans ran a few different versions of this last season, but this is my favorite. The go route on the right works as a clear-out route, helping create space for the slot crossing route to work under. Under this combination, the go route works to create space for the deep slot route and the deep slot route works to create space for the dig.

Beyond that, we've got two short options out of the backfield. Let's talk about what that does. The Dagger combo works on timing and space. Space is created downfield on the dig by the slot fade, but that doesn't mean anything if the linebackers drop back and under that route. If they fall under the dig, there are two options underneath with room to move. If the linebackers stay up on the shallow routes, there's room to fit in a throw to the dig. 

So this gives us three downfield options and two late checkdown options heading in opposite directions. We've got the possibility of a big gain, paired with a couple easy completions underneath. (And before anyone says anything snarky, I believe the "Rodgers refuses to checkdown" narrative from 2018 was overblown.)

What Could This Look Like In Green Bay

Personnel grouping: 11 (1 running back, 1 tight end, 3 wide receivers)

Wide Receivers: Davante Adams [17], Marquez Valdes-Scantling [83] and Equanimeous St. Brown [19]. I originally had Adams and Valdes-Scantling swapped, but it made more sense to have Valdes-Scantling in the slot. I need speed in that spot, and Valdes-Scantling has more of that than Adams. Beyond that, I need the dig route to be precise and violent, both of which Adams excels at. For St. Brown, I need enough speed to be a threat on the outside and create space, and St. Brown has that. I also need a big guy who can potentially win a deep jump ball. At 6'5". St. Brown can certainly do that.

Tight end: Jimmy Graham [80]. I need a big body who can run a drag and know when to sit in a zone should it come to that. Graham fits that description.

Running back: Aaron Jones [33]. I need someone who is dangerous in space with the ball in his hands. That's Jones.

What Could Green Bay Do With This 

Variation 1

The Dagger stays the same, but I've altered St. Brown's route from a go to a corner route. The angle of the break mirrors the push from Valdes-Scantling from the other side of the field. If the safety drops wider to pick up St. Brown, that provides more room for Valdes-Scantling. If the safety anticipates the go route and drops deep, St. Brown's cut to the corner will provide ample room for a throw.

I've also changed the route from Jones. Instead of providing a checkdown, he wheels up the seam behind the route from Graham. Get the linebackers anticipating the checkdown then streak past them

Variation 2

I've kept the Dagger the same, but I have shortened the routes. The more times we push it downfield, the better the chance there is of the whole thing getting blown up. So we're shortening everything, if only a little. It's still enough of a downfield push to move the safeties, which is really what we're looking for.

On top of the shortened Dagger, we're changing the other routes as well. St. Brown is running an angled comeback route. Again, if the idea is to occupy the safety to make room for the crossing Valdes-Scantling, a comeback route would be perfect for that. Push down the field then snap back. If the safety bites, Valdes-Scantling has room over the top. If the safety doesn't bite, we've got St. Brown on the comeback route.

Like the initial play, we have two checkdown options releasing to either side of the field, but the release points are different. Jones releasing out from under the formation should help move the linebackers over and out from under Valdes-Scantling. If it doesn't, Jones is open in space.

Likewise, Graham releases to the flat. That should keep the defender to that side shallow and stop him from dropping under the comeback from St. Brown.

Variation 3

We're pushing a little more on this one. Get the safety in the middle keying on the crosser from Valdes-Scantling. Get him looking to jump it, give him a pump fake then have Valdes-Scantling run up the seam and over the safety.

While we're doing that, we've got Adams running a post/corner. If the defense is thinking about the Dagger, they'll be looking at the in cut from Adams on the dig route. Give them a couple steps on that route before cutting back to the outside. Like the route from Valdes-Scantling, we're playing on what the defense is expecting to see. Get them leaning on that dig then hit them in the space vacated by an overeager defense.

On the right side, we've got a Smash concept. We've still got a route to take away the safety to that side, but this time we're running it out of the slot with Graham, while St. Brown runs a quick out.

Variation 4

Last but not least, we're tweaking a lot of pieces of this and rolling with the first concept we looked at: play action rollout to levels. You can see the pieces of Dagger showing up here, but changed slightly. We still have the push from Valdes-Scantling and Adams, but the cross from Valdes-Scantling is shallower and ends up acting as the deep level. Jones steps in for the playfake before heading to the flat, while St. Brown acts as the middle level. Graham fakes a downblock before heading across the field on a wheel, cutting under the post from Adams.

We've got levels! We've got Adams working behind the levels into some (hopefully) vacated space. We've got Graham sneaking behind the defense on a wheel. But what we really have, at the center of it all, is happiness. Pure, unbridled happiness.


Albums listened to: Radiohead - In Rainbows; Various Artists - Tiny Changes: A Celebration of Frightened Rabbit's The Midnight Organ Fight; Jesca Hoop - Stonechild; Kristofer Astrom - Quadrilogy

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Dusty Evely is a film analyst for Cheesehead TV. He can be heard talking about the Packers on Pack to the Future or Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter at @DustyEvely or @All22Talk or email at [email protected].

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Comments (3)

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Lare's picture

July 25, 2019 at 04:43 pm

The thing I noticed in the video is that the two check-down players are wide open, nobody within 10 yards of them.

Move the chains, throw the high-percentage short pass, that's what I'd like to see more of this season.

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Rick F's picture

July 25, 2019 at 06:56 pm

The earlier the run is established and gets those safeties up the more aggressive vertically they can be. Rodgers has a quick trigger and wide outs that can run after the catch. This system breaks down defenses and exploits the soft spots. The line is the key to the success in both facets. Plus note they looked fast. Teams in years past didn’t have all this foot speed. Roster is loaded with NFL talent.

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Packer Fan's picture

July 25, 2019 at 07:45 pm

So did the Packers have something similar to this last year? In this play, the QB threw in time without significant pressure. The crossing TE was the most open for a good gain.

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