Newly hired St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer comes over from the New York Jets, where he held the same position and couldn’t get his offense to produce gaudy numbers. His Jets offense ranked in the low-20s in both passing and running (21 and 22), which most would deem unacceptable. But his team’s 23.6 points per game ranked 13th overall, which is all that really matters.
Right. Schottenheimer’s tactics in the open field were questionable with the Jets offense, borderline “vanilla” one might say, but in the red zone they worked. Schottenheimer’s offense was efficient in the red zone, ranking second in the league in touchdown percentage. Safe to say, when it came to scoring inside the opposition’s 20-yard line, Schottenheimer did his job, and he did it while relying on three major concepts: Double Slants, Pin-Dig, and Play Action.
Schottenheimer’s Double Slants concept is one that he heavily relied on not only in the red zone, but at any time he needed a completed pass to move the chains. The concept is aligned exactly how it sounds, with two slants coming from the same side of the formation but the steps of the route can vary. Schottenheimer has his receivers typically run three-step slants, but if it’s a hot read, it’ll turn into a one-step slant.
Whether it’s with one or three steps, the concept has proven effective primarily because of the slot receiver’s (left slant) route. When the slot receiver runs the slant into the middle of the field, he draws the attention of the defenders, who end up surrounding him and leaving an opening in the back of the end zone where the outside (right) receiver runs wide open for the touchdown, as was seen against the Chiefs on a four-yard touchdown pass from Mark Sanchez to Santonio Holmes.
Another concept that we see often from Schottenheimer in the red zone (as well as the middle of the field) is Pivot-Dig. This concept is rather simple, as it requires the inside receiver to run a pivot route that sees him run outside while the outside receiver runs a Dig route.
The left side of the image above depicts the concept, and in Schottenheimer’s offense, this also has some variety. While the image shows a sharp cut on the Dig route, Schottenheimer asks his receivers to make a round cut based off of what I’ve seen during several games. Receivers Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress ran the Dig route numerous times for touchdowns (although Burress rounds did it off more than Holmes).
Schottenheimer’s third and final concept may be a product of the talent at the quarterback position and may not be used to the same degree in St. Louis, but it’s Boot Action. Boot Action has been used for decades, and it was executed by Sanchez with great success.
It features Sanchez faking a hand-off (which he really does well) and bootlegging away from the origin of the play. When he does this, he has two options: run the ball or throw it. Sanchez’s mobility allowed this play to be very successful over the years, but he also does a good job of quickly identifying his target, which was often tight end Dustin Keller running a shallow cross from the front-side or back-side of the formation as seen against the Bills.
The three red zone plays (Double Slants, Pivot-Dig and Boot Action) of Schottenheimer’s offense have been very effective over the years and are his bread and butter plays. They are his base plays, although not his only ones. He has also been known to use a Fade-Out combination which sees the outside receiver run a fade while the inside receiver runs an out route.
These types of plays may seem simplistic, but they are effective in the red zone because they all feature one component that draws attention to create an opening for the others. Despite the criticism of Schottenheimer (which I’m guilty of), his tactics will surely improve the Rams and their 31st-ranked red zone touchdown scoring percentage from last season.