Breaking down the Jets' 'pick play' in the red zone

Let’s spend some time on this Sunday looking at one of the top man-coverage beaters in the red zone: the “pick play.” But before we get to the TV tape of Mark Sanchez’s game winning TD pass to Santonio Holmes vs. the Texans, I want to simplify the route tree inside of the 10-yard line.

Don’t think of complex schemes that are drawn up on the chalkboard to beat Cover 1 (man free) or Cover 0 (no safety help). Instead, there are two routes that need to be drilled, practiced and perfected to throw inside of the 10-yard line: the slant and the fade.

We aren’t talking about multiple breaking routes or exotic formations. If you can throw the slant and the fade, you will score points at any level of football when you face man coverage near the goal line.

What we will see on the TV tape is an example of the slant from Braylon Edwards to the closed (strong) side with Holmes running the fade off of the “pick” from a slot alignment to the open (weak) side. By using the “pick,” the Jets get a fade route from the No.2 alignment—and that is tough to defend. Let’s check out the replay and get into some coaching points.

Coaching points…

1. The “pick” action: Focus on the open side of formation with the Jets in their Posse (311) personnel (3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB). The No.1 receiver (X) has a basic assignment here: make the “pick” look like a route. And all he has to do is impact the defensive back playing over Holmes in the slot. Force him to go underneath the “pick,” over the top (as we see here) or right through his release. He is not a primary target in the route scheme, because he is on the field for one reason—to create space for the No.2 receiver.

Mark SanchezICONThe throw from Sanchez on the up field shoulder is ideal on the fade route.

2. Holmes' route: Go back to the TV tape. Holmes uses a stutter move at the snap of the ball to set up the CB. Force him to hesitate and then use the “pick” to stem his route to the corner of the end zone. It can be viewed as a “wheel route,” but what we are looking at is a fade route from the slot receiver. With the CB beat to the inside, Holmes now just has to run to a spot to catch the ball. Perfect setup.

3. Defending the “pick” play: Two thoughts behind this. If you are going to play from an off-man position (like we see from the Texans), the CB has to take an angle to the receiver that will allow him to make a play on ball. On the replay, the CB takes a flat angle—and that isn’t the proper technique. Instead, take an angle that puts you in a position to play the “up field” shoulder of the WR. However, from my perspective, there is no need to play off-man coverage inside of the 10-yard line—because there are too many opportunities to get beat. Align in a press-man look and attack the WR. Disrupt his release and force the “pick” to come right through you—which should draw a flag. Bottom line: don’t give the WR room to breathe inside of the 10-yard line and play physical when Cover 0 is called in the huddle.

4. The throw from Sanchez: Give the Jets’ QB some real credit here—because the throw is perfect for the situation of the game. Put the ball on the up field shoulder of the WR (away from the defender’s leverage). In reality, you are throwing to a spot on the field and this is drilled every week in practice. Back corner of the end zone where only the WR has a chance to make the play. Great call by the Jets to steal a win from Houston.

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