Generating Explosive Plays in 2022

Last week, we looked at the Packers’ explosive passing concepts from 2021. “That’s all well and good,” I muttered to myself while writing, “but what about this upcoming year, when Davante Adams and his 35 explosive plays (37% of their total explosive passing plays) are no longer in Green Bay? WHAT THEN SMART GUY?”

To understand what that aspect of the Packers offense may look without Davante Adams, it’s important to understand the areas where Davante Adams excelled. If I were to ask you to describe Adams’ greatest strength, you’d probably use the words “footwork” or “release package off the line” or “general attractiveness.” So it’s no surprise that the top explosive plays to Adams came from concepts like Drift, Stick (as the backside vertical option) and Smash Fade; concepts that leaned on his ability to win at the line immediately, and create late separation due to his route-running.

Of course, if Adams is on the field with the offense, it’s impossible to totally separate his presence from the overall success of the play. And we can’t simply look at the games where he didn’t play, because that makes for an incredibly small sample size. What I opted to do was to look at the explosive plays that went to receivers other than Davante Adams, and build out a list of explosive plays based on the scheme itself. What was successful last year, why was it successful, and can it be successful without the presence of an all-world WR. Not the most scientific or comprehensive method, but we work with what we have.

I went through that process and grabbed a few key concepts that I expect to produce explosive plays in 2022. You ready? I’m ready.

PA Boot (9 explosives, 24.6 YPC)

I don’t know that anyone wants to hear me drone on about PA Boot for the 3rd straight article. If you’re curious about the mechanics, I did a deep dive back in April, and I would encourage you to check that out. Mainly because I proud of it, but also because it allows me to be a little lazy in this article.

PA Boot is a natural pick here, both because it’s a huge part of the offense and also because of the abundance of variations you can use with it. PA Boot itself is a constraint off the wide zone run, meant to live in the world of misdirection as the defense tries to take away the run. That makes the variations to it misdirections off a misdirection. When not targeting Adams, the Packers did a nice job of generating explosive plays off PA Boot variations. Whether a little tweak like Slam (releasing the boot-side blocking TE/WR into the flat after initially blocking down)…

…or one of their half-boot throwback options like Corner-Post or Leak…

…Rodgers was able to either exploit a mismatch down the field or hit a receiver in space and give him room to run. My love for Leak is well-documented, so it shouldn’t come as a shock when I say that I believe it’s something they should work into the offense more this year, but the entire constraint package has the ability to create some big plays this year.

Dagger (9 explosives, 24.6 YPC)

As much as I associate this concept with Adams, the truth is that he only had one explosive off this concept in 2021: the big play against the 49ers late in the 4th quarter in their Week 3 match-up.

While a few of these explosives came off of hitting the backside concept…

…or the result of an extended play…

…the majority of these came within the rhythm and structure of the concept. This concept works by having the vertical route push the safeties back, then have the dig work in all the space underneath. In other words, it’s a concept that can work well with speed on the field, and the Packers invested in speed at the wide receiver position this year. With the personnel the Packers have at that position, this concept could be taken to a new level in 2022. Speed ​​helps create larger pockets, and Dagger is built around operating in those pockets.

All Go HB Seam (2 explosives, 24.5 YPC)

This is a concept I’ve been in love with for a while. It has provided some incredible plays over the years. And, while it didn’t register high in the number of explosives on the year, it’s one that I feel like could rebound a bit in 2022. And it’s the same reason I gave for Dagger:

I’ll use this concept to touch on an idea that can really help the offense open up as a whole. Let’s talk about MVS.

I love MVS. I hope you love MVS. On top of seeming like a legitimately good dude, he also has elite speed and helped open up the offense in a way that only elite speed can. Now, there are two things to talk about here:

  1. MVS was the only legitimate speed guy that consistently got on the field during his time with the Packers
  2. MVS was a long-speed guy and didn’t have much in the way of quick-twitch.

The Packers use a lot of jet/fly motion as a part of their offense. It’s a way to stretch the defense horizontally. Pair that with a vertical push and you can put a lot of stress on a defense. As you might imagine, the best way to do this is to have speed on both sides: one to stress horizontally, one to stress vertically. That’s a little tricky when you only have a single deep threat.

