We asked coaches three questions about the jet sweep:
- How do you coach up the exchange/mesh? Do you hand it off, do you read it, do you toss it forward to make it a forward pass?
- What are you looking at on defense to make decisions about whether to call the jet sweep or a complementary plays?
- What are your favorite plays to complement the motion and protect the jet sweep?
But first, let’s cover the basics.
(If you already know a little bit about the jet sweep, feel free to skip this part)
What is a Jet Sweep in Football?
The jet sweep is a play where a receiver or running back comes in motion and takes the handoff from the quarterback as quickly as possible. The play is timed up so that the exchange between the quarterback and the man running the jet sweep happens as quickly as possible so that the defense does not have time to react.
See the diagram and video below for an idea of what it looks like:
Advantages of the Jet Sweep
Many coaches use the play not just to get the ball to the edge in a hurry, but because of all the other things that it allows an offense to run. If a defense sees the jet motion and overreacts to try to stop it, there are lots of other plays they can run that look very similar and take advantage of a defense that gets too aggressive.
This allows an offense to make decisions about attacking an opponent in the same way they would if they were a heavy option team. You have several plays from the same pre-snap look that force a defense to play extremely disciplined and not overreact to motion or to the threat of an inside hand off. Just like many option teams do not run true triple option with a pitch the majority of the time, most offenses with a jet sweep package do not hand the ball off on a jet sweep most of the time. Still, it is the threat of all that speed getting to the perimeter that keeps defensive coordinators up at night, and opens up everything else for the offense.
If you are an “if-then” thinker as a play caller, but you don’t like the idea of your QB taking unnecessary hits on option plays, the jet sweep series may be a way you can incorporate the same ideas into your game plan.
Keep reading to learn more about the specifics of the jet sweep, how coaches like to teach it, and what other plays they use to keep the defense honest.
Part 1 - How to run the Jet Sweep
The first question we asked was about the specifics of handing the ball off on the jet sweep:
Q: How do you coach up the exchange/mesh? Do you hand it off, do you read it, do you toss it forward to make it a forward pass?
Here’s what the coaches had to say:
We hand it off, no read, no pass. We time out the motion so the jet sweep player is over the tackle at the snap and our QB simply catches the snap, extends the ball straight out and it's up to the sweep back to "mesh" with the QB with his path.
After the hand-off the jet player loses ground for 2 steps in case there is a hard charge from the DE and he has to get around the trash."
Sean Little - OC Ballard HS - Louisville, KY:
We are blessed with some truly fast guys on the outside and we try to find ways to get the ball in their hands other than passing the ball to them. The jet sweep has been an easy and quick way for us to do this and be efficient.
Usually before we install Jet, we have already installed "stretch" with our backs. This makes it very simple for us to install Jet as it only adds motion and slightly different exchange. Overall, we try to keep the blocking scheme the same and simple for our big guys and perimeter blockers.
We coach up the mesh as a normal handoff exchange initially, however, we will work the forward toss exchange as well.... looking for best timing and ultimately what our QB and Jet Back are most comfortable with. Some years we may handoff, some years we may toss... just depends on personnel and how they handle it.
John Settle - Head Coach Sunnyvale HS - Sunnyvale, TX:
“We do not over coach it. We work on the timing with all of our Rec and we take the handoff just like we do any other handoff. I do understand the value in the touch pass but we just don't over coach it. It is on the QB to make the exchange work.”
Cody Rainey - North Murray HS (GA)
At North Murray we have done it several ways. Obviously we want to run the jet with our most explosive player, and also use that same player as a decoy for play action and counter runs.
We want our slot coming full speed in motion and we look to snap the ball when he gets to the tackle, to give the quarterback time to seat the ball and work the exchange. We have used both the handoff and toss method and I think it really doesn’t matter which one you choose as far as the run, however I do think handing it off gives you a better chance to fake for play action.
We have done it a variety of ways. It’s always been a very good play for us. I prefer to hand it off. If you have to worry about fumbling the ball on a base play, so you want to pitch it so it will be ruled an incompletion...then you probably shouldn’t be running it anyway. The very best way I like to run it is from under center, and faking inside zone opposite of the Jet.
