[Ed Note: This is Part 3 of Manny Matsakis's series on his "triple shoot" offense. Check out the triple shoot website here.]
Part 3 - Passing attack and screens
The drop-back passing game is initiated by our QB taking his drop to the inside hip of the play side Tackle (6 yards deep) while receivers are running route adjustments based on the coverage they are going against. We throw the ball out of a normal snap formation or a shotgun alignment. Throws are made to the receivers based either on “looks” or “reads”. A “look” is a progression from one receiver to the next, based on who should be open in sequential order. A “read” is the process of a QB reading the reaction of a specific defensive player (depending on the scheme that has been called), which in turn he will throw off of that defender’s movement.
Our drop back passes are all scheme-based as opposed to receiver’s running a passing tree. When a scheme is in synchronicity receivers will break on their adjustments as they are moving on the stem of their routes. Our receivers are trained to know what coverage they are facing by the time they are into the third step of their route. In the past, we would make a pre-snap determination of the type of coverage and execute routes accordingly. The benefit of our current system is that it is impossible to disguise coverage this late into the play. Regarding coverage recognition, this is taught by quickly assessing which family of coverage the defense is playing and then “feeling” our way to the appropriate breakpoint. This sounds much more difficult than it really is and we have developed specific drills that make this as easy as playing sandlot football.
There are six primary passing schemes which all “route adjust” based on the coverage we are facing. We can run many of these out of Even or Trips formations and we can even motion to Trips to change up the look we give defenses. The base schemes are called, Slide, Scat, Choice, Hook, Curl and Outside. Each scheme is named after the route run by the outside play side receiver. In every practice, we work on every scheme versus all coverage adjustments. “Tiger” Ellison once told me, “If you can’t practice the whole offense in a single session, you are doing too much.” Since the day he told me this in 1989 I have followed his advice to never add something without taking something away.
To write about all these schemes and adjustments would take a book or an instructional video. To give you a taste of the offense, let me share with you the top two schemes we most enjoy running, Slide & Choice! Slide has evolved from what “Tiger” Ellison called the Frontside Gangster and Choice comes from what was originally called the Backside Gangster.
The Slide scheme is the basis for all the passing game, in that we use this as a drill to teach 80% of our passing attack. The reason for this is that the route adjustments in Slide are executed at some point in the other schemes to a great degree as the QB rolls to the three-receiver side of the formation.
It all begins with the Slide route (In trips) versus a Nickel look (Cover 3 or Man-free). This route starts off with an outside release for 3 steps and from that point the receiver will read the coverage of the defender over him (Cornerback). If the defender bails out, the receiver will execute a Post on his 7th step. If he is playing a man look, the receiver will proceed to run a fade on this man to beat his man deep.
The #2 receiver will run a bubble route around the numbers on the field, making sure to look inside at the QB at a distance of 1 yard behind the line of scrimmage. The #3 receiver then executes a Pick route. The Pick route is designed to get over top of the outside linebacker that is covering the inside receiver. As he gets over the top of that linebacker, the receiver gets to a depth of 12-14 yards before he applies his “downfield zone rule”. The “downfield zone rule” is applied on the free safety in the following manner, “if the man in the zone is high over the top, the receiver will raise his outside arm and set it down to find the passing lane to the QB”. “If the man in the zone crosses the face of the receiver, the receiver will then run a thin post and expect to score.”
The QB will read the Slide route and throw it if it is open, if not, he can then check to the bubble and finally look to the Pick route, which has had the time to get open.
The Choice scheme is the way that we attack the single receiver side of the formation. The QB starts a roll toward the single receiver and the key to this route is that the stepping pattern of the QB must match up precisely with that of the receiver. The single receiver will release off the line of scrimmage and read the man over him (Cornerback) on the receiver’s 5th step. On that 5th step, if the man over him has bailed out he will run a “speed cut” Out on his 7th step. If the receiver has closed the cushion and the cornerback is outside leverage on the receiver, he will run a post and if he is inside leverage he will adjust his route to a fade.
On the backside of Choice, the three receivers will spread the backside of the field. We run a Go route by the #1 receiver (up the sideline) the #2 receiver will run a “backside stretch” inside the hash mark and the #3 receiver will run a control route at a depth of 5 yards to find a passing lane to the QB.
The QB will read the front side of Choice and throw it if his man is open, if not, he will look backside to the Stretch, then the Go and finally to the Control.
The Choice scheme is a great way to spread the field with our receivers and get the ball into the open seams on the backside, especially if the front side is cloudy.
[Ed. Note: For more on the "choice" concept, see here.]
The Exotic plays are of two types, either a Screen to the Superback or a Convoy to one of our receivers. They are both set up with a pass protection simulation and we generally leak out three offensive linemen to block up field as the QB will influence the defense with his pass-action roll before throwing the ball to the back or the receiver.
This screen is a pass thrown to the back out of the backfield. Our line blocking is as follows: The front side tackle will influence the Defensive End for a 2-count before coming up field to block the first linebacker he sees inside. The play side guard will step to the direction of the screen and then release to block the support player while the Center will snap the ball and go down the line to block the first threat he sees, if there is no threat, he will turn around and block any defender that may be chasing down the screen.
The Superback must really sell this play by engaging the Defensive End momentarily before settling up in a passing lane behind the line of scrimmage. Our QB will either shovel the ball to him or pop it over the top of a defender depending on the rush of the defensive line.
Our Convoy has been successful because the action of the QB is rolling away from the direction that he ultimately throws towards. The blocking scheme for Convoy works in the following manner: Our backside tackle will use a draw technique on the Defensive End and stay on him all the way in order to clear out a passing lane backside. The backside Guard will step to the direction of the QB roll and then release backside to block the support player. Our Center steps to the side of the QB’s roll and then releases backside to block the first linebacker he sees on the backside. The front side Guard will step to the QB roll before releasing backside to get the first man he sees, if there is no threat, he will turn in to block anyone that may be chasing down the receiver carrying the ball.
A convoy receiver will take two steps up field before coming behind the line of scrimmage and down the line into the passing lane for the QB. He will catch the ball and get up field to gain yardage through his linemen’s blocks.
Tomorrow, I conclude with a bit more on my background and the Triple Shoot's history of success.
- Manny Matsakis