The 2022 Call Sheet: High Red Zone

Dusty continues building out his call sheet by seeing what worked for the Packers in the high red zone in 2022

I missed last week for…reasons. I considered coming up with some kind of excuse about how I started writing this then realized it simply needed more time and I wanted to make sure it had the room to breathe that it needed, but that’s simply not true. No, the truth is much more mundane and not worth getting into here.

The reason doesn’t matter. What matters is that we’re back now and we’re ready to finish this thing up. We’re in the red zone and we’ve got two articles remaining in this series. A huge thank you to anyone who has stuck with me this entire time.

Today, we’re looking at the high red zone: the area between the opponent’s 11-20 yard line. We’re not quite on the doorstep of the end zone, but we’re getting there. We’re on the walkway. Walk down me I'm the walkway.

I think we all know that the red zone scoring offense hasn’t been great the last couple of years. Looking at TD% in the red zone, they were 2nd in the league in 2019 (TD on 67.9% of trips) and 1st in 2020 (76.8), but they’ve taken a hit the last couple of years. They were 18th in 2021 (57.5%) and 23rd in 2022 (51.9%). That seems bad!

Most of that failure comes in the low red zone, because their high red zone performance wasn’t bad last year. They scored TDs on 13.2% of their plays (6th in the league) and averaged 4.6 YPA (7th in the league). For the year, they averaged 5.4 plays per game in this area, so we’re just going to round up to 6 plays for our call sheet.

Since the chances of scoring a TD are lower here than they are in the low red zone, I valued yards per attempt over TD%. My thought was that, for this area, I valued plays that would be able to consistently get me closer to the goal line, then focus on getting over the goal line once we were in the low red zone.

So let’s get it.


All Go RB Seam (19.0 YPA, 1 TD)

This is a concept I try to work into as many areas as possible, but it seems like a perfect fit here. It gives you a home run option with the vertical routes, and an easy checkdown into space underneath if the big play isn’t open.

The big play has largely been taken away by defenses over the last couple of years (with some exceptions, as we'll see below), but it's a versatile concept that can be unlocked with more speed at the receiver position.

High Cross (13.0 YPA, 1 TD)

You can think of High Cross as a bit of a deeper Mesh (at least in terms of the core). Where Mesh typically sees drag routes crossing at a depth of 3-6 yards, High Cross sees the routes crossing at a depth of 10-20 yards. An offense is more likely to see single-high defenses in this area, so a concept like this can work well in making life difficult for the safety. 

TE Screen (3.0 YPA)

I know I said I value YPA in this area but I also value concepts I like and I like this one.

It didn’t do great for the Packers in 2022, but it could be better in 2023, just based on the uptick in athleticism we’ll be seeing. I loved Marcedes Lewis like any sane person would, but you wouldn’t really call him “explosive” at this stage in his career, and Robert Tonyan never got back to 100% after coming back from his injury.

Now, you’ve got Josiah Deguara likely stepping into a bigger role, as well as Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft in the fold. Tyler Davis is also here, and he can move with the ball in his hands.

The key to all screens is the misdirect. Sell the action you want to sell, divert attention away from the real target, set up blocking on the screen and go. Yes, another key is having someone who knows how to follow blocks, but they also need to be elusive and explosive in space, and that’s something the Packers have in the TE room now. 

This is a bet that this idea will work better with athleticism in the 2023 TE room than it did in 2022.


Inside Zone (6.8 YPA, 1 TD)

One of the things I’m really excited about - and won’t shut up about on any platform that invites me to talk - is what the Packers did with the running game last year. They tried going with more pulling offensive linemen early in the year, but eventually scrapped most of it, as inconsistency along the offensive line rendered it fairly ineffective. 

Instead, they used the Inside/Wide Zone looks as their base and used TEs & WRs as their pullers. They’d typically do this from motion, with the attack position changing. Sometimes they’d use the puller to kick out the edge. Sometimes they’d attack the middle. It was a really fun and effective change to their run game, allowing them to do some of the same things they wanted to do with pullers, but without using multiple offensive linemen.

I’m excited to see what the Packers will do with the run game in 2023. We’ll likely see more of the early-season pullers that we saw them try in 2022, but using motion TE/WR as part of their Zone package can lead to a powerful, diverse run game, without having to alter their core game.

Of course, the core Inside Zone play can also be an effective option, provided the offensive line is capable of doing their job.

Counter (10.0 YPA)

This falls into some of the power/puller looks I was talking about earlier, but it’s still something we saw throughout the season and are likely to see a decent amount this year. The overall idea is to sell the run to one side (with some blocking releases and the initial step of the running back), then pull a couple men to the other side of the line and have the RB follow them. That’s an incredibly simplistic description of Counter, and yet I feel it gets the job done.


Inside Zone/Stick (7.5 YPA)

I know RPOs can get a bad rap, but the entire idea is to have an answer for however the defense reacts and force them to be wrong. It starts with the run concept, with the idea being that you should intend to run unless the defense lines up in such a way that the pass is the better option.

This specific tag is Inside Zone run with a Stick/Quick-Out route to one side. That tag is typically a two-man combination, with the outside receiver running a vertical/clear-out route and the slot receiver running the stick route. The Packers will typically throw if there is a numbers advantage to the pass side, or if the slot receiver has outside leverage on the defender. If it’s not a clear advantage, hand the ball off into a light box.

