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Post-Snap Rotation and Play Action Passes

A staple of the Giants defense last year under Patrick Graham was post-snap rotation, i.e., the defense showing one look before the snap, say Cover 2 with middle of the field open, but with one of the safeties crashing down right after the snap to take away the intermediate depth pass while the remaining deep safety rotates into the middle. I believe the so-called "Tampa 2 robber " is an example of this. The idea is to create hesitation by the QB since what he sees and plans to do when the ball is snapped has to be changed after the snap.

I was alerted by Twitter user @clt_ny to a nice article in The Athletic by Jordan Rodrigue about Brandon Staley's (now head coach of LAC) tenure as defensive coordinator of the LA Rams, during which he would try to concoct defenses that would stop Sean McVay's offense, which relied heavily on play action passes by then-QB Jared Goff. Goff was one of the league leaders in play action passes in 2020. Play action for a QB standing over center requires the QB to turn his back to the defense after the snap, and Staley decided that post-snap rotation in such situations would be particularly effective because the QB suddenly sees a different look after he fakes the handoff and turns around:

Daniel Jones did not do a whole lot of play action passing last year, but we might imagine him doing more this year with Saquon Barkley in the backfield. The story implies that play action passes might not be the best idea against teams whose defenses do a lot of post-snap rotation. So who does post-snap safety rotation a lot?

You can see that the Giants are right up there near the top, no surprise given all the stuff Patrick Graham did to fool offenses last year. And no surprise that the Rams did even more in 2020 with Staley as their defensive coordinator. But by far the team that did it the most? Denver, whose head coach Vic Fangio gave Staley his first coaching job in the NFL.

So this Sunday, let's hope that Jason Garrett skips the play action passes and has Jones work out of the shotgun most of the time, where he can always have his eyes on the safeties. On the flip side, let's see if Patrick Graham uses post-snap motion preferentially when the Giants play teams that use a lot of play action. Of the QBs we play this year, only Matt Ryan, who we will see in week 3, did a lot of play action passing last year. That would be the week to look for it.

Likewise, when we play the Rams, that would be a week to stay away from play action passes, as would the week when we play the Chargers, since Staley is now their head coach.

Seems like a minor detail, but anything that helps Jones with his processing is worth paying attention to.

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