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Film Study: LaFleur's Playbook - Texas

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Film Study: LaFleur's Playbook - Texas

This week, we're going to be looking at a concept created by a pretty decent coach: one Mike Holmgren. You have probably heard of him.

Like so many great innovations in football, the Texas concept was born out of desperation. The Packers would face Tony Dungy's Tampa Bay Bucs twice a year and the Tampa 2 was a tough nut to crack. Eventually, Holmgren came up with the Texas concept. If the defense was going to drop their linebacker deep to the middle of the field, Holmgren would take advantage of the room underneath in the middle.

This is it. This is the concept. It's a two man, high-low game. The tight end pushes upfield - on a post route, in this case - while the running back runs an angle route. You can see how this could cause serious problems for a defense with limited presence in the middle. The linebacker drops to pick up the tight end while the running back works into the open space. It's not meant to be a huge gainer, but it's something they relied on to pick up 5-7 yards a pop, and it worked well.

I am happy to announce that, not only is the Texas concept alive and well, it has evolved. Texas can still be incredibly effective by itself, but, like all concepts, its true power is unlocked in the variations you can effectively run off of it. So let's look at some of those.

Variation 1

We'll get to the rest of the routes in a second, but I wanted to focus on the Texas portion on the right. We've got the tight end pushing up the field before breaking on a corner, while the running back fakes the angle before cutting back towards the sideline. 

Now let's talk about the drag route and why it is important to this particular play. The fake on the angle route out of the backfield plays on what the defense is expecting. Get the linebacker leaning inside on the angle before cutting outside. Now you're combining that with a receiver running a drag across the field. You now have two potential reasons for the linebacker to shade towards the middle. If that happens, the running back will have a decent amount of space to work on the sideline.

In this instance, the linebacker doesn't fully bite on the fake, but it does hold him in place, allowing the running back to get the edge and the first down. 

This variation is most effective against zone coverage. The linebacker would be looking to pick up the drag coming across the field, while the other linebacker would be looking to pick up the angle route in the middle of the field. By reversing field to the sideline, the running back is more likely to not be picked up out of the backfield.

Variation 2

This one comes from Week 17 of the Packers season. I love this one for a couple reasons: it's a fun take on the Texas concept while also showcasing Randall Cobb's cutting abilities.

This one has the Texas idea, but without the tight end off the line of scrimmage. Geronimo Allison [81] is playing the role of the tight end here, but he's lined up as the widest receiver to the left. He cuts underneath the slot man and pushes up the field. The defense is spread wide pre-snap, which plays perfectly into what the Packers want to do here: get Cobb matched-up man-to-man with the linebacker and get him to win that battle.

The linebacker comes up and attacks the outside shoulder of Cobb, which is adorable. Cobb hits him with a filthy cut on the angle route that makes the man question all the decisions he has made that have led him to this exact moment in his life. He tries to hold Cobb on the cut, but can't even manage that. Cobb finds himself in a ton of space - like, say, a space the size of Texas - and ends up in the end zone.

The attacking of the outside shoulder makes sense given the routes to that side of the field. This doesn't look like the Texas concept: it looks like a clear-out for an underneath route. Get the linebacker thinking about all the room in the flat, then cut back into the middle. Zig when they think you're going to zag.

Man, I love Randall Cobb. I'm going to miss him this year.

One more thing to note about this play: while the defenders follow the wide receivers up the field, they're not playing strict man-to-man. They're playing pattern-match zone. Without getting too deep into anything, pattern-match zone is a defense that looks like zone initially, but turns to man-to-man once the routes start to develop. Basically, they sit back in zone, see what routes come into their area, then pick it up as man coverage at that point. It's more complicated than that, but that's the basic idea.

Anyway, the little criss-crossing action of the wide receiver routes doesn't do anything here, but if the Lions were in man coverage from the start, that action could cause some issues for them.

Variation 3

One more play from the Packers, this one from 2018, Week 4. Again, you'll notice the Texas action on the right featuring Davante Adams [17] and Jimmy Graham [80]. Like the previous play, the action is similar, but it's from a different formation than Texas has traditionally been run from.

Graham is lined up off the end of the line with Adams set slightly behind in a stacked look. The Bills are showing pressure, there is a lot of wide open space in the middle of the field. 

