When Greg Cosell talks football, I listen.
The long-time NFL analyst has been around the game for decades, studying film and pouring over matchups. His show, “NFL Matchup” on ESPN, is perhaps one of the parts of each NFL week.
Recently, Cosell sat down with the “Inside the Birds” podcast in preparation for the upcoming NFL season, and the discussion turned to the New York Giants, Brian Daboll and what the new head coach can do for quarterback Daniel Jones. While much of the conversation focused on the flaws of Joe Judge as a head coach — something that does not give this New England Patriots fan the warm and fuzzies — Cosell also talked about what Daboll can do for Jones. Not just in terms of coaching style, but in Xs and Os.
Cosell expressed optimism about the Giants, particularly due to the presence of Daboll and new offensive coordinator Mike Kafka. He talked about how there will be a mix of quick game concepts — something that was apparent at mini-camp and fits with Jones’ collegiate background — as well as vertical concepts. That stress on vertical concepts, something analysts like myself have been clamoring for to help Jones, was music to many ears.
Which brings us to the “Flood” concept. Cosell outlined how the Giants could lean on three-level concepts with a vertical element like Flood, to stress defenses and give Jones a number of options in the passing game:
the #Giants leaning on three-level route concepts with a vertical element like flood. Personally, I LOVE to hear this. Flood concepts put a lot of stress on the defense -- specifically the second and third levels. I'm very excited to see the mix of Daboll/Kafka on tape (cont)— Dan Schneier (@DanSchneierNFL) July 26, 2022
That excitement over a single concept is backed up by what we have seen from Jones the past few seasons.
At its core, the basic Flood concept incorporates three routes to one side of the field: A vertical route, typically along the boundary. A route to the flat, often from a running back out of the backfield or a tight end releasing to the flat, and then the middle stretch, which is a deeper out route. Some systems might refer to this concept as Sail:
As you can see, this sets up a three-level stretch, and read, for the quarterback. He can peek the vertical route on the boundary, and if he likes that matchup, he can take the deep shot. The route to the flat gives him an outlet should things break down. But then there is the middle read, and in an ideal world the vertical route pulls the boundary defender, the curl/flat defender bites on the route to the flat, and the out route has a lot of space to work with.
Which is exactly what happens on this play from Jones and the Giants from last season:
The Washington Commanders are in Cover 3 on this play, and the vertical route from C.J. Board along the sideline pulls the cornerback deep. The linebacker buzzing out to the flat collides with Sterling Shepard and falls down, but he is watching Saquon Barkley as the running back releases towards the sideline. That opens up a huge window for Shepard on his out route.
There are variations to this concept that can give it a different look, but still provide the quarterback with the basic three-level read. On this play from overtime against the New Orleans Saints, the Giants dial up a Flood concept out of a trips look, which has Board on the vertical route, Kadarius Toney running a pivot route from his middle alignment in the trips — working to the flat — and then Kenny Golladay running the out route from his inside alignment:
This time, the defense is in man coverage. But the rub created by the pivot/out combination works to spring Golladay free, and Jones hits him for a 23-yard gain.
While the out route is perhaps the ideal situation, the quarterback does have other options. He can take the check down as Jones does here, hitting Devontae Booker underneath:
Or yes, he can target the go route. While Jones has been most comfortable throwing that route out of a two-man combination of go/flat, as he does here with Barkley out of an empty formation:
His ability to throw the deep ball has been a strength of his. During 2020 for example, Jones posted an Adjusted Completion Percentage of 51.2 percent on throws over 20 yards, which according to Pro Football Focus charting data placed him eighth in the NFL, ahead of quarterbacks such as Josh Allen, Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford. That number dipped last season, but Daboll — and Giants fans as well — have reason to believe it can bounce back.
Here is an example of Jones throwing that deep route on a similar three-man concept:
Now, I know what you are thinking: “But Mark, this was before Daboll arrived. How can we be sure that the Giants will continue to use this concept in 2022?”
Part of the reason we can believe? Daboll’s proven record of adapting his play-calls to his quarterback and his offense. That is part of what turned Josh Allen from a raw quarterback prospect into one of the NFL’s top players, and it what the Giants bet on when they hired Daboll last winter.
But for those looking for visual confirmation:
Here’s Allen running the concept against the Pittsburgh Steelers back in 2019, the year Allen helped the Bills get to the playoffs and showed there was more promise to his game. On this example, Allen squeezes in the out route to the tight end, moving the chains early in the game.
When Greg Cosell talks, I listen. And when he says that Flood could be a big part of the Giants offense in 2022, he might be completely correct.