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Mesh concept and mesh point explained

You hear these terms quite often in football, so what are they?

Indianapolis Colts v New York Giants Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Let’s discuss the two types of meshs that are common parlance when discussing football on Saturdays and Sundays. No, they have nothing to do with shorts, netting, or lingerie. Instead, it is the mesh concept and the mesh point.

Mesh concept

The mesh concept was a pillar of the Air Raid offense that arose at BYU in the early 1970s, where LaVell Edwards assumed head coaching duties in Provo, Utah. Hal Mumme and Mike Leach adopted the Air Raid system, and the mesh concept was a simple play that could be executed in a variety of ways.

Here’s a play that we used over at Inside The Pylon (from James A. Light) in discussing the mesh concept. The concept can be run out of 2x2, 3x1, or split-back, but the general just is that the two innermost receivers on the line of scrimmage run drag routes to create traffic.

The concept takes time to develop, so it is typically run from reduced sets (receivers aligned tighter to the ball than usual). As we see above, there can be rules added to a given play that tells receivers to sit or stop in a spot vs. zone or continue the route into space against man coverage.

Traditionally, the mesh concept is an excellent man-beating play that creates picks, rubs, and traffic for defenders to sift through. The two players running the drag routes can be referred to as such:

MUSH: The receiver running under (typically at 4-5 yards)

MOSH: The receiver running the over (typically at 5-6 yards)

The routes are designed to run as close to each other as possible to maximize potential for defensive contact and mistakes. We ran this concept a lot at FDU; in the seven-on-seven portion of practice in the early days of training camp, we would have the receivers low-five each other as they crossed faces.

One play that has proliferated around the NFL, and was ran frequently by former Giants’ head coach Pat Shurmur in the mesh-wheel:

This is courtesy of Coach Dan Casey, I encourage anyone interested in football to follow him on Twitter (@CoachDanCasey). The two innermost receivers run the mesh while another tighter-aligned receiving threat runs an OTB (Over The Ball) or one may just simply call it a spot route. As the mesh clears out the middle of the field, the OTB sits in the voided area and presents an easy target if neither drag comes open.

The player on the backside can run a free access play depending on the leverage of the cornerback or maybe he always runs this out route - like the Z above - for it brings the defender away from the H’s drag. That would depend on the coaching staff.

Then there’s the running back wheel route. In the play above to the boundary, the hope is that the WILL (W) has man coverage on the running back (T). The WILL would have to work through two in-breaking routes, and a switch with the cornerback could lead to miscommunications.

Let’s dive back into the archives and look at this rookie quarterback named Daniel Jones completing a 2019 Week 7 20-yard gain for Golden Tate (15) on almost the same exact play Coach Casey illustrated above, albeit against a different defense. The traffic caused by the linebacker contacting the tight end allowed Tate to run the MUSH underneath, leaving the cornerback behind. Saquon Barkley (26) threw the block in space to allow Tate to pick up a few extra yards.

Fast forward to 2022 in the Giants' 27-13 Week 8 loss in Seattle. From a 2x2 reduced stack set, the Giants run the same play (different formation) against a zone defense. Jones decided to throw to Marcus Johnson (84) for a 3-yard gain on third-and-4.

Tanner Hudson (88) may have been open, but it’s difficult to know how the underneath defender in conflict would react, and the interior pressure from Shelby Harris (93) didn’t help. When zone coverage is identified, the OTB (spot route) is usually a better place to go with the football.

Nevertheless, this concept is excellent against man coverage. It schemes receivers open and allows natural speed mismatches to thrive - welcome to the Giants, Jalin Hyatt! This is also generally a high percentage throw with low risk.

Mesh point

The mesh point is simply the place where the shotgun quarterback sticks the football in the belly of the running back while reading a defense on either a zone read or RPO (Run Pass Option).

Here’s a zone read against the Eagles. Jones is tasked with reading the end man on the line of scrimmage (EMOLOS), which, pre-snap, is Hasson Reddick (7). However, with the Giants in shotgun and Barkley offset to the boundary side, the Eagles anticipated a weak side run and stunted (gap exchanged) after the snap. In anticipation of this, the Giants motioned Darius Slayton (86) tight to Daniel Bellinger (82) to secure the edge.

Jones saw the gap exchange, knew that Slayton had the strong safety, felt the penetration of Reddick, and smartly tucked the football around the edge to create the one-on-one matchup against cornerback Darius Slay (2).

Jones held the football in the mesh point (yellow) for a long time as he processed and judged the situation correctly. This would have been a loss of a few yards if Jones handed the football off. It was a great read by Jones, who typically does a solid job in these situations.

Here’s an RPO (run-pass option) where Jones entered the mesh point from the Giants' Week 16 loss versus the Minnesota Vikings. The mesh point isn’t always entered on an RPO; there are plenty of plays where the quarterback comes off the run portion because the pass portion of the play is favorable due to defensive rotation, a numbers advantage, etc.

The key way to tell the difference between an RPO and a play-action pass - if the mesh point is entered - is through the blocking. When passing, the football needs to come out quickly on an RPO because the offensive line is executing run blocking technique that could lead to an ineligible man downfield penalty.