The other thing to note is that it’s helpful if the jet motion man has some twitch to his game. With passing concepts that use jet motion, the motion man typically camps in the flat after completing his motion, acting as the checkdown. If QB ends up throwing to the checkdown, you’d prefer it to be someone who can make a man miss in space, then make something happen with the ball in his hands.

Which leads us back to MVS. Running jet motion to compliment vertical routes is all well and good, but there’s only so much you can do with the personnel the Packers had. MVS would work as the jet motion man on occasion, but only rarely, and for the reasons we touched on above. If you’re using MVS in the jet motion role, you’re not getting the benefit of his speed to stretch the field vertically, but he’s also not the twitchiest guy so he’s not the best option as the checkdown man, either. You’re basically burning your lone speed option and turning him into the last option in the concept, but his skillset isn’t particularly well-suited to be that man.

The Packers have tried to solve this issue with a handful of options. Tyler Ervin. Kylin Hill. Allen Lazard. Aaron Jones. Amari Rodgers. They’ve all been effective to some degree, but to maximize the potential, you need speed on the jet sweep and speed down the field.

MVS is in Kansas City (now roasting the size of Kenny Clark’s head from afar), but the Packers added speed at the receiver position, both from the draft (Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs) and free agency (Sammy Watkins). With multiple speed threats, the Packers can run the same concepts with the same personnel, but deploy them in different ways. You could have Watson on the jet motion and Doubs stretching vertically, or vice versa. You could have Aaron Jones on the jet motion and have Watson/Doubs/Watkins down the field, with Allen Lazard as the in-line blocker leaking out into the concept late and into space. The influx of speed gives the Packers flexibility and allows them to attack the field in ways they simply haven’t been able to do over the last few years.

Which brings us back to All Go HB Seam. In the realm of football concepts, this is a relatively new one. It’s believed to have originated at North Dakota State University. At its best, it’s a three-man vertical flood concept. The Packers like to pair it with jet motion, with the motion man camping in the slot and working as the checkdown/flat control. The larger concept consists of a vertical route from the slot (typically a crosser or post), a vertical route from the outside, and a vertical seam route that is typically run from the backfield. When this concept burst onto the scene, it was a way to spring the seam route from the backfield into a big play. As defenses have adjusted, it’s a throw that tends to go to the checkdown in space more often than not.

With the speed the Packers have, they can force the defense to react in a way they haven’t been able to before. Step a little sooner. Sink a little deeper. If the defense pinches down, the Packers have the speed to hit them over the top. If the defense sags over the deep routes, they have the ability to put speed/twitchiness as their checkdown option on a consistent basis.

Put quite simply, this has been a good concept for the Packers over the last few years, but with the influx of speed at the receiver position, it could lead to quite a few explosive plays in 2022 and beyond. Of all of the concepts that could benefit from speed at multiple positions, this is the one that excites me the most.

As often happens when I get into All Go HB Seam, I spent entirely too many words on it. So, while I had some other concepts I wanted to get to, I guess I’ll stop here for the large analysis. Apologies. Apologies all around.

But I will throw a couple other concepts here, because why not. I like them and I expect them to generate a fair share of explosives in 2022. My reasoning for the expected success of these concepts in 2022 can be traced back to the screed I just threw down: speed kills, brother.

Portland (2 explosives, 61.0 YPC)

Smash/China (3 explosives, 32.3 YPC)

This post got away from me a bit, but I hope you enjoyed this attempted look forward half as much as I enjoyed putting it together. I don’t assume this offense is going to be amazing off the bat, but I’m really excited to see how all these new pieces work together. If everything comes together, it has a chance to be explosive and dynamic in a way we haven’t really seen recently.

If you missed the other pieces in this series so far, you’re in luck! I’ve got links!

The Packers use of their RPO game
A deep dive into PA Boot, it’s variations, and why they’re so effective in a wide zone rushing offense
The top 5 concepts the Packers used to generate explosive plays in 2021

Albums listened to: Bjork – Vespertine; Lykke Li – EYEYE; Young Prisms – Drifter; Tess Parks – And Those Who Were Seen Dancing; The Lumineers – Brightside; Harry Styles – Harry’s House; Ride – Nowhere

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