A Change DC Can Believe In? The Shanahan Offense

8/13/10 in NFL   |   elevenbravo138again   |   1163 respect

Shanahan's offensive concepts will include many very familiar WCO staples: Slant packages, 'Texas' routes, additionally look to see Air Raid staples such as "Mesh" which is a 90s concept, Y-Stick, Shallow Cross packages and Mike Pricesque 1-Back packages . When watching Washington there wll be several things that you've seen in Bill Walsh, Mike Sherman and Mike Holmgren's West Coast Offense, the Angle route is a common concept and it's called the "Texas Route".
They used it mainly when playing a Tampa Two team. The angle really allows the receiver to settle in under the Mike.  Holmgren called it that because if the MLB decided to put on his centerfield cap he left an area the size of "Texas" open in the underneath/middle for the RB.  It became a simple high/low read for the TE/Back.  The WR begins his route like a shallow cross, then he stops somewhere in between the guards and redirects himself either left, right or up. "Texas" is essentially a high-low on the MLB versus some form of cover 2.

We are not talking about the jerk route here. This is in reference to the Angle route which is the same as a "Texas route" in Holmgren's WCO terminology, this is the complement to spacing and the main play to pair with it from trips Texas is the combo of routes and not just the angle.

The QB is to find the middle open if receivers are chased, if they settle into zones receivers settle open. 'Texas' is rather like the Colts' levels concept done on Deep Ins, one of those two outside routes finds a void off the middle/mike in two cover, under the safeties. In the so-called "jerk" route, where the shallow cross receiver fakes like he is going to settle in the zone hole but then continues. [This is probably a read for that receiver, but in any event you get the idea.]

Related is a concept, it is known as the "angle" or "follow" concept. In other words, although the Broncos throw it for the touchdown and conversion to the same guy, the quarterback's secondary reads are to the corner route and the receiver who begins like he's running to the flat but then pivots and comes back inside. The Broncos also use a corner route to the other side as well, unlike the post route. The slot or two player runs a 'Jag' which is the opposite of his jerk/jag route that is the featured trail item, trips mesh will jag the outside WR back from where he started after the inside clears the three, who is headed outside. The center WR might get tagged with a crease to divide more than a corner. If you don't tier each level of the secondary with routes on flood progressions or
crease the front side and post the backside.  Instead they run two routes the same angle deep. From five wide(two TE, helps keep free air rushing ends a step further out).

Trips side the #1 runs the jag/jerk route inside and back out off the pivot. The two clears a corner or stays on the seam. The three cuts under everyone and has the quickest route outside.

Jag settles seeing zone, if someone from inside gets to him he takes it back out, but he should get the ball right off the crossing action from the give or go read with number three. For the interior routes a shallow from Z could be run and if the JAG route sees Z chased he is free to follow where they vacated. To keep up with the language and tags used for our normal mesh consistent we'll probably change the call signals.

The other combo does a 'follow,' outside man runs shallow. Two still runs corner or can get even get a MOFO tag. Three starts out like he's going flat again but starts a better initial angle to 45 track and makes a 45 cut and comes back trailing the shallow in a good void position, a bit higher. The plan Is to get Z on the ends' hands so they are down. This one the shallow is primary. If nobody lines up outside for the H/TE to check we get him going an angle route to pin any LB right now. Plus getting into his route fast creates a great rub for the shallow.

Cutting three right past shallow is a rub, running Z/H-back to angle is a rub. Shallow should get it quick unless they go full zone and that man crossing the faces of defenders opens all kinds of stuff for the corner and post guys behind them to flatten and settle. That's where you may see more of a drive concept at work with one clear our and end up with kind of a hitch post tree on top of it using the other clear route.

Often a play will pair mesh, withthe trips rubbing a mesh action, and players from trips working either the other interior player in name tags. That's often paired with more of a drive concept at work with one clear **OUT** and end up with kind of a hitch post tree on top of it,** using the other clear route above the FS.

You can expect to see much of the Broncos, Eagles, etc, Air Raid but also what I call the Northwest Coast Offense will also be in evidence. 
Drawing from the "NWCO" if the defense played "tight," however, Price dialed up one of their "Option routes." The outside receivers were to run deep and try to get open deep and the inside receivers were to break upfield to eight to twelve yards depending on the call. Against man-to-man, they cut inside or outside depending on the defender's leverage; against zone they found a hole between defenders and settled in it.

