Film Study: LaFleur's Playbook - Post/Wheel

Two weeks ago we talked about the Shot/Wheel combo. Last week we talked about diverging routes with a vertical push. Today, we'll be covering a concept very near and dear to my heart: the post/wheel. Like a lot of these concepts, Matt LaFleur is not the only person that uses this concept. In fact, we've seen the post wheel featured in Green Bay recently. We saw it in 2017 when Brett Hundley and the Packers went into Pittsburgh and almost beat the Steelers. The post/wheel was responsible for one of the biggest plays of that game: a 39 yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb in the 1st quarter.

We saw it last year when Aaron Rodgers connected with Marquez Valdes-Scantling up the left sideline against the 49ers.

So what is post/wheel? It's exactly what it sounds like. The core idea is, anyway. Let's look at it a little closer.

We're going to focus on the action on the left, because that's where the post/wheel action is. You'll see a lot of wheel routes run from the backfield, but it's not exclusively run from there, as you can see in the above image. On this play, Equanimeous St. Brown [19] is running a post route from the outside, while Marquez Valdes-Scantling [83] angles out under St. Brown and runs a wheel up the sideline. Meanwhile, Davante Adams [17] kind of meanders off the line at the snap before looking back as a late checkdown option.

You can see how the post/wheel works here: 

In this clip, the 49ers appear to be playing Cover 2, but with only one high safety, shaded to the trips side (three wide receivers on the left for the Packers). The outside cornerback stays with the post while the safety stays over the top to help with the post. The shallow defender stays with Adams, leaving Valdes-Scantling wide open on the wheel.

It's a three-on-three game, but not really. The safety has the deep assignment, which means you've got two defenders to deal with three receivers. The post takes the outside defender to the middle of the field, opening room on the wheel. If the shallow defender stayed with Valdes-Scantling on the wheel, Adams is open with a ton of space on the checkdown.

My reason for showing this is less to say, "Hey look, the Packers run this concept too," and more to highlight the difference between this and the Titans clip I'm about to show, and also to talk about a larger point when it comes to passing concepts.

The action to the left should look vaguely familiar: an in-cutting route and a wheel behind it. While there are similarities and the overall idea is the same, there are a few significant differences. Let's talk about those.

Let's start with the obvious, which can be seen in the diagram. The Packers were running a post/wheel while it looks like the Titans are running a deep-curl/wheel. I believe that this is a post wheel with an option to cut off the route on a curl. If the safety shades up, the receiver will run the post. In this case, the safety hangs back, so the receiver runs a curl underneath him.

Besides that, there are a couple pretty big differences between these plays. For starters, the Titans run this play with pre-snap jet sweep action, then pair that with play action to the tight end (playing the role of fullback in the I-formation). The Packers have the play action element, and that's critical for both. It pulls the defense up and in towards the line, and also puts the defense going a step in the wrong direction, which can send them scrambling back into their positions. It also helps open the edges. In the case of this Titans play, just watch the defensive back crashing the hole. He's coming up to help on the run, and doesn't realize he has been duped until the tight end is streaking past him on the wheel.

Another significant difference between these two plays is the starting point of the wheel. On both plays, the post starts from the outside, which makes sense; if the goal is to clear out the edge for the wheel to operate in, the post needs to start from the outside. However, the wheel starts in a completely different spot. In the Packers clip, it starts from the trips formation, while the play in this Titans clip starts from the backfield. 

Different formations, different personnel, different starting points for the wheel. It doesn't matter. Both of them work off deception and they work beautifully. Don't let the fact that the throw in the Titans game went to the curl: the wheel is open. This worked. When evaluating plays, we look at the process, not the result. The process worked, even if the result was less than ideal.

What Could This Look Like in Green Bay

We're doing this a little different this week. Most weeks we set the personnel grouping then base our variations around that grouping. Today we're going to play with different personnel groupings and different alignments. We're sticking strictly with the post/wheel, but I wanted to show how versatile it could be.

Variation 1

This looks a lot like the play the Packers ran against the 49ers, but we have Aaron Jones [33] working as the route under the post/wheel while Davante Adams [17] works back across the field. The benefit we get here is the possibility of putting the under defender in a more difficult position, with Adams pushing out before coming back inside and Jones releasing underneath. Even if the cornerback stays home on Adams, Jones can get the edge. 

The pivot from Adams also works well under the shallow post from Jimmy Graham [80], putting the middle of the defense in a bind. There's a bit of a spacing issue in the middle, but not enough to concern me.

Variation 2

This time we're running with a bunch and Jones on the wheel. Equanimeous St. Brown [19] is still running the post from the outside and Adams still works under the action, but it's more of a flat route than an out route. Marquez Valdes-Scantling [83] works the other side of the field with a drag, under the post from Graham. Jones sells the flat before heading up the field on a wheel. We have the benefit of some early criss-cross action between Valdes-Scantling and Adams on the release, which could cause some issues for the defense.

Variation 3

We're changing personnel, look and alignment, but we've still got the makings of a successful post/wheel. This time we've got two running backs in the backfield (Jones and Danny Vitale [45]) to go with Valdes-Scantling and Adams on the left and Jace Sternberger [87] on the right. We've got Sternberger in the role of "shallow route under the post/wheel," running a drag. that means we've scrapped the post route from that side and have Adams working over to the right off an angle route. The route of Adams isn't quite as severe as it is in Variation 1, so it's not likely to draw the defender to him in this version.

