One of my biggest criticisms of former Jets offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates was how many of his plays had a high degree of difficulty for the quarterback to execute.
Sam Darnold was left to scan the entire field.
Because the Jets didn’t have much talent in the group of receivers they were running out on most Sundays, there was frequently little to no separation, which forced Darnold to make a perfect tight window throw after scanning the entire field.
Darnold did flash an ability to execute plays like this and hit some of these throws, especially over the final month of the season.
Look, a quarterback needs to be able to execute plays like this. In many senses the ability to do so is the thing that separates the guys who can play in the NFL from those who can’t.
There has to be a happy medium, though.
You want a developing quarterback to show an ability to hit these passes, but it isn’t a very good idea for that to be the entire offense. The playbook needs to contain easier plays to execute as well.
Adam Gase will bring what are called packaged plays with him to New York. This is one form of what you will hear members of the media call “college style” plays.
These aren’t “pro style” plays where the quarterback has to read the full field. These essentially have multiple plays built into the same call. The quarterback chooses which play to execute based on reading a small portion of the field presnap or postsnap.
On this play, Gase’s offense had a wide receiver screen built in to the bottom of the picture. Two receivers were stacked. The guy on the line is the blocker on the screen. The guy behind the line is the receiver.
The quarterback has the option to throw the ball if he has a numbers advantage on that side of the field. However, he doesn’t in this case. The defense has three players against only two offensive players. The one blocker can only take out one defender. That leaves two unblocked defenders. That makes the screen the wrong option.
The alignment of the defense does, however, make handing the ball off a very attractive option. There is one blocker for every defender in the box so the quarterback can simply give the ball to the back.
The blocking isn’t even all that effective, and this is still a successful 5 yard gain.
It is worth noting there is a third play as a part of this call. This would have come into play had the defense put one more man in the box than the offense had blockers. The guy at the end of the line would be unblocked. This is where it might get a little confusing because I have added a lifelike illustration to the play. The unblocked guy at the right of the picture isn’t real. Just trust me on this one.
What’s to stop him from wrecking this play and attacking the running back since he’s unblocked? If he charges too hard, the quarterback has the option to pull back the handoff and break outside, where nobody will be near him.
At this point, the one receiver who started on that side would be into his route.
The corner will have to choose between leaving his receiver to tackle the quarterback or staying with his receiver and leaving an open running lane. If the corner stays with the receiver, the quarterback can keep it and pick up a nice gain on the ground.
If the corner leaves his receiver, the quarterback now has a wide open pass.
Let’s move to another play. Again we have a wide receiver screen set up. One receiver and two blockers are on one side of the field.
Truth be told, throwing this screen would not have been a bad option. There were two defenders and two blockers in front of the receiver.
The linebacker is late to move over, which would have left the screen open. Still the linebacker does flow in the direction of the screen late, which eliminates him as somebody who needs to be blocked on the run portion of this play.
Now let’s take a look at that run option. We have the linebacker bailing to help the screen so he doesn’t need to be blocked. The offense again has one blocker for every defender. But since the quarterback again has the option to pull the ball out if the edge guy crashes too hard, it magnifies the advantage. The edge guy doesn’t need to be blocked. This creates a huge advantage since there are now more blockers than defenders who need to be blocked.
Sure enough, the edge guy crashes too hard, which allows the quarterback to pull the ball back and run to daylight.
Here’s the full play in action. It’s another nice gain.
I know you are probably thinking, “I don’t want my quarterback to run the ball and risk taking a big hit.”
I understand your point, but you have to remember a few things. He’s only taking the ball if the defense isn’t accounting for him, which means he’s going to have a running lane. You can drill it into him to slide the second he sees a defender within shouting distance.
This isn’t a part of the play most teams are going to feature in their offense unless they have a dynamic runner at quarterback. It’s something to make a defense pay for getting too aggressive.
It’s also something to show future opponents. Every edge guy with a future game against your team is going to watch this play and say, “I’m not going to attack that running back because coach is going to scream at me in the film room if it’s my fault the quarterback breaks a big run.” That means the offense will have to block one less guy on the handoff.
Finally let’s look at a play where a call like this creates an easy completion.
Again a screen is on with one receiver and one blocker stacked at the top of the picture.
Originally the play starts with two offensive players and two defenders on that side of the field, but one of the corners sneaks closer to the line to blitz.
Now it’s a numbers advantage for the offense on that side of the field. There are two offensive players and one defender. To be more precise, there is one defender, one blocker to take out that defender, and one receiver to go up the field after the catch.
You can see the back move forward to receive the handoff and the line block like it’s a run play, but the presnap read dictates the easy throw.
This is a nice way to get a defense to back off and get less aggressive. The blitz totally backfired because it created an opportunity for the offense when none previously existed.
It’s also a nice stat padder for the quarterback. That throw goes down in the box score as an 11 yard completion. It didn’t require much work, though. All the quarterback had to do was count players before the snap and throw an easy pass.
More than anything, it makes executing on offense easier. And that is the point.