Running backs are integral parts of any offensive scheme, especially one who can run routes from the backfield or line up wide. Mark Schofield looks at one the NFL’s premier pass catching backs, Shane Vereen, and how he excels in flat/texas routes.
With the status of Odell Beckham Jr. still unclear before tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles, the New York Giants will need to turn to some other targets to pick up the slack in the passing game. One player who will be up to the task is veteran running back Shane Vereen. The former New England Patriot is a very effective weapon in the passing game, and on two plays against the San Francisco 49ers he displayed how his route-running creates mismatches – and opportunities – underneath.
Play One: Flat Route
On this first play, the Giants face 3rd and goal at the San Francisco 2-yard line. Quarterback Eli Manning is in the shotgun with 11 offensive personnel on the field in a 2X2 formation. Vereen stands just to the right of the QB. The 49ers have a 4-2-5 nickel package on the field showing press man coverage in the secondary:
Prior to the play, tight end Larry Donnell motions to the left, giving the offense trips formation on that side of the field. The 49ers slide their coverage, and the scheme in the secondary comes into focus:
The defense uses a goal line Cover 2, with man coverage across the board and the two safeties looking to help on either side of the field:
On the right side, Beckham is a single receiver using a wide split, and he runs a slant route, cutting inside. Vereen runs a flat route, matched up against NaVorro Bowman (#53). As the WR cuts inside, the playside safety stays in the middle of the field to take away the slant. Vereen is able to beat Bowman to the flat for the easy touchdown:
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The end zone angle provides a good view of how Vereen gets open. As the RB releases vertically, Bowman maintains inside leverage to take away any route breaking over the middle – perhaps mindful of the pattern we will discuss next:
Vereen’s quick cut, plus the inside leverage from Bowman, creates the separation needed for the score:
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Play Two: Texas Route
Later, the Giants trail by four with under two minutes remaining. They face a 2nd and 10 on their own 40-yard line. Manning is in the shotgun as New York again has an 11 group on the field, with pro formation to the left and a slot alignment right. San Francisco has 4-1-6 personnel in the game, using rookie safety Jaquiski Tartt (#29) as a linebacker:
The defense employs Cover 2 man under for this play, with the two underneath defenders reading the routes from the TE/RB combination. Tartt will react to the outside release while the linebacker will cover the inside route:
The running back executes a texas route on this play. He angles to the outside before cutting diagonally to the inside. Once more, Vereen is able to take advantage of the positioning of the defender with a quick cut to gain separation:
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From behind the play, we can see how Tartt slides to the outside just enough to give Vereen an opening:
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The rookie starts the play to the outside of Vereen’s alignment. As the RB releases to the outside, Tartt slides with him, maintaining outside leverage:
When the running back cuts back to the inside, Tartt’s feet are moving toward the sideline, preventing him from cutting back and closing down on the route. Vereen sticks his left foot in the turf and accelerates toward the middle of the field and away from Tartt, and Manning hits the RB in stride. The safety finally chases down the running back, but not before Vereen scampers into San Francisco territory with a 16-yard gain.
As of this morning, it is unclear what role – if any – Beckham will be able to play in the Giants’ offensive gameplan against the Eagles. But whether the talented WR can play or not, you can be sure that New York will look to incorporate Vereen, and these two routes, into their game plan.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.
Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.
All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.