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Film Study: LaFleur's Playbook - Slant/Flat

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Film Study: LaFleur's Playbook - Slant/Flat

Today, we're going to be looking at one of the staples of the West Coast Offense: the slant/flat.

As Packers fans, we've seen the slant/flat so many times that some fans have come to despise the very mention of it. Overuse of any concept can help to kill it, but I'm here today to extol its virtues. Let's start off by looking at a slant/flat concept from the 2018 Packers.

On this play, we've got a slant/flat combo on both sides. 

What does the slant/flat give you? Against man coverage, the defenders will be following the receivers, setting them up for a natural pick at the mesh point. Against zone coverage, the defenders will sit back, waiting for their men to clear the mesh and pick them up on the other side. That leaves the window open for a quick throw to a man in space. If the middle is cleared and you hit the slant at the right time to the right guy, there's a chance for a big play, but it's a small chance. This is mainly a kind of meat-and-potatoes play you can hit for a few quick yards. 

What Variations Can the Packers Run?

Variation 1

Let's stick with the Packers for a second, but go back to 2017.

The Packers had run slant/flat a ton leading up to this point. The Bears knew this and were looking for it. But the Packers ran a fun little variation this time, with Davante Adams [17] faking the slant before hitting the corner route, and Randall Cobb [18] faking the flat before hitting the post.

You can see how this affects the defense. Bryce Callahan [37] tries to jump over top of Adams to pick up Cobb on the flat route. When Cobb cuts back to the corner, Callahan can't recover in time and it's an easy throw for the touchdown. This play works because they set up their tendencies, but also because you've got a couple receivers who can quickly sell the initial routes before violently cutting back the other way. 

What else can we do? And, more importantly, what else has Matt LaFleur done?

Variation 2

We're taking it back to the Rams 2017 season. LaFleur wasn't calling the plays, but he was the offensive coordinator. On this play, the slant works as normal, but the flat fakes a pick before taking off on the wheel.

You can see what this fake pick action from Robert Woods [17] does. As soon as his defender sees that, he looks immediately to the slant route. After all, if the primary defender is bumped off coverage, the receiver gets a free release to the middle with some room to operate.

With his defender crashing, Woods has a free release on the wheel up the sideline. Jared Goff [16] ends up hitting the slant, but the wheel is wide open. 

I've said it a thousand times but let's say it again: you set up your tendencies, then run slight variations that can lead to big gains. This is one of those slight variations and it would have been a walk-in touchdown. It's beautiful. I love this play. I want to respectfully ask this play if I can kiss it on the cheek.

Variation 3

This is taken from the 2018 Texas A&M offense, featuring none other than the newest Green Bay Packers tight end, Jace Sternberger. While it doesn't tie directly to LaFleur, it does a good job of illustrating a potential variation that would fit within his scheme.

We get the same kind of look we get from the Rams play, with the fake block/release from the flat route. The difference here is the slant receiver releasing upfield briefly before dropping back for what looks like a WR screen.

The initial push up the field by the outside receiver puts the defender on their heels. When the receiver drops back under for the screen, the defender goes into attack mode. Combine that with the timing of the release up the field by Sternberger and you have a collision between the two defenders, leaving Sternberger wide open on the wheel.

Again, this plays on the tendencies defenses have seen, with enough of a wrinkle to spring a man for a big gain.

Variation 4

Now let's look at a play from the 2018 Titans.

We're looking at the left, where we've got a stack look. LaFleur loves his stacks and I love those stacks. I think we're going to be very happy together.

On this play, the inside receiver briefly fakes to the flat before coming back inside, while the outside receiver briefly fakes to the slant before breaking up the field on a wheel. Kind of like Variation 1, but with different releases and from a different formation.

We've got some fun stuff going on here. Because they're running this look out of a stack, it forces one of the defenders - the inside defender in this case - to sit back a bit. That can give them time to recover, but it can also leave them susceptible to a quick-hitter, which is what happens here.

The movements are subtle, but if you show a willingness to run slant/flat out of this stack look, it gets the defense leaning. Hit that quick slant a few times, get the defense in attack mode, then hit them with this. If you catch that outside defender crashing the slant at the first step, the sideline is open.

Variation 5

One last play, again taken from the 2017 Rams. This plays off the slant/flat, with a little twist. The two receivers wide to the right are spaced about the same distance apart as we've seen from most of the plays above. The difference here is that both of them are running a slant, while the flat/wheel comes from the receiver closer to the line of scrimmage.

The slants work to clear out the edge, while the flat works underneath and releases to the wheel once clear of the widest receiver. 


I didn't draw up any additional plays this week, because I felt these examples did a good enough job of showing off what can be done with the slant/flat concept. 

It should come as no surprise that the key to making this click for the Packers is Davante Adams. So much of the success of these variations comes down to selling the slant/flat at the point of release, and there aren't many receivers in the league that can rival the release of Adams. Get the defense biting on that first step and you can burn them. 

The slant/flat concept is a fairly basic one and can be found in pretty much every playbook. But the variations to that concept are varied and dangerous, and the Packers have the right personnel/coach to make this an incredibly fun concept to play around with. I have a feeling that "slant/flat" won't be a dirty word in Green Bay in 2019.


Albums listened to: The National - I Am Easy To Find; Carly Rae Jepsen - Dedicated; Flying Lotus - Los Angeles

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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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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (16) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

kevgk's picture

Great article, love the content, especially in the offseason

Bear's picture

Thanks Dusty

AgrippaLII's picture

Really enjoy these film breakdowns. Keep'em coming !

Lare's picture

I like the fact that it looks like receivers have one route to run and they know where they're going, as opposed to McCarthy's offense where they have 10 possible variations on every single play that takes them years to learn.

jannes bjornson's picture

HAlf of those film cut-ups were McCarthy actually running the WCO.

koberodgers's picture

New to this website, absolutely love it....Awesome work Dusty and great intel

wildbill's picture

Great work, thanks

IshpemingPackAttack's picture

Thank you so much for the excellent Packer content!! I so appreciate the time that you spend making us crazy Packer fans happy. I love your podcasts here and on Pack To The Future. Keep up the good work!!!!

Dusty Evely's picture

Thanks man. Truly appreciate it. Just trying to stay warm during the long offseason.

cdoemel's picture

Players. Not plays.

Dusty Evely's picture

Both!

mnklitzke's picture

If that were the case then how come Brady makes every WR he has look like a champ?

albert999's picture

Killer Dusty
Slantastic

nostradanus's picture

Great Stuff Dusty, keep them coming :)

RCPackerFan's picture

The more of these videos I see the more I get excited about seeing the new offense.

Since '61's picture

Good job Dusty! Thanks, Since ‘61

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