Last week Packers' film room anatomy of a play looked at “jet” pass protection, a staple West Coast Offense 6-man half slide pass protection, and a corresponding passing game concept paired with it. Today, we will look at and dissect another staple West Coast Offense pass protection scheme and passing concept that’s paired with it: 5-man “scat” pass protection and the “Dragon”, “Dragon Over”, and “Lion” passing concepts.
The play call: Z left out to gun double left open 3 scat Dragon Lion Y Over
Formation: Gun double left open
The formation is a shotgun formation with tight end (Y) Josiah Deguara in an open flexed out position to the left. Rodgers motions Adams from right to left on a “Z out” motion that places him as the farthest outside receiver outside of the tight end on the left.
Scat pass protection
Scat pass protection is similar to jet pass protection with two main exceptions: 1) the running back free releases into the field on a route, making it a 5-man pass protection and 2) the blocking is considered more man blocking instead of zone blocking for the offensive line because of the 5-man pass protection. 2-scat slides the line to the left and 3-scat slides the line to the right based on where the greatest threat or strength of the defense is.
On this play, the Packers are in a 3-scat pass protection slide to the right. They set the slide to the right because that is where the two widest defenders are at that could rush the passer.
There are two defenders on the line of scrimmage outside the left tackle but the offense knows that linebacker Ernest Jones (No. 50) likely will not rush the passer as he only has six pressures on the season in 23 total pass-rush attempts.
Since the protection is man-based rather than zone-based, each offensive lineman is responsible for blocking a pass rusher and if no rusher, will help double team the man closest to their next blocker.
Since the back free releases, the guard to the side the back releases to or any other uncovered linemen look for the next level threat as they take on the blocks from the defensive line, essentially making the interior offensive line responsible for two different defenders.
Pass concept: Dragon Lion Over
Dragon is a basic passing concept at all levels of football and is one of the most effective cover-3 beaters. The route combination is a slant-flat combination, with the slant usually running at a depth of anywhere from 3-5 yards. The combination can be mirrored or be paired with a cover-2 beater on the opposite side, allowing the quarterback to pick based on the coverage post-snap.
Lion, double slants, is paired with the play call in this section. The slant can be run by either a running back out of the backfield or a slot receiver. The Packers preferred way to run dragon is with a running back to the flat out of shotgun.
The tertiary read on the concept is the over-the-ball route, usually by a tight end, that lets the quarterback quickly come to a safety valve if the throwing windows are closed off to the slant flat, usually when a defense rotates its coverage post-snap to take away the outside threats.
The read for the quarterback on dragon is the curl/flat defender. If he widens with the flat, the slant window is the throw. If he gains depth and the corner runs with the slant, the flat is the throw.
The play call here against the Rams shows a good example of the quarterback quickly progressing through his reads to come to the over route for a big gain inside the red zone. Rodgers takes the snap and keeps his feet pointed down the middle of the field, allowing him to read out the defensive zones quickly.
The Rams look to be rotating into some form of 2-high coverage/quarters from a pre-snap single high shell.
The flat defender, safety Taylor Rapp (No. 24), flies out and widens with the flat route while the strong hook defender walls off the slant. One of the coaching points for the slant receiver is to flatten the route against 2-high coverage. The quarters coverage is vulnerable to the seam/hash area and that’s where the Deguara’s landmark is.
He doesn’t quite make it to the hash but sits, gets his eyes back to the quarterback, and widens away from the middle hook defender as Rodgers plants it on his chest for the completion.
Later in the game, we get a good rep of the slant/flat concept being thrown versus cover-3.
To the right side of the formation, the play call has the tagged slant/flat combination with Davante Adams running the slant, and A.J. Dillon running the flat route out of the backfield. It looks almost like a mirrored dragon concept with a route adjust on the left side by the receiver who’d normally run the slant route.
The Rams are showing 2-high coverage pre-snap on this play that rotates into cover-3 buzz post-snap with the safety buzzing down to the flat with running back.
Rodgers reads the flat defender and sees that he flies out with Dillon on the flat route, giving Rodgers the slant window. He drills the pass in there to Adams for the 10 yard gain.
Double slants (Lion)
In the first clip above, the Packers have a “Lion” tag with the play on the backside. Lion alone in a play call is a mirrored double slants concept.
The Packers' play call here is Lion on a 3rd-and-8 that gains seven yards when Rodgers hits Randall Cobb on the inside slant route.
Dragon and Lion are staple concepts of the Packers' quick game ever since Rodgers first came into the league and probably even before that. It’s is undeniably his best quick game concept and he turns it into a simple yet very effective weapon in high leverage situations on third down and in the red zone.
It is a very effective play for the Packers because it can neutralize the blitz and get the ball to their playmakers right away, helping to keep the Packers' offense on schedule and ahead of the chains, a crucial element going into the final stretch of the season into the playoffs.