Option Routes and Other Stuff

Posted: May 15th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 24 Comments »

Sheil Kapadia wrote a very good piece yesterday about something new that is coming to the Eagles offense – option routes.

The first time I remember reading about option routes was with the Run ‘n Shoot offense. That offense featured 4 WRs that were spread out, which led to defenses having to play some creative coverages. Rather than having the WRs run static routes, the coaches had options built into plays so that receivers could adjust based on what the defense was doing. In theory, this should lead to a receiver always being open or having a favorable situation.

From a logic standpoint, this is a no-brainer. Coaches should always do something that gives the offense an advantage.

From an execution standpoint, this is very, very tricky. The QB and the WR have to read the same thing on every play. Eagles fans love to pick on Eli Manning for some of his bizarre INTs. Some of those are due to option routes, plays where the WR read one thing and Eli saw another. At that point, the QB is throwing to a spot, not a player.

The QB must have the confidence to throw to a spot. Too often QBs want to throw to a player. It takes discipline, trust, and confidence to throw the ball in anticipation of a receiver being in a certain place. Young QBs struggle with this more than veterans.

How will the Eagles QBs do? I have no idea if Michael Vick will be good at this. We have seen him anticipate some pass plays over the years, but it isn’t something he’s done on a regular basis. Vick certainly has the most experience and should be the most advanced at reading defenses and knowing what’s going on. We’ll find out if that’s the case. From what I’ve read, option routes were a part of Nick Foles offense at Arizona. He and WR Juron Criner were very good with them. Matt Barkley and USC used some option routes, but I don’t think they were a major part of the offense.

How about the Eagles WRs? Option routes will probably be new to DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant, maybe Riley Cooper. Jeremy Maclin may have used them at Missouri. Damaris Johnson should know them from Tulsa. I have no idea if Arrelious Benn has run them. I doubt Ifeanyi Momah did much with them at BC. Basically, this group has a lot of learning to do.

You must understand there will be mistakes. Option routes are a calculated risk. You know sometimes they will lead to incompletions or even INTs. You accept that since the expectation is that they’ll benefit you much more than they’ll hurt you.

What we’re talking about is adjusting to what the DB does. If the DB plays 10 yards off, the WR should run a short route. If the DB presses, the WR should try to get by him deep. If the DB has inside leverage, the WR should break outside. And so on. You are essentially taking what the defense gives you.

I am curious to see how the QBs and WRs execute this.

* * * * *

Let’s talk about Brandon Graham for a minute. Too many people read the previous post as overly negative.

I can’t stress this enough. Graham had a good showing in 2012. He played well and I’m hoping he’s better in 2013 and beyond.  My point wasn’t that he’s a bust or has no shot in the new defense. I do think some people have over-praised what he did last year.

That said, let’s remember who we’re judging him against. Context is always crucial. Since becoming an Eagles fan I’ve seen the following players at DE:

Reggie White
Clyde Simmons
William Fuller
Hugh Douglas
Jevon Kearse
Trent Cole
Jason Babin (2011 version)

Those guys were star DEs that offenses had to account for. They could take over games. They produced over the course of a 16-game season.  They were stars.

Graham wasn’t on that level last year. His PFF stats are very impressive, but the eyeball test is very different.

I don’t know what Graham will do in 2013. My goal was to understand why he was the backup SAM. Just a week ago I had Graham pegged as the Predator with Trent Cole as his backup. Instead, the coaches have Cole as the Predator and Graham as Connor Barwin’s backup.

Chip Kelly would be quick to point out this is just mid-May and a lot can change. If Graham plays lights out, he’ll start, whether at SAM or Predator. If Graham lives in the backfield, they’ll get him on the field.

I do think it tells us something that Graham is beginning as a backup. Were the coaches not blown away by his 2012 tape? They certainly weren’t blown away by Cole’s great year. Maybe this is simply a motivational ploy to keep Graham fired up. I don’t know why Graham is the #3 pass rusher for now. But he is.

If we’re lucky, Graham, Cole, and Barwin will all play well and this will be a good problem.

* * * * *

Someone asked about Graham’s agility before the ACL injury.  Here is part of a pre-draft write-up that I did:

“There will be plenty of 3-4 teams who value him as a LB. His size and build will be perfect for some schemes. He can play in space if needed. Made a real impressive play against Terrell Pryor in the OSU game. Pryor was on the run. Graham showed great agility and COD skills to handle the fakes and still make a solid tackle in space. Graham is an athletic defender and a top flight pass rusher. His ability showed up in workouts as well. Ran a 4.71 at the Combine. Had a solid showing at the Combine. Only came up short in the VJ (31.5). Great career production. 29.5 sacks and 8 FFs.

Had a monster performance at the Senior Bowl, both practices and in the game. Looked like a dominant player.

1st round prospect. Could go real high if teams are okay with his size and build.”

