San Francisco 49ers Offensive Formation Breakdown: Gun Far Pro Twins – Part 2

The San Francisco 49ers should improve over last year’s debacle of a season, where they finished 5-11. Beyond addressing regular team needs, new coach Chip Kelly is probably facing his last chance to try his no-huddle offense in the NFL. Much-criticized for not managing the clock properly, the style does provide some unique and interesting plays. One formation that is a staple of Kelly’s offensive scheme is the Gun Far Pro Twins formation, which will certainly be used in San Francisco. In a three-part series, Matthew Brown breaks down the formation: In Part 1, he looked at the various running plays run out of Gun Far Pro Twins; Part 2 looks at passing from the formation; and Part 3 will add play action and RPOs.

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Kelly’s passing attack is based on simple football concepts, mostly designed to stretch a defense’s coverage. The offense through the air is fairly easy for players to understand because of its relative simplicity.

[A note on quarterback reads: These have not been mentioned much in this article due to the tendency of reads to vary depending on what coverage the offense faces. If you would like to discuss the reads, contact the author on twitter: @mattyfbrown.]

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Switch concept

This is a short-yardage play, which was often used when the offense was faced with man coverage or Cover 3. The quarterback, in Kelly’s version, takes a hit and throw step for the quick pass after reading which of the twins is left uncovered.

Here, the Falcons show a Cover 3 pass defense. Riley Cooper, lined up at split end, runs the inside hitch while Jordan Matthews, lined up in the slot, runs a wheel-type route. This switch route combination creates a dilemma for outside linebacker Kroy Biermann (#71), who is playing the hook-curl in the Cover 3. The cornerback to the right of him has deep third responsibility, meaning that whichever player he goes with will leave the other open. Sure enough, he carries the slot receiver’s wheel and then reacts as the ball is thrown inside to an open Cooper for a 6-yard gain.

On the other side of the formation, tight end Zach Ertz runs a deep slant, keeping the other linebackers occupied and acting as quarterback Sam Bradford’s third read, as flanker Nelson Agholor runs a deep alert and running back Ryan Mathews runs a swing.

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The concept is also good to run as a quick passing option against a blitz. The Eagles face 2nd and 7, with the Panthers showing a heavy Cover 0 blitz. After the snap, the Panthers only rush three, dropping back into Cover 3.



Their coverage on the play is excellent, with far side corner Josh Norman playing the hook-curl nice and tight: He has blanket coverage on both routes. This time, the tight end runs up the seam; he is probably the hot route in case the heavy blitz-look materialized. This route is carried well by linebacker Thomas Davis to safety Roman Harper. It could also be the case that the tight end has an option of which route to run depending on the coverage.

In spite of the excellent pass defense down the field, Bradford, facing a slight pass rush, has plenty of time to find his check down option in the flats – running back Darren Sproles – for a nice gain.

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[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Mesh Concepts

The Eagles ran three types of mesh plays from Gun Far Pro Twins. Each of them feature a four- or five-step quarterback drop with a hitch step.

Mesh

The most frequently used type had the far wide receiver running a deep in route, the slot receiver and tight end running crossing routes (the mesh), the flanker running an inside hitch, and the halfback running a wheel.

Against the Jets, the mismatch the play creates against man coverage is clear on this snap. The Jets played a form of Cover 1 against the offense’s formation. Safety Marcus Gilchrist (#21), covers the middle third in addition to keeping an eye on the quarterback. The other safety, Calvin Pryor (#25), plays man coverage with tight end Ertz. Slot cornerback Buster Skrine (#41) had responsibility for the seam, with linebacker David Harris (#52) picking up the crossing route of Jordan Matthews.

Where the play falls apart for the defense is in the way in which Gilchrist gets sucked into Ertz’s crossing route and Agholor’s inside hitch – being covered by corner Darrelle Revis (#24). The Cover 1 defense has linebacker Demario Davis covering Ryan Mathews’s wheel route. This is a mismatch in terms of speed, and Mathews has plenty of space behind Davis to run into for the touchdown reception.

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Mesh Pivot

The mesh pivot is a variation of the conventional mesh play covered above. The difference between the two plays is that the slot receiver and tight end have the option to either sit down underneath or pivot outward again running a zig when running inside.

Facing a 2nd and 8 situation, leading 16-13 and with 2:17 left on the clock in the second quarter, the Eagles call the mesh pivot. The Dolphins come out in a Cover 3 look. Agholor runs an inside hitch and is shadowed by linebacker Neville Hewitt (#46). The WR creates just enough space underneath for the 3-yard completion to Ertz, who has nestled down rather than going out again on a zig.

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Mesh with Tight End Corner

Washington comes out in what is a two-high safety look, showing Cover 4. However, they transition to Cover 3 buzz at the snap. This play has the tight end run running a deep corner route to clear out space underneath for the two crossing receivers. The buzz defender, safety Dashon Goldson (#38), is slow to come downhill and pickup the crossing receiver. This means middle linebacker Keenan Robinson (#52) is momentarily left to cover two players in his zone. The horizontally stretched defense gives up an 8-yard completion.

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[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Flood Concept

The  flood play run from Gun Far Pro Twins caused the most issues for a defense in the Eagles’ matchup against the Bills. The play relies upon the scissor between the flanker, running a skinny post, and the tight end, who runs a deep corner route. The drop taken by the quarterback is one of five steps, with a hitch step at the end. Buffalo failed to defend this all game, besides getting a fairly fortunate interception from it after Ertz let the ball go through his hands.

