The Passing Chronicles: Middle Read Dagger in 2020

Dusty looks back on the Packers use of the Middle Read concept in 2020

To finish off our series of Packers passing concepts in 2020, we’ll be looking at their Middle Read concept, as well as one of the major route pairing they would run out of this concept. 

Like most film writers, I get my film access through NFL Gamepass. They took the All 22 film down before I could gather all the clips I needed. As a result, I’m leaving out all the numbers I’ve been including in these posts. Depending on how you feel about the numbers, you will either be celebrating or gnashing your teeth and rending your garments. I’m sorry or you’re welcome.

At its core, the Middle Read concept is pretty simple. It’s a three-man concept: the receivers on the outside will run either vertical routes or shorter curl/comeback routes. The slot receiver will read the safety alignment and adjust his route based on what he’s seeing. If it’s a single-high safety, the middle of the field is considered Closed and he will run a dig route. If it’s a two-high safety, the middle of the field is considered Open and he will run a skinny post, splitting the safeties.

Depending on the safety alignment, there should always be an opportunity for a shot. Against a two-high alignment, the inside receiver will split the safeties with a skinny post. Against a single-high alignment – like we have in the clip above – you will have a one-on-one match-up down the field. If the defense is showing single-high pre-snap, choose your match-up you like the best. Check the safety immediately post-snap. If he’s still the lone safety, let it rip.

On this next play, Aaron Rodgers [12] appears to be looking at Davante Adams [17] pre-snap, but the single-high safety ends up shading over Adams, so Rodgers takes the one-on-one shot to Marquez Valdes-Scantling [83].

Most teams around the league play more single-high than two-high, so I only found one example of this base concept being run against a two-high look. It was the Week 12 game against the Bears, and, while it ended up as an incomplete pass, it was a nice throw from Rodgers that Adams just couldn’t haul in.

Now that we've got a good understanding of the base concept, I wanted to look at the Packers’ most popular use of the Middle Read concept: Middle Read Dagger.

Dagger is a two-man concept. The inside receiver runs a vertical route, while the outside receiver on that same side runs a dig. The idea is to have the vertical route clear the middle, then run the dig into the vacated space.

You can probably already see where Middle Read comes into this. Instead of the inside route being a vertical route, it becomes a choice route where he reads the safety alignment.

You still get the same benefits you get from the core Middle Read concept. When the defense is in single-high, you’ve got one-on-one match-ups on the outside.

On 3rd and long, the second level of the defense drops deep in the middle, which takes away both the crossing route and the dig. So Rodgers works across the field and fires to Valdes-Scantling on a curl. Valdes-Scantling catches the ball short of the sticks, and just drives backward to pick up the 1st down.

Since Dagger is a two man concept, you’ll often see this this paired with other concepts in the Packers playbook. A few weeks back we looked at the Packers use of the Stick concept. In this clip, the Packers are running Stick to the front side and Middle Read Dagger to the back side.

The defense is in two-high, so the read route pushes vertically up the middle. Rodgers ends up throwing to Aaron Jones [33] on the vertical route in the Stick concept. With the defense in zone, the boundary corner drops to pick up the flat, and Rodgers hits Jones directly in the heart of the Turkey Hole before the safety can fully rotate over.

A few weeks ago we talked about the Packers use of the All Go HB Seam concept. They can fold elements of that into Middle Read Dagger, as well.

This looks a lot like All Go HB Seam in the initial releases, but there’s a difference here. In the All Go concept, the outside receiver runs vertically up the sideline. Here, he runs a dig under the route from the slot. It’s basically Middle Read Dagger dressed up to look like All Go HB Seam (which could also be referred to as a variation of All Go HB Seam. It depends on what side of the bed you woke up on that day). Rodgers actually has the dig route, but ends up throwing to the flat on this play.

On its face, Middle Read Dagger can look a lot like Y-Cross: an old Air Raid concept.

There are a couple main differences between the two. The first is what the receiver and quarterback are reading. In Y-Cross, they’re reading the underneath coverage. “Plant and run away from defender against man coverage. Make your away across the field and find a soft spot against zone coverage.” In Middle Read Dagger, they’re reading the safety alignment (there’s more to it than that, but that’s the best way to categorize it).

The other main difference is how they’re looking to attack. Y-Cross is essentially a horizontal attack, particularly when going against zone. Work to the sideline and find a soft spot. Middle Read Dagger is a vertical attack to the middle of the field, with an added element of a vertical attack when the defense is in two-high.

And with that, this series is done. I hope you all enjoyed reading it half as much as I enjoyed writing it. We’ve got a preseason game this week, and the regular season is just around the corner. I can’t wait to get back into the week-to-week breakdowns, but taking some time this offseason to look at how some of these concepts looked in context of the season as a whole was really eye-opening for me.

Here’s a rundown of the concepts we looked at over the last few weeks:

In addition to those, we also dove into some plays from Packers history.

It's been a fun offseason. Maybe my favorite offseason...but I can't wait for 2021 to officially kick-off.

Albums listened to: Bleachers – Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night; Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever; Josh Ritter – Fever Breaks; Black Thought – Streams of Thought Vol. 3: Cane & Able; Halsey – Manic; Taylor Swift – evermore; Nicole Atkins – Domino; The Smashing Pumpkins – CYR; Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson – Summer of Fear; Crippled Black Phoenix – Ellengæst; Doves - The Universal Want; Grouplove - Healer; Marvin Gaye - Trouble Man


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].

3 points

Comments (6)

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wildbill's picture

August 11, 2021 at 05:36 pm

Love these breakdowns. Thanks so much.

3 points
LeotisHarris's picture

August 11, 2021 at 08:14 pm

Great content as always. Thanks, Dusty!

A lot of people, literally dozens of people, are saying Betty Arias doesn't have any children at home and hasn't had a received a paycheck since 2014. Just what I've heard.

1 points
Johnblood27's picture

August 11, 2021 at 09:05 pm

Betty is a stay at home HO, I pimp her.

1 points
michael562's picture

August 11, 2021 at 10:42 pm

Thanks, Dusty.
I always enjoy your input.

2 points
murf7777's picture

August 12, 2021 at 07:54 am

Thanks Dusty, you do a great job explaining concepts.

1 points
TXBadger's picture

August 12, 2021 at 09:41 pm

Dusty, this was an incredible series. Thanks for creating such interesting and informative articles.

0 points