Summertime is for reading playbooks.
While many might bring a crime novel, or some other work of fiction, on summer vacation or out to the porch on a warm June evening, I bring playbooks. Of course, that sounds ridiculously lame, but I have never claimed to be anything but that.
Drawing on my love of playbooks, our fearless editor thought it was a good idea to put together a potential game script. For plays that new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett could use to create advantageous situations for Daniel Jones.
But to put this together, I have relied upon a playbook that I love, and that I believe stands the test of time, as I think you will agree with in due time. That is Dan Henning’s 2005 Carolina Panthers playbook. Why was this the basis for such a piece? Well, as we all know Garrett’s offensive philosophy is rooted in the Air Coryell school of thought.
Henning’s Coryell lineage is more direct that Garrett’s. He coached under Joe Gibbs, one of the original Coryell disciples. His 2005 Panthers playbook reflects that, but it also has terminology and designs that are more current than its year would lead you to believe.
The way this potential passing script is designed has four different parts. First are the quick game passes, which can be called on almost any situation but for third and long. Then play-action designs, which are also suitable for any situation but ideal for first and ten or short yardage. Then there is a section designed for the running back’s usage in the passing game, aimed at involving Saquon Barkley as a receiver working downfield. Finally, the deeper stuff.
Let’s get into it.
Quick game concepts
When it comes to designing quick concepts in the passing game, plays should have parallel goals. First, giving the quarterback options to both sides of the field with the potential to make pre-snap decisions based on the coverage scheme displayed by the defense. Second, opportunities to generate yardage after the catch based on route design and execution, If you are throwing a three-yard route, you best have a means of getting more than that after the catch.
First up, a play that might be familiar to New England Patriots fans.
0 Near Slot Hat 72 Ghost Tosser
One of the more interesting aspects to Henning’s playbook is that despite its origins in the Coryell system, it utilized Erhardt-Perkins naming conventions. Ghost, for example, is a two-man route combination consisting of an out route and a go route (Go-out ... or Ghost). Tosser is a two-man route combination with a pair of slants. (Two slants ... or Tosser)
Look, it is not perfect but it gets the job done.
On this play, the offense runs it out of 21 personnel, but that can obviously be altered to an 11 or even a 12 personnel group. What I like about this design is that it gives Jones information before the snap. By sending Barkley in motion, Jones will get that pre-snap cue from the defense, depending on how they adjust. If they are in zone coverage, he likely works the go/out combination on the right, but if they are in man, he can work the slant routes, working from inside out.
Empty Rt Fip 74 F Return Tosser
Here we have an empty passing concept that also uses pre-snap motion to give Jones information. To the right side of the formation the offense uses a bunch, and the outside receiver comes in motion before running a “return” route. He will break inside on what looks like a spot route, but if he does not get the football at that moment, he will break back towards the sideline. The concept also has a flat route from the inside receiver, and a deep corner route. Backside we see the dual slants, or Tosser, once again. Jones will be able to get that pre-snap cue from the defense depending on how they respond to the motion, and have a decision in mind before the play begins.
0 Out Zac 58 D-Go
Once more, pre-snap movement plays a role here. In this case we see “Zac” motion, shorthand for Z across the formation. We also see a mirrored passing concept, with a go/flat combination on each side of the field.
Readers of my work, particularly when it comes to Jones, probably know where I am going with this. If one were to pick one play from his final year at Duke to highlight his potential, it would be this touchdown against Virginia:
There you go, the same design against Virginia for a scoring strike. Only this time it is mirrored (astute readers will notice the Blue Devils have Tosser on the backside of this play, meaning the actual example Duke is running is very similar to Ghost Tosser from earlier). In our design — D-Go — Jones will be able to ascertain the coverage pre-snap and pick his best side.
We have one more quick game concept to get to, before moving deeper down the field.
0 On 58 D-Slant
This is your standard mirrored slant/flat design. Slant routes from the outside receivers, flat routes from the inside receivers. The design here is out of 12 offensive personnel but you can run this out of almost anything. Henning also incorporates a “Snow” route for the running back, which is an option route at a depth of three yards.
Mirrored slant/flat is a day one installation for almost every team at almost every level of football. Something like this just has to be part of the script. Jones has probably run it thousands of times himself over the years.
Now let us have a bit more fun.
Data shows us that play-action passing is almost a cheat code when it comes to offensive football. For example, Jones in 2019 saw an increase of 3.8 percent in his completion percentage when using play-action over his completion percentage on traditional drop back throws. Furthermore, his Yards per Attempt rose by 2.4 when the Giants’ used play-action. It helps.
Here is our first design.
Jet Rt Yig 218 D-Go
This is a quick play-action design working of what looks to the defense to be zone blocking. Jones will reverse pivot, faking an outside running play to the left before following the moving pocket to the right. Where he finds that D-Go combination we have already outlined. This play also has pre-snap motion, “Yig” motion to be precise, with the Y receiver (tight end) working across the football and then back to the right, giving Jones that pre-snap movement indicator.
Yac to 1 Out Slot Jab 144 Counter Throwback
Now we get a little spicy. This is a play-action design working off of counter action, with the running back showing footwork first to the left side of the field before angling back to the right. He will check protection before releasing to the flat. Jones has a choice route from the slot receiver, who will break inside against a “Middle of the Field Open/MOFO” look (think Cover 2) trying to cross the face of the nearest safety, or outside against a “Middle of the Field Closed/MOFC” look (think Cover 1 or Cover 3). The X receiver has a go route along the right sideline.
The “throwback” element here is the route from the backside target. That is a route that will convert based on coverage, and that player will run either a deep corner, an out or a deep comeback route. Jones can work this frontside, but if he likes the matchup on the backside he’ll take the throwback route. Of course, we have motion built into this play as well.