I use this as a Pop Pass. easy way to get pass/receiving yards and if dropped it is an incomplete pass. The easiest way I cue this is for the QB to pop the ball onto a table and let the WR/RB take it. It should should have some slight hang time and be in the direct path of the player running the jet. After completion the RB/WR should slightly bubble to get outside of an DE/DT who might get up field and then follow the blocks of the offensive tackle and RB, 1 cut and get vertical. The OL is blocking zone to the jet, with the PST pulling for the Corner and the WR cracking blocking one man inside.
We generally like the snap to happen as the jet sweep runner gets to the near tackle. He aims for 1/2yd in front of the qb. We read this on both our jet sweep and jet power read play so we ride and hand off or pull. We do not toss it forward for a pass. It is on the qb to time up the mesh as we want jet sweeper to be at full speed by the snap.
Alex Bettag - HC Southport HS - Indianapolis, IN
Toss forward to make it a pass. We have not had a read in the past, but I am looking at running this from under center as well to make it and IZ - Jet Sweep read based on numbers.
If under center, the jet man need to aim for 1 yd. behind the QB to give him room to make the hand off. Reverse out.
We used to use the term "Fly" but now we use the term "Jett" with 2 tt’s because my sons name is Jett.
- #1 Option is to hand it off.
- Must work mesh full speed several times per week.
- Snap ball when Runner is right outside tackle and adjust per speed of athlete.
- Key coaching point is the runner must be in a dead sprint to keep timing smooth.
- We hand it off or fake, Pre called.
- If faking, the runner(faker in this case) should be 1 yard in front of the QB and when he passes he should turn his back to the defense and grab his hip away from LOS to simulate a handoff.
- #2 Option would be to toss it.
- If you have an athlete who can't master the hand off and you need him on Jett sweep.
- Same coaching points on a fake
We tried it with the handoff and it wasn't as smooth as I would have liked. My QB suggested it be a toss since it was to the WRs and it worked amazingly. The toss allows the SB to be at full speed while getting the ball instead of slowing down to get the handoff.
Throughout my coaching career I have worked in many different systems from Single WIng to Wing T to Spread. Run jet sweep almost every way you can think. Ran it out of gun as a read. Under center. The most interesting way that I have ever ran jet sweep is from a coach I worked with several years ago who made it an integral part of his offense.
We ran the wing-t and he ran a lot of sweep then fake sweep and dive behind. His motions all looked like Jet sweep. He had "Imo" and "Omo" where the wings would run and settle in A gap for a lead block inside (Imo) or outside the tackle for a lead block for toss (Omo). Regardless the motion back would accelerate off the line like jet sweep to chop his feet and settle for the appropriate gap. We kept defenses honest with the dive.
The most interesting part of this was how he taught the handoff. Most offenses, from under center, hand the jet sweep off backside A-gap to facilitate the reverse out. He had the handoff in playside A-gap with no reverse out. It gave the ball carrier that extra step over the defense and they would hesitate to commit because of the threat of the dive. He had built into the playcall jets left and right and we showed it every play unless there was an imo/omo. Obviously, we had other plays like power and down to hit off tackle, but that was the basis of the offense.
We have handed it off, and typically read it with an RPO. Our best call with it has been to run it out of a 2x2 spread and run a slant on the backside. Easy read for the QB on if the LB flows with the jet, they keep it and hit the slant. If it wasn't for the opportunity to pull it and throw (We also run QB power and Counter as well as a screen play when pulling) we would toss it, to make a forward pass.
I've done this 2 ways. It varies from year to year based on the QB & WR we are doing it with. Some years we have tossed it forward to make it a forward pass. Other years we have just handed it off. I know some coaches have said they have to practice the timing but truthfully for us it never really takes that much time to do. Maybe 2 or 3 times & the QB/WR get it down.
We coach up the mesh/exchange on jet sweeps by using the terminology "ride & slide" with our QBs. Similar to any veer type of mesh, the QB lower body and upper body must be in sync with the jet action. You "ride" with your hands allowing the jet back to continue their momentum. You "slide" with your feet for two reasons: 1. gives us the element of the read or PAP 2. If the exchange isn't clean and the ball ends up on the ground, we are already moving, in an athletic stance ready to pounce on it. Tossing it forward as a pass eliminates these options in my opinion.
