Mazzone Offense - Dropback Passing

-Bumped. BN Eds.

So far I have posted about spread philosophy, the base zone key run/quick screen concept, snag, screens, and the quick passing game, and offensive adjustments (protecting the base concepts). That's enough to get the base stuff going, and it can be enough to put together some drives. Last components, X's and O's-wise, are the dropback passing game and the short-yardage game.

Many of the passing concepts used by ASU last season were fairly standard across college football - nothing groundbreaking or overly complicated. Like Air Raid teams, ASU liked to run plenty of shallow crossing routes, which helps to spread defenses across the field.

Unlike Air Raid teams, I wouldn't consider ASU a pass-first team. They threw it around when the ground game wasn't working, but their bread and butter stuff seemed to be the stuff I've covered so far - when they had problems running, like against Oregon and especially Boise State in the bowl game, they usually struggled. They seemed to want to work the inside run and the quick outside screen, and take a few shots downfield when the defense focused on stopping the short stuff. Osweiler generally wasn't putting the ball up in the air more than 30-35 times a game, and many of those passes were things like quick screens or short passes.

I don't have a lot on Mazzone's downfield passing game as TV camera angles are usually too tight to see receivers downfield, but I'll go into detail on a few.


Mazzone's got a sample presentation detailing how he teaches shallow and drive on his website (scroll down to where it says, "The Technology Advantage of the Nzone Spread Offensive System"). I'll just go off his presentation and break things down a little further.

Shallow ("shack" in Mazzone's terminology) is a high-low concept that attacks the linebackers over the middle with a shallow crossing route going one way combined with a "dig" route (square-in route at about 10 yards) behind it. If the defense wants to jump the short routes, they'll leave open a deeper route going the other direction behind them. Or, if they drop deep and take the dig, they'll leave a void underneath.

The rules are: The WR indicated on the playcall runs the shallow cross. So "F Shack" means that the F receiver runs the shallow. The other receiver to his side runs an outside fade down the sideline. The opposite slot WR runs the dig route at 10-12 yards, and the opposite outside receiver runs the skinny post. The back is hot out of the backfield on the swing.

The call, listed on his presentation, is "Dual Right Hot Ron F Shack". Dual Right is probably the formation, most likely dual WRs to each side, and the formation is set to the right, so X and F go left, while Y and Z go right. Hot Ron is most likely the protection, I'm guessing "Hot" protection is 5-man protection, and "Ron" designates protection set to the right, so if the defense rushes six, the back or the shallow are "hot" - the OL picks up the 5 rushers to the right and the 6th rusher to the left is negated by the throw to the hot receiver. F Shack is the play call - "F" is the slot WR, and "Shack" is shallow cross, so F runs the shallow cross and the rest of the receivers follow the rules in the paragraph above. Formation, any motions, protection, play, and then any additional tags - it's a lot simpler than whatever Jon Gruden is saying here (keep in mind what Cam Newton says - "simplicity equals fast" - for when I get to tempo).


Against a press look with no safeties back, the QB peeks at the fade in man coverage, and against cover 4, the QB peeks at the post (the safety would rob the dig route, leaving the post open in this case). Again, against blitz, the QB is looking to throw hot. Otherwise, the QB is looking at shallow right away to throw on the plant. If it's open, the QB hits shallow for 4-5 yards with a chance for more. Otherwise, he hitches up to reset and looks for the dig which should be open behind whoever covered the shallow. If it's not there, the QB starts moving out of the pocket and throws on the run to the back on the swing.

You can see in Mazzone's presentation that he has "Dual Left Hot Ron Z Shack" - same concept, different look. Formation is flipped this time and Z runs the shallow. As an outside WR runs the shallow, the slot to his side runs a corner instead of a fade - it's still attacking the same area of the field, so same reads for the QB. You can flip the protection and release the back to the other side, you can change the protection, you can motion a receiver from trips into "Dual", you can "tag" a receiver's route to make an adjustment if you see a weakness in coverage - it's a flexible system and players don't have to remember what route you run for every specific play...they just need to memorize the rules above, and if they hear "Z Shack", they can figure it out.



Drive is similar to shallow, except that the dig route comes from the same side as the shallow route. Mazzone likes to package the backside with the two receivers crossing on a go route and a corner route, and look for the corner against 2-deep and the go/skinny post against cover 4 again. Otherwise, QB is looking at the shallow route, the dig, and then the back just like shallow.


Y Cross

Mazzone seemed to like deep crossing routes and floods towards either sideline, especially off of run action. It's similar to how he controls perimeter defenders with the quick outside screen to the backside - if they cheat inside to play the run, he'll fake the run and flood the backside with a deep crossing route, a vertical route, and some sort of short route in the flat. It's the same triangle stretch used in 3-man snag, with a vertical threat, a short outside threat, and an intermediate threat, only a little more downfield.


See below for a great video demonstrating this concept - this was meant for WVU's offense, but the formation and motion is something that ASU ran under Mazzone (same look they run zone key out of ). Remember how defenses liked to drop the safety down to pick up the swing route on the backside - this play is a good call against those teams as the vertical or the crossing route can be open.

Y-Crosser (via smartfootballchris)


Verticals is a concept that pretty much everyone runs - for an in-depth explanation, check out this article or just google "four verticals". It's not so much a "long bomb" play, but usually more of a quick throw down the seams as the slot receivers clear the underneath defenders.

The wrinkle that Mazzone used several times last season was running this out of trips, and having the inside slot receiver take more of a diagonal path down towards the opposite hash marks and the backside single receiver run a shallow crossing route. If teams loaded up the deep zones, ASU would just take the shallow route, and if they flooded the underneath zones in anticipation of the zone run or quick passing game, they'd have the advantage deep with the vertical routes. Remember, the base stuff in the offense is meant to force the defense to cover sideline to sideline short stuff, with inside runs and quick passes and screens to the perimeter - when those concepts are rolling, the defense can't leave many defenders deep which opens up the downfield passing game.



<em>This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.</em>

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