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Brandon Marshall Bears WR Brandon Marshall.

Back in early June, I went up to Halas Hall to watch the Bears veteran mini-camp with a focus on Mike Tice’s offensive playbook. And one thing that stood out when writing up some notes for the Chicago Tribune on personnel, formations, inside vertical route schemes, etc. was the pre-snap alignment of WR Brandon Marshall.

I see Marshall as the X receiver in Tice’s system, but today’s NFL is all about creating matchups and using multiple alignments to expose defensive coverages. Today, let’s take a look at four routes that will give QB Jay Cutler an opportunity to target Marshall when he is aligned inside of the numbers (stack formation) vs. Cover 2: Flat-7, Flat-8 (Dino), Smash-Seam and Levels.

Personnel: Posse (3WR-1TE-1RB)
Formation: “Doubles” Stack
Defensive scheme: Cover 2

Quick Offensive I.D.
X=Brandon Marshall (highlighted in orange)
W=Earl Bennett
Y=Kellen Davis
Z=Devin Hester/Alshon Jeffery

1. FLAT-7

Playbook

-Why motion to a stack vs. Cover 2? A free release off the line of scrimmage. Here, the Bears get the 7 (corner) route from Marshall with Bennett on the underneath flat route. The base idea vs. a 2-deep shell: force the CB to sit short on the flat and open up a throwing lane to target Marshall on the 7 cut. One of the top Cover 2 beaters in the NFL.

2. FLAT-8 (DINO)

Playbook

-I’ve written about the post-corner (or “Dino’) vs. Cover 2 before because it puts stress on the deep half safety. Too often we see safeties overplay the 7 route or shorten their depth in the deep half. And when you are slow to transition (and open your hips) vs. the double-move at the top of the route stem, this route will lead to six points. Forget about the Mike Backer running the inside vertical seam here; this is all on the safety to play with the proper technique.

3. SMASH-SEAM

Playbook

-Think inside vertical routes in Tice’s offense. Run the underneath “Smash” concept with Bennett and create a matchup of Marshall vs. the Mike Backer inside of the numbers. Will the Mike get safety help? No question, but we are talking about leverage, size and length with the Bears WR. And I can tell you from my own experience playing in the Tampa 2 scheme, driving on the seam route (and getting the ball out) isn’t as easy as it looks on the chalkboard vs. a WR that has inside position.

4. LEVELS

Playbook

-You can also call this a “China-Dig” route and it was a centerpiece of the Colts offense with Peyton Manning at QB (Ace and Posse personnel). Similar to a Hi-Lo concept, Cutler will have two reads (Marshall and Bennett) based off the drop of the Mike Backer. The open side safety (FS) will drive the dig (or square-in), but this isn’t his play to make.  Again, we are looking at an inside breaking concept with the Bears WR that caters to his skill set.

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