The Passing Chronicles: 2019 Preseason Week 4

We made it! All four preseason games are now in the rear view window and we have real, actual regular season football to watch this week. It's all happening.

But before we get there, we have one more game to look at. Luke Getsy called the plays this past Thursday. So, while we're unlikely to glean many insights into what the offense will look like this upcoming season, it still gave us a few fun things to look at. Or at least some interesting things.

Come along with me as we take a look at some passing plays from the Packers preseason victory over the Chiefs.

Play 1

We've got ourselves a little RPO (Run-Pass Option). The result of this play itself isn't overly interesting - Tim Boyle [8] sees the boundary cornerback backpedaling at the snap and throws quickly to J'Mon Moore [82] on the curl - but the possibilities of this got me kind of excited.

The Chiefs come out in a Mug front pre-snap. I've got that look highlighted with the blue spotlight. "Mug" basically means they've got their linebackers up at the line, aligned on either side of the center ("mugging the A gap," if you're feeling fancy). While Boyle seems to simply be reading the boundary cornerback on this play, this look is interesting. While Moore is running a quick curl on the outside, Darrius Shepherd [10] is running a slant from the slot position.

Now, on this play, the mugging linebackers drop back, blocking the passing lane to Shepherd in the middle. But if those linebackers actually rush the passer - or start a little further back and bite on the play fake - there is the potential to hit the pass to Shepherd behind them.

The thought exists here to push vertically down the field on an RPO, which is tremendously exciting.

Play 2

Let's talk about the Jace Sternberger [87] touchdown, shall we? We shall!

Both routes from receivers that start on the left side push inside, while Sternberger crosses under the line and into the flat. Boyle playfakes to Tra Carson [32] after the snap, drawing the defense close to the line and away from Sternberger. The two defenders on the flat side are completely pulled up by the play action, while the boundary cornerback is pulled to the middle of the field by the route of Trevor Davis [11] on the outside. Everything works perfectly and Sternberger finds a wide swath of grass to run to. Pitch and catch.

The other thing to pay attention to is Evan Baylis [49], who starts the play on the end of the left side of the line. He's running a Slam route, blocking down the line before releasing into the flat. He falls on the cut to the flat, but he forces the linebacker to stay with him instead of releasing to the flat immediately. If Baylis doesn't fall and the linebacker bails to pick up the flat, there's a pretty nice throwback lane for Boyle to hit Baylis. The idea is that you get the defense spread out wide, then hit the gaps in between. 

Play 3

We've got ourselves a little mesh concept going on here, but that's not really what I want to focus on. I want to focus on the interception itself.

Before I get too far down this road, I want to say that assigning blame without actually being in the locker room/huddle is a dangerous game. I don't love it, mainly because I'm fully aware that there is a ton that I don't know and am not privy to. That being said, just knowing how some concepts/ideas are generally taught, we can come up with pretty good reasoning behind why some of these things happen.

So. The interception. We're going to talk for a second about "throttling down" in regards to route-running. This is not something present in every route, but there are options on routes that depend on the receiver reading the defense and changing their route depending on what they see. Using this play as an example, we'll explore that.

J'Mon Moore [82] is crossing the field on a drag. As he does, he looks at Jordan Lucas [24]. He sees that Lucas is sitting in zone coverage. So, instead of converging on Moore, Lucas is sitting back and reading the quarterback.

Instead of continuing across the field and directly into the zone of Lucas, Moore throttles down in the zone. In other words, he pulls up on his route to sit in a soft spot of the zone. That's good! That's how these things are generally taught!

However, DeShone Kizer [9] either doesn't read Lucas in zone, doesn't see him or simply thinks Moore is going to be continuing his route. While Moore is throttling down, Kizer is throwing as if Moore is going to continue his route across the field. Since Lucas is reading Kizer, he closes and picks up the interception.

Play 4

The Packers did something like this a few times, so I wanted to look at at least once instance of it. Through a series of diverging routes, they opened up the middle for a dig, and made a pretty easy read for Kizer.

