Film Study: LaFleur's Playbook - Play Action Dig

Last week we talked about the Dagger concept, and once again found ourselves pushing the ball down the field, mainly because I can't help myself. However, I know that I can't help myself, so I occasionally remind myself to reign it in a bit. Not every pass can push everything down the field, no matter how fun it may be to draw up.

Getting some short, quick passes going can do a couple things. They can get the quarterback (and the entire passing offense) in a rhythm, but it can also get the defense to react to that rhythm. Quick passes can also condense the defense, bringing them tighter to the line. That alone opens up space behind the defense, but short passes also get the defense to think about jumping those short routes. 

Deep plays don't always just appear, and they're not always the result of an otherworldly play. A lot of times, deep plays are the result of a patient build. Death by a thousand cuts. Then, when it has been set up and they're thinking about all the quick-hitters they've seen on tape, you hit them.

We're starting off with something that should look awfully familiar (and will certainly look familiar to all Packers fans in 2019): quarterback set up in Pistol, jet sweep action pre-snap one way and play action after the snap the other way. That gets the defense off-balance immediately. The jet sweep gets them thinking about speed off the right side, while play action back to the left gets them leaning back the other way. It gets the defense moving back and forth while also taking a step towards the line. The entire idea of these quick-hitting concepts is to create vacant pockets in the defense to attack. The combined action of jet sweep and play action not only moves the defense back and forth, it also creates a little uncertainty. Uncertainty means slower reactions. which is exactly what you're looking for.

Marcus Mariota [8] is targeting the dig on the left, which makes sense. That's the play action side. The jet sweep won't necessarily pull the defense up to the line - that causes them more to spread out wide - but play action will. If you're looking to hit a play behind the defense, throw it behind the play action.

The jet sweep action also does a nice job here of making sure the middle is clear. The Ravens look like they could be playing Quarters defense, but one of the safeties sneaks up to play the role of Robber in the middle of the field. The jet sweep helps to pull that defender away from the middle, assuring he won't be able to jump under the dig route.

You can see a litlte better how the pieces move here. You've got a mugging linebacker off the end of the line. He is held in place by the play action, then is pulled out slightly wide by the release of the running back in the flat. Meanwhile, the outside defender holds for a beat at the play action, then releases wide. Depending on the defense, the deep defender could potentially rotate down and outside, allowing the wide defender in this play to fall under that dig route, but Mariota is looking at that. 

The receiver pushes up the field, causing the safeties to fall back. As soon as he cuts to the middle, Mariota releases the ball. Perfect timing into a nicely created pocket of space for the receiver to run to.

Pull 'em up, spread 'em out, hit 'em in the vacated zones. Easy as lyin'.

What Could This Look Like In Green Bay

Personnel: 11 - 1 running back, 1 tight end, 3 wide receivers

Wide Receivers: Davante Adams [17] Marquez Valdes-Scantling [83] and Trevor Davis [11]. The thought process behind this is pretty simple. I need a shifty receiver who can threaten with speed on the jet sweep (Davis), speed on the outside on the go (Valdes-Scantling) and someone who can run a quick and precise cut on the dig (Adams).

Tight Ends: Marcedes Lewis [89]. I want someone in to help sell the run game, so Lewis is my man.

Running Backs: Aaron Jones [33]. No justification needed.

What Could Green Bay Do With This

Variation 1

This is the exact same as the play we just looked at, with the exception of the Slam route from Lewis on the right side and the route of Valdes-Scantling going from a go route to a corner route. In this version, I'm wanting to target the jet sweep slightly later in the play. Look left, then come back to the jet sweep after a beat. That gets the defense going from scrambling to settled and looking elsewhere. In that movement, the jet sweep can go overlooked.

The route from Valdes-Scantling helps with this. By running a corner, the outside defender could be looking to fall under that route, leaving room for Davis in the flat.

Failing that, Lewis releases late. If a defender stays with Davis, that'll pull him wide. And if a defender falls under the corner, that pulls him wide and deep. Lewis could have a little room to work with.

Variation 2

This time we've got Lewis pushing deep on the post and Jones running an angle route under him. A little bit of Texas action! We've still got Davis in the flat and Valdes-Scantling running a corner, so we're working high-low reads on both the Valdes-Scantling/Davis and Lewis/Jones combos. Lastly, Adams is running a hard out. If he's not open on the break, that route should at least serve to give Lewis some room over the top.

Variation 3

This hearkens back to the idea of the original version, but we're playing with the route of Jones out of the backfield. The initial release from him looks the same, so that should pull up a defender and create some room for Adams behind him. But we're also working another idea. Get the defender looking to play that outside shoulder, then cut the route back to the middle of the field. Meanwhile, Lewis sneaks under the line and emerges out the other side. The hope is that we'll spread the defense wide, then get Jones to cut back into a hole created by that movement. It's also possible that the route from Jones could bring attention to the middle, allowing Lewis to sneak out into the flat.

Variation 4

Lastly, one of my favorites: the Seam Wheel. Jones still has his same intial release. Pair that with the jet sweep from Davis and the dig from Adams, and the defense could be thinking they've seen it all before. Then it all changes.

Jones cuts back to the right and runs a seam up the wheel, while Adams runs a post-corner. The post-corner is designed to get the defense looking for the quick-hitting dig, only to have the rug pulled out from underneath them. That move towards the sideline also helps everything else run as it needs to.

The goal of everything else works to spring Jones on the wheel up the seam. The jet sweep from Davis pulls the defense wide. The vertical pushes from Valdes-Scantling and Lewis should help to tie up the deep defenders. If anyone is running with Jones, it'll be a linebacker who is a bit late on the draw due to all the pre-snap and immediate post-snap motion. 