 Shallow series
This offense belongs at least partly in the West Coast coaching tree - which is why the Airraid is fundementally different from the Run and Shoot even though the pass routes have become similar through convergent evolution: the Airraid is a child of the West Coast with its 7 man protections and uneven passing formations. To review a little bit, one of the base series of the Air Raid offense is the Shallow Cross series.There are three things to remember when looking at the Shallow Cross series.
    1. The receiver running the Shallow route runs through the heels of the defensive linemen.
    2. The receiver opposite the Shallow receiver always runs the Hunt/Dig route. At 10 yds vs. Zone, he runs a Hunt route and settle in the first open hole. Versus man coverage, he runs a Dig. If the defender over him blitzes, he runs a speed route as a Hot adjustment.
    3. The QB takes a 3-step drop from shotgun. He usually hits the Shallow crosser versus man or press coverage.
    • Running the H Shallow Cross
       With the H receiver running the Shallow route, the Y receiver runs the Hunt/Dig route.
      Running the Y Shallow Cross
      With the Y receiver running Shallow, the H receiver runs the Hunt/Dig route.
      Running the X Shallow Cross
      Y runs Hunt/Dig
      Running the Z Shallow Cross
      H runs Hunt/Dig
      You can even go with an Empty set, and have F run the Shallow route.
      F Shallow Empty 
      The H needs to be sure and give an outside release at the snap, so he doesn't lead his defender into F's Shallow route.
      Credit for inventing the Shallow Cross series is given to Denver coach Mike Shanahan.  He will also make great use of the Mesh series. The Mesh series is also one of the base series of the Air Raid. It is not uncommon to see teams go back to the Mesh series during a game when they are struggling to execute. It can be an attempt to get "back to the basics", and execute the little things again.
      This is a simple cross series, where H and Y run crossing routes in the middle of the field. The mesh can cause DBs to run into each other, leaving one or both of the WRs free. H is responsible for the mesh, as Y runs under him. H and Y will run until they find grass, and settle to wait for the pass. Z will run a corner route, and is the first read on the play. His corner route will go between 18-23 yards, so if he is open, it is a big play.
      92 Mesh
      Y Mesh
      One of the nice things about a simple series based offense like the Air Raid is you can change a play simply by tagging a route. For instance, if you call Y Mesh Z Post, Z will now run a post route and attack the deep middle of the field behind the mesh. This draws the safety help away from the mesh routes. They can also tag on a Curl route.
      Y Shallow Z Curl
      Notice how F runs the Swing route to fill the spot vacated by Z.
       More Shallows
      Next is Y Stick. This is a very popular play among Spread and WCO mavens.
      Y Stick Y Stick Playbook
      Y runs Stick route, turns to QB, and makes break outside. X runs a Slant-Out, H runs a Slant route. Z takes an outside release in the Fade route, and F has a free release. Smash
      Next is Smash.
      X runs a Hitch route. H goes 9-11 yards deep, then breaks into Corner route. F has check release, looking for blitz. If no blitz, he swings around for dump-off. Y runs a Wheel route. If zone, will break off and sit. If man coverage, he will press it deeper. Z-receiver has a Read route. If CB sinks, he will run a Curl or Dig. He will run Curl if he sees 2 Deep coverage, or Dig versus man or 3-deep coverage.  Smash
      Then there is the bane of the existence of any defensive coordinator, the WR Bubble Screen. Bubble screen
      WR Bubble Screen
      Simply put, X blocks most dangerous defender, while H runs a short screen behind him. It is a very effective play if you have a nice deep threat, causing CBs to play off your receivers, giving them a nice cushion. It can be a nice play for 8-10 yds. If you run it too often however teams pick up on it.
      The various series the Air Raid uses allows it to appear very complex to defenses, while staying simple enough for the offense to learn quickly. By simply adding tags to various plays to change routes, the Air Raid can take 6-8 basic plays and make it into over 100 different plays.
       The Washington State one-back

      Price employed a lot of formations that year, but they used the "double slot" the most: two receivers to either side of the quarterback along with one running back. Many now will recognize this as the basic spread formation (though Leaf was usually under center rather than in the shotgun), but back then it was somewhat of a novelty still. Price used it because of its then relative rarity, but also for practical reasons: Washington State's fourth wide receiver was better than its tight-end.

      The basic theory behind the offense is the one that has been adopted by many teams: count the safeties, identify how many defenders are in the "box" to decide whether to run or pass, and call your bread and butter stuff until defenders get of of position, then when they do hit them with the constraint plays like bubble screens or play-action. 

