Another week in the offseason means another chance for me to do a film study over some part of LaFleur’s play calls. If you’ve been reading this series week to week, I hope you’ve started to get a feel for what Matt LaFleur is like as a play caller. As I’ve said in previous articles, I hope that by the time I finish this series that we will have a good idea of what to expect from the offense when preseason rolls around.
So far, I’ve liked what I’ve seen from LaFleur’s pass calls. He does a good job of mixing in the quick pass game and knowing when to take a shot vertical. The thing that always bothered me about McCarthy was that there was no rhythm when it came to his play calls. When the offense started clicking in one phase, it almost seems as if it was abandoned. This wasn’t always the case with McCarthy, but it seemed as if it gradually started going that way toward the end of his time in Green Bay. LaFleur has a good feel for all of his play calls. He knows when to call certain plays and where to strike a defense. Lets take a look at some of his pass call in the Titans week 3 matchup against Jacksonville.
The play action game was one particular part of the offense that I really wanted to see improve. Normally it seemed that when the Packers went to their play action game that it was always a fake off of an inside zone look. I like the different uses that LaFleur has in this area. The key though is setting up a strong running game and then striking with the play action pass.
It all starts with the fake. The running back in the backfield must really sell that he is running the ball and the offensive line must sell the run block. The back should run the track and clinch down like he has the ball. This is crucial in the play action game. More often than not, linebackers are keying the back every play. Notice how both linebackers from Jacksonville bite hard on the run initially and then have to recover. The Titans offensive line does a nice job stepping laterally and selling the zone run. Some linebackers will key the back and the guard at the same time, usually reading the offensive lineman to the near back. This all depends on the defensive coordinators preference and the front that is called.
Both split wide receivers have to be alert and hit this play at full speed from the snap. The receiver on the far side of the field particularly has a lot of ground to cover, so he must get out of his stance quick and get downfield.
The wide side tight end must also do a good job of selling the down block and redirecting in to his route. His is usually the third option in the quarterbacks progression but it is important that his is there if all else fails.
Here is the same play action look, only this time from the end zone angle. Again, notice the strong zone step of the offensive line. It should be one smooth motion with all blockers. This also does a good job of pulling the defensive end in and getting him away from the quarterback. I hated that the quarterback missed an opportunity for a beautiful completion on a well set up play.
Here’s a nice play action look incorporated in the screen game. When I watched this play all I could think of was how sweet Aaron Jones would look in it. Both the play side and backside guards have to do a good job of releasing the rushing and getting downfield to make a block. The key to any screen, of course, is good downfield blocking. The tackle also is a key component in this play. He has to anchor the edge and keep the end out of the vision of the quarterback. All screens are usually blocked 2 to 3 counts up front before the rusher is released and the blocker goes downfield. Timing makes and breaks all screens.
Using All Receivers
One of the things that I’ve noticed about LaFleur’s pass game is that he incorporates as many receivers as possible in to a play, including the running backs. Here is one of my favorite examples of that. Coming out in a 3X1 look, we see the 3 receivers come across the field and the half back used on an option route. The option route is one of the hardest for linebackers to defend. As the back approaches the linebacker, he must come to balance and play the linebacker based on his position. Notice here how the linebacker is favoring the outside just a touch. Its read perfectly by the back and he breaks to the inside and makes the reception. Backs who run the option route have to be smart and read the defender well. If the linebacker had been favoring the inside, the back would cut out. Finally, if the linebacker bails out (such as in a cover 2) then the back sits and serves as the check down player.
Packer fans are all too familiar with the slant/flat route combo. The look is usually ran from a 2X2 look with the slot and X (split) receiver running the combination. It’s the same look, same read under LaFleur only this time using the half back and the X. We will see the same concept from a 2X2 but LaFleur mixes it up and gets different players involved in this concept. This showed me that he isn’t afraid to get different players in the mix in every concept. I think a player like Aaron Jones could fare well in the this look.
Another film study is in the books. Again, I hope you’re starting to learn a little something about the new Packers head coach. This is an exciting time for Packer fans. The last time a head coach was introduced to the Packers (2006), all 22 film wasn’t around for fans to break down during the offseason. We’re fortunate to have to resources we do and can learn more about the Packers new offense than ever before.
Follow me on Twitter for more Packers film breakdowns: @PTTF_ChalkTalk