Set up your tendencies. Keep hitting those quick-hitters. Then, when you've got them leaning, hit the home run. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the home run.

As crazy as it is to believe, I really only have one post left before I'll start talking about preseason games. The offseason is long and filled with horrors, but the sun has finally appeared over the horizon, providing us with new football things to talk about.

This will actually be my last post looking at Matt LaFleur's 2018 Titans offense in this space. I've got something lined up next week that is going to be a lot of fun, but it doesn't really involve LaFleur. I've learned a ton through this, and I hope you have as well. Pretty soon we won't have to be talking about how the Packers roster could look running LaFleur's offense and talk about how it does look. I'm positively giddy.

Albums listened to: Chance the Rapper - The Big Day; The Beatles - Revolver; The Yawpers - Human Question


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].

2 points

Comments (10)

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Matt Gonzales's picture

August 01, 2019 at 05:26 pm

Most importantly, from any of these variants, the Packers can also run the sweep, hand the ball off, or take the QB option run. You could also have a delayed WR screen throwing to Davis our at the end of his sweep if he doesn’t end up pulling a defender.

Seriously powerful offensive concepts, as long as they stay varied enough to keep defenses honest.

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DustyEvely's picture

August 01, 2019 at 10:47 pm

Very, very true. I don't do as good a job of hammering that home as I should. Most of the concepts I've talked about are able to be run out of as well.

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Matt Gonzales's picture

August 02, 2019 at 08:39 am

I was mostly being snarky. Your breakdowns are fantastic.

I do worry about that, though, as there are a lot of teams that use razzle dazzle, but unless you occasionally run the plays you're showing, and not just the plays you're trying to set up, defenses aren't going to bite on any of that motion and will just go right to the throwing lanes, bringing us back to the last 3 years.

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Coldworld's picture

August 02, 2019 at 08:24 am

Variety is key. The more dual purpose the RB/FB and the more interchangeable the receivers the more the variety of options. Moreover the more the concepts of bunching and presnap rearrangement can further confuse.

That’s why the receiver corps we have is particularly exciting to me. Adams/EQ/Kumerow/Moore can all pretty much play anywhere. If Tonyan has come on as it sounds, Graham and Tonyan (hopefully Sternberger soon) can play the move role and further add to the range of options. Particularly so if they can block adequately.

If Vitale can be credible running the ball, he has legitimate agility to be a weapon as catcher adding another sets of options. This could be a very exciting offense that will cause matchup nightmares for opposing D coordinators if LaFleur and Hackett use these pieces imaginatively. That will help make the receivers better in turn.

I’m not sure whether MVS can play the slot, but his size/speed combo will keep opponents honest in the deep, we now just need Rodgers and MVS to get the deep timing to click. At the moment not quite there consistently on go routes.

Davis is another that I can’t quite pigeonhole outside of the slot. So small and willowy. Same for Riddick, who has great hands. They seem very similar players. How do they potentially add to the options?

Shepherd I would have put in that group by default, but he just looks scarily sudden on his cuts. This guy seems to be able to create space and evade at a much higher level than i’d expected.

There was a comment yesterday that struck me, saying that Shepherd had a skill set that was unique among the receivers. Really looking forward to seeing what this kid brings as a receiver and a returner and to understanding what he brings that is unique. I saw him pegged as a definite PS member if he doesn’t make the roster yesterday. Not bad one week into camp for a tryout player earlier this summer.

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Lare's picture

August 01, 2019 at 05:52 pm

Nice to see some different looks from the offensive formations.

Thanks Dusty.

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LambeauPlain's picture

August 01, 2019 at 06:20 pm

I appreciate the analysis and options displayed to bring life to what ML has been discussing since he arrived in GB.

His O will be built to the strengths of his players and he will run multiple plays out of the same formation.

MM ran multiple formations that foreshadowed predictable pass routes or run play. "Here we come, try to stop us" mindset. Problem was, the last two years defenses often did. And MM did not run O to complement his players strengths. Last year he had a very good players executing the run....O line, RBs, WRs blocking downfield....and he ran 30% of the time.

ML had a dinged up QB last year in TN but recognized he had solid runners and a good blockers and ran nearly 50% of the time and just missed the playoffs.

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Matt Gonzales's picture

August 02, 2019 at 09:27 am

What I love about these offensive concepts is it mirrors something the Patriots do exceptionally well: it creates set roles and responsibilities for each player. MM had a very hard time getting contributions from rookie WRs because they essentially had to learn the whole passing playbook, all route combinations, and a route tree they were supposed to use to adjust based on what the defense was doing. There were some package plays too, but way too much of our offensive was "line up, try to get open, and hope AR is anticipating where you will be"

With this type of offense you can plug a new player in as a role player - they only need to learn a couple concepts initially and drill it to perfection. Responsibilities can grow as they grasp more of the playbook, so you don't have receivers that are making mental errors and unable to process the offense and defense at game speed.

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Bearmeat's picture

August 02, 2019 at 08:23 am


I think I speak for all of us here when I say, thanks! This series has been extremely informative for me this offseason.

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Coldworld's picture

August 02, 2019 at 08:28 am

I would like to echo Bear’s sentiment. I’d like to say I’d grasped everything, but i’d be lying. However, it has opened my eyes to some new concepts. Always better for that!

Thanks for the considerable time and effort that you have put into this!

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Daracema's picture

January 09, 2020 at 11:17 am

This study looks a little bit weird but interesting. I haven't heard about it before. I would like to see a review of assignment writing services like for example. This should be a good content for a lot of people

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