Yac 0 Bunch Ride 136 Choice
This play is very similar to the previous design. Once again, pre-snap motion from the tight end to give Jones information, only this time the tight end releases to the flat and serves as a hot read against the blitz. The Z receiver runs a Choice route again, but this time the outside receiver runs this deep curl. Backside, the throwback route is still in place. Similar design, which should lead to another quick decision from the quarterback.
1 Flood Yac Ride 134 X-F Cross
Our final play-action design gets more aggressive, looking to a pair of crossing routes from the X and F receivers. We again have pre-snap motion from the tight end, with the tight end working across the formation, checking protection on the edge and then releasing to the flat. You can imagine this play out of 11 offensive personnel, with Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate running the crossing routes. Or you can imagine this out of 12 personnel, with perhaps Shepard and Evan Engram on the crossers. The pre-snap motion gives Jones that man/zone indicator, and if he gets zone coverage he can try and find the underneath crosser between the zones before working to the flat route as a check down, or even the sit route from the running back.
Speaking of the running back ...
Getting the RB involved
Involving Saquon Barkley as a receiver in the passing game has been a cry of Giants’ fans for the past few seasons. As such, any game script should have some plays looking to get him the football. We will have two, but you can imagine countless others.
F Rt 72 Reno
Everybody loves a wheel route, right?
On this design, the wheel route from the running back is paired with a post route from the outside receiver, setting up a combination sometimes referred to as “Peel,” short for post/wheel. If Jones likes the matchup of Barkley on likely a linebacker - and why wouldn’t he - then he can take a shot on the wheel route.
If, however, the defense shows him man coverage he can work a three-level stretch in the middle of the field, starting with the post route, down to the search route from the tight end, then the the shallow crossing route from the X receiver. Keeping with our Giants’ likely personnel group, that means he’s looking to Tate on the post, then Engram on the search route, then finally to Slayton coming across on the shallow.
Answers for almost anything the defense wants to throw his way.
Yac F Rt 72 Ghost H Angle Wheel
I love this play for the Giants’ personnel, much like the previous example.
On this design, pre-snap motion from the tight end gives Jones the coverage indicator, and the tight end runs an out route, half of the “Ghost” aspect to this play. Picture Slayton running the go route along with that out route. Backside you have Tate on the slant, then Shepard on the wheel route from the slot. Finally, the Barkley component: An angle route, likely against a linebacker. So many great choices for Jones.
Finally, what you all came here for: The deep stuff.
We start with everyone’s favorite: Four verticals.
Yac 0 Bunch 55 All Go H Snow
Four verticals out of a 3x1 alignment is almost cheating, in my opinion. So many options for the offense. (Apologies for one of the routes getting cut off, but when you’re working from a 15-year old playbook, things get shoddy).
Jones again has his pre-snap indicator, in the form of Engram working across the formation from left to right. He runs the “Bender” route, aiming for the opposite hashmark. Shepard’s vertical route from the slot coverts on coverage, he will aim for the middle of the field against a MOFO look, or will stay more vertical against a MOFC look.
0 Out Zac 56 Double Seam Snow
Now we have another vertical concept, which depending on coverage could operate like four verticals, but it is works from a starting place of Hoss Y-Juke, a staple of New England’s offense. Both outside receivers run curl routes (deeper than the hitch routes in Hoss) but those can convert to fade routes against press or rolled coverages. The inside receivers run seams, with the Z receiver having the ability to convert his based on a MOFC/MOFO read. He also comes in motion pre-snap, giving Jones a coverage indicator.
The running back runs the Snow route, which again is short option route. He can sit down against zone or run away from the leverage of the man defender covering him.
1 Out 63 Special
Here is another design that gives Jones options. Starting on the left, you see a curl route that again can convert to a fade based on coverage, as well as the seam route from the middle receiver in this trips that converts based on a MOFC/MOFO read. Jones can start on that side of the formation if he likes the coverage, and in particular a single high scheme such as Cover 1 or Cover 3 gives him nice options working that side of the field. Say, for example, the defense stays in a basic Cover 3 look, with the cornerback playing off coverage. The curl route is a nice choice, as the cornerback has to respect a vertical threat, but the seam route from the Z receiver attacks a weak spot of Cover 3 as well. Against a press Cover 1, that curl converts to a fade, and again you have the potential seam route now against man coverage.
To the other side of the formation, you see again a three-level read. The deep in route from the X receiver, then the crosser from the tight end, and finally the check down or Sneak route from the running back. Jones can work the two-receiver concept first and if he gets a coverage that he does not like, he can work the levels to the right side.
We close it out with one more design.
Gun Spread Rt 66 Tin Delay H Sneak
This is another concept where I love how the Giants’ personnel fits into each element of the design. We will start to the right side, with the Tin or “two in” combination. With the tight end detached and in the slot, Jones gets a pre-snap indicator without the use of motion, He will see who walks out over Engram, if anyone. Then he and Tate work the double dig concept to that side of the formation, which works against both zone or man.
Then on the left the Giants have what Henning termed “Delay,” which is a concept similar to Smash. The slot receiver - Shepard - runs the corner route while Slayton runs the delay, which looks like a hitch before drifting inside, then back outside. That is a great route concept that will rely on feel, and given their experience together Jones and Slayton are a good match. Finally, the Sneak route from Barkley underneath.
So there you have it, a potential passing script that Jason Garrett can implement for his young quarterback. Each design looks to give Jones information before the play, whether due to alignment or motion, and options after the snap to all areas and levels of the field. Exactly the things you want to incorporate to help a young passer.