We’ll be looking at the Packers in the Low Red Zone next week, and that’ll be the last entry in this series. I’m really looking forward to digging into that one, then seeing where the rest of the offseason leads me. 

If you missed the rest of the series - or simply want to revisit it - I’ve gathered the links below.

1st & 10
2nd & long
2nd & medium
2nd & short
3rd & long
3rd & medium
3rd & short
4th & short

Albums listened to: Starflyer 59 - Old; Portugal. The Man - Chris Black Changed My Life; Basement Revolver - Embody; Foxing - Draw Down the Moon; Wye Oak - Every Day Like the Last; Slothrust - Parallel Timeline; Maisie Peters - The Good Witch




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


5 points

Comments (10)

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croatpackfan's picture

June 28, 2023 at 03:33 pm

Thanks Dusty again. Some very nice lessons I got from you. Next week low red zone - can't wait!

4 points
SoCalJim's picture

June 28, 2023 at 08:14 pm

Great job, Dusty!

4 points
LeotisHarris's picture

June 28, 2023 at 10:05 pm

So, Dusty slides in here weekly and drops this incredible information for us, and we in turn thank him. Those of you who subscribe to his newsletter received the most humble subscriber update from Dusty in your inbox today. In essence, Dusty has lost the battle with himself to not be compensated for all of his hard work and is begrudgingly going to try to force himself to accept $5 per month OR $30 per year for access to his Substack. BUT WAIT, because Dusty is Dusty he has included the option of using a 40% off coupon. Here's the link:

Here's your chance to support a decent human who just happens to provide great football content. It's the right thing to do. G'head.

7 points
T7Steve's picture

June 29, 2023 at 07:33 am

"This is a bet that this idea will work better with athleticism in the 2023 TE room than it did in 2022."

That's a mountain that will be an easy climb. Hopefully we can set the bar higher than 2022. Just having some TEs to keep the Ds honest is sooooo fun to think about, and opens up soooo many options for this O. I think it even makes it easier on the O-line not to mention the QB.

1 points
TxFred's picture

June 29, 2023 at 08:07 am

Well written, Dusty. IMO the weakest segment of the offense is the OL. How the team does in the "gold zone" depends on the OL improvement this year. Hole opening drive blocking, coordination with the backs. Critical!
Motion & pass blocking need execution. I think the team gets momentum everyone steps up & brings their "A-game". No one wants to be singled out as failing. MLF should enjoy this season, knowing what plays he calls WILL be run. Plenty of play selection to draw from. Biggest issue for MLF is play distribution. Nice issue to have. Expect more smiles on MLF face this year!!! GPG !!!

2 points
Leatherhead's picture

June 29, 2023 at 09:34 am

IMO, if you're first and 10 at the 25 or so, you're in 4 down territory. I'd rather turn it over on downs inside the 20 trying for 7 than settling for 3, unless 3 is going to make THE difference. If you go for it 10 times and convert 4 of them into TDs, that's about the same as hitting all 10 FGs

I think it's really hard to throw when you're that close, and it's why the best QBs are the ones that can stand in the pocket and throw darts. At that point, it's less about reading defenses and the talent at receiver than it is about being able to throw a quick dart into a tiny window. It's what the really great QBs do, and it's one of the first qualities they start to lose.

1 points
T7Steve's picture

June 29, 2023 at 10:24 am

"it's one of the first qualities they start to lose." LH, I always thought it was mobility, but now that you bring it up, I think it ties in, the one causes the other. It all starts with the legs.

Very astute (as usual).

0 points
jont's picture

June 29, 2023 at 12:39 pm

"IMO, if you're first and 10 at the 25 or so, you're in 4 down territory. I'd rather turn it over on downs inside the 20 trying for 7 than settling for 3, unless 3 is going to make THE difference."

In principle I am with you as usual, LH, but in real life I take the points. I have no data, but memories flutter around my head of games where three instead of zero turned out to be important, and this season looks like it could bring some close games so I'm just hoping Mason's replacement is 100% from inside 40 yards.

1 points
jont's picture

June 29, 2023 at 12:50 pm

More great info from my favorite regular feature of CHTV.

I'd add an obvious point: much depends on the D you're facing. With the shorter field there will be tighter coverages in zone and a faster close on a scrambling or running QB. This favors passing plays with a quick release (and thus shorter, precisely run routes) and, as you note, occasional misdirection (I've always liked screens in the red zone, but you've got to be selective and infrequent in calling it, setting up the pass rush by putting the screen at the end a sequence of plays or after another pass call to try to get the rushers to attack first and stay home for a screen second).

And what we don't see here is running out a spread. This is more at home in a Mike McCarthy style offense, I suppose, and not an MLF thing, but it has some merit particularly in a pass-heavy offense. Maybe better closer to the goal line.

The RPO is the unknown for GB this year. Success depends on Love's execution, the quality of which depends on game experience he doesn't have yet. This also opens the door to GB to try a RPR version in which Love keeps it after the fake and looks for a pass option but, if it's not there, has a third option of keeping it and taking off (Hurts and Fields have this a key part of their games). Now, we have no real evidence that Love can run anything like these guys, but then again, no defense has any evidence he can't. It might be worth trying.

1 points
michael562's picture

June 29, 2023 at 02:26 pm

Thanks, Dusty, I really enjoy reading your articles.

0 points