The following research report was written by X&O Labs’ newest offensive researcher, Mike Kelly. Coach Kelly is the former head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and has worked for the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins. In this report, Coach Kelly discusses what he found when studying how coaches are using sight adjustments to combat pressures. He also adds his own experiences and advice that you can use to take advantage of an aggressive defense.
By Mike Kelly, Offensive Researcher, X&O Labs
Researchers' Note: You can access the raw data - in the form of graphs - from our research of sight adjustments: Click here to read the Statistical Analysis Report.
Today, offenses are faced with a plethora of defensive alignments and a multitude of pressures and coverages, but the integrity of
defensive play remains constant. A defense must maintain gap control and if one player vacates, another must replace. It’s that simple. Don’t get overwhelmed, just find the inherent weakness of each concept and prepare your players to read and react accordingly with what we like to call the "unspoken communication" of throwing the football.
With this in mind we posed the question of whether you ask your receivers to "sight adjust" their routes and do you incorporate structured "hot" throws into your passing schemes? Over 300 coaches responded to the survey with nearly 80% currently coaching at the high school level. The majority of the respondents (40.2%) possess the title of offensive coordinator and 26.5% are head coaches. 5% of the coach’s work on the defensive side of the ball leaving the remaining 27% as offensive positional coaches giving us a good perspective as to what presents difficulties in each aspect of offensive play.
The survey revealed that 40% of the respondents only incorporate "hot" schemes in 10% of their passing game with nearly identical percentages pertaining to a free release by the running back into the pattern. These numbers coincide with the responses that 74% of high school coaches are seeing additional pressure players deployed in less than 10% of their passing situations.
So, obviously with these numbers, it is not an alarming rate at which additional pressure players are causing conflict to the pass game. However, when blitz is presented, it is a tremendous opportunity for the offense to take advantage and make a quick strike.
I have always felt it is important that the receiving corps and the quarterbacks are educated in the same manner in terms of reading additional pressure players with pre-snap alignment and understanding the inherent weaknesses present in every coverage utilized. The "eyes" need to be the same looking back as looking out to and from the secondary.
To keep this in its most simplistic form, the receiving corps and the quarterback need to locate the free safety and recognize his alignment. Is he lower than usual? Is he creeping over an area outside defender to assume that player’s coverage responsibility? These triggers will alert your players to possible dog or blitz. The receiver can verbalize the threat by yelling, "Possible, Possible!" As your receivers develop, the verbalization will no longer be necessary and they will adjust in unison. Regardless of the play called in the huddle, a quick strike is executed upon the snap as pressure is immediately being executed.
"Smoke": It is noted that several coaches used a "west coast" style response to a coverage defender playing at depth with "smoke." The receiver will immediately turn his numbers to the quarterback on the snap. It is imperative that the receiver does not "drift" away from the throw or on either side of the line of scrimmage. If anything, a step into the throw is what you’ll want. Eighty-five percent of the respondents noted that they align their quarterback in the shot-gun in potential pressure situations and this allows for a better downhill throw providing the receiver with an opportunity to turn his shoulders up-field more readily. The QB, who’s heels should be no deeper than four yards, must "grip it and rip it" urgently positioning his non-throwing shoulder towards his target with the side of the knee, side of the foot, short striding into the high elbow throw.