The Miami Dolphins have had quite an offseason, ranging from reports about owner Stephen Ross meddling into the football side of things to the franchise selecting a quarterback (Ryan Tannehill) in the first round for the first time since lucky number 13 (Dan Marino, for those who lost track) was drafted in 1983. They also brought in a new head coach, Joe Philbin, who has shown a lot of promise already strictly through his actions, including bringing over Tannehill’s former head coach Mike Sherman.
Sherman was the play caller for the Texas A&M Aggies, and he brings over an interesting offense. Sherman’s offense mixed in a lot of play-action roll-outs (with receivers running shallow crosses from the back-side and the play-side receivers running hook and wheel patterns) and zone-reads with the mobile Tannehill.
Sherman also oversaw an offense that threw a significant amount of three and five step drop-backs which were tied in to the receiver’s routes, many of which consisted of routes that worked back to the quarterback (hooks, hitches, comebacks, etc.). The routes were part of combination routes that were often ran out of Twins (two receivers to a side), Trips (three receivers to a side) and bunched/stacked sets.
One of the concepts that Sherman favored was a combination of the snag and square-in routes. This was arguably one of the top concepts thrown and used by the Aggies’ offense (along with some combination of an inside vertical route + wheel route), and it was an effective to createspace for a single receiver while also making a simple read for Tannehill.
An example of this route combination came against Baylor when the Aggies were attempting to drive down the field against the Bears defense. The offense came out in Doubles formation, which has Twin receivers to each side of the ball, with a One Back set. Sherman had run this concept a couple times in the game already and several other times against teams like Oklahoma State earlier in the season.
When it’s run correctly, the inside receiver releases first off the line of scrimmage and into the route to run a square-in, while the outside receiver then runs a snag route with a diagonal stem.
Once he reaches a certain depth (which varies), the outside receiver is expected to “bounce” back to the outside to drag the defender out with him and create space for the slot receiver running the square-in.
This concept almost always works for the Aggies because of the outside receiver drawing attention away from the slot receiver by running the snag route. However, like any good coach, Sherman also has a variation of the concept to attack defenses vertically.
This next concept looks the same nearly throughout the play except when the slot receiver breaks inside for his square-in route. Instead of continuing to run horizontally, he turns up the field to go vertical (which can be seen in the initial image as a dotted line indicating a route conversion). When he does this, he leaves a very aggressive downhill defender behind and is potentially open for a deep ball.
The route conversion by the slot receiver is successful and Tannehill is able to hit him for a deep ball that leads to six points.
The snag-square-in route combinations are one of the most commonly used concepts by Sherman. Much like many of his other two-man combinations, particularly the post-wheel concept, the outside receiver serves as a clear-out runner, giving the slot receiver room to get open.
At times Sherman has also done a good job of making adjustments to his concepts, and they’re effective because the offensive design is always similar. For the Dolphins, he’ll have to excel in his schematic design if he hopes to succeed without an elite pass catcher.