For the exchange/mesh, the first thing we want to coach up is the snap timing. Our default rule is to snap it when the jet guy is 1 yard from the tackle but we will adjust from there and want to push the envelope without causing mistakes. Also, make sure you practice the timing with your center and not a coach/qb snapping. We hand the ball off, I'm not sure why people toss it and eliminate their ability to protect jet with reads and playaction. We can just call it or we can read it. Calling it lets one of your best athletes get the ball and hopefully get to the edge. Reading it allows you to get into the best version of the play in the moment and there is a space for both of those things to exist.
On my level we front toss it. If there’s any mishandling of the ball it’s an incomplete pass. We tell the refs before the game how we run our jets. When I was at the higher level, we meshed like outside zone. Allowed me to run more power read with the jet man.
Generally speaking I prefer a quick handoff exchange between the quarterback and receiver, as this allows easier fakes for counters and plays to be run off the jet action. This is the easiest way to coach this because it's similar to an outside run handoff for the quarterback and you don't have to change his footwork much, and while the forward pass can be tempting, there's too much that can go wrong timing-wise to put that in an offense for me.
When in doubt, keeping it simple is the best way to go, and keeping the footwork consistent is always important, not to mention the advantage of running the inside zone off the jet fake that's much easier accomplished with a simple handoff.
For us we switched into a toss for Jet Sweep. The idea of going to the Toss is to get the ball in the hand of our playmakers as quick as possible & allow the playmaker to get to top speed and the edge as quick as possible. By going to a toss on the Jet Sweep, it allows our player to be at top speed while turning the corner on sweep. He no longer has to slow down to handle the mesh. Or even learn how to handle a hand off.
I personally am in favor of this because…1) WR’s/Slots catch passes. They are pass catchers. Toss allows them to treat it like a catch. 2)you also don’t have to teach the WR’s/Slots how to handle a mesh(take a handoff) 3) if the mesh gets messed up for whatever reason & the ball touches the ground…it is ruled as an incomplete forward pass.
Part 2 - Building the Jet Sweep Series
We asked coaches about their thought process when deciding whether to call the jet sweep or one of the constraint plays off of it.
Q: What are you looking at on defense to make decisions about whether to call the jet sweep or a complementary plays?
We use jet sweep to read the defense, we like to run jet early in the game to see how the defense will react to the motion. It is a fast flow play for us (balance #'s pre-snap and then bring a backside player fast to the playside hopefully faster than the defense can bring their extra guy so we can beat them with #'s) Early in the game we like to get the defense running horizontal rather than attacking downhill.
Possibly wear out bigger DL having to chase sideline to sideline. We watch what the defense's plan is to equalize the numbers. Will they roll their secondary, will they bump LB's, are they in man coverage and trying to run a guy across. We attack then based on the defenses reaction.
When deciding when to call our Jet Sweep, we take a few things into consideration. First, in our initial game planning we determine how they react to motion and is it going to give us the best look. If they roll hard with motion we may run it a couple times to set up a play action look later. If they stay flat and don't roll, we may like the numbers or match ups we get on the playside.
Secondly, look at the matchups, if we know we can block well enough outside and we have the speed it is worth it to us to make sure this play is ready for Friday.
Thirdly, In game situations, if we are struggling to run the ball inside with our base zone game, we may call for Jet to get the defense moving more horizontally and force them to defend the width of the field more. Usually, this gets them to hesitate and we are able to run more effectively inside the tackles afterward.
For me, the jet sweep is a change of pace. I like it when we are struggling to run the Ctr, Power, or Inside Zone. We do not major in it but when we go to it, it always seems to loosen them up enough to let us get back to what we major in.
We first look at formations to which we can get the right amount of hats or if we can outnumber a team for the jet sweep. Second we look to see if there are any weaknesses we can attack, whether there are slower alley players to attack or an overhang is easier to block.
As the motion happens, I am looking into the secondary and the edges to see what movement and coverage/run fit I get. If I see the backside alley open up, I will throw an RPO slant to the grass backside. I also want to see how the free safety plays the jet. If he plays flat footed or aggressive, I will look to throw a post over the top.
