The Indianapolis Colts under Frank Reich have consistently had one of the better offenses in the league, despite the team starting four (going on five) different quarterbacks over four years. In this new series, I hope to shed some light on why the Colts' offense has managed to stay efficient despite the turnover.
In the Colts' Offensive Staples series, I will be exploring some of Reich's favorite play calls for this offense. Obviously things change with new quarterbacks, but Reich has stayed pretty consistent on a few of his go-to calls over the years.
While the Colts' passing game has undergone a ton of changes over the past few seasons, the same goal has remained. Frank Reich loves to attack linebackers in zone coverage over the middle of the field. One way that he has been able to do that has been with this switch release, Hi Lo Crossers concept.
In today's Colts' Offensive Staples piece, I define a few key terms for this play call and break down why this call has been so effective over the years.
Key Terms To Know
To begin this article, let's break down what a crosser/crossing route is. A crosser is simply defined as a route that sees the receiver come across the field without making any direct or sudden cuts. The underneath version of this route would be called a drag route.
The other important term to know for this article is the switch release. A switch release is a term used to describe two receivers, typically bunched together, crossing each other at the line of scrimmage. The inside receiver runs a route that the outside receiver would typically run and vice versa.
If that description is a tad confusing, here is a screen grab of a couple switch releases from an old Philadelphia Eagles' playbook. Notice how the "Z" receiver in both of these pictures is running underneath the route of the inside "Y" receiver/tight end. They are essentially switching their typical responsibilities off of the line.
The Play Call
The play design that we are looking at today is a highly effective Hi Lo switch release that puts a ton of stress on zone linebackers. If the linebackers bite up on the underneath drag route, the quarterback should have a decent window to throw behind them. If they sit back on the deep cross, then the quarterback can hit the underneath option.
The impressive aspect of this call is how many different personnel groupings the Colts run it out of. While these are almost all identical calls, here are a few examples of different pass sets that the Colts call this play out of:
10 Personnel (1 RB, 0 TE, 4 WR)
This play call could technically be considered as being run out of 20 personnel (as one of the receivers is Nyheim Hines), but we will call it 10 for the point of this exercise.
The receivers that we are focusing on for this play are at the bottom of the screen in a bunch set. As the ball is snapped, the outside receiver (Nyheim Hines) runs a drag route while Michael Pittman Jr runs a deep crosser route from the slot. The linebackers bite underneath, leaving a vacated zone behind them for Pittman Jr to make the catch.
11 Personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR)
This next clip is almost the exact same play, except it features a tight end running the deeper crossing route and the outside receiver running the drag route.
Mo Alie-Cox and Pittman Jr are aligned in a bunch set at the bottom of the screen. Alie-Cox gets intermediate depth while Pittman Jr takes the underneath route on this call. The linebackers, again, sit on the underneath route, which opens up a throwing lane for a big gain.
12 Personnel (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR)
The last clip to show today is yet again the same play, but out of another entirely different personnel set. This time the two tight ends at the bottom of the screen are running the concept.
Alie-Cox is the deeper route again, but Kylen Granson takes the drag responsibility underneath. The result is another intermediate window on the deeper crossing route for a big gain (catching the theme with this call?).
The Bottom Line
Frank Reich's passing offense lives off of attacking zone linebackers over the middle of the field. The second that he can get that position to second guess their reads, he knows that he can really begin to open things up.
This play design is simplistic, yet versatile. It can be run out of many different personnel sets and it has had a ton of success in the past in this offense. With the additions of Alec Pierce, Jelani Woods, and (obviously) Matt Ryan, this play design should continue to find success in 2022.
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