Breaking down Ponder in the pro style system

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One of the benefits throughout the draft process for former Florida State QB Christian Ponder is the offensive system he played in for the Seminoles. Pro style route schemes, formations and alignments.

Today, I want to break down four different route concepts that the Seminoles ran vs. North Carolina during the ’09 season. The same concepts that Ponder will throw in the NFL: Smash-7, Slant-Flat, China-Dig and the straight 9 (fade) route off of the double-move. Let’s check out the video repays and then get into some detailed coaching points.

1. Smash-7

A classic Cover 2 beater. Run the Smash (5-yard curl) in front of the rolled up CB in a Cover 2 look and challenge the safety on the 7 cut. If the CB doesn’t sink hard at a 45-degree angle to protect the safety, a perfect throwing lane is created for the QB. A route concept that the Tampa 2 defenses in Chicago, Indy and Minnesota see on a weekly basis.

Florida State is in Jet personnel (4 WR, 1 RB) with No.2 running the 7 cut. As you can see from the replay, the CB from UNC plays a “soft 2” (no jam on No.1), but the issue here is his technique. Even without a jam he still has to sink and play the technique of the defense. Ponder can now read Cover 2 from the safeties alignment and throw the 7 cut once the closed (strong) side CB reacts to the Smash route in the flat.

2. Slant-Flat

As basic as it gets—at any level of football. A route concept that is installed on the first day of mini-camp at the NFL level. But also a valuable scheme that is run from multiple alignments and personnel groupings in third down situations. And a route we see every Sunday from Mark Sanchez and the Jets.

Florida State is in their base Pro personnel (2 WR, 1 TE, 2 RB) with Ponder in the gun working vs. Cover 6 (quarter, quarter, half). With UNC playing quarters (Cover 4) to the closed side of the formation, the SS will drop the TE on the Flat route to the Sam Backer (curl-flat defender) and react to No.1 on the slant. However, when Ponder steps up in the pocket to avoid the rush of UNC DT Marvin Austin and pumps to the slant, the Sam Backer drops the TE and the route is converted up the field. A solid example of a QB showing pocket awareness and making a play vs. a busted coverage.

3. China-Dig

Peyton Manning and the Colts will run this concept out in the field and in the red zone. Another scheme designed to beat Cover 2 by targeting throwing lanes. Challenge the FS and throw the ball over the top of the underneath defenders.

Florida State is again in their Jet personnel (4 WR, 1 TE). Ponder will read through the release of No.2 and the vertical drop of the Will backer. With the open (weak) side CB immediately reacting to the China (will convert to 5-yard square in vs soft CB), the ‘Noles QB will throw the Dig route over the top of the Will and in front of the free safety. A small window to deliver the football that has to be throw on time to avoid the Mike backer running the inside vertical seam in the Cover 2 defense.

4. 9 route (double-move)

Backed-up with Pro personnel (2 WR, 1 TE, 2 RB) on the field vs. pressure. That’s what we see here from Florida State. Run the 9 route (double-move) vs. the open side CB aligned in an off-man position with UNC using a 5-man fire zone (zone blitz) concept out of a 3-4 front.

The Seminoles use 7-man protection here vs. the zone pressure and target the open side CB. With the UNC defender playing the fire zone deep third (think man coverage concepts vs. a vertical release), Ponder can play through the double move and throw the ball down the field once the WR gets vertical. Very common to see NFL offenses use seven—or even eight—man protection when they are backed up and want to take a shot vertically vs. pressure defenses. Just like we see here on a 98-yard TD pass.

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