The defender takes a wait-and-respond tactic, which is not great for him. Adams jukes him into next week and has a lot of room to work.

The concept here is the same, but it's run from a set that doesn't telegraph it. The ability to run the same concept out of multiple looks is a dangerous thing.

So far our variations have hinged on trickery or beating the man across from you. So let's do something else.

Variation 4

I decided not to show the rest of the routes and only focus on the two players I care about for this play. I went with Jimmy Graham [80] because he's a big guy, and this play works best with a large body and a small body. In the role of the small body, I have Aaron Jones [33]. I'd love to see him utilized more as a receiver, and this seems like the perfect opportunity.

We start with Jones in the backfield before motioning to a stack behind Graham. Ideally this gets Jones matched-up with a linebacker, which is perfect. 

At the snap, Jones follows Graham up the field, shadowing the release. He's hiding back there, but he's also not allowing the defender to disrupt the pattern. It essentially gives Jones a shield. While he's pushing, Jones is reading the defense. At the break point, he breaks inside or outside, depending on how the defense is playing him. It's an option route with a shield. Against man coverage, this would be nearly unstoppable.

I would love to see this run as part of a no-huddle package. Get the match-ups you want, keep the defense on the field and exploit those match-ups. If the Packers catch the defense with a linebacker on Jones, go no-huddle and punish that match-up.

Variation 5

Again, we'll only focus on the two players I'm concerned with here. This is much more in line with the traditional Texas concept, except it's being run out of a stack formation. Again, I've got Jimmy Graham [80] as the front man, and, in a move sure to delight every single Packers fan, I've got Trevor Davis [11] as the under man, running the angle.

Why Davis? Because I believe this fits his skillset well. I know he catches a lot of flak, but he's a quick guy and is an absolute demon in space with the ball in his hands.

I've long been of the mind that Davis could do a lot of damage if they could find a way to get him the ball in space. That never really fit McCarthy, but I believe it fits LaFleur.

I wanted a wide receiver because I don't want to lean too heavily on Jones as a receiver, especially in a spread set. (In my mind, this is run from a 2X2 look, with the same stack alignment on the other side of the formation.) Jones could work under the flat here, but, for this play, give me a three step drop, Aaron Rodgers getting the ball out on-time and Trevor Davis with the ball in his hands and room to move.

As I mentioned on Variation 3, being able to run the same play from multiple sets can be just as valuable as running different looks from the same set. Both of those things can do damage in different ways. 

Texas is simple, but it's also versatile. You can run it out of multiple sets. You can easily set up tendencies and run counter to them. You can easily add an option route and not have it be too complicated. There is a lot to love within the Texas concept. The possibilities may not exactly be endless, but they can be extremely effective.

You can expect to see a lot of Texas variants on the field in 2019.


Albums listened to: Black Mountain - Destroyer; Norah Jones - Begin Again; Sharon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow; Susan Enan - Plainsong; boygenius - boygenius

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Dusty Evely is a film analyst for Cheesehead TV. He can be heard talking about the Packers on Pack to the Future or Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter at @DustyEvely or @All22Talk or email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (7) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

dobber's picture

Love these articles, Dusty. Thanks!

Turophile's picture

Nicely explained and illustrated, thanks.

dblbogey's picture

Excellent. Thank you.

Bearmeat's picture

I learned something here. Thanks, Dusty.

Rustyweezee's picture

I like the last variation with Davis, but I also like it with J'Mon Moore, too. Has the quicks for separation & showed great YAC ability in college. Not as fast as Davis, but taller & 15-20 lbs. stronger. Really hoping Moore takes a 2nd year leap.

Dusty Evely's picture

Oh for sure. I'm a big J'Mon Moore guy. Honestly, with the WR group, I don't know that there's a wrong option as that guy. But I've long been enamored of what Davis could do in space, and I feel like that would be perfect for him.
But if it was Moore, I certainly wouldn't be mad at it.

Da Streetz's picture

I would like to see Davis get some love. And hopefully he will I just think are Wr as a whole are going to be awesome. There big fast they just need to take the next step. Well the young guys do.... #Tae Adams is a beast

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