We’re nearing the end of the Building the Offense for Patrick Mahomes series. There are three more pieces to add. The philosophy of this series has been simple: find ways to generate easy throws for a young quarterback, reduce the number of plays you have to load up his plate and take advantage of his strengths.
Mahomes is a unique talent. I don’t have to tell you that. He’s able to do things that others are incapable of. He has the ability to make easy things better. In Week 17 of the 2017 season, Mahomes averaged 8.14 yards per attempt on bubble screens. Drew Brees led the NFL with 8.1 yards per attempt for the season. You can have success even with simple things. That can be a huge help for a developing quarterback. The less you have to demand, the better. If you can execute simple things successfully, you’re in good shape.
One of the simple concepts the Kansas City Chiefs can add to the offense is the sprint out passing game. Mahomes should be able to have success with the concept. Sprint outs are beneficial for a variety of reasons. The concept allows the quarterback to only have to read one side of the field. The read is typically a simple high to low read. The pocket is moved away from the majority of the defense. You can mitigate pass rush by moving the landmarks. The throws become shorter distances.
Mahomes is an above-average athlete for the quarterback position. He’s more than comfortable throwing from a variety of platforms. He is good throwing on the run and has rare arm talent to boot. The concept is a great fit for his ability and experience.
Here’s a basic smash concept run with a sprint out protection:
This is a pretty common sprint smash concept. Sprint plays typically read high to low, working down to the shortest route. pic.twitter.com/PV6M373H3U— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) June 24, 2018
Smash concept is a corner route coming over the top of a shallow route to the sideline. It often times will allow you to high-low an underneath defender, putting him in a situation where he can’t be right. On a sprint protection, you’ll often see a running back chipping the outside man on the line of scrimmage. The quarterback is working to get outside of the end man on the line of scrimmage and reading the play from high to low. He looks to identify the leverage the safety over the top has on the corner route and if any underneath coverage gets depth or carrying with the vertical route.
On this play, Alex Smith doesn’t seem to like the leverage of Travis Kelce on the safety. The slot defender gets depth with Kelce, and the corner is playing a bail technique with his hips and shoulders opening to get depth. Tyreek Hill does a good job of pressing the corner vertically and breaking his route off back toward the quarterback for an easy completion.
Andy Reid should be able to use the sprint concept to scheme some easy completions for Mahomes.
I like the design of this sprint pass. Snap quick after Hill is in position, gives defense little time to adjust and process, created a natural rub. Quick hitter on the out. I really like the subtle nod inside that Hill gives with his hips and shoulders. Easy completion. pic.twitter.com/qcYN64i78f— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) June 23, 2018
There is no read involved in this play. This was pure design to give Hill space on a catch and run. Smith snaps the ball as soon as Hill is in position, leaving no time for adjustments or communication. Against stack formations, like what Hill and Chris Conley are in, defensive backs will typically play at different depths based on their stack checks and to help them sort through rub routes and switch releases. The defensive back on Hill plays deeper, so he is susceptible to the quick-breaking out route underneath Conley’s vertical.
The play creates a natural rub, forcing Hill’s man to go over the vertical. With the pocket moving, Smith throws on Hill’s break, giving him time to turn upfield after the catch for a nice gain.
You’ll see teams utilize sprint outs in the red zone.
Sprint passes in the red zone can be effective because you're cutting down the distance of the throw in tight spaces. You can get a short throw to the flat on the run, or you can just use your best weapon on a comeback to the front pylon. Easy throw, short throw for 6. pic.twitter.com/8r8EnqEPQx— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) June 23, 2018
This is another one-man read. The Chiefs are sprinting out with Smith to shorten the distance of the throw for this quick hitter in condensed space. The Chiefs have their best weapon in Kelce isolated on the outside. He’s going to run a quick comeback to the front pylon. Smith is moving toward Kelce and throwing the ball on his break to the pylon. The ball is on him quick since the throw has been shortened. The timing of this concept is much easier with the ball spending less time in the air.
Even with shorthanded personnel, the sprint out game made an appearance in Mahomes’ Week 17 start.
The Chiefs dialed up a sprint out for Mahomes out of a tackle over look in week 17. Yes, that's Anthony Sherman trying to run a deep cross. If this gets called in 2018, it'll be with better weapons than Wilson, Chesson and Sherman. pic.twitter.com/VN5MXhaSo4— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) June 24, 2018
This is the same tackle over formation the Chiefs used on the first play of the game, an incomplete pass to Demarcus Robinson on a play-action boot. This time they’re working to the other side of the field with a sprint out. Jehu Chesson runs a corner/sail route with a slight inside stem, Albert Wilson runs an out route with a hard inside stem and Sherman is running a deep cross from the other side of the field.
The personnel for this look doesn’t exactly give the play a great chance to succeed. The break out from Wilson is confusing. You’ll normally see that type of route with more of a pivot (some call it a pivot route) off a foot and back out. It’s more of a choppy, segmented route. Chesson probably has the option to flatten the route or take it high depending on the leverage and takes the flatter angle. The timing seems a little off. Sherman is never a viable option as he tries to work across the field. I imagine with Kelce, Hill and Sammy Watkins running this concept, they’d be better positioned.
As for Mahomes’ college years, he has had success with it:
For a young quarterback like Mahomes, implementing a few sprint outs can be beneficial. One sided read, cutting down distance of the throw. The Chiefs can call sprints that account for his arm talent though, with deeper concepts like this one. That throw.... pic.twitter.com/NgfvsNOQ1k— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) June 23, 2018
I’d like to see the Chiefs dial up deeper concepts out of sprint like this one. Texas Tech runs a switch release with two receivers, the slot defender runs with the inside receiver who pushes upfield and breaks his route of at 12 yards on a comeback.
It looks as though this is a one-player read, as the vertical from the outside receiver isn’t really in position to be thrown to. Mahomes’ arm talent allows for throws on sprint concepts to be deeper if the Chiefs choose. He can get the ball on them with correct timing at greater depths. This was well designed and Mahomes executes it perfectly, placing the ball where only his receiver can catch it.
There are several benefits and designs the Chiefs can use with the sprint out game to help a young quarterback. I would look to implement these concepts twice a game if the script is neutral.
- 33/65 plays - RPOs (23) and called run plays (10)
- 6/65 plays - tendency breakers out of the 3x1 looks the Chiefs run RPOs
- 6/65 plays - empty formation, five-man protection passes
- 5/65 plays - two running back pass concepts (also 5/10 discretionary run plays mentioned in part one)
- 3/65 plays - under center, play action passes (also 5/10 discretionary run plays mentioned in part one)
- 2/65 plays - condensed formation pass plays (also 2/10 discretionary run plays mentioned in part one)
- 2/65 plays - sprint out pass concepts