The Taysom Hill package continues to evolve in Sean Payton’s offense. While Hill wasn’t as utilized against the Atlanta Falcons, Payton pulled out some new plays for the reigning Super Bowl champion Eagles.
In order for these unique packages to stay effective and give defenses nightmares, the play calls can not become predictable. Payton has slowly been adding new looks and wrinkles to keep defenses honest.
One tweak Payton has added in recent weeks is lining up in pistol formation as opposed to shotgun to run the read-option. The key difference in the formations is where the running back lines up. When in shotgun, the back will be offset to either the left or right of the quarterback. This will clue the defense as to which is the read side for the quarterback, and they can then line up with their strength toward the run side. When lining up in the pistol with the running back behind the quarterback, the defense is not tipped off.
In the play above, the defense lines up with the strength to the right side (in balanced sets that have no tight end or fullback to one side, the wide side of the field is typically considered the strong side) but the Saints run inside zone toward the left, or weak side. Michael Bennett (# 77) is lined up to the right and will be the defender Hill bases his read off of. Right tackle Ryan Ramczyk will allow Bennett to go unblocked and instead block the defensive tackle towards the playside. Bennett will “crash down” to tackle Kamara leaving the edge open for Hill. Hill made the proper read on this play, but linebacker Nigel Bradham will also make a good read and helps Malcolm Jenkins bring Hill down for a minimal gain.
When an opposing defensive coordinator sees Hill in the huddle, he doesn’t know which position he will be lining up in. Sean Payton took this disguise an extra step in this play. The Saints will line up without Brees or Hill behind center, both out wide lined up as receivers. The defense cannot determine which type of formation they will face, and therefore can’t make proper pre-snap reads.
Hill will quickly motion to the backfield and you can see the middle linebacker (#58) signal to the rest of the defense and the safety will come (#29) will come down closer to the line of scrimmage, most likely to help defend against the run or any read option. In this instance, its a quarterback sweep to the right, with a zone blocking scheme known as a “pin an pull”. Right tackle Ryan Ramczyck and tight end Josh Hill will allow the defensive end on the right side to go unblocked, and wide receiver Austin Carr will crackback block the end. This allows Ramczyck and Josh Hill to pull and lead block for Taysom Hill. The rest of the offensive line will down block the defender to their play side (right) or work to the second level and block the linebackers, attempting to “pin” them inside.
The play is set up nicely, especially with Carr’s effective block on the defensive end and Ramczyck taking his man out of the play. Unfortunately Taysom Hill trips and is only able to gain one yard.
Changing the play
Hill is also seeing his freedom as a passer grow with Payton allowing him to check to a different play at the line of scrimmage. In the huddle, the play call will be a run, but another pass play will be called that the quarterback can check to if it is a better match up.
At the line of scrimmage, Hill will read how the defense is lined up. With seven defenders in the box and the cornerback and safety to the right side are playing off coverage, Hill will check to the pass play. The play is a slant/bubble screen combo, with Carr running the slant and Josh Hill stepping back for the screen. With a Hill to Hill connection on the screen, the tight end picks up ten yards and the first down.