On the left side out of a bunch, we've got a deep pushing route to clear the edge and help take the top off the defense. A go route from the right side also helps take the top off the defense. From the left side, we also have a flat route and a dig. Lastly, while Carson doesn't actually release out of the backfield on a route, the potential of him releasing holds a linebacker close to the line of scrimmage instead of dropping back into coverage in the middle.

Sternberger goes in motion pre-snap and is followed by Herb Miller [34], telling Kizer that he is likely looking at man coverage.

The go route takes the boundary defender deep while the flat takes Miller wide. All of that opens up the middle for Teo Redding [88]. Redding helps his cause with a good route. By pushing up the field aggressively, he forces the defender to consider a deep route. Just as the defender opens up to turn and run, Redding cuts inside and finds a decent amount of space to work with.

Play 5

Let's take a peek at the touchdown to Evan Baylis [49]. Baylis starts this play standing up off the left side of the line. He's running a corner route while the two receivers to the left are running in-cutting routes. Kind of the same idea as the Sternberger touchdown: clear the edge and try to get a guy into the open space. 

There's nothing particularly magical about this. Baylis finds himself open because of some defensive miscommunication. Two defenders converge on the slant from Shepherd when one of them should be dropping back and picking up Baylis. Still, that's the benefit of criss-crossing some of these routes. Create a rub, force the defense to make a tough decision or introduce a little chaos. On this play, chaos prevailed and Kizer was able to cash in.

Play 6

Alright, so we're closing on a non-Packers passing play. I subscribe to the theory that watching other offenses can help to open your mind and rethink some things in terms of your own offense. More than anything, it gives you some plays to steal. (That's my way of saying don't kill me for showing something cool the opposing team did.)

What we have here is a read-option. Typically on a read-option, the quarterback is reading that edge defender. If the defender crashes on the running back, that means the edge is open, so the quarterback keeps it and runs around the edge. The counter to that for defenses is to have a defender "scrape" over the top of the edge defender, filling the gap that was vacated when the edge crashed on the running back. That's exactly what happens here.

However, the Chiefs have a counter for that. The linebacker scraping over the top means that he's not dropping wide into coverage and under the curl route. So instead of keeping the ball, Kyle Shurmur [9] throws the quick curl.

It's not a huge gain, but it's a gain of 11 on 1st and 10. My math tells me that is pretty good.

I've started doing some video breakdowns and posting them over on YouTube. So far it has been older plays, but I'm hoping to be able to keep it up during the season with plays from the 2019 season. I'm still getting my feet under me a little, but, with it being Bears week, you may be interested in checking out the breakdown I did on the Rodgers-to-Cobb game-winner from week 1 last season.

Albums listened to: Tool - Fear Inoculum; Lana Del Rey - NFR!; Noah Gundersen - Lover


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].

5 points

Comments (4)

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Qoojo's picture

September 02, 2019 at 05:05 pm

"...there are options on routes that depend on the receiver reading the defense and changing their route depending on what they see..."

I thought MLF's offense a lot less of this. For instance, on that play, the defender is still quite a ways away. I didn't see much of difference in stopping and continue in relation to the distance from defender. As you mention, we don't know the design of the route to know which player was wrong. If he continues on the cross, does that open the far right WR going deep to come open as the underneath defender moves up?

-1 points
croatpackfan's picture

September 03, 2019 at 05:52 am

We can not be certain what was planned. To find sof zone, or to finish the route. ILB was still away from Moore, but throwing lane was much clearer where Moore stopped. So, what do you want throwing the ball from 4 yards away of your end zone? Go over defender or pass through clear air?

0 points
jeremyjjbrown's picture

September 02, 2019 at 07:35 pm

Awesome as always Dusty!

1 points
Handsback's picture

September 02, 2019 at 08:01 pm

Dusty you do a good job. I really like your explanation on Kizers int., no blame just observation.

2 points