The X's and O's of Vincent Jackson's TD vs. Patriots

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I want to go back to the Chargers-Patriots game from Week 2 and focus on the 7 (corner) route WR Vincent Jackson ran to beat the New England secondary for a TD. Some great coaching points here to understanding the Xs and Os of the game, plus the technique of the CB position.

A quick set up: the Chargers are in Ace personnel (2 WR, 2 TE, 1 RB) in a “Unit Wing Slot” alignment. Let’s check out the replay and then break it down.

Route concept: Some window dressing here (slot formation) to disguise a 3-level route to the field. I like to call it the “Sail” or “OVS” (outside vertical stretch). Two deep outside breaking concepts (Walters and Jackson) with the TE coming back across the field on the underneath crosser. Attack the defense at three different levels with route concepts that are working away from the safety help in the middle of the field.

Route stem: Go back to the replay and check out the stem of both Jackson and Walters. A hard inside release, stem the route vertically to the safety and then break back to the boundary. Why do we see the hard inside stem? To create enough room to run the 7 route.

Defender's Leverage: The Patriots are playing Cover 1 (man-free). That tells the CBs to the open (weak) side of the formation to play with an outside shade and funnel everything to the single-high safety in the middle of the field. Perfect defensive call to play the 7 route—a concept that will break back to the defender’s leverage in Cover 1.

McCourty's technique: Check out Patriots’ CB Devin McCourty in the slot. He initially misses on the jam in a press-position, however he recovers to get back “in-phase” with Jackson when the WR makes his cut to the boundary. The main problem here? McCourty looks back to the QB. That allows Jackson to create some separation at the top of the route stem. Remember, the QB isn’t throwing the ball to the CB—so there is no need to look back. Because that is when you lose position and can’t make a play on the ball.

No question here after seeing Jackson pull this pass in with one hand that is a special talent at the WR position. However, going back to the play, the Patriots are in the perfect call to force Rivers to check down to the RB here. Another reason technique is still a big part of the game at the NFL level.

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