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Film Study: LaFleur's Playbook - Swing Pass

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Film Study: LaFleur's Playbook - Swing Pass

Welcome back to your weekly look at Matt LaFleur's playbook. In this space, we take a play or two from the Titans 2018 passing offense, break it down a bit then talk about how that could look in the 2019 Packers offense.

Last week, we looked at a LaFleur staple: the Play Action Levels Rollout. It's beautiful and fun and versatile and something we will absolutely be seeing on a regular basis.

This week we're going to keep it simple. It may not seem very involved at first, but we're going to dig in and see how setting up a tendency can open up some opportunities elsewhere. So let's get to it. Today, we are talking about a swing pass.

Nothing too eye-popping here. The Titans are in 2X2 formation. We've got the running back crossing behind the QB on a swing route. The two receivers to the swing side are blocking, while the two receivers to the backside are running post routes.

Marcus Mariota [8] checks the defense, doesn't see anyone crashing the flat and gets the ball out quick to Dion Lewis [33]. It's a simple little play but it does what it needs to do: quickly gets the ball to one of your playmakers in space. The Packers have a 33 of their own that could do some real damage with that much room.

What can the Packers do with this?

So much! I drew up a series of plays that work with this idea. Just like last week, I went with 12 personnel (1 RB, 2TE, 2 WR). One of these days I'll get more than 2 WRs on the field, I swear. I went with:

RB: Aaron Jones [33]
TE: Robert Tonyan [85], Jace Sternberger [87]
WR: Davante Adams [17], Marquez Valdes-Scantling [83]

I went with this TE grouping because they're two young, athletic guys who are willing blockers, but they're also legitimate receiving threats. Since this play calls for driving up the field before engaging in a block on a DB, I needed guys who would be capable of driving up the field and engaging with a DB. Or, at the very least, getting in their way.

I wanted to go with two TEs because I felt it would help sell the blocking aspect of this play. We need to sell the ability to block to that side in order to set up a couple variations. 

Let's get to some variations off that swing pass. Watch that play again. You run that a few times out of that look and teams start to recognize it. Instead of sitting back, they start attacking that flat route. What then?

You can see Mariota taking a look at the linebackers. If they crash - or if they align different to shade the swing side - that means the middle of the field is vacated, opening a throwing lane to the backside post routes.

This shows the play in progress. The linebackers are out of the middle and you've got a nice follow-post tandem running against the secondary. Even if the underneath DB to that side drops under a route, there's a good chance of at least one of those being open.

I love this because there are no differences from the play we watched above. It's the same play, but you're keying off the movement of the LBs. You've got a quick throw to the flat or a quick throw to the post, behind the crashing linebackers.

We're going to jump right to the crazy stuff. On this play, we actually throw the swing, but the running back is behind the QB. Our TEs fake the block before releasing downfield. If the defense crashes, we've got the possibility of a very big play, and a chance for Aaron Jones to show off his arm.

This works off the same idea as the previous play, but we're keeping the ball in the hands of Aaron Rodgers (which I hear is a pretty good move to make). Quick turn to Jones in the flat, with an added pump fake for good measure. Have the TE group fake a block before releasing. Get those defenders hesitating or taking a step up, then hit them over the top.

This is where it helps to have athletic receivers at the TE position. They don't need the defense to bite hard on this: they only need the defense to hesitate a beat and they can get over the top.

Why do I love this?

It's simple. The swing pass should be a part of every team's offensive playbook. It's an easy way to get your playmakers in space with a quick, high-percentage throw.

But there are other options, and it's those other options that make me love this. It's so simple, but it can be so effective. If defenses sit back, hit the quick throw to the flat and pick up some easy yards. When they start leaning on that, hit them on the backside post or over the top.

This isn't something you're going to build your entire offense off of or anything, but it's a simple little play that can lead to easy yards and big gains.

Albums listened to: Clinic - Wheeltappers and Shunters; Charly Bliss - Young Enough; Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven


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 (25) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

EddieLeeIvory's picture

AJones is a great receiving back.

If our OLine & QB1 can do a good job executing these, they can be very effective.

We need to establish or find a legitimate deep threat. Someone who defenses must fear who takes the tops off defenses.

WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

Well MVS was the second fastest WR at the 2018 combine at 4.37 in the 40. St. Brown was 13th with 4.48. Given that Greg Jennings used to be a deep threat at 4.47 in the 40, and Jordy was a deep threat at 4.51 in the 40, they have the speed if they can develop the talent.

Both those guys flashed as rookies.

Bure9620's picture

Being a deep threat does not just mean what your 40 time is in underwear. Strait line speed helps but you have to beat press, you have be able to run precision routes. Nelson was a deep threat due to his precision route running downfield. MVS and Equinemious have high ceilings so long as they continue to develop. EQ has a massive ceiling IMO.

Trevor Davis and Jeff Janis are sub 4.4 guys too.....

dobber's picture

What helped make Jennings that deep threat was that defenses tried to jump the slants and come-back routes he was making hay on, and it left them susceptible to double moves and route combos that would free up Jennings over the top.

You know...those things that seemed to disappear in the Packer offense over the last 5 years.