The U of Miami Shallow game is shown here execute by coach Eisen’s team- and "FSU Shallow Cross" Concepts-
Shanahan's Rules:
1. Protect the QB. No surprise here as Shanahan is a QB, and it all starts up front. Washington's had problems this the last two seasons, Shanahan is a believer in making sure you have enough guys staying in to protect. Keep in mind the defense can always potentially rush one more player than the offense can block (10 blockers + QB vs. 11 rushers) so the QB has to be smart enough to figure out who the potential unblocked defender will be and throw hot.
2. Control the ball with the pass. Doesn't mean you pass 50 times a game, although Shanahan's Denver offenses were pass-first until Davis. If they drop 8 and rush 3 then you have to be able to run and force the defense to play you honest, so you can go back to the pass. Later  it seemed that Shanahan shifted more towards the run to maintain possession.
3. Maintain balance with the run and the pass. You have to be able to do both, who would argue that?
4. Take what the defense gives you. I really like this quote by Coach Shanahan, and I think that this is the most important thing for any coach to remember:
We’d be lying if we said we sat up in the box and I said we always knew what coverages were being run. What we try to do is take a portion of the football field, the weak flat for example, and we will attack that until we can figure out what the defense’s intentions are. Then we try to attack the coverage that we see. It is very difficult to cover the whole field. We are not going to try to fool anybody. We are going to take little portions of the field and try to attack them until the defense declares what it intends to do. All you can really do is focus on the small, manageable things and break up the field into portions to attack. 
You can line up in a certain look, such as two receivers to a side, and see how the defense reacts to that - do they flip a corner over, do they bump a LB out, do they drop a safety down? How do they react to routes over the middle by the receivers? You can probe to see what they intend to do, this is the purpose of scripting plays at the beginning of a game - and see how they react. If you notice that the safety and underneath defenders are very aggressive on the shallow cross, then you run drive, with a shallow cross and a 12-yard dig route over top in the space that was vacated by the safety. You are only attacking that area with a vertical stretch of the safety. The QB may peek backside to see if he has a favorable one-on-one matchup, then he will read the drive concept, then he will dump it off to the back for three yards or scramble if things do not look good.
5. Keep it simple. That doesn't necessarily mean simple plays, but simple assignments as well. There's such thing as being multiple and complex to keep the defense guessing, and there's being multiple and complex to keep your own players guessing. As with the point above, you don't want your QB standing back there and trying to figure out every aspect of the defensive coverage - that's not practical. All you really need to do is focus on the area of the field that you're attacking. I think it serves you better to be able to do a handful of things and do them well.

You can seem to present a complex offense to the defense by running the same concepts but changing personnel groupings, formations, motions, and by tagging a play (changing one route from the base concept). With all the possible permutations, an offense that features only a handful of passing concepts can appear to have hundreds of different plays. 

You can expect a package of double slants and a horizontal and vertical stretch on the other side with a deep route, some kind of curl route to attack the LBs, and a flat route to widen out the flat defender. This can be run out of a few different looks and there are a few different ways that you they can accomplish the stretch to the trips side but they are all essentially doing the same thing. 

They may also "tag" a receiver with a different route if they find the defense is getting jumpy and "cheating" to take away the base concept. For example, if they are jumping curl/flat (the top-left play) then thy'll tag the flat route into a wheel.  More Shanahan staples:  
Double slants is a very common and simple concept - you have two receivers who are both running slants and you are attacking the #2 defender inside. He can only defend one of the slant routes, and you throw to the other one. The inside man is attacking the inside shoulder of the #2 defender, who is the read key. If the inside WR is able to get inside and underneath the #2 defender, the ball goes to him. If the #2 defender jumps inside to take away the inside WR slant, then the outside slant should be open. You are not worrying about where the deep safety goes as he cannot hurt you - you are just reading #2 and throwing opposite of his break.

