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Miami Dolphins

It’s In The Scheme – Replacing Jarvis Landry’s Touchdown Production

Travis Wingfield

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Jarvis Landry scored nine touchdowns in 2017 – nearly doubling his previous career high. Cumulatively the worst offense the pro-bowl receiver has played in during his four-year NFL career, the number stands as an anomaly.

How did the Dolphins turn a chain-moving slot receiver into the NFL’s fourth most dangerous red zone threat?

Play calling.

Adam Gase comes from a long line of successful offenses. Under his watch Tim Tebow and Jay Cutler flourished. Peyton Manning had the best year of his career working with Gase. And now Landry can point to this system as the reason his touchdown production increased 80% from his previous high-water mark.

Finishing drives is the most difficult task in the NFL. The game is complex enough between the 20 yard lines. Conducting 22 moving parts in a condensed area magnifies predicaments an offense faces on a down-by-down basis.

Breaking it down to its core component, only a few strategies prove fruitful when it comes to executing a scheme in the red zone. The two different forms of defensive coverage (man and zone) are to be attacked differently.

Man coverage typically measures the player’s ability to out-class his opposition; A.K.A, show off his talent.

Zone requires a route combination to displace the fragments of a coverage-centric defense.

First, let’s take a look at how some of the game’s top wide outs are able to create on their own.

Nobody wins with quickness quite like Antonio Brown. Contradicting the earlier statement that gaining yards in the red zone is the toughest order in football, covering Brown man-up supersedes that task.

This first clip is man-coverage across the board. Brown has a two-way go (ability to release inside or out) and opts for the slant due to the blitzing safety. Operating from the boundary creates this window. This route works because Brown presses the toes of the corner by covering a lot of ground in short order – play maker.

Now working from the field side, Brown obliterates the press coverage and gets to the back pylon before the corner can blink. Even still, that angle is a difficult throw for the quarterback. With Brown the intended target, a 50/50 ball is more like a 90/10 ball.

Here Pittsburgh floods the boundary and give Brown the entire field to work against one-on-one coverage. The quick move to the inside creates a massive window for Ben Roethlisberger to throw into for an easy touchdown.

Each of these clips are examples of the receiver creating a touchdown out of pure talent. There are a handful of others in the league capable of doing the same.

Julio Jones has quickness and savvy on his side, but when you’re six-foot-three with magnets for hands, physical dominance is the only prerequisite to scoring. The Falcons usher 12-personnel onto the field with Jones flexed to the boundary. This creates a heavy box and an easy fade opportunity, which Matt Ryan isn’t going to miss.

O’Dell Beckham is no stranger to making posters out of NFL defensive backs. Going to the boundary with the back split to the same side forces the linebacker to line up on the inside passing lane. The corner knows Beckham’s only option is a route to the perimeter, yet he still gets embarrassed. This is what elite wide receivers do.

Now let’s go touchdown-by-touchdown for Landry. The first one comes from a stack to the boundary side against zone coverage. It’s third down so the Titans’ defenders are supposed to defend the goal line. Where Landry gets it right is squaring up the slot forcing him to think about both the inside and outside move. Good timing, rhythm and strong hands create this scoring opportunity. Chalk this one up to the players more so than the scheme.

Next is about as obvious as it gets. The Dolphins run a lot of Jet-sweep action in an attempt to get the defense free-flowing in the wrong direction. Coming off the bunch set, Landry’s motion forces the defense to rotate to the field side. But as the ball is snapped, Landry sprints back to the boundary that has been vacated by an in-breaking clear-out route from Kenny Stills.

Here Adam Gase has created an advantageous situation for play-pass. Two receivers set in nasty splits (tight to the line-of-scrimmage) to the field side with a hard stretch fake puts the corner and safety in quicksand – they never recover and Landry is wide open for a touchdown.

Another example of scheming a player open, this is a common man-beater in any offense. Gase’s offense is packed full of rub routes and, given Landry’s run-after-the-catch prowess, creating these one-on-one opportunities in the open field is a no-brainer. The blitz off the edge and the consequent failure to re-route Landry puts this play in great shape provided the boundary receiver can make his block – which he does. Easy touchdown.

This touchdown doesn’t require a lot of analysis. Landry does a great job of searching for gaps on a broken route and settles in nicely for a garbage time score.

Everything about this formation says run. The numbers game is there, the Dolphins have the entire field to work with and the Bucs defense has been gashed in the ground game all year to this point. Notice the deeper of the two safeties play the boot off play-action. He and the corner responsible for Landry jump inside because of the run action. Instead of the boot, Cutler proceeds to the field side and has the entire corner of end zone to work with.

The first of two touchdowns against the Patriots is simply fantastic feel by Landry. The drive concept (best ran to displace linebackers between the hashes) was slow to develop and Landry peeled back his route and showed his numbers to the quarterback. Good chemistry here between Landry and Cutler make this play possible.

The under-flat is one of Gase’s favorite play calls in short-yardage. Again selling action to the boundary, the Jet-sweep occupies Landry’s man for a half step and that’s all he would need to win the race to pylon. Fantastic design to expose man-coverage in tight quarters.

The last touchdown of the year again sells run action with a peel back route. This time, however, Landry has to put on his shoulder pads and power the ball across the goal line – a tremendous effort.

Miami made the decision that Landry wasn’t worth top dollar and these examples give you an idea why they arrived at that conclusion. Instead, the Dolphins shopped for a pair of specifically skilled receivers in Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola.

Kenyan Drake will be integrated into the offense from the word go in 2018, Devante Parker will take on an expanded role and the pair of newcomer running backs (Frank Gore and Kalen Ballage) give Gase three options to pass the football to from the backfield.

Here’s a look at some touchdowns scored within the Adam Gase offense (with Miami and otherwise) as well as some new Dolphins scoring similar looking plays with their former teams.

Albert Wilson on the inside shovel:

Danny Amendola on the deeper portion of the drive concept:

Kenyan Drake sprinting to the field side for a swing pass despite a boundary alignment:

Damien Williams as an up-back taking the flat on the play-action:

Damien Williams to the flat on play action again:

Devante Parker on the field side fade from the slot:

Wes Welker lined up in the backfield for the flat route:

Wes Welker again in the slot working the rub route:

It feels monotonous to have to stake this disclaimer, but the current landscape of the world urges us to find the black or white and get out of the grey area.

This column’s purpose isn’t to take away from Jarvis Landry’s value to a football team, his skillset is undeniable. Its purpose is to prove that Landry’s ability to find pay dirt was a much greater function of the scheme than anything he offered in the talent department.

Miami has droves of receivers that can execute these basic roles within the red zone play card Gase has surely refined for the new personnel.

The Dolphins have variety in the skill position departments. It’ll be up to Gase to craft scoring opportunities just like he did with Landry.

@WingfieldNFL

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