It’s a copycat league and while most Saints fans are probably used to thinking of plays opposing teams steal from one of the perennial top offenses around the league there are a couple of new twists Sean Payton could add to his own playbook too. One such route would be the throwback route that we’ve seen the Greenbay Packers use with Davante Adams.
The logic behind the throwback route is simple; “Throw it where they aren’t”. It builds on a route that we’ve already seen Michael Thomas take and make his in the crossing route. Sure, when a lot of people hear Thomas’ name the first thing they like to think about is his success with slant routes. While he’s definitely done well here, the best route he runs in terms of hurting opposing defenses is arguably his deep crossing pattern.
Let’s look at a play from an old Saints (2011) playbook to get an idea of what this could look like. Now, the play “Falcon RT Nasty Sell It Spring 39 Z Pylon X Spear” says a lot, but the only parts we’re really concerned about are the spear route (crossing pattern) and the pylon (corner route).
Earlier this week Ross Jackson wrote about how 12 Personnel packages could help add a layer of unpredictability to the Saints offense, and this route would pair perfectly with that idea. In the above play Thomas would be the X receiver as the Saints would run play action against a man defense. The opposite of the field with the Z receiver let’s just fill in with Emmanuel Sanders.
The play-action fake has a couple of purposes here. First it will help keep the safety (or safeties) from committing too quickly to either route, and this also plays into the corner route on the opposite side. Second, the play action with the H-Back (Kamara/Murray) on a “pressure alert” call will help ensure Drew Brees has time to get back into a clean pocket. With this being a maximum of a three route play Brees should have a wall of seven blockers.
For Thomas not much needs to change in terms of his spacing to the line of scrimmage nor the depth of the route. One of the reasons Thomas’ crossing pattern is so good is because he has the timing and depth down perfectly. Now, instead of his cut carrying him up field to the opposite hash he would plant with his inside (to the ball) foot and cut back towards the back sideline.
It doesn’t matter if his defender were in press or off man coverage, either way the crossing pattern likely causes the defender to commit his momentum completely to following Thomas across the field. While this is happening, Sanders’ corner route is helping keep the deep safety tied up while every motion (Brees’ boot action, the blocking, the crossing route look and Sanders’ route) is moving the defense all to one side of the field.
Then it happens, the cut back, and Thomas now has created several yards of separation as the corner struggles to stop and redirect his momentum. Brees finds Thomas wide open for a big play and potentially even a touchdown.
Need a visual reference to what this looks like? No worries, there video below will show both Thomas’ normal crossing pattern as well as this Throwback route that Adams run with the Packers in 2019.