Sounds simple, but things get more confusing when the defense starts to anticipate this and play games, like dropping linemen into coverage to make it tough on the QB. This is when it's time to start playing games yourself and mixing things up. If they can anticipate double slants and drop a DE into the passing lane then you have to be able to mix it up and present that same look while instead running it right at him. 
Note that this is a read not a progression - the difference is that in a read, the QB is making a pre-snap decision based on the alignment of the defense where he decides which side to throw to. Once he figures that, he is throwing based on the actions of one defender - the offense will attack this defender with two players (in this case, the #2 defender) and the QB will decide who to throw it to based on this read key. The read can only take away one threat and the ball will go to the other. The QB is not making a progression and going through all 5 eligible receivers on the field. If there is a pass breakup or an interception, you will hear announcers saying that the QB did a bad job of not looking off the coverage or whatever, but he is supposed to look at the read and make his decision. This is generally used in the short passing game as it is a very fast and simple read (if A, then throw to A, if B, then throw to B, otherwise dump it to the back or run). Usually when this is broken up it is because the read key gave a fuzzy read, like stepping inside and then breaking outside, or the QB hesitated. The ball should be out before a defender can break on the QB's eyes.

As Coach Shanahan said - you can't always look at the whole field and figure out everything the defense is doing. At tmes you''ll have to pick your portion of the field, figure out what they are doing there, and attack it. The QB's 1st job is to make the pre-snap read to decide which side of the field to throw to (usually based on whether it is 1-high or 2-high safeties), make a post-snap read to confirm, look at the read key, look out for defense doing anything screwy (this is the toughest part), and throw. It is part of the 3-step game to control the ball, a simple read for the QB, and a concept that only attacks a portion of the field.
Horizontal, Vertical, and Oblique Stretch
Double slants is a horizontal stretch of the #2 defender - he has to choose to defend the inside or outside route. Teams can also accomplish this by running route combos such as all-curls, drag/swing, double outs, or snag which all use the same principles - stretch a zone so that a defender has to cover two receivers. Teams also use vertical stretches such as smash (corner/hitch), curl/flat, or drive (12-yard dig route and a shallow cross) where a defender is put into a bind and must choose to defend either the high or low option. 
The concept of the oblique stretch is something that is usually tied to Norm Chow at BYU where he and the late Coach Doug Scovil . It is just a combination of a vertical and horizontal stretch so it is tougher to defend. Chow also called it "creating triangles". You can have your vertical stretch from the image above, the high-low read on the CB with a corner route and a hitch. However, you can also slant the curl more towards the middle of the field and swing a back out to force the defense to spread out and create more room underneath.  As an example have the TE run the corner and motion the WR inside or have him release inside and attack the LBs creating the oblique stretch.
I don't know what Shanahan calls it but if I know it as "Snag." If it is 2-deep, then most teams will choose to throw the double slants to the left, since that is a good concept against cover 2. Otherwise, the flat route and the curl horizontally stretch the underneath zones. If the SLB flies out to the flat then the WR on the curl should be open. Even if MLB slides over to help, he will have poor leverage. If the SLB picks up the curl, then the flat should be open. If the CB drops down to the flat, then the corner route should be open. More often than not this play will go to the back in the flat since defenses generally defend from deep to short and from middle to outside. That is a 3-4 yard gain with the chance for more, which is as good as a run (remember, keeping possession with the passing game). If the defense begins to play the flat aggressively, then the Snag (curl over the middle) should come open. If they play 2-deep and have 5 underneath, then double slants should be the pre-snap read; otherwise the corner route should have a shot if the TE can get outside of the safety, look for many double slants as well as some other horizontal, vertical, and oblique stretches.

As the offense Shanahan runs has 3 main sources of inspiration: its roots go back to the West Coast Offense, Norm Chow's offense at BYU and what I like to cal the Northwest Coast Offense."  The 'One Back' Attack of Mike Price and Denis Ericson that they learned from Elway's high school coach Jack Neumeier. There are many variations the general concepts (high-low-oblique, etc.), and it definitely isn't unique to Shanahan. Here is a video of Ohio State running this same play during the Rose Bowl, known as a "snag" route. This appeared to be one of Ohio State's favorite plays against Oregon in the Rose Bowl. You are still attacking the defense in a similar fashion, a deep route to draw off coverage vertically and take the top off, a flat route to widen out the underneath defenders, and a WR running over the middle to find a hole in the zone and settle. There is a triangle on the right side of this play diagram as well. Just because you change the alignments and receivers doesn't mean you are doing something completely different.
Below is a diagram of "Snag" run to both sides, which is known as "Scat",The TE releases outside and runs up the sideline to draw the deep coverage, while the back swings out into the flat to draw a LB. The WR stems inside to the hole vacated by the LB, curls up, and catches the pass. The receivers all attack the same areas of the field, they are just taking different roads to get there.

