September 2, 2014


What Makes The Patriots Offense So Difficult For Wide Receivers? (Erik Frenz, SEPTEMBER 2, 2014, Boston Globe)

"First things first, you've got to learn formations," said LaFell. "Man, we've got a million formations, and we've got a million personnel groups. I was just trying to get all that down pat, because at least if I know where I'm lined up, I can kind of figure out what everybody else is doing based on the concept of the play. And second, learning the terms of the plays that we use and different code words we use, because one play I can be the X receiver and if we go to a hurry-up offense, depending on where the ball is spotted, I can be the Z receiver the next play. I have to know the whole play, but first, learning the formations, personnel groups, second, learning the plays and the concepts and just go from there with it."

It's not enough to simply know one or two assignments. Receivers can be asked to carry out multiple assignments based on alignment, coverage, personnel groupings, where the ball is spotted, and myriad other factors.

With so much to learn, it can be difficult to get it all right in one offseason -- as we learned last year.

Then-rookies Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins, and Josh Boyce were thrown into the spotlight, with the tall task of learning the offense and getting in synch with Brady just a few months after entering the league.

"It was tough," Dobson said of the learning curve in the Patriots offense. "Just coming in, it's definitely a hard offense to learn. Very demanding. Tom Brady expects a lot from you, so just coming in, and not knowing anything, just trying to learn it all, and learn the different positions, it was tough. I think me and a couple of guys I came in with -- Kenbrell and Josh -- I feel like we kind of grouped together and just helped each other study and just kind of depended on each other and leaned on each other, and I think that helped us out a lot."

Those tribulations have not been limited to rookies and young players. Talented veterans like Joey Galloway, Chad Johnson, and Brandon Lloyd have struggled, and ultimately crawled to their demise.

It's a difficult offense to learn, but it's not enough to simply study the offense. One of the defining characteristics of the Erhardt-Perkins offense -- the system the Patriots run -- is that receivers and quarterbacks must see the defense through the same set of eyes. The receivers run their routes using sight adjustments, in which they are responding to what the defense is doing.

"You have to be smart to play in this offense," said wide receiver Brian Tyms. "You can't be -- I don't want to say a dumb football player -- but if you don't know coverages, you might as well go somewhere else. The quarterbacks expect you to be in a certain spot. It's kind of like basketball: set a pick, got a roll, got a motion here, it's the same thing."

The basketball analogy works perfectly to describe the receiver's job in the offense, because the receivers will usually run their routes to open spaces in the field. The spacing concepts, and how they affect the receiver's job, are sometimes determined by whether the middle of the field is open ("MOFO") or closed ("MOFC").

But it goes even deeper than that.

Posted by at September 2, 2014 7:09 PM

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