Rick Dennison’s offensive playbook, in the vein of Gary Kubiak and Mike Shanahan, uses the principles of the West Coast offense - using timing and geometry to stress defenses and create holes for pass completion. In previous articles in this series, we’ve examined two staples of the Buffalo Bills rushing attack: Inside Zone and Outside Zone. Today we’re going to look at one of the classic plays in the west coast playbook: Texas.
The structure of “Texas” is to attack a defense by combining a deep route from the tight end with a shorter angle route by the running back, creating a stress point on the middle linebacker. It also aims to give the quarterback a relatively straightforward read that works against man and zone concepts. The most famous usage of this play, though, comes against Cover 2 defense.
When Mike Holmgren was coaching the Green Bay Packers, he made extensive use of this play against one team in particular: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and their Tampa 2 defense. Because the Tampa 2 asks its middle linebacker to sink back 15 yards and roam the field, this play would give his offense an easy five to seven yards every time it was run.
Let’s take a closer look at today’s play. From the 2004 Denver Broncos playbook, this play is called Far West Right Zoom 22 Scat Texas Hook.
Far West Right Zoom
Right implies that the strength of the formation is to the right side. In a Zoom formation, one of the backs will be positioned toward the edge of the backfield, rather than directly behind the quarterback like a typical single back look. West is a codeword for having a receiver in the slot, and as you might guess from the word “Far”, we’re spreading out the formation instead of bunching everyone closely to the middle.
This is the protection, something that wasn’t used in the running plays (for obvious reasons). The 22 here is used to tell the offensive line how to line up their blocking assignments, and “Scat” refers to the running back going out onto his route without assisting at all on pass blocking. (So when coaches refer to a “scatback,” they mean the small, speedy players who aren’t strong enough to block defenders but can catch passes out of the backfield.)
In Mike Shanahan’s playbook, the Texas route combination has the tight end (Y) receiver running a 10 yard out route, while the flanker receiver runs a go route. The angle route run by the halfback is standard across varieties of Texas, but some variations will adjust the routes by the Y and Z receivers. For example, one of the variants used by Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Peterson has the Y running a deep post pattern.
On the weak side of the formation, this play asks its receivers to run a Hook combination. The split end (X) receiver will run a ten yard hook pattern, and the slot receiver runs a deep go route. This creates a “smash” concept, a staple of the NFL passing game. It’s a two-man route combination with a deep and shallow option. While it’s not the primary read for this play, you’ll see this come up again. Smash combinations are one of the basic ways for offenses to create cracks in the defense.
Let’s watch the play
Here’s the play, in animated GIF form. You may need to tap on the image to set it in motion.
Tyrod Taylor takes a five step drop from under center on this play. He should deliver the ball at the completion of his drop, or after a hitch step. He reads the middle linebacker on this play, seeing that the defender has dropped pretty deep. That makes his read nice and simple. Had the MLB stayed in the box, he would’ve looked to see if Charles Clay or Andre Holmes were open near the sidelines. Sammy Watkins and Zay Jones, running on the left side of the ball, would be decoys unless Taylor saw a favorable look pre-snap.