This is a high percentage play and a fairly simple read for the QB - the MLB has to declare a side and the QB can throw opposite of him. Most defenses will cover the streak, so either the snag or the flat should be open. This play was a favorite of NC State QB Phillip Rivers, who Chow coached for one season. Rivers set all kinds of records throwing it. It's a simple read and a decisive throw, and something that you need to rep over and over to get down. Rivers put up some huge numbers running this and similar concepts at NC State. Likely we will see this kind of play from a Shanahan-coached Washington.
Packaging Concepts
The reason you package concepts like this together is that it gives you flexibility against different coverages. Generally the QB will throw double slants against 2-high and the high-low or the high-low-oblique against a 1-high. Other teams will have the QB determine this based on the MLB, and throw to the side that he steps away from. These are both fairly simple concepts that attack portions of the field. They also will often be quick and high-percentage passes to limit sacks and help maintain possession of the ball, which Shanahan has emphasized.
That's how you maintain possession with the passing game, and I'd imagine it's one of the toughest things to teach QBs, who always want to sling the ball downfield and go for the big play - to check down to the back or tuck it and run. That is how you avoid bad throws and dig yourself into a hole with 2nd-and-10 or 3rd-and-10. If you get a murky read or an unexpected look and the throw may only give you a 50% chance of a completion, better to dump it off to the back in the flat and pick up the easy three. This goes back to Shanahan's points of controlling the ball with the pass, keeping things simple, and taking what the defense gives.
      Shallow cross
Shallow Cross Notes:
1. The player running the shallow cross runs through the heels of the Defensive Linemen.                                          
2. The player that runs the complementary route (Hunt/Dig) is always the 1st WR opposite the Shallow Cross.  He must always outside release so he does not turn the LB back into the shallow cross.  At 10 yards vs. Zone he runs a Hunt route and settles in the 1st open hole. Versus Man coverage he runs a ‘Dig’, versus a blitz by the defender over him he runs a speed out as a ‘Hot’ adjustment.                                                                   
3. The QB takes a 3 step drop in the Shotgun.  He usually hits the Shallow crosser vs. man or press coverage. In the shallow package Our Z runs the deep post route. The Y receiver runs a ‘Dig’ inside at 12 yards.
6 – All verticals + tags
8 – F Shoot
66 – Outside hitches
92 – Mesh + tags
94 – Y Sail
95 – Y Cross
96 – All Curl
98 – Double Smash
Pop 30
Screens (one package)
617 H Shoot
618 Y Option
619 Y Flat

Source: (
Notify me by email about comments that follow mine. Preview

8/16/10   |   heelfan811   |   16763 respect

McNabb and Shanahan will bring some glory back to the 'Skins....

8/14/10   |   Jizmaglobin   |   540 respect

 Thanks bravo. As always a genuinely informative read with background instead of just more spin from a talking head. And let's not forget this is Kyle's offense. Granted, we all know where he learned to think football but but he's likely to be even more innovative than pops.  

8/14/10   |   mrtriplesix   |   1160 respect

very happy to be a skins fan right now. even saw big al contribute in the first pre season game. first and second team looked good. defense didnt look so good, but theres time to fix that :-)

 unfortunately dallas and eagles are looking good as well

8/13/10   |   elevenbravo138again   |   1163 respect

As you might remember Griese and Plummer's limitations forced Shanahan to trim back his playbook, if he'd had more time with Cutler I think you would have seen a playbook more like the one he'll likely use with McNabb.  

8/13/10   |   elevenbravo138again   |   1163 respect

richard_cranium wrote:
Is this thread available in a book on tape format?

We can work something out, Patrick Stewart, aka Capt. Picard, might sign as the narrator.

8/12/10   |   The_Real_Stoney   |   25696 respect

excellent read...
for skins fans sake, I hope shanny doesn't do what he did in Denver the last three years and run the same 5 plays over and over... stretch run right.. stretch run left, naked boot left, naked boot right, throw to brandon marshall
That scheme somehow became easy to defend

8/12/10   |   cuddles127017   |   8133 respect

richard_cranium wrote:
Is this thread available in a book on tape format?

I was thinking more of a tape i can listen to while sleeping.   lol

8/12/10   |   richard_cranium   |   17683 respect

Is this thread available in a book on tape format?

8/12/10   |   kobe_lova   |   62436 respect

will read tomorrow.

8/12/10   |   Joe_L   |   12372 respect

Welcome back Bill!!