When we are preparing for a team that has the ability to run jet sweep, we go in treating it as though they are a triple option team and we want to make sure that we have all options accounted for. If they are good and efficient with the jet, we have found that our kids will struggle to differentiate the jet from other complementary plays with the speed at which they are running it.
Rather than try to have our kids guess on the fly we want to make sure that we have all the potential options covered. Some teams have shown tendencies based on the pace of the motion or if they are pulling lineman based on the play. If that is the case our mindset will change slightly.
We are looking at numbers on the edge and personnel. If we can get numbers on the perimeter, then it should be a great play. If we are handing off to a flanker or slot that runs a 10.6 in the 100m, then it should be a great play.
How is the secondary playing it? Rolling to the motion? Triggering from a half field safety spot? Are we getting heavy flow from backers to the Jet motion? All of those things will determine when, and what, complimentary play we should go to.
This can be an automatic after a big play (sometimes without the shift) or based on the rotation of the Defense to motion. Sometimes I might have better athletes and call it because I think it would be a good positive yard play no matter what the defense is lined up in.
For the compliments is based on how they handle the jet. If it is consistently not being stopped then I wont call a compliment. If it is getting stopped for minimal gain or the is a glaring weakness in their coverage/movement then we will call the compliments.
We ask ourselves going into the game, how will they adjust to jet? Do they spin safeties, bump the backer, or travel with motion. If they spin and possibly trigger the ps overhang, we can either adjust the blocking scheme on perimeter or hit them with play action. If they bump, that means they may be lighter in the box for power read. If they travel and show man, that means we can either crack front side or, our favorite ways, which would be to have something weak side to where the motion was coming from, either with counter or screen.
We look at how the defense adjusts to motion, where their best LB is playing, do their LBs read guards, how they adjust to FIB
- Base Formation-
- We look to see how your Apex/Overhang plays playside.
- How does he play TE or Y Off, Flex or Nasty Split, or regular Slot alignment.
- Head up to inside vs the 2nd 2 alignments we feel like we can get outside.
- Vs TE or Y Off we feel like the tighter you are the better you are to reach.
- How to treat the motion?
- Does LB Flow Hard?
- Does secondary roll?
- Unbalanced Formation
- Do they match my #´s? Yes=Run Weak, No=Run at it
- Do they match my #´s but over play alignment to the outside? Yes=Run scheme playside inside of them or Weak
We are looking at whether the defensive end can be reached. If he does not get easily reached, we will block zone opposite and take advantage of a Defensive end who squeezes with the veer block of the tackle. We will call the counter with the QB or running back. We call the counter based on whether a team is slanting with motion or rotating safeties. We will also have a four vertical play action of it to take advantage of rotation. We have pulled both the backside tackle and the Y depending on the personnel and formation. Our coaching point is Get to the numbers. You do not want your players to turn up inside unless they are completely cut off from getting to the numbers.
We look for flow from the LBs and how quick they move, and specifically if they trigger on Jet. We have run jet sweep well and teams will see the jet motion and trigger their LB that is play side to hit the C gap. When that happens we are able to run some great Jet QB power plays.
As far as the play calling goes, we are looking to see what teams are doing when we put our player in motion. Are they bumping over, running with him, auto blitzing to the jet sweep side or not moving at all? Once we answer that question then we know whether we should run it again, run a constraint play or run a play action off it.
Looking at the discipline of the defense being able to contain the edge during the jet action. If we feel as if we have an advantage (aka our guys blocking on the outside are able to hold up just fine AND the jet back is able to beat their contain defenders with speed. Every jet sweep (and any run play for that matter) should serve as a set up for us. Having multiple "wrinkles" attached to the jet action is paramount. Wrinkles should include an exterior PAP, interior PAP, run action away, run action towards and a misdirection screen/reverse of some nature.
If the defense shows that they are very well coached in regards to setting the edge, we will begin to look how their defense on the backside of the action reacts and try to take advantage of that.
