Picture Pages: Snag Package Comment Count

Brian November 9th, 2010 at 1:44 PM

Earlier in the year Chris Brown of Smart Football offered up some clarification of a route package Michigan's running, and now I'm spotting it in key situations so I might as well Picture Page it. This will please people who complain about the relentlessly negative PPs in past weeks that are all about explaining why Michigan gave up a touchdown.

It's third and four from the 29 on Michigan's second drive of the day. Michigan comes out in a standard formation:


Smith, Hemingway, and tight end Kevin Koger are going to run a snag concept. This consists of three parts:

  1. The #1 (outside) receiver runs a slant and then sits down about five yards downfield.
  2. The #2 receiver, in this case the TE, runs a corner route.
  3. The tailback runs a flare.

This is what it looks like on a diagram. It's on the right:


Chris Brown on the point of this package:

The snag is a variant of the smash, where one point is to get a high-low with the corner route and the flat route (except now the flat is controlled by the runningback), with the added dimension of an outside receiver running the “snag” route — a one-step slant where he settles inside at 5-6 yards. This gives you a “triangle” stretch, where you have both a high/low read (corner to RB in the flat) and a horizontal read from inside to outside (snag route to the RB in the flat).

In previous games when Michigan's run this the opponent was in three deep and the read was simply reading the playside linebacker: throw it where he's not. Here Illinois runs what looks like a combo coverage. Just after the snap:


Illinois has a hard corner to the bottom of the screen and a soft one to the top. Robinson's reading the snag package all the way. Here he's starting at the playside LB, who's figuring out what to do with Koger.

It turns out he goes with Koger:


The hard corner is taking away the flare and this linebacker is turning his hips, so the snag route itself (Hemingway's) will come open. Denard should probably be throwing the ball now.


He should definitely be throwing the ball now.






Hemingway's about a half yard short of the first down and is fortunate that Martez Wilson read the route package about as fast as Denard did. He's still two steps away from Hemingway, allowing Hemingway to take that orbit step wide receivers to do evade overpursuing tacklers…


…which gets him past the sticks for a first down.


Object lessons:

  • Maybe Michigan's passing game isn't as unsophisticated as the spread n shred used to be? This is a favored package around the NCAA right now, which is why Smart Football could bring it to my attention—he'd seen it in the Rose Bowl. Meanwhile, despite having a quarterback who's going to break the all-time rushing record for his position and possibly Tim Biakabutuka's Michigan rushing record, this is not the West Virginia offense. Disclaimers about Tate cameos and catchup ball apply, but Michigan's running 61% of the time this year. That's not far off from Carr's last three years, which were 56% rush (2007), 61% (2006), and 55% (2005) and it's a far cry from Rodriguez's Pat White offenses that ran 75% of the time.

    Despite missing a game and a half, Denard already has more attempts than White did as a sophomore and needs just 22 attempts per game to match White's 274 attempts as a senior (which wasn't even an RR offense anymore). Michigan's 14th in passer efficiency, which says a lot more when you're throwing it around at a semi-normal rate.

  • But maybe so, or maybe not. Previously in this series we've broken down the curl/flat combo (twice) and frequently mentioned the snag. Here Illinois runs a combo coverage that blankets the curl/flat to the top of the screen and probably should do the same to the snag but for Wilson's tardiness. They're prepared for this play. On the other hand, they were completely unprepared for the all-hitch routes that Roundtree kept dropping, and Michigan got their bomb on. So maybe nevermind.
  • The game is still slowing down for Denard. This is the euphemistic way to say "he's not reading defenses fast enough yet." (For a given definition of "enough," anyway. He's 11th in passer efficiency.) He's late here and I think he was late a couple other times. It's hard to tell whether certain balls are inaccurate or thrown in the right zone window, but thrown too late. I think the fourth and nine Roundtree touchdown may be an example of this. He couldn't hit Roundtree in the numbers because of the safety coming over and forced a moderately difficult catch out of him.
  • Great protection. This happened all day. Robinson sat back there like John Navarre, most prominently on the second(!) 75-yard completion to Roundtree where Michigan slid the line and he re-enacted his throw to Roundtree from the spring game except without the guy coming into his face.
  • Maybe this is why he never scrambles? He seems uncertain about his reads still so he sits in the pocket wondering if he's missing something when he should just run, Forrest, run. For a guy with his ability on the ground he's got a weird antipathy for taking off. I've got him for four scrambles on the year.



November 9th, 2010 at 1:56 PM ^

was definitely noticeable in this game as there were a couple of third downs where he had wide open lanes.  But I'm not really complaining because I like seeing him showing patience and allowing the play to develop.  I prefer that to situation where the instinct is to immediately take off when the first option is covered.


