Thursday, September 20, 2012

Packaged plays

Throughout the season, Michigan has been showing bubble screen motion by their slot receivers on running plays. This was something I took note of after the Air Force game:
The other think to watch, which isn't pertinent to the play, is Jeremy Gallon at the bottom of the screen, who bends out for a screen pass that isn't thrown. Michigan showed this motion a lot in the first two weeks but only threw the screen twice (both against Alabama, both for 8-yard gains). The Air Force defenders don't look at Gallon on this play, despite him waiting in the flat with a blocker in front of him. My hope is that eventually, this becomes a read for Denard and isn't just smoke and mirrors. If Borges is trying to use this formation/motion to draw defenders and keep the defense honest, opposing defenses actually have to react to it or Michigan will be wasting blockers who could be downfield.
As reader Ryan pointed out in the comments of yesterday's post and what became obvious as I rewatched the UMass game is that Borges has actually started to use that slot receiver motion in plays by packaging running and passing comments. Says Ryan:
I actually wonder if this is a 'packaged play,' employed by spread offenses like WVU, Oklahoma St and Oregon. Chris Brown has a write up about it here:

It appears that the offensive linemen are run blocking and the quarterback has the option to hand it off or throw based off of what a read does... watching clips of the other schools running this concept shows their offensive lineman get a little downfield as well
This is more or less spot on, but let's take an example of what Michigan was doing throughout the UMass game.

It's early in the first quarter still and Michigan comes out with a 3-WR, two-back shotgun set. UMass is is a base 4-3 defensive look.

As the ball is snapped, the strongside defensive end (highlighted) is left unblocked. Denard will read him on this play. Notice also: right guard Patrick Omameh will begin to pull across the formation and Jeremy Gallon will begin to bow out for a bubble screen in the slot.

Denard is still reading the highlighted defensive end who is staying high and forcing a handoff to Fitz Toussaint. But OH MY GOD LOOK AT GALLON! (OMGLAG!)

Because the defensive end stays high, Denard is forced to hand the ball off to Toussaint despite OMGLAG!

Michigan's blocking gets messed up on the playside (highlighted). Omameh comes inside the formation looking for a block when he should have bounced outside to block the free defender.

Omameh (highlighted) is now blocking no one and Toussaint is forced to cut back inside where UMass' backside defenders are collapsing.

Toussaint is expectedly swallowed.


The Takeaway
OMGLAG! Denard made the correct read here. His job is to check the unblocked defensive end. If that defender crashes down on the running back, Denard pulls the ball out and (probably) throws the bubble screen to Gallon unless he's covered, at which point Denard would take off. But there's a problem with not having checks at the line of scrimmage:

The closest defender to Gallon is a linebacker who Gallon will run away from. The only other unblocked guy between Gallon and the endzone is a safety that's playing 13 yards off the line of scrimmage. I know that Borges probably won't ever install pre-snap checks, but it's plays like this that are infuriating. Rather than a one-yard loss, UMass is gifting Michigan at least 8 yards here and possibly a touchdown if Gallon can make one player miss in space.

Packaging plays. I like that Borges is packaging plays here. The problem with this and similar packages however, is that the offense is optioning a defender who will most likely force the ball out of Denard's hands. Teams would rather see anyone other than Denard carrying the ball, so they instruct their defensive ends to force the handoff. It's possible that whenever a defensive end fails to force the handoff, the remaining defenders will overreact to Denard carrying the ball who can dump it into the flat for the screen.

As for whether or not this is actually a packaged play, I think it is. After Denard hands the ball off, he turns and fakes the bubble screen to Gallon. On traditional read option plays, when the QB hands the ball off, he often runs upfield to complete the fake and draw more defenders. It will be interesting to see how these packaged concepts develop throughout the year, but it's nice to see them starting now.


Owen Rosen said...

Do you really think this is a packaged play or simply a standard run play with fake bubble action on the other side? I think Borges just decided if he's going to bite the bullet and run the bubble, er, LAZER, he might as well use some of the counters that Rich Rod employed.

As an example, on Denard's long TD against Air Force, they faked the bubble and ran the QB draw. I don't think Denard taking off was a read, just a designed play to occupy part of the defense and move their eyes.

I'd like to see the Rich Rod classic of faking the bubble (with trips) and then hitting the inside slot guy who is usually running free if set up properly earlier in the game.

Owen Rosen said...

After watching the ND game, I think it's abundantly clear Michigan isn't packaging plays. They are using the bubble as a decoy every now and again and that's about it. Michigan's offense is half-pregnant and incoherent.

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