AbsolutAnalysis - Staples of the WCO

Interested in learning some of the intricacies of the complex West Coast offense that the Detroit Lions run? Seahawks.NET "Xs and Os Guru" Matt Lathrop breaks down a few staples of Seattle head coach Mike Holmgren's WCO, an offensive philosphy that was handed down to Holmgren disciple and current Lions' head coach Steve Mariucci.

Matt Lathrop, .NET's "Xs and Os Guru", writes "AbsolutAnalysis" every Wednesday for Seahawks.net, part of TheInsiders.com network. Feel free to contact him at mattl@seahawks.net.
Note: The following WCO explanation does not necessarily reflect the offense run by the Detroit Lions, albeit incredibly similar.

This week I'm going to take a quick look at a couple of West Coast Offense staples; the Texas and Y-Stick routes. If you reference the route trees column, you will see a diagram of these routes on their respective trees. In the series I'm presenting below, the Texas refers to the FB, and of course Y-Stick applies to the TE, which is the Y receiver. I'll try to make it as condensed and concise as possible, while still conveying the main points and concepts for the packages. Hopefully you will be able to pick out these route ideas during a game after you go through this column.

Let's start with the Texas package. This was developed by Mike Holmgren in his Green Bay days, and quickly caught on throughout the rest of the league. Texas is run out of Regular Personnel split backs, strength right for this example. Let's take a look at a play:

Split Right 975 Texas

The idea of the Texas concept is to attack vacuums and gaps created by LB pass drops in the middle of the field. This is especially effective versus a Cover 2 with LB dropping to cover deep middle of the field, as the safeties attend to their deep halves. Check out this coverage column for details. The progression of the QB is detailed in the diagram, with the FB being the primary target, followed by the TE, Z, and H. The X runs a clearing route, and the HB has several options, depending on the coach. Sometimes it may be a check release to the flats, other times it may be a simple curl route to help keep the Will out of the middle of the field.

The QB first reads the Mike, and throws "opposite" of him. If the Mike turns his shoulders, he throws underneath to the FB, but if the Mike stays square to the LOS, he will hit the TE in stride. This is based on the Y threatening deep, and pulling the Mike away from the FB. If the Mike turns his shoulders he won't be capable of covering the FB, as he has committed to the Y. If he stays square, it would be far too difficult to recover and make a play on the deep Y. As you can see, the Mike is desired to turn his shoulders and pursue deep, as it allows the FB to slide in underneath for a very high percentage throw resulting in an efficient gain, which is the foundation of the WCO. In order for the play to work, the first and most important part is the TE getting a clean release from the LOS. If he is held up, there is no deep threat, and the QB must check down to the Z right away. This package is equally effective with the Y in the slot, either in a three-wide group or with the TE split.

Now let's change gears and look at the Y-Stick. Another concept that features the TE as a focal point, this is a versatile component that can be built around, or built into, any package.

Y-Stick Package

The Y-Stick concept is just that; a concept applicable to several packages. It is more intricate than the previous Texas package because it is not based on a route combination as Texas is. The Stick is a more independent route, and is not often a primary target. It has several options that take advantage of susceptible areas in the defense once the primary routes are taken away. The backbone of the Stick concept is to attack the first two defenders inside the CB on the strong side. Staying true to the WCO foundation, this Stick concept attacks underneath zones with high percentage passes, which will allow the offense to control the ball and the clock with the pass. This is often run with a FB Shoot or a FB swing, as shown above. The FB becomes the escape valve, or hot route (there's several terms, but you get the idea), versus a blitz situation, and must be prepared to get the ball immediately by snapping his head back to the QB when he breaks on a Shoot or Swing. In this common combination, the QB read is always first to the FB Swing or Flats\Shoot, checking to the Stick as a second option. The X performs a common read versus the CB, which is found at all levels of football.

In its most basic sense, the Hitch\Fade read is determined by how the CB is playing you. If he is playing soft and gives ground, then you cut the route and run the hitch. If he presses you, then you release outside on the fade. This is a very simple concept that is widely employed. The HB runs a check before flowing through the LOS and settling in the second level underneath the LBs, squaring to the LOS, receiving the ball, and turning his hips up field preparing for contact after the catch. One common tweak to the Y-Stick is the Double Stick, which is utilized by the Y and a slot or wide receiver running sticks simultaneously.

I hope you enjoyed today's column, I tried keeping it short and to the point, but if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me. If you want to complain, please email my boss. Until next time, Go Hawks!

100 Term Glossary - June 3rd - http://seahawks.theinsiders.com/2/263844.html

Zone Blocking - May 26th - http://seahawks.theinsiders.com/2/262136.html

Pass Protection - May 19th - http://seahawks.theinsiders.com/2/260433.html

Coverage Rotations - May 13th - http://seahawks.theinsiders.com/2/258978.html

Uncovering Coverages - May 12th - http://seahawks.theinsiders.com/2/258778.html

Game Day Play Sheet - May 5th - http://seahawks.theinsiders.com/2/257348.html

Personnel Groups/Route Trees – April 28th - http://seahawks.theinsiders.com/2/255654.html

Football 101 – April 21st - http://seahawks.theinsiders.com/2/253436.html

Matt Lathrop, .NET's "Xs and Os Guru", writes "AbsolutAnalysis" every Wednesday. Feel free to contact him at mattl@seahawks.net.

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