I love when we see jet on the scout film just to get an idea of the reaction level to the motion. Some teams react so hard to jet that I go into the game with almost no intention of running jet, just its complements. Sometimes the reaction makes them really vanilla so you know what you are going to get. I like to consider our athleticism vs. their team speed. Will we have a chance to get out to the edge? Lastly, jet sweep has a few key blockers/defenders to consider. How is the athleticism matchups on the edge between our tackle and their end? Our H-Back or Tailback vs their OLB/SS?
Pre snap alignment to certain formations. What they do to motion from the jet man. Talent level. If the the force player is not good in space, we take our chances. If they over flow then we go backside with a complimentary play.
The jet sweep for me can be kind of a probing play as well as a quick way for the quarterback to identify a defense. Jet motion can sometimes help the quarterback identify whether the coverage is man or zone (depending on whether a defender runs with the receiver or not). Assuming I have a fast guy that can get to the edge faster than their edge defender can, I'll run this play basically anywhere on the field.
If the defense is in a heavier personnel (3-4, 4-3, 4-4, anything that's not nickel or dime), I love this play even more because our receivers can outrun their linebackers every time. My favorite formation to run the jet out of is a heavy pistol with stacked receivers to the weak side. Two tight end sets force the defense to adjust with heavier personnel (if they don't we'll pound the ball down their throats all day long). This leaves the jet wide-open behind the H-back (sometimes they don't even have a corner).
When we call Jet, we are looking for a way to get the ball out into space fast. If there is a bubble of space from the box to the overhang, we are likely using Jet. Typically gets us +1 to play side due to how fast it hits. Makes the WR’s have to block. If they block, big things happen. We are also looking to see if the defenses are respecting the Jet motion or not. Typically we will see a backer bump over or travel across the field.
Part 3 - Wrinkles off of the Jet Sweep
The plays you run off of your jet sweep threat are just as important as the jet sweep play itself. We asked coaches about some of their favorite wrinkles off of the jet sweep, and here’s what they had to say:
Q: What are your favorite plays to complement the motion and protect the jet sweep?
4 Vertical PAP
If they are rotating secondary we like to If they bump LB's we run GT counter trey opposite a hard CB cover 2 type look.
Since we use our Jet sweep as a compliment to our base, we look to build our base off of jet sweep looks at times. For instance, utilizing jet motion and running GT Counter away from motion. This past season we really liked our jet potential and wanted to add an extra threat to it, so we added Jet power read. The QB rides jet mesh for just a second longer but allowed us to leave a man unblocked and hit inside or outside the tackles depending on what the read did.
Late in the season we need a tendency breaker so instead of bringing an X or Z in motion from wide, we started to utilize our Slot backs with some Jet motion and Jet Sweeps.... this allowed us to break some tendencies and we could still work Jet Power Read and our normal stuff. One thing we toyed with was running the Jet motion, faking the jet then turning to give the inside zone away from motion to the RB. This created some great flow and counter action and allowed us to stay close to our base run game and not add a bunch of stuff on our Line.
We will always carry a Counter, a Power, a Screen, and a Pass off of the same motion
I think the motion can create a lot of opportunities for complementary plays. Our menu of plays will depend on the opponent and defense but I believe running GH/GT Counter or QB Counter would be the best complements as far as run game goes.
Backside Slant RPO and Double Post PAP are usually big play potential if you get the right look and movement. Another very successful play is backside speed option, the flow just sets it up and makes blocking the second level much easier.
For any offensive play I always like to start with the run scheme and then build from there. With jet sweep I like the ability to get on the edge with jet, have an inside track play with a quarterback and also a counter play with a quarterback. Also want to have the ability to run play action with a vertical threat to keep the safeties honest and a boot type of play action causes problems for the defense. Definitely want to have the ability to screen away from the motion. And lastly having the ability to have a RPO to the front side and backside of the jet.
Favorite plays off Jet are handing the inside zone opposite the Jet sweep fake, and play-action post/wheel off the Jet/inside zone fake. On the goal line, faking the Jet and flipping it to the tailback going the other way can be a good play also, especially vs. man.