Freezn's picture

I Agree we will have a very fast team this year on offense our young rookie receivers will be able to take the top off the defense and our defense will be giving the other quarterbacks fits. SPEED KILLS

kevgk's picture

Easy yards are something we lacked way more than we should. Short 2nd and 3rd downs are always nice for an offense.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

These are awesome Dusty!

Dusty Evely's picture

Much appreciated!

Handsback's picture

Thank you Dusty, I'm seeing some similar patterns to the Air Raid system that Kingsbury did at Tx. Tech. I think the biggest differences are the splits, but also the route depths. Air Raid sends multiple routes deep every play. In the pros, the TEs are used as seem busters. In the Air Raid, the TEs and fullbacks become LBs.
Suggest everyone read "The Perfect Pass" before the season starts. You'll see what the Cardinals will do and some of MLFs offense concepts. Until Dusty showed it on paper....didn't realize the connection.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

The swing pass is a pass that AR had difficulty throwing on time and connecting with the back in stride last year.

AR will have to buy into this concept.

Dusty Evely's picture

To be fair, a lot of the RB routes last year were checkdown flat routes that he had to come back to late. Not a whole lot of called swing routes that I can remember off hand.

dobber's picture

I'm not convinced that if his knee was really hurting him (note the use of the word really), it was killing his ability to stop and plant/twist to deliver that ball in the flat. Anyone who has had even minor knee issues know that those things are hard to do.

jannes bjornson's picture

Football 101, something the Guru apparenetly didn't take in college or by correspondence course. Bud Wilkerson to Sid Gilman to Paul Brown to Bill Walsh to Paul Hackett to Nathaniel Hackett . Jerry Burns from Vince Lombardi on down the line. Maybe Duke Johnson frees up, he would help execute the wheel route.

Dusty Evely's picture

Man listen. If the Packers could nab Duke Johnson for a song, I'd pick him up in Cleveland and drive him to Green Bay.

albert999's picture

Duke Johnson?

Nick Perry's picture

No worries Dusty...I'll buy the plane ticket to get him here.

Freezn's picture

I think we should watch out for our young drafted Notre Dame running back I believe he will surprise a lot of people

Turophile's picture

Packers become more like Philly or Pittsburgh. Swing Pass where the RB gets outside, Bubble screen where the receiver backs off the line of scrimmage, instead of the RB getting out wide.

Get those defenders thinking they need to be outside and attack the middle. Lots of variations, as Dusty says. The offensive version of DC Pettine's "illusion of complexity".

The simplest things can work really well if they are executed efficiently and contain several options to confuse the other side. It's all the variations that are key to success, especially if you can add a new wrinkle to it every now and again.

Matt Gonzales's picture

100% correct. Another big advantage to these kinds of play concepts is they don't rely on the receivers having to make snap decisions about coverages and adjust their routes during the play, or wait till the play breaks down and run around trying to shake off defenders.

This more scripted type of offense, where there are multiple viable plays within each package, should help slow the game down for younger players as they should know, pre-snap, exactly what they are supposed to do, letting them focus on execution.

CheesyTex's picture

Matt, really great point "...should help slow the game down for younger players as they should know, pre-snap, exactly what they are supposed to do...".

While this is a year of transition to a new system that will require learning and adjustments by all receivers, even Adams, my great hope is that M.L.'s system does open it up and keeps the defenses guessing. Wouldn't that be nice to see.

RCPackerFan's picture

One of the parts I love about the video clip is that its not just about the play design or the routes that everyone ran. Its the pre snap motion.

We haven't seen a lot of that in GB under McCarthy.

Adding pre snap motion could really help the offense. It helps take players eyes off certain people, and if there is a split second delay in reaction it could mean the difference in a no gain play and a 20 yard play.

LambeauPlain's picture

Dusty is a good student of ML...ML likes to run simple basic formations that Ds see over and over but have multiple play calls out of them.

Take what the D gives you base on the strengths of your guys on the field.

MM fell in love with “chunk plays” in 2015. The analytics were sound: get 1 to 2 chunk plays-per quarter your odds of winning are through the roof.

Great idea IF you have the players to do it. In 2018 they did not. New, young receivers, poor interior pass blocking. Yet MM still stubbornly passes deep to the perimeter 30% of the time....more than any other NFL team.

ML seems to evaluate the strengths of his O guys and call plays to maximize them without laying on complexity just for the sake of it.

He is like Pettine with his “KILL” system....Keep it Learnable and Likable.

Matt Gonzales's picture

Bingo. The most consistently successful team in the NFL is also the most "system" offense in the NFL, with very pre-defined play packages and established concepts that can be drilled to near perfection.

If your playmakers have to question what they're doing, they're not going to be able to focus on making plays. But if you can package it so your non-elite players are always doing essentially the same things, they can focus on getting really good at those couple things and become downright dangerous.

PackRatzz's picture

First time here. Intelligent comments by all. Thank you Dusty. I think I'll stick around

Spock's picture

Welcome, PackRatzz! I'm someone who probably brings that "intelligent comments" a little lower, lol, but this is a friendly group. Looking forward to your input.

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"I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious."
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