A big offensive trend right now is to "package" different types of plays into the same play. Coaches have been doing this sort of thing for a while, including the Jets with Brett Favre under center and several notable college offenses.
I am not sure exactly where the trend started, but Favre was doing it a lot in New York, then Holgorsen expanded on the concept at Oklahoma State, and now everyone in college is doing it.
I fully expect this trend to expand quickly in the NFL, despite the league's aversion to risk and new ideas. The Packers are one team already making this a reality, and we've seen Washington and Cincinnati implement similar tactics.Early in the first quarter--on a play that was one of few offensive successes on the day--we saw QB Brandon Weeden execute a packaged play to perfection. Weeden should feel right at home running these types of plays, and honestly I don't think we can see enough of them in the near future. In fact, during Jon Gruden's interview with Brandon Weeden, Weeden described a packaged play that he ran in college that was "like stealing." Shurmur seems comfortable with these plays as well; he ran them relatively often with Sam Bradford in 2010.
"Solo left, Z close, 66 slant, X look"
I don't have the playbook so I can't tell for sure, but the playcall would sound something like this. "Solo left" would mean we are in a singleback formation with the "Y" TE on the left (Ben Watson). "Z close" would be the adjustment to the formation where the "Z" receiver (Little) reduces his split.
"66" means that it's a run with the back 5 yards behind the QB (60s), and it's designed to go to the 6 hole ("_6"):
"slant" is the name of the run, which could easily be something else like "zone" or "inside zone" for Shurmur. I took "slant" from the closest thing I could find to a weak-side inside zone from singleback in a Holmgren playbook.
"X look" is the key part to this play. It means that Massaquoi (the "X" receiver) is going to run a "now slant" into space and look for the ball immediately.
Basically, we had an inside zone run play called to the right here, but Weeden has an option to kill the run play and throw to a 1-step slant to WR Mohammed Massaquoi ("packaging" this run and pass). Richardson and the line play like it is a run all the way, and Massaquoi plays it like he's getting the pass all the way. Weeden makes a read of the defense and the decision on where to go with the ball based on what they do.
Weeden is reading the box and the coverage over Massaquoi to make his decision. In this case, the defense is in cover-3, loading the box with an extra safety and playing off with their corners. CB Nnamdi Asomugha bluffs press for a while and then retreats to his "off" position.
We have 7 defenders on the line to block 8 guys, and this is exactly the type of play that Bernie Kosar would say "is never going to work" during a preseason broadcast, while lamenting how the quarterback needs to audible out of the play.
Not so fast my friend.
Instead of audibling out and changing the play (which gives the defense a chance to change), Weeden has the play he needs already built in to this one ("X look"). With Nnamdi deep and the 8th man in the box, Massaquoi is wide open.
Weeden takes the snap, makes the correct read, and fires the ball out to Massaquoi on a 3-step drop. Massaquoi catches on the run and gains a good chunk of 24 yards.
Even the perfect play isn't always perfect on the field
The bad part about this play is that Weeden takes a big hit. In the NFL, limiting hits on quarterbacks is a huge part of the reason coaches don't run more "college" offense (IMHO). But really this play and others like it should provide both the benefits of a post-snap option and a lack of exposure to the QB.
The hit on Weeden here is the result of poor execution. From the endzone angle, you can see LG Jason Pinkston take a big step playside off the snap, while LT Joe Thomas takes a much less aggressive approach. Thomas is looking to double team DE Trent Cole up to the WLB on his side, while Pinkston looks like he is running outside zone and trying to take over the 3-Tech strong form Alex Mack or get up to the MLB. In any event, Pinkston ignores the 1-tech right off the snap and is spun around trying to chase him later.
Without knowing for sure, my best guess is that Pinkston is at fault here and not Thomas. While even The Almighty can screw up from time to time, I think their track records as players only served to strengthen my suspicion in this case.
In any event, with proper execution Pinkston can block that DT and either create a hole for Trent Richardson or keep the defense from getting a big hit on Weeden. Either way, packaging these plays puts us in position to out-number the defense and move the ball.