The Thursday Three - Week 9

by Shawn Syed|November 9, 2023
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

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For the first half of the season, I will be bringing you The Thursday Three. This article will cover three schematic points as related to the NFL; the three points may connect to a game plan, specific concepts, or something else interesting across the league.

To this point, I have written about Miami’s motion adjustment, the Crunch run concept, the differences between Cover 6 and Cover 8, the coverage concepts Zeus and Ring, the run concepts Counter Solid and Duo Kick, Cover 2 Invert, Lookie Jaguar, the Wipe tag to Outside Zone, the shot play Hiccup, the play action shot play Heat, Counter Bash, Truck toss, Choice Stucko, Counter Bluff Reverse, a constraint play off Outside Zone, Blazer, Slug, a wrinkle off Flood, the Eagles gameplan against the Miami Dolphins, the Bow (and Go) concept, the Crash concept, and changeups off the Push Sneak.

This week I am writing about Leak, Y Delay, and the T-E pass rush stunt.

Leak

Leak is a play action shot play off an outside zone run fake. The offense’s goal is to sell a standard keeper/movement pass to the defense and take advantage of over aggressiveness at the second and third levels.

The offensive line will look like they are blocking outside zone as the quarterback boots in the opposite direction. A designated player, often the tight end but sometimes a wide receiver, will continue their fake block down the line before turning up the field as the leaker.

The play frequently leads to wide open targets as the defense must process the run fake and what looks like boot while tracking the player going across the formation.

Here is an example of Leak where the leaker is working from the top of the screen to the bottom of the screen. Note how #18 sells a block for as long as he can in order to get off the linebacker’s radar before getting up the field.

Here is an example of a front side Leak where the route starts on the same side as the run fake. Selling the run fake and getting lost in the muck is once again pivotal:

Teams also use wide receivers as the leaker to change the play’s presentation:

In Week 9, the Chiefs opened up their game against the Dolphins with Leak. Note how the receiver to the bottom of the screen sells the run block by turning his back to the defense in an attempt to convince the secondary he is indeed just a blocker. This example is of particular note because it added Leak onto another pass concept and did not have the leaker end up as the outer most receiver by themself.

Despite its design, Leak does not always end up in a wide open touchdown. As it has spread across the league, more teams are used to defending it. In this example from Week 9, the leaker is defended well by the middle of the field safety tracking the route despite it ending in six points:

Y Delay

Screens are commonly used plays that can keep a defensive line off balance, take advantage of blockers in space, and be a curveball for an offense. They are often dressed with motion, fakes, and other eye candy.

A popular play over the last few years (that dates at least as far back as the Bill Walsh days) has been the double fake swing screen Y delay. Screens are often run with a pump fake to one direction before a screen in the other direction to pull linebackers away from the ultimate target and allow for the blocking to develop.

This specific version of Y delay includes a pump fake to a threat in one direction, a pump fake to another player in another direction, and then a throw to a patient tight end who sneaks into the middle of the field.

The key to this play is to stretch the defense in opposite horizontal directions with the two fakes. The motion, linemen working outside into space, and the quarterback and receivers selling the throws help create the desired impact. The goal is to clear out the linebackers while having the linemen stay behind the line of scrimmage to avoid an illegal man down field penalty.

In the example below from the 49ers last year, focus on the middle of the defense. The linebackers and nickel cornerback are justifiably uneasy given the real threats of screens to high quality players in both directions.

In Week 8, the Browns made the Seahawks repeat victims of this version of Y Delay with a minor adjustment:

In Week 9, the Packers used Y delay against the Rams. Look at the defense to the top of the screen feeling like they just anticipated a throwback screen and are preparing for a tackle for a loss before the tight end slips into open space.

The T-E Stunt

The Tackle-End (T-E) stunt is a two-player pass rush stunt between the defensive tackle and the defensive end to the same side of the defensive line. The player that will go first is the defensive tackle whose job is to attack the space outside of the guard, become the new edge of the pocket, and disrupt the offensive tackle’s positioning.

The defensive tackle sets a pick for the defensive end who will briefly threaten up the field before looping inside. The stunt can take advantage of the quickness of defenders and disrupt the offensive line as they are forced to sift through the pick at hyper speed. The stunt can also entice the quarterback to step up in the pocket as the defensive tackle rushes up the field only to find a defensive end ready to make a play.

In the example below, the T-E stunt occurs to the bottom of the screen. Note how the defensive tackle gets a piece of the right guard before contacting the right tackle. This not only opens up room for the defensive end to collapse the pocket, but also ends up giving the defensive tackle a runway to a sack.

In the below example, the T-E stunt once again occurs to the bottom of the screen. This time the defensive end gets the open path to the quarterback off the pick.

In another Week 9 example, the player lined up at defensive tackle for the Jets worked an aggressive outside move on the right guard and even though they did not create a sack initially, the looper was more than happy to clean it up.

The T-E stunt is also an effective way to deal with quarterback draw plays where the offensive line wants to invite the defensive line up the field. It works particularly well because the defensive tackle can pick two linemen while the defensive end loops inside right into the quarterback.

Though the play was blown dead, this Week 9 example shows how the T-E stunt can be used against a quarterback draw.

 

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