Switch routes are a favorite of mine. Traditionally seen in the Run ‘n Shoot offense, the switch concept at its core is just as it sounds - two receivers essentially switch places of their routes. The inside receiver runs a wheel route underneath the outside receiver, while the outside receiver stems inside for 5 yards and then goes upfield. The infinitely-talented and much smarter than me Chris B. Brown has a good summation on his site, SmartFootball. Here’s a sample route using the switch concept:
The read for the quarterback on a switch concept play is first to the wheel route then to the inside route. The act of the receivers switching creates a natural pick, and occasionally defenders playing zone forget about the wheel route or don’t pass their guy off properly. Additionally, each route can be adjusted to option into what the defense gives you; each route can be cut short if the defense is playing over the top, and depending on the Middle of Field Open (MOFO) and Middle of Field Closed (MOFC), the vertical route can run a dig, post, streak, corner, or curl. Let’s see how Green Bay has been using the switch concept so far in 2018.
Against the 49ers, Aaron Rodgers hit Marquez Valdes-Scantling for 60 yards on Green Bay’s first offensive play. What did they use? The switch.
This play does exactly what a switch concept is supposed to do; it puts pressure on the cornerbacks to clearly communicate their coverage and track their guy properly. Not only does Jimmie Ward lose sight of MVS, but the safety helping over the top - Adrian Colbert - doesn’t see him either. Throwing a deep ball while rolling to your opposite hand side isn’t recommended for most quarterbacks, but Rodgers can do this with ease, especially given how open MVS is.
The next one I want to highlight came against the Vikings. What makes this one good is Randall Cobb’s route; he is the wheel man inside, and he starts the wheel route a little flatter than normal. The defender then thinks he’s running a flat route and presses up, and that’s when Cobb turns upfield.
Mackenzie Alexander is left with no other choice than to grab Cobb’s jersey or else give up a big gain.
The Packers ran used the switch concept quite a bit against the Vikings and found decent success doing so. With 10:04 to go in the third quarter, Green Bay calls a switch for Davante Adams and Jimmy Graham. Adams is the outside man who runs a post, while Graham goes on the wheel route. Adams, instead of stemming inside right away, goes straight downfield towards his defender. This small manipulation of the traditional route makes the defender stay in his original coverage area as opposed to passing him off inside to Andrew Sendejo. Similar to the first play I highlighted against the 49ers, both the CB and S focus on Adams and leave Graham all by his lonesome.
Graham’s more alone than me at my high school prom.
Here’s the kicker. McCarthy thought it was such a good play call that he ran the same concept on the very next play! What a devious guy!
Problem is, the Vikings play it better; they stagger their CBs’ depth to avoid the rub and go with man coverage as to not confuse who’s got who. By the time Adams breaks open in the middle, Rodgers gets sacked.
Putting a twist on the traditional switch concept is easy. In week 3 against the Bills, Green Bay tried the switch concept several times, and each one had a different wrinkle. In the next clip, Adams - again, the outside man - doesn’t press vertically but instead blocks the defender over him, trying to push him into the inside coverage man.
Let’s be real about this; Adams isn’t running a route, he’s clearly trying to block one guy into another. In addition to Adams’ block, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, the inside receiver, runs his route flatter and turns his head back to Rodgers as if he’s expecting a pass. The short pass is there:
But where’s the fun in that? Who cares if it was third down and you only needed three yards and would have gotten it easily. You’re already up big on the Bills, might as well go for the long ball. As soon as the DB covering MVS on the flat starts to press up, Marquez turns it upfield to finish off the wheel route.
If MVS had sold this just a half second longer it might have worked, but the DB made a nice adjustment and Rodgers is forced to look elsewhere. This rub concept is something every NFL team uses down near the goal line, and it’s quite successful. The switch concept incorporates that rub with vertical threats.
There’s still room for improvement using these switch concepts. Each route can, if coached, make reads based on what the defense is giving them and adjust their path accordingly. For instance, Lance Kendricks was the wheel man in a play against Buffalo.
The defense staggered their DB’s in coverage to avoid the pick, and that meant Kendricks’ cover man was playing over the top. Kendricks continued to run downfield and into coverage:
Instead, if Kendricks had stopped and come back, he could have had a ten yard gain.
Since we don’t know the exact play call we don’t know if this is on Kendricks or on Philbin; either way, it’s an opportunity for improvement.
The outside receiver should also be able to change his route according to the coverage, and with a true Run ‘n Shoot offense, the inside man can run pretty much anything after he presses vertically for 10 yards. If the middle of the field is open - MOFO - run a dig or even a corner route to get away from the two deep safeties. MOFC, Cover 3? Run a seam, splitting the deep corner and the safety. MOFC, Cover 1? Seam again, or if the safety has come over your way, run a corner. Tl;dr: change your route to run away from the coverage. In this last clip, both Cobb and Adams (bottom of the screen) could have altered their routes; Cobb as the wheel route could have cut it short, and Adams could have split the safety and deep corner with a seam route as the vertical option.
And just a reminder - all of these plays have focused on only two receivers. There’s 11 players on the field at any given time, so the switch concept doesn’t have to be your only read on each play.
All in all, the switch concept has been infrequently used but, when successful, has resulted in some big plays for the Green Bay offense. With a little tweaking, Green Bay could use this concept as a core package for their offense and come away with good results.