It’s public knowledge that LSU went after offensive coordinator Jake Peetz and passing game coordinator DJ Mangas for a redux of the Joe Brady offense. These guys are both extremely sharp, well respected coaches who have a lot of valuable experience and know the Brady system well. In laying out groundwork for what to expect from Peetz and Mangus, it’s reasonable to go look at what LSU did in 2019, as well as what the Carolina Panthers did in 2020. Before we do that, it is important to define a few terms that are critical to understanding pass concepts, particularly those in the Joe Brady lexicon.
These are pretty simple, basically, the idea of a horizontal stretch is to put a defender, or multiple defenders, in a bind from left to right. On Twitter I saw it described by @NYGxos as “monkey in the middle.”
This is basically the same principle, but vertically. It is colloquially known as a hi-lo.
In true West Coast fashion, these principles basically define what Joe Brady is trying to do to you in the passing game. Now let’s get into a couple of ways he achieves this.
A drive concept is basically a shallow cross paired with a dig route The drive concept is something that Joe Brady likes to pair backside to other concepts to create a full field read for the QB. He will frontside it with a lot of things, sometimes a post wheel combo, sometimes just a sideline vertical, but most often he pairs it with a smash concept. featuring a corner route by the X-receiver and a flat by the running back. Seth Galina, ATVS and Sneaky Good Pod alum, made this graphic for a piece he wrote about LSU’s deployment of Ja’Marr Chase for PFF, go check it out. Anyway, this is LSU’s smash drive concept. (The player numbers aren’t binding, they depend on the formation LSU would run, a lot of times it was Thad Moss who ran the corner as you’ll see).
So the first key for the QB to read is the boundary corner on your very typical smash read. He stays low in a cloud or cut technique (and you can fit it under the safety of course), you throw the corner behind him. If he drops to take the corner or just has the X receiver man to man, you look to throw the flat to the back. This is an example of a vertical stretch.
If the boundary cornerback takes the X-corner and the weak apex (second defender from the sideline) here—usually the weakside backer—gets to the flat to take it away, you simply move your eyes to the shallow crosser that runs into the window he vacated. This creates a horizontal stretch on the weak apex.
Now, if they aren’t blitzing like in the Miss State clip and are in a two high structure (against which this is best to run), you have a perfectly nice vertical stretch on the next linebacker. Here, he stays low on the shallow and Joe Burrow simply works to the dig behind him, his fourth option in the progression. Here Burrow definitely could have thrown the flat but I think he anticipated the apex pursuing it based on the corner sinking under the corner route. Now this is kind of a nasty window, so good job by Burrow to put the ball behind his receiver to keep it away from the jumping backer.
Here is an example of what happens if it’s say, single high man free and they’re able to lock up those first 4 options. You have your Z-receiver running a shallow in or slant as the fifth option. The QB simply has to scan from side to side as things come into his field of view, so it makes a full field read a bit easier. Burrow just gets through the progression and hits his fifth option wayyyy out of rhythm which is difficult, since many QBs get antsy and bail by this point, even if the pocket is clean.
Here is an example from Carolina of how this concept helps you against the blitz. Shallow crossers are great hots against blitzes from interior backers, as they run into the area they vacated. Teddy Bridgewater does a good job of recognizing blitz and getting it to the shallow quickly for a nice gain.
It isn’t just smash/drive though, Brady will incorporate the drive concept into lot of different things. Among many others:
Throughout, the progression stays pretty similar, just read side to side. For the defense, there is a ton to account for and a lot of conflict; for the offense, there are a ton of places to go with the ball.
Levels is a very similar concept to drive, just featuring more of a quick in breaker, option or hitch from the underneath receiver instead of a shallow cross. It is used effectively often as a zone beater, putting a hook or apex defender in a vertical stretch. It is a great concept to keep your QB in rhythm with. It’s often put on the backside of a man beater give the QB a side of the field to read against man and a side against zone. That way you have an answer for either.
Here, the Cardinals are, I THINK (emphasis on think, may be wrong), playing a coverage known as “box” to the boundary side. Now, this is a man match scheme, not zone, but the Apex is still put in a bit of a bind here. The corner, LSU’s own Patrick Peterson, makes what is known as an under call, basically pushing responsibility for the number receiver to the apex underneath since he isn’t in great position to follow the route underneath. The apex’s job is now to take him underneath. The problem is, the number one receiver has the option to settle into space here and does so. This gives a good visual though on the kind of conflict the defender is put in. This is actually a solid coverage to deal with this concept, it just gets beat anyway. You can see Bridgewater reading the apex here and throwing in rhythm, nice and easy.
Here you can see a better example of that vertical stretch at work against zone. LSU used the levels concept a lot this past year to help keep it simple for their freshman quarterbacks and keep them in rhythm.
Since this isn’t an English 400 essay, I can say conclusion. Basically, these are concepts that Joe Brady builds his offense around, and if you could define his offense by a pair of core concepts, it’s these. They are extremely versatile and QB friendly. Keep a look out for Jake Peetz and DJ Mangas to make these into centerpieces of the 2021 LSU offense.
Special thanks to Alex Byrne for his youtube cutups providing most of the LSU clips.