The Packers and new addition wide receiver Sammy Watkins got off to a slow start in Week 1. The script flipped in Week 2 against the Chicago Bears. The run game got rolling and the play-action shots off of it started to develop with right tackle Elgton Jenkins adding stability on the offensive line.
Sammy Watkins’ three receptions for 93 yards led the Packers through the air. Green Bay schemed up all of Watkins’ touches off of one particular play concept: Yankee. Yankee is a two-receiver concept with a post from one side and a dig from the other. The threat of the run acts as the third “route”, pulling up linebackers and leaving space for the dig behind them. It’s a deep-shot play that puts the middle-field defender in conflict with a dig route and a post behind it. If a team is playing Cover 3 or Cover 1, that deep post has leverage on the corner and access to the middle of the field behind the safety.
The Packers are in a two-back set with running back Aaron Jones and tight end Josiah Deguara lined up next to quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rookie receiver Christian Watson is split out to the bottom of the screen running the post and Sammy Watkins is at the top running the dig. Green Bay runs play action off of a split zone look with Deguara crunching across the formation to kick out the end. The play fake pulls up the linebackers and opens up the window behind them to hit Watkins on the dig route.
On this Yankee call, the Bears catch the Packers with a late rotation to a two-safety shell. That rotation effectively kills the opportunity to hit the deep post. However, rookie receiver Romeo Doubs does a great job adjusting his route and understanding the shift in coverage. Instead of breaking off his post with the hopes to get over the top, he instead runs at the safety lined up over him with the intention of holding that safety and creating a rub so that Watkins has more space to run after the catch. The play-action again sucks up the linebackers and opens space behind for the dig to Sammy Watkins.
Yankee concepts are built off of the play-action and almost always come in heavy run formations. The Packers come out in 12 personnel with two tight-ends to the bottom of the screen. That forces Chicago to stack the box and leave a single safety. Green Bay has hit the dig two times now, and the safety stops his feet while looking at receiver Allen Lazard running that dig. That gives Watkins leverage and space over the top. Watkins shows his ability to create separation at the top of the route and burst to space as Rodgers lofts the ball over the flat-footed safety.
Yankee is a great concept off of play-action to attack teams that are worried about the run. You need someone with some true speed to run the post, but if you’ve got that guy and a credible run game, it can be a huge play. The Packers appear to have that with Sammy Watkins and Christian Watson. As Green Bay’s offensive line gets healthier, the run game should only get better and the shots off play-action will put defenses in conflict.