I don’t think his agility is nearly the same. That doesn’t mean Graham can’t fit into a role as primarily a rush LB. You don’t have to be a great athlete. You must be a functional athlete and good pass rusher.

Be patient. Let’s see how he does.

* * * * *

The Pats cuts DL Brandon Deadrick and Kyle Love in the past couple of days.  Should the Eagles have interest?

Deadrick was claimed by JAX.

Love is a tough subject. He was just diagnosed with Type-2 Diabetes and that helped lead to his being cut. Still, his playing time declined last year. It seems the Pats weren’t thrilled with him. One of the guys he lost time to…Deadrick.

Love was impressive a couple of years ago. His emergence allowed them to move Vince Wilfork away from the NT spot. Vince could play 3-4 DE or 4-3 DT and Belichick could get creative. Love is 6-1, 320 (or more). He is a NT.

I don’t anticipate the Eagles being interested. The Eagles have Isaac Sopoaga at NT. Antonio Dixon is fighting for a roster spot. Bennie Logan is the NT of the future. You could cut Dixon and replace him with Love, but I think the Eagles want to give Dixon a shot. He showed good promise in 2010. He’s back in a scheme that fits his skill set. And he is in the best shape he’s been in in a while.

Remember that the Eagles like Sopoaga. He is a veteran player and natural leader. With Mike Patterson gone, the guys up front need a leader. Sopoaga is a short term player here, but does have value in getting the foundation laid in the new defense and in the way Chip Kelly wants things done. While he hasn’t played for Kelly, Sopoaga isn’t an Andy Reid holdover who will talk about how things used to be. Embracing the new stuff will come easily to him.


24 Comments on “Option Routes and Other Stuff”

  1. 1 Jack Waggoner said at 12:51 AM on May 16th, 2013:

    Love is all you need.

  2. 2 Jack Waggoner said at 12:55 AM on May 16th, 2013:

    How many receivers would be running an option route at once? Because that would figure into what the QB has to keep track of.

  3. 3 TommyLawlor said at 1:13 AM on May 16th, 2013:

    Great question. I would guess it could be anywhere from 2 to 4.

  4. 4 ICDogg said at 1:24 PM on May 16th, 2013:

    My instinct is that any more than 1 or 2 and it will be more confusing than it is worth.

  5. 5 A_T_G said at 3:22 AM on May 16th, 2013:

    If they sign Love they are going to have a mutiny at DE. No one will be willing to be the third down lineman and have commentators announcing “Curry, Love, Cox.” on national television Sundays.

  6. 6 T_S_O_P said at 7:48 AM on May 16th, 2013:

    There was a great piece of radio commentary here in a test match (cricket) between the West Indies and England were ever so matter of factly it was announced the “the batsman’s ‘Holding’ the bowler’s ‘Willey’.” Love and Cox as supplements couldn’t be much worse.

  7. 7 A_T_G said at 8:33 PM on May 16th, 2013:

    Imagining that from an Englishman wearing a bowler hat, sipping tea, and commenting on how badly players suck in the most polite terms possible makes it even more funny. I am 99% sure that the commentators don’t do those things, but there is no reason to burst that bubble tonight.

  8. 8 ICDogg said at 1:33 PM on May 16th, 2013:

    If we keep Everette Brown, and surround him with Love, and Cox…

  9. 9 Greg Richards said at 7:40 AM on May 16th, 2013:

    I think you’re getting way too caught up in the whole Predator vs. SAM thing. From the sound of things Kelly wants both OLBs to be able to pass-rush, cover, set the edge. I haven’t seen Kelly or Davis put things in those terms(Predator, SAM) yet. Davis used that scheme in Arizona, no guarantee it’s the same thing here. I think the different players may have those roles for different plays during the games but it seems like they want the versatility so that either the LOLB or ROLB can do it on any given play.

  10. 10 Adam Saberback said at 8:18 AM on May 16th, 2013:

    I never realized this about Kelly and the OLB’s. With how Kelly values versatility everywhere else on his team, it makes sense that his OLB will have to cover, rush, and play well against the run too. He even said he doesn’t like the terms ‘strong’ or ‘free’ safety, rather ‘left’ and ‘right’ safety.

  11. 11 ICDogg said at 1:22 PM on May 16th, 2013:

    Typically, the ‘Predator’ LB has limited coverage responsibility, in those cases he is helping to cover the backs.

  12. 12 GvilleEagleFan said at 9:05 AM on May 16th, 2013:

    I’m sure he’s going to want both players to be able to do both roles, but they will be different positions.The main importance of maintaining the Predator/SAM distinction is that Kendricks would be a tough fit as a traditional ‘thumper’ 3-4 ILB, but if you have him on the side of the ‘Predator’ then more of the OL is occupied and he’ll be free to flow to the ball and make plays.

  13. 13 TommyLawlor said at 11:29 AM on May 16th, 2013:

    Barwin has said that he the Eagles talked to him about both roles.

    If Kelly truly wanted complete OLBs, Cole would be long gone. Can you imagine Cole covering Jimmy Graham even 5 times in a game?