November 9th, 2010 at 2:09 PM ^

The only time I get angry with Denard not scrambling is on 3rd and short.  It seems like we always pass on 3rd down and 2 to 5 yards to go.  In this case, I'd rather see an obvious, quick first and second read.  If it's not there immediately, use the dilithium and get the 1st down.


November 9th, 2010 at 2:40 PM ^

looking at those pictures, the two frames where the clock reads 7:50, all he has to do is tuck the ball and exit right, reading Hugye's block for inside or outside.  Acres await as the backside DE has already started trucking to the playside and the backside DBs are still occupied fairly deep with their WRs.  (Course, he doesn't get to stare at the pictures for 10 minutes like I just did to see that.)


November 9th, 2010 at 5:08 PM ^

I do agree with the generalized sentiment that Denard is possibly leaving 3rd down conversions on the field by not scrambling a bit more often, but in this specific case, it looks like the primary reason that Jr is able to beat Wilson for the first down is the same reason that Denard might never have been able to make the first and that the acres are illusory.  Wilson is standing there clearly watching to see if he breaks right or left for the first and would have a pretty good angle to either side to make a tackle attempt if Denard tucks and runs.  Or so it seems to my amateure eyes, at least.

Blue in Seattle

November 9th, 2010 at 5:27 PM ^

This is probably why the coaches and players review film.  And it's awesome that this blog is to the point to be able to do the same thing.

And yes completely agree to all the comments on how exciting it is to think of a day when Denard has the experience to not only exploit things as a passer, but also to recognize when he needs to run, and then finally when he can read everything, then start to run, then stop and pitch it to a now completely open receiver behind the safeties.

And I think you have to credit the Illinois defense for the discipline to keep their players in the middle of everything as best they can.  And they still allowed 45 points on top of the gift of 5 direct turnovers.

But the only way to have blanketed those receivers was to leave it wide open for Denard.  They didn't and Denard eventually recognized the best first down move.  And probably as he recognizes it faster, the defense will have to react faster, which will just leave the running lanes open.

It's nice to see that patience will pay off on this Michigan offensive scheme.  It's an incredible amount of options to execute on, and I can't imagine trying to assess each one at game speed.  Especially after only 9 games doing it.


November 10th, 2010 at 6:19 PM ^

I 100% agree. When teams see we are passing they drop everyone back because they need LBs to help cover our WRs, TEs and RBs so it's normally Robinson vs. 4 slow D-lineman. 

It seems that Denard gets the call to run or pass and then he decides to commit to it 100% even if the defense has 8 in box or 4 in the box. I know he's young but giving him 2 options on each play would make this offense lethal.


November 9th, 2010 at 1:57 PM ^

lots of QBs like denard don't want to scramble because they want to prove that they can get it done throwing too.  that often leads to not scrambling and forcing certain throws, as denard has.  as he processes his reads faster, he'll force fewer throws, but might also scramble a little more.


November 9th, 2010 at 2:01 PM ^

"Michigan slid the line and he re-enacted his throw to Roundtree from the spring game except without the guy coming into his face. "


Thats what she said.


November 9th, 2010 at 2:03 PM ^

where we ran the same play 3 times in a row, twice to the left and once to the right? It was obvious when the wide receivers switched sides but lined up the same way that they were doing it a third time, so what was the qb (Tate at that point, I think) supposed to do? Did he miss a read, or is it really on the coaches for calling the same play 3 times in a row? Since this isn't actually Madden, isn't it a bit dumb to keep running the same play? (If I know what's coming and can predict an interception, how is the defense supposed to be caught off guard?)


November 9th, 2010 at 11:20 PM ^

I think you're talking about a different play. Tate threw literally the same throw to the same receiver twice in a row to the left side of the field for respectable completions. Then the receivers switched sides and he did it again, this time to the right side, for an interception, since a defender saw the obvious thing coming and stepped in front of the receiver.

This was like a 12-15 yard route. You seem to have in mind the deep route that Taylor Lewan killed.

Guess I'll wait for the UFR to point out what I mean if it's still unclear.


November 11th, 2010 at 5:24 PM ^


M48 1 10 Shotgun empty 1 0 4 Split 4-3 Pass Hitch Roundtree Int
The third time in a row is a little much (RPS -2) and the route is jumped and picked off. Ball was inside, making it easier to pick off, and shouldn't have been thrown anyway. (BR, 0, protection 1/1)

dunno why it was only RPS -2. will ask on the UFR thread.


November 9th, 2010 at 2:07 PM ^

thinking how good this offense has yet to become.  If DR's vision and reaction time improves, OMG how awesome can he be?  Four scrambles and only three sacks.  He gets plenty of time out of respect for his feet.  Tons of experience and talent among the WRs. They're not absolutely unstoppable only because of the occasional bad choices by DR.  Just Wow.


