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Welcome to 2017: The Year of our Lord, Danny Etling

Danny Etling, Kirk Cousins and the Jet Sweep.

Missouri v LSU
“I’d swipe right on you” Dan Davis
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Danny Etling looks like a good quarterback. This is the first thing that jumped off the screen the first time I saw him play in a Tigers uniform last September. He does all the things that we teach quarterbacks to do. His dropbacks are clean, he goes through his reads and can throw the ball accurately.

Here he is after Brandon Harris was benched in the Jacksonville State game:


I have high hopes for Danny in 2017. I think in a more dynamic offense like the one Matt Canada has brought to Baton Rouge, he can flourish.

However, fans of Seth Galina will remember that I said the same thing about Brandon Harris last year at this time. I spent the whole off season bashing the shit out of him and I honestly felt bad so I wrote a post about how I thought he was going to turn the corner in 2016. In my head, there was a chance that Brandon actually read my breakdowns on him (I mean this is the place for LSU analysis) and I didn’t like the idea of him reading my stuff and then being sad. So, in August I wrote some nice words about him as a quarterback. I don’t know if I actually believed it.

I believe it this year. I swear this time: Danny Etling can play quarterback. I believe he is our Kirk Cousins. The famed “you like that” Washington quarterback who is a lot better than you think. In watching a lot of Washington tape recently, I found a lot of similarities between what Sean Mcvay/Jay Gruden did with that team and what Matt Canada is going to be doing with our Tigers.

Formations. Motions. Shifts. Jets. Wide zone. Bootlegs. Corner routes. All those things are tenants of the Washington offense and the same things that Billy and I have talked about on here since the hiring of Canada.

If Danny Etling is our Kirk Cousins we are good hands.

I’m going to use Washington’s game this past season against Minnesota to show you what I mean.

Here are Washington’s first 10 plays in the game. All different formations. Different personnel groupings and a lot of tight ends. When I see this I think of Matt Canada. These are all screenshots right from the snap, what you can’t see is all the pre-snap motion.

Okay, but what about the concepts?

Jet sweep from under center. A Canada staple. More on this play below.

And now Washington runs wide zone boot with a throwback to a tight end:

Reminds me of this:

Washington and Canada also do the same kind of quarterback drops. In fact, most teams/quarterbacks do it but Brandon Harris had trouble with it.

As a bonus, if you want to see the Cousins throw some absolutely great deep out/sail routes, put this game on. It’s a clinic.

The Jet Sweep

We’ve talked about this quite a lot through these airways but I wanted to talk about this offensive scheme from the defenses angle. The three main ideas on how to deal with jet/fly motion are:

  1. Track
  2. Spin
  3. Push

1. Tracking

This is the simplest way to handle this action. Whoever is covering the guy who is running across the formation follows him across the formation. On the plus side, if you’re in man coverage, this makes life pretty simple. “I’m covering you, therefore, I go where you go”.

How LSU could exploit this:

The problem with tracking is that it puts the defender in chase mode. The receiver is going to have a step on him because he is in control of when he starts his mad dash across the formation. What’s more, Canada will also have his receivers stop and double-back on their motion from time to time. The defender has to recognize this, start sprinting and then make his way through a bunch of linebackers. All of a sudden, he’s late and the jet back just turned the corner for 15 yards.

You can exploit tracking, literally, by just giving the ball on the jet. Merci, bonsoir.

Next, because defender is having to deal with getting through the mess of players while chasing down the jet player, you can use what I call a “return” motion. This tells the jet player that right before he gets to the quarterback, when the ball is snaps, he slams on the breaks and turns back to where he came from and returns to that side. The idea here is that the guy chasing him down is going to lose him behind the offensive line and then not pick him.

You can also use the tracking against the defense by faking the jet and running the ball with a different ball carrier to where the jet came from. If you are in a 2x2 set and you jet a slot back, you are going to have some room to run back to the weak side of the formation.

Even faking the jet and running the ball to the strongside of the formation has its benefits as now, the guy tracking the jet may be late coming across and you can use the jet player to get a nice seal on him. All of a sudden the defense is missing a force defender.

The offense also ends up in a situation where they have now have an isolated receiver and they can throw all sorts of route to a player who is generally going to be their best receiver.

2. Spinning

Spinning takes away all the hecticness of tracking. It involves utilizing the safeties to comes down from their position of depth to meet the jet defender where he will end up. The player who was originally covering the jet receiver rotates back to become the new safety.

Teams will exploit this movement in much of the same way that they would against a tracking team. The only difference is not having the ability to run that “return” motion because the defense has an answer for that type of misdirection.

Schematically, a good idea against the team that spin is to work the isolated receiver because the defender who is spinning back to become the new safety has his head turned away from the isolated receiver.

Matchup wise, this creates an issue for the defense because all of a sudden, if a team shows jet action but ends up just running the receiver across the formation, the defense now has a free safety type of player on a slot receiver. The offense usually wins that matchup.

3. Pushing

This is kinda the wave of the future/present. Teams who play a two-safety structure, which, the more I coach defense, the more I am on board (unless you’re in the NFL, than you do whatever you want).

Because both safeties are high, they can sit and not move. The players who end up moving are linebackers. They “push” to the side that the jet is going by taking a side step or two to that direction.

Their gaps don’t change but they are closer to where the jet is going now. The idea here is that while the jet does hit the edge very fast, while the ball is snapped, he is in the backfield, so treat the offensive formation like a 20-personnel one. Don’t overreact to the jet because that’s what the offense wants you to do. You still have a force player (the Sam) and an alley player (the strong-side safety) to get the ball back to the pushed linebackers.

With spinning or tracking, you are forced to now play a single high structure against trips basically. With pushing you can still play all your coverages.

I get horny for quarterbacks who look like quarterbacks. Guys who are smooth in their dropbacks, can move around in the pocket and do cool, intricate quarterback stuff. The problem with all that stuff is that it’s useless if you can’t get the ball to your receivers in an accurate manner. Etling is already better than Harris in that regard so here’s hoping he can elevate his game after an offseason as the starter in the way that Harris could not.