Lastly, we've got Vitale on the wheel and Jones staying back for pass protection. That portion of it is taken from the Titans play we looked at above.

Variation 4

Same alignment and personnel as Variation 3, but we're getting a little weird with it. Adams is releasing on a drag across the field to get into space quicker, and also to create a sort of mesh with Sternberger on the other side. Valdes-Scantling is still running a post, but the release is angled more towards the middle of the field. And why, exactly, is it angled towards the middle? Why, to make room for the two wheel routes behind it. That's right. Two wheel routes. This is what happens when you leave me unattended for a couple minutes.

Vitale runs a wheel up the seam while Jones runs a wheel towards the sideline. With Sternberger crossing underneath, I like the odds that either Vitale or Jones gets open. I'm penciling in a delayed release for Jones off play action, so I'm thinking Vitale will draw the coverage while Jones gets free up the field. And if both of those are covered, Sternberger likely has room to operate underneath.

Variation 5

We're packing it in tight and we're going heavy with a two tight end look. Valdes-Scantling and Jones are running the post/wheel. Robert Tonyan [85] runs an out off the left side of the line, working underneath those routes. Sternberger runs a curl to the middle of the field behind the route of Tonyan. That's to work a zone vacated by a linebacker shading over on the Tonyan route. Lastly, Adams is running an angle route off the right side. His release mirrors Sternberger's, which should put the middle of the defense in a bit of a bind; fall under Sternberger or Adams? They sell that release then split, with Adams angling hard toward the sideline.

You've got some quick-hitting options here, with a chance for something big if the wheel pops open.

Variation 6

We're rolling with a Full House Pistol look, because I do whatever I want.

Marcedes Lewis [89] has entered the fray, joining Tonyan and Jones in the backfield. This time we've got Adams running the post from the left while Valdes-Scantling runs a pivot route from the right. I've got Lewis shifting over and staying back to block while Tonyan runs a flat route and Jones hits the wheel. Lewis shifting in the backfield is big, as it plays with the defense a little. This will be run off play action, so the combination of Tonyan pushing out and Lewis shifting over helps sell a power run. So we've got the defense biting up and over on the play action. That helps open up the post from Adams and the pivot from Valdes-Scantling.

But it's not a run, so now the defense is falling back into position. While they're resetting a bit, Jones has time to slip by them on the wheel. The more I think about this one, the more I love it.

Variation 7

Same personnel, same alignment, different attack. This time it's Tonyan releasing on the wheel while Jones runs to the flat. Lewis releases to the right flat, under the pivot route from Valdes-Scantling. For the others I've been more concerned with the vertical push, while I'm looking more at the horizontal push from this one.

I showed more variations than I normally do in these space, but I could have drawn up 20 variations and still not felt like I had scratched the surface. Like I said at the top of this section, my goal was to show how this simple combination could be run from a number of different formations with a number of different personnel groupings, and have the wheel release from a number of different angles. In addition to that, I wanted to show how many different kinds of routes could be used to compliment it, all without abandoning the post/wheel action.

It's a flexible, powerful route combination that is not beholden to any one situation. Break this sucker out whenever, using whoever.

Albums listened to: The Jesus and Mary Chain - Psychocandy; Thom Yorke - ANIMA; Sarah Bethe Nelson - Weird Glow; Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein - Stranger Things 3 Score




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


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Comments (7)

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ejr450's picture

July 11, 2019 at 06:23 pm

These are my favorite articles of the week. Love the variations.

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DustyEvely's picture

July 11, 2019 at 11:09 pm

Thanks man. Truly appreciated.

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kevgk's picture

July 11, 2019 at 10:46 pm

excellent work. This is something you can continue throughout the season with the most recent examples

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DustyEvely's picture

July 11, 2019 at 11:23 pm

I'll be writing weekly throughout the season, focusing on a handful of passing concepts the Packers ran the previous week. Counting down the days until the season starts!

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Since'61's picture

July 12, 2019 at 09:31 am

Once again nice work Dusty. As I look at the variations for these plays each week it makes me think that Rodgers needs to keep his ability to audible at the LOS. Depending on how the defense lines up Rodgers needs to able to audible to the most effective variation of the play.

I realize that he will be limited by the personnel but there seem to be multiple variations for each personnel grouping. It may take a few games for Rodgers and the receivers to get in sync with the new offense and the resulting audibles. But this is where Rodger’s ability to read defenses can make a big difference.

In any case it should be fun to watch the Packers implement their new offense. Hopefully they will execute well and keep their opponents n their heels. Go Pack Go!
Thanks, Since ‘61

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hobowilly's picture

July 13, 2019 at 10:44 am

Thank you Dusty! Geez...i can't help but laugh out loud if by some miracle you were allowed to share this will boring McCarthy. For the ump-teen time, i submit AR knew and knows the offense better than MM in his dreams. AR bailed out MM several times with his miracle play making and game winning antics. Now we have a much more "creative" HC and hopefully the three (Hackett incl) will scheme up some pretty funky winning calls. Yes, it's about execution and players that can consistently do that, but it's also about knowing when to make these calls. I honestly believe GB has the players to win one on ones, especially with AR tossing to Tey and the other emerging WR's. Go pack.......WIN!

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PatrickGB's picture

July 13, 2019 at 03:17 pm

As 61 wrote, I too am excited to see this new offense. I wonder how many of these plays the coaching staff “borrows”. ;-)

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