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Whisenhunt Wrinkles: Switch releases

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The first in a series that showcases the wrinkles returning offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt uses on offense.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

We are in the peak part of the offseason where there isn't any news going on in the NFL. The other day I had the idea of what new/former offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt could possibly be bringing over from Tennessee and using any wrinkles to jumpstart an offense that stalled last year. I went back through some plays that the Titans ran last year and wanted to share them with the thought that the Chargers could definitely use these plays/schemes.

These aren't going to be plays that go for 50 yards. Obviously, those plays are much needed, but that's just not realistic to game-plan for. What you'll see is creativity and deception that schemed players open instead of relying on their natural gifts. Today I'll talk about the effectiveness of a switch release.

Switch release

So let's start with the formation. The Titans are in 12 personnel, 2 TE's, 2 WR's, 1 RB. This is my favorite personnel group so long as you have 2 versatile tight ends. It forces the defense to stay in their base personnel and usually gives the offense the numbers advantage. Here's how the Titans lined up:

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I also believe the Chargers are most dangerous out of 12 personnel and there's no change to that this year. Starting at the top, Antonio Gates would be the tight end slightly off the line of scrimmage, Hunter Henry would be the inline tight end. That makes Gates the "safety outlet" in the event that the longer routes don't pan out or if you get a blitz and need to throw it "hot." Gates is on a linebacker here and you will take your chances there 10 times out of 10. Henry is essentially clearing off the coverage for Gates to operate underneath, but if both linebackers hold and the safety gets caught in no mans land, all Henry has to do is beat the CB to the top of the screen across the field and he has all kinds of room to work with.

Eye discipline

Switch releases are so effective because they mess with the defenses keys. They mess with their eye discipline. It's zone coverage so both CBs on the outside have an eye on the farthest receiver as well as the QB. The switch release forces them to hesitate, if only for a split second, and usually, that's all it takes. Sometimes the damage is catastrophic. Like if a safety falls for a play-action fake and gets beat deep. Here, it's minimal as the slot CB is late to recognize the play and is caught trailing the WR.

The offense catches the defense in a zone blitz which is perfect because it leaves the CBs to the bottom of the screen an entire half of field to cover 2 routes. Good luck. Here's the play at full speed:

Looking at the top of the screen first. With the zone blitz, both TE's struggled a bit to get off the line of scrimmage. What's important here is the amount of space the tight ends have to work with. Gates has so much nuance in his routes even at age 47 that I just can't see him getting hung up at the line of scrimmage. I'm guessing he'd hit them with one of his old man head fakes or use their leverage against them to create separation.

The perfect play call against a zone blitz. The amount of room the slot WR has to work with at the bottom is a dream. It's as if the defense is gifting him a 1st down. The Bills only rush 4, and the Titans have 6 in protection. With the Bills not having any flat defender, this is nearly impossible to guard.

It seems simple. There isn't a numbers advantage for the receivers but because the corner has to respect the fact the targeted receiver can break inside he's a step slow reacting to the out route and over compensates getting there, leading to a missed tackle.

None of this would be particularly new for the Chargers. The route combination that the tight ends are runnings is a Mike McCoy staple. We've just seen it primarily ran with a receiver and the tight end. Using switch releases and deploying stack formations are all things San Diego did in Whisenhunt's 1st year. Seeing these still being run last year was refreshing. This should help free up a guy like Stevie Johnson or keep a Travis Benjamin free from the defense getting their hands on him.

This series will continue to show wrinkles that Whiz uses on offense. Next up, Hunter Henry and the over route. Hope you guys like these.