Whether you're watching a modern day spread offense, or a run heavy triple-option attack, almost every football team in the country carries the smash concept in their pass game. This concept is very teachable and applicable to all levels of football, because of this, you’ll find teams running the smash concept both at the youth levels of football, all the way up to NFL teams running it in basic and advanced formats on Sundays.
Overview & Purpose of the Concept
The smash concept incorporates the opportunity to create big plays down the football field, while also providing the quarterback options to get the ball out of his hands quickly. Smash is an efficient concept against a variety of coverages, and is a concept offenses can master through repetition to run on a weekly basis.
Unlike other pass concepts we've talked about (such as the Shallow Cross concept) this one is more useful for attacking a defense outside the hash marks, on the perimeter, and unlike the mesh concept, does not change routes depending on the coverage.
Coverages it Does Well Against
Man Coverage- With the CB’s locked on the hitch route runners, the corner routes become legitimate options as they have plenty of space to operate. Speedy slot receivers, and athletic TE bodies become great options down the field to create big plays in these situations.
Cover 2- With the CB playing low as the flat defender in Cover 2, the corner route has plenty of room to operate against the safety in the natural void created by the defense. This is a go-to concept for teams looking to take advantage of cover 2 from opposing defenses.
Cover 4- The QB can high-low the CB with ease against Cover 4 defenses. The OLB’s become the flat defenders, while also having to honor their run responsibilities. A hitch route thrown on time should beat the flat defenders, and the corner routes become a great option if the CB’s bite on the hitch routes from the #1 receivers.
Coverages it Doesn’t Do Well Against
Cover 3 is problematic to the smash concept if the offense isn’t careful. In Cover 3, the OLB’s become the flat defenders on both sides of the formation, as the CB’s become responsible for the deep 1/3rd.
As the corners deepen, the QB is trained to throw the hitch route. If the QB doesn’t have awareness for the defense being in Cover 3, a late throw will create the potential for the OLB to undercut the hitch route and intercept the football.
A better answer against Cover 3 might be something like the Yankee Concept, which is designed to high-low the middle of the field safety.
Route Coaching Points
TE- Work vertical to 10 yards, steep vertical angle out of cut. Let the QB’s throw bring you back downhill.
TB- Check blitz pick up responsibilities, work to available checkdown location underneath LB level.
Slot Receiver- Work vertical to 10 yards, steep vertical angle out of cut. Let the QB’s throw bring you back downhill.
X Receiver - Sell a hard vertical release, settle hitch route at 6 yards.
Z Receiver - Sell a hard vertical release, settle hitch route at 6 yards.
Quarterback Coaching Points and Progression
In a base 2x2 smash concept, the quarterback is taught to pick a side of the field to read pre-snap. The quarterback should consider both the leverage and cushion of the defense pre-snap. If either CB is playing soft, this may open up an easy throw to the hitch. If the safety covering the slot receiver is tucked a few yards inside of him pre-snap, this also may create a potential favorable throw to the corner route.
Post-snap, the QB must stay true to his decision and read one side of the field, as he will be late to get the football out if he tries to work both sides. His job is to “high-low” the CB. If the corner gains depth and honors the corner route, the quarterback will throw the hitch on time. If the corner plays low and honors the hitch, the quarterback will throw the corner route to the #2 receiver. If the QB’s read is unclear, he can check the ball down to his RB, working underneath of LB level.
Defenses will adjust in a variety of ways to 3x1 sets, and this smash variation has answers for this. Versus a base 2-high defense, the QB can still feel comfortable reading the smash concept to the field. The TE running the seam route in this variation becomes a legitimate option over LB level if the field safety lines up in a wide alignment pre-snap, or bolts to cover the deep 3rd in a Tampa 2 coverage look post-snap.
Versus any 1-high or 2-high “cheat coverage”, where the boundary free safety looks to get involved to honor the three WR surface, the backside dig/checkdown becomes a great answer for the QB. If the QB is able to identify this pre-snap, he can look to high-low the Will LB. If the Will LB plays low, the dig over LB level is a great throw for the QB. If the Will LB gains depth, the QB can proceed to dump the ball down to the RB underneath of LB level working his check-down route.
Moving the pocket is a great way to simplify the passing game, and look to slow down the pass rush of the defense. In this look, the quarterback will take the snap, and will look to both widen and gain depth on his sprint-out path.
The quarterback is responsible for reading the corner, who is in a natural conflict. If the corner gains depth and honors the corner route, the quarterback will throw the hitch route. If the corner plays low, honoring the hitch, he can let the corner throw go with confidence.
In addition, the backside TE is running an over route from the backside. He becomes the 3rd option for the quarterback if his primary read on the CB becomes foggy. Along with this, the sprint out design allows the quarterback to naturally transition to run if he doesn’t like what he sees. If you have a mobile quarterback, or are looking to move the pocket, sprint-out smash is a great addition to any offense.
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