November 9th, 2010 at 2:11 PM ^

I recall some of Pat White's best runs coming from him pulling the ball down and taking off, will be nice when we see a bit more of that from Denard. I doubt a spying linebacker will have much luck containing him, just like I don't think they were very successful with White.


November 9th, 2010 at 2:15 PM ^

I've always just sort of chalked up Robinson's unwillingness to scramble as the coaches pounding it into his head not to.  Forcier's the same way, mostly.  I'd sure like it better if Robinson did scramble more.

On another note: I'd suggest that if Robinson throws the ball at "probably should be throwing", Hemingway doesn't pick up the first down.  Waiting that split second til "definitely should be throwing" (but before AAAAIIIGGHH) allowed the outside corner to hesitate his way over toward the RB flare.  If Denard throws before the corner starts to respect the flare, he gets Junior from behind, possibly before the sticks if he takes the right angle.


November 10th, 2010 at 7:45 AM ^

I wonder if Denard begins a play with a determination that this is going to be a pass, and he just stick to it.

It would simplify the thought process to not even consider the scramble / run. 

OTOH, to keep the scramble / run option in the thought process does complicate the play for him. 

By excluding that option, he can focus on his reads and find a way to pass the football.

While he says the game is slowing down for him, it is still happening very fast, and maybe at this point in his development, unconciously his brain is not ready for another option.


November 9th, 2010 at 2:16 PM ^

right there in front of Denard and he waited out the play. It usually worked out pretty well, anyway, and I found myself thinking: "This is Denard's Zen exercise. He is obeying the Zen master because he is learning the discipline. In future, with maximum flexibility he will slice and dice these mofos like a veg-o-matic. He will let me keep the bonus Pocket Fisherman." 

Which probably dates me a little. 


November 9th, 2010 at 2:32 PM ^

It was third (fourth?) and short, Denard rolls left, has TONS of space for an easy first down, and chose to gun it to Hemingway.

Then Hemingway, waited, waited, juked and went for the touchdown.  So it all worked out.

But as Denard was throwing it, I was incredulous.  We had a guaranteed first down, and probably another easy ten yards if Denard just ran.  But he chose to make a relatively difficult throw across his body.

And this wasn't a case of going for the home run.  It wasn't like the first play of the game where no one was between Roundtree and the endzone.  There were three Illinois defenders around Hemingway to make the tackle.

When Denard chose to throw, he gave up a guaranteed 15 yards and a first down for a chance at completing a 25 yard pass.

Even though we got the touchdown, I really wish he'd run for the first down in these cases.


November 9th, 2010 at 2:31 PM ^

I'm interested to see the UFR this week and the "catchability" ratings on Denard's various throws.  Like the throw picture-paged above, I noticed that several of Denard's throws were in a place that made it tough for the receiver to get yards after the catch (down by the knees and a little behind the receiver).  I'm definitely not trying to be negative or overly critical - I just seemed to notice more low throws against Illinois than in previous games.  Anyone else notice this too?


November 9th, 2010 at 2:24 PM ^

w/ the very last part about his scrambling. You can tell he sits to make sure he isin't missing something. Especailly when he does the ball pat that he does, it's usually about 2 times before he throws the ball and you can tell he's thinking to much. If only he could scramble like tate does. Not as much as tate obviously but Tate has a really good knack for making 1st tacklers miss. He did it atleast 4 times in the 4th qt and OT. Now like I said do I want Denard to put us in Cardiac Arrest like Tate does but you get the idea.


November 9th, 2010 at 2:26 PM ^

Along these lines, I remember thinking RUN RUN RUN right before Denard passed to Hemmingway where he juked all of the Indiana D and scored his TD.  I think he could have easily ran for the 1st but instead threw the ball.  Obviously it worked, but I think the much safer play is to just run it for the easy first.


November 9th, 2010 at 2:28 PM ^

I really enjoy Picture Pages of the offensive scheme/blocking/route variety so much more than the "here's another reason why our defense is not good" Picture Pages.  Great to see this, thanks!


November 9th, 2010 at 2:39 PM ^

between the snap and the completed pass were talking about three seconds. Like all of you said, more time as a starter and trusting his instincts and he'll be throwing the ball on time.

One Denard, two Denard, three Den, throw. Not too bad.


November 9th, 2010 at 3:15 PM ^

Agreed, if Robinson were to take off a bit more when his receivers were covered, it would force defenses to dedicate bodies to cover that threat. It is already responsible for the lack of blitzes on him, though I foresee Wisconsin or OSU noticing that Denard doesn't scramble and taking advantage of that.


November 9th, 2010 at 3:51 PM ^

Defenses are already very mindful of Denard running. Illinois certainly was. Just watch what the safety supposed to cover Roundtree does on the first play of the game.