A few compliment plays I like are an Inside Zone away from motion (could be an Iso play with a leading H back), QB Buck Sweep after a fake pop pass when the defense over rotates, a version of Cross from a 2x2 set with a cross and a dig from the non motion side, and the motion back sitting in the flats as checkdown, and a play-action flood pass with a QB roll out to the motion side with a with a vert/post by #1, corner/out by #2, flat by the motion, and the 6 man protection with RB setting the edge.
vs DE box like Inside Zone. Zone cuts back in the same direction as the jet action. vs LB bump we like Wide Zone opposite the jet action. And when we get Safety rotation down to Jet action, there's an opportunity for play action. Our favorite is Post-Wheel off of the jet.
Play Action verts or vert switch. Inside run playside either power read, regular power/ qb power, or veer. Weak side run like counter/qb counter, or shuffle option. Weak side screen like slip or tunnel.
We run GT both to the jet side and away from it. We also run our shallow concept and the jet guy replaces where the inside receiver would normally go as an outlet throw. We also run screens back to the opposite of the jet.
- Plays off of Jett Sweep
- PS Wheel or Vertical
- PS Gap Run
- Q Counter
- Q Belly G
- Gut ( G Wrap)
- Quick Game
- Now, HItch, Slant, Fade
- Waggle type Boot with Crossers coming back to where motion came from.
The best complimentary plays we had off of it were a playside RB seam route or a backside RB wheel. The wheel was often the more open play but it took far more time to develop so the seam was more successful overall. Also the QB counter and QB dive were great to get yards once they started cheating to the jet motion.
- A) To the boundary - 11p 2 x 2 set with Y off. Jet towards the Y, fake the jet, #1 WR runs a seam from a tight split, Y runs a bender, and the back runs up the sideline. The receiver who fakes the jet continues into the flat. These patterns are the same side the motion is going towards. To the field - We have also run #1 WR on a deep curl from a wide split, RB runs up the seam, and the Y runs the bender. 11p Tight end attached. 2x2 - Bring the Z in motion and fake. #1 runs a fade, #2 runs a bender and the RB runs up the seam. This action is the same direction of the motion.
- B) 12 personnel 2x2. Jet the receiver, Seam/Post by the Y and a wheel by the RB. This is a pattern away from the motion. Good vs. man coverage if they are running with motion.
- C) 10p, 2x2 Jet - Throw a tunnel screen back to the single receiver - good vs. rotation and solo coverage.
A great look we have had from it is Jet screen away. All the flow goes towards the jet, and we hit the screen with the lineman out in front on the other side of the field.
Our favorite constraint plays are usually a pop pass, GT counter opposite of the jet or a play action boot off the jet sweep.
- Jet Action with a play side slip screen by immediate WR blocker
- Jet action with a backside TE delay
- Q counter away from jet action
- Jet with our best player
The jet power read has to be one of the best plays in football. So hard for the defense to stay disciplined at the pace things are happening. Jet counter read is a nice changeup if they are over-playing the box players. A good amount of 2 safety teams will roll a safety down to jet motion and you can take advantage of the momentary 1 high with 4 verts if you can get this out of empty or if your TB can wheel into a vert in 10p. Lastly, I'll screen off of anything... what version will depend on what formation we are running jet out of that week and how they play it.
Power frontside - jet keeps the force player wide
Now screen backside
Slow screen backside
Fake zone throw to the jet man
Outside zone backside
Running plays off the jet sweep is probably my favorite part. The receiver motion forces the linebackers to freeze, making the inside zone extremely tempting. Running the inside zone off the jet sweep is one of the first and easiest installs because it's a simple pivot after the fake, and it's effective because the linebackers have to adjust for the motion.
The stretch and outside zone are also effective plays to run off jet motion because it confuses the defensive end, and can be paired nicely with a pulling tackle. In the passing game, the jet can freeze the linebackers in order to run crossing routes, and the receiver in motion can be effective in the flats, or even running up the field on a wheel route. If you have a mobile quarterback, QB counters are also effective.
In terms of complementary, we will show Jet to get a feel for how the defense is playing it. If they are running with it & over pursuing it, we use it to get defenders moving with it so we can run the ball with either QB or Running Back. If they don’t respect the Jet motion, we just run normal Jet & off to the races. It adds an element of eye candy for the backers & secondary that allows us to once again get +1 in the run game.