The first time the play was run was at 10:47 in the first quarter. Buffalo initially appears to be blitzing both of its linebackers. However, in reality the Bills only rush four, playing a hybrid Cover 3. The hook-curl defender, Corey Graham (#20), is focused on Sproles in the flats. Meanwhile, Leodis McKelvin (#21) is responsible for the deep third behind Graham. The coverage is stretched vertically by Ertz running a deep corner and Agholor running a skinny post. Bradford also has a high-low read with Ertz high and Sproles low. Agholor’s route pushes McKelvin backward – simply through his natural fear of getting beat deep. This leaves Ertz wide open once he makes his break toward the sideline.

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With 10:45 on the clock in the second quarter, and with the Eagles in a 2nd and 26 situation, the Bills were beaten by the play again. The Bills drop back into a similar defense – a hybrid Cover 3 with both linebackers showing blitz pre-snap.



The scissors play carves the defense apart again.

Playing at free safety, Graham starts crashing down on Ertz, who is wide open on the corner after Ronald Darby (#28) went to cover the skinny post. By coming down slightly to attempt to prevent the corner, Graham leaves enough space behind him for the touchdown on the skinny post after Agholor had gained enough separation on Darby.

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[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Drive Concept

This play stretches the defense in a triangular manner.The longer drop of four or five steps from the quarterback, followed by a hitch step, reflects the relatively long length of time needed for this play to develop despite it frequently being a short passing attempt.

The motion of Agholor, the flanker, inside is followed by Brandon Carr, indicating to the offense that they will likely be facing some form of man coverage.

Post snap, Ertz runs a deep in route, clearing out space underneath for Agholor, who is running an inside hitch. Although his route is covered well by Carr, he creates space for running back DeMarco Murray on a circle. Murray was left wide open after the Cowboys’ defense suffered a triangular stretch – its effects worsened by the blitzing of linebacker Rolando McClain, who could have covered Murray. The space Murray was in gave him the opportunity to add more yards with his run-after-the-catch ability.

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[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Quick Slants

On 3rd and 3 the Bills, tied 20-20, bring a seven-man blitz. Unfortunately for them, the Eagles called their first quick slants play of the season from Gun Far Pro Twins. Unsurprisingly for a quick slants concept, quarterback Sam Bradford takes a short drop and a hit and throw step.The slant run by Agholor creates a traffic jam between Buffalo defenders McKelvin (#21) (covering Agholor man-to-man) and Graham (#20) (covering Ertz man-to-man). Furthermore, Agholor effectively obstructs Graham’s path to Ertz, even if he does take a huge hit. This separation is enough for Ertz to be wide open, and he surges off down the sideline, bullying McKelvin with a nasty stiff arm for a 41-yard gain.

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One thing to note: Interestingly, Kelly’s quick slants from this formation tend to stop after running roughly 5-yards inside.

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Curls

This was only used once by the Eagles from Gun Far Pro Twins. In it, Bradford takes a four step drop and a hitch step.

The Giants play a Cover 2 formation where their outside cornerbacks play the hook curl, rather than the flats. Both of the Eagles’ outside receivers plus the tight end run curls, forcing the outside corners and linebackers to drop back in coverage. This design sees Jordan Matthews run a quick out from the slot and become wide open in the flats. On the other side of the formation, Sproles’s route into the flats is also uncovered..

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[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Four Verticals

This was another play that was run once all season, in a 3rd and 21 situation. It was effectively a low risk, potentially high reward play for the Eagles. By sending all of their receivers deep, the running back – motioned out pre-snap – is a safe dump-off option. It gives the back the opportunity to try and create in space. A long drop is taken by the quarterback to enable the receivers to gain depth. Playing a prevent style of defense, the Cowboys limit the play to a 5-yard gain.

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[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Team Fit for the Passing Scheme

San Francisco has dreadful receiver depth, or lack thereof, with Quinton Patton pencilled in as the third receiver. However, the largely disappointing Torrey Smith should see a resurgence as a deep threat in this high volume offense. In addition, Bruce Ellingtonlisted as a starting receiver on the 49ers depth chart – should thrive, particularly from the slot. The relatively simple route tree should make things easier for less-skilled receivers, with the offense naturally creating openings.

The outlook on tight ends is more promising, with Garrett Celek and Vance McDonald being more than serviceable options at the position. According to reports, McDonald has impressed more in training camp, with quarterback Blaine Gabbert describing him as a, “mismatch nightmare on linebackers.” His showing in the 49ers’ first preseason game solidified this, as he caught two passes for 54 yards and a touchdown on two targets.

Carlos Hyde is a back who can catch out of the backfield, and he has the ability to create opportunities in space.

The quarterback battle in camp between Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick is seemingly to be decided by preseason football. Obviously, Gabbert is not the greatest quarterback, but he impressed somewhat last season on a dreadful team. However, his first preseason game was plagued with dreadful passing accuracy. Kaepernick is a player who has a lot of issues with his fundamentals and has a long way back to being the superstar who led the 49ers within a score of a Super Bowl title; he will not be helped by his preseason Week 1 absence.What will make both quarterbacks’ jobs easier is Kelly’s offense, which creates simple, easy reads for passers.

Follow Matthew on Twitter @mattyfbrown. Check out Matt’s piece on Kenneth Dixon and what the Ravens should expect from him this season.

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