The pass rush is also usually trying to contain Denard more than sack him.

Look at the safety that starts over Hemmingway does. He is paying no attention to either Hemmingway wide open next to him or the back in the flat. He is there to contain Denard.

I guess what I'm saying is, I doubt that Denard running even more will change what the defense does or that even Tressel will take advantage of Denard not scrambling on designed passes.

My gut feeling is, if the pass rush was undisciplined and the defense not aware of Denard running, huge swathes of field would open before him and he would gladly take off. In the play shown he's got no where to go and no reason to go there.


November 9th, 2010 at 3:18 PM ^

We should use this play design except have Smith crash down to the line, block for 3 seconds and run an Illinois wheel route. Guranteed a td bc he is tiny, the backer will never see him till it's too late. Also, Denard has all kinds of time to throw.


November 9th, 2010 at 3:25 PM ^

The idea that the game is still slowing down for Denard is sooo exciting.  I can't even begin to imagine how good starting senior QB Denard Robinson is going to be when starting sophomore QB Denard Robinson is pretty damn good.  Add in some D. Hart and D. Arnett, and wow.....


November 9th, 2010 at 4:56 PM ^

Michigans has got some pretty compelling and talented players on its roster right now. Roy Roundtree, for instance, just set the record for most recieving yards in a game by a Michigan player.

I'm curious why you choose players that aren't even on Michigans roster to fantisize about?


November 9th, 2010 at 6:11 PM ^

Roy Roundtree is a pretty good receiver but is no where near the importance of a Braylon Edwards or a Marquis Walker.  Be real.  He came to this program as a 3 star recruit weighing a mighty 155 pounds.  That's not somebody you fantasize about.  I understand he worked really hard and became a role-player on this team but he isn't dominant.  He is fast and takes advantage of the supporting cast.  We don't have a "go to" receiver on this team.  Nobody fantasizes about a role-player.  I'm not trying to be negative, I think he is great, but he isn't fantasy worthy like Denard Robinson has become, Devin Gardner (five star), or Demetrius Hart (five star).


November 10th, 2010 at 3:31 PM ^

His numbers are great.  Remember when I said he was a good player?!?!?!  Because I did!!!

Seriously, why do people consistently have to take everything out of context.  The problem with Roy Roundtree receiving the #1 jersey is that he isn't as outstanding relative to the rest of the team, and he isn't as dominant relative to the defensive backs he faces.  People don't go into a game against Michigan fearing what Roy Roundtree is going to do to their otherwise potent defensive backfield.  Roy Roundtree isn't a name that sends shivers down the spines of opposing defenses.  Braylon Edwards did that.  Anthony Carter did that.  Roy Roundree is being overshadowed by Denard Robinson and being lost amongst 2 other very capable receivers, namely Junior Hemmingway and Darryl Stonum.

The #1 jersey isn't about statistics.  It isn't quantifiable or analytical.  It goes to the leader of the receiving corp and is a display of athletic superiority.  Is Roy Roundtree athletically superior to Junior Hemming and Darryl Stonum?  Is he the leader of the receiving corp?

Use your head.


November 10th, 2010 at 10:26 AM ^

judging by your choice to use the terms "sexy" and forms of the word "fantasy" 3 times, I can't help but think that you're judging Roundtree on criteria other than his quality as a football player.

First, he was 4-star, if that mattered. Second, in 13 career starts, he has 75 catches and over 1000 yards - more the super-hunky Marquise Walker did at this point in his career. He's a very good football player.

Now, it seems like you're looking for something else - if Roundtree is too "skinny" and you like them with a little bit more meat on their bones, maybe you can think about Junior Hemingway before you fall asleep.


November 10th, 2010 at 9:51 PM ^

Why would you think to compare Anthony Carter to Roy Roundtree?  Anthony Carter was way better than Roy Roundtree on a consistent basis.  Roundtree has good games and bad games.  He is inconsistent.  Sometimes Hemmingway will have a great day and Roundtree will be overlooked.  Same for Stonum.  We have three good receivers.  How can you single out one of them when they are all so close in individual performances?

Like I said, Michigan doesn't have a "go to" receiver.  Roy Roundtree happened to be the "go to" guy against ND.  Against Indiana, Hemmingway was the "go to" guy.  Yes Roy Roundtree was great in the Illinois game, but who did we go to in overtime when our backs were against the wall?  If we had a #1 jersey caliber player, it would surely be him right?  Nope... Junior Hemmingway.  Now lets look at the other 3OT game Michigan played against MSU.  Who was the "go to" guy in that game when our backs were against the wall?  Oh... #1?  Is that? hmmm....

All I ask is that you think.  Just use your head.