    We’ve heard from players that the scheme will be a mix of 3-4 and 4-3 Under. The 4-3 Under has a SAM and a rush LB (Predator or Leo or whatever you want to call the spot).

  14. 14 ICDogg said at 1:14 PM on May 16th, 2013:

    At one point I was reading some stuff about Alabama’s defense but they were calling it the Jack. I’ve also heard Elephant and Buck. I’m not sure why this position has so many names.

  15. 15 Rage114 said at 8:11 AM on May 16th, 2013:

    First thing a doctor tells you to do if you are diagnosed as having Type II diabetes: lose weight.
    Getting lighter and being a NT seems to be counterproductive. I doubt teams will be interested in Love.

  16. 16 SuPaFrO said at 10:45 AM on May 16th, 2013:

    Regarding to the option routes, doesn’t the Pats run a lot in their playbook? I recall Chad Johnson having difficulty learning it n which resulted in his lack of playing time n horrible season. But then again it might have also been because of his distractions.

  17. 17 TommyLawlor said at 11:24 AM on May 16th, 2013:

    The Pats do a ton of option routes. It has caused problems for them with free agents and rookies.

  18. 18 Daniel Norman Richwine said at 11:05 AM on May 16th, 2013:

    With changes like this, I won’t be shocked if Files or even Barkley actually win the starting job during training camp. I won’t he suprised if our starting receivers are not Jackson and Maclin. the kinds of things the Eagles will be doing this year are just so very different from the past you can’t predict.

  19. 19 ACViking said at 11:11 AM on May 16th, 2013:

    Re: Choices, choices

    Here’s a pretty good article, with visuals, explaining — with the run-and-shoot offense as the back drop — how every receiver has choices they can make on their routes. And it’s up to the QB to decipher it all on the fly.


  20. 20 D3FB said at 11:13 AM on May 16th, 2013:

    I think the option routes are a great compliment to the no huddle offense. One thing defenses have tried to do to stop option routes is line up strangely to try and muddy the pre-snap read. However due to the no huddle and lack of time between snaps, defenders won’t be able to stem or move around as much for fear of being caught out of place when the ball is snapped.

  21. 21 T_S_O_P said at 1:36 PM on May 16th, 2013:

    Tommy, over the last few seasons we have had success with Bunch formation. Do the receivers in the Bunch run option routes? If so, could this have any indication as to whether Vick has the requisit decision making skills to be effective?

  22. 22 OregonDucker said at 5:04 PM on May 16th, 2013:

    Regarding option route communication between the QB and WR/TE, it won’t happen. The route signal comes at the last second from a coach on the sideline via hand signals. The line gets signals also from another coach. This signaling method ensures that everyone is on the same page regarding responsibilities.

    At Oregon, the signal came during the QB hike count. For example, hut 1, look to sideline for signals, hut hut hut, hike. This way the final defensive set is in place, the OC in the skybox sees the set and sideline coaches get the play then signal the play to all players for their respective responsibilities, the ball is hiked. This process ensures optimum communication between the coaches and players. (I don’t know if Chip will call the play on the sideline in all cases or if it will usually come from the OC in the skybox. I suspect that Chip will call the play after input from the OC.)

  23. 23 Mark Sitko said at 11:10 PM on May 16th, 2013:

    I think Chip is giving Trent Cole the starting spot out of respect. On this entire Defense who has been more of a leader than Cole? It would be inappropriate to start Graham over him based on last year’s film, even if Cole had a down year. The question now is can Cole learn that position fast enough to fend off younger athletes? If I had to bet on it today I would say he will not be successful at this task and our starting OLBs will be Barwin and someone else…but who?

  24. 24 GEagle said at 9:27 AM on May 17th, 2013:

    The only thing that Graham starting as a backup in May, during OTAs designed to learn the new schemes tells me, is that Chip see’s no reason to disrespect Eagles veterans in May. Playing gRaham at Sam in May, only tells ME that they want to see what he can and can’t grow to do….I will be shocked if Graham doesn’t start at predator…and I’m not overvaluing last year. I wasn’t blown away by 2012, but Graham did finally get on the right track last year for where we eventually want him to be. 2012 was a great first step for an often injured young player.Heres hoping he takes that next step in 2013…There isn’t much of a difference between DE and Predator, so why wouldn’t we see what he can do at Sam in May? What’s more telling to me is that Cole isn’t even getting Looks at SAM..that tells me that Cole can’t cover, and that Graham might have potential to cover(to some degree), so in May, they are finding out for sure…That’s my interpretation…

    Only the fringe players are competing during OTA..everyone else is trying to learn as best they can, so that they can best compete when the real battles start during Camp…You don’t bring back proud Eagles veterans like Cole and Vick, and bench them in May. Why embarrass them like that and risk them shutting down so early in the offseason. if a veteran is going to get relegated to 2nd string, WE WON’T SEE THAT, until Camp battles shake things up