10

April

Xs and Os: The “Smoke” Route

Aaron Rodgers uses the "Smoke" route to steal some easy yards.

Aaron Rodgers frequently uses the “smoke” route to steal some easy yards from defenses.

The plays that quarterbacks call in the huddle are not always the plays that get executed at the snap of the ball. The “smoke” route is a sight adjustment that allows the offensive to steal some free yards from the defense.

The “smoke” route has become a staple in modern NFL, and even college, offenses these days. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers sometimes runs the “smoke” play at least once during every game he plays.

What is the “smoke” route?

Basically, it’s a quick hitch throw to a receiver that is not called in the huddle. It’s usually performed after a running play has been called.

The quarterback will see that the wide receiver is being matched up with off-man coverage, which has the cornerback at least 5-7 yards off the receiver.

Rather than going through with the running play, especially if the box is stacked, why not try for a few free yards to the outside? The cornerback is practically begging for this throw by aligning in off-man coverage.

It’s not a verbal audible, but rather a silent one. Once the quarterback and receiver both see the off-man coverage, they will make some sort of eye contact and a gesture to indicate the “smoke” is on. The gesture is only known between the receiver and quarterback.

Aaron Rodgers throwing a "smoke" pass with the laces out.

Aaron Rodgers throwing a “smoke” pass.

At the snap of the ball, the quarterback takes a one step drop and immediately fires the ball to the receiver on a short hitch route.

This happens very quickly, and the quarterback may not have time to get the laces right, which is why you may see them throwing the ball without the use of the laces.

Only the quarterback and the receiver know the “smoke” is coming. Everyone else runs the play as called, which is why you often see the offensive line run blocking during such a play.

The “smoke” isn’t a viable option for every snap of the ball, and certain conditions should be met before the quarterback calls it.

 

 

 

Conditions for calling the “smoke” route:

1) Defense is in off-man. There has to be a 5-7 yard gap for the quarterback to quickly throw the ball with little risk of interception.

29

September

Week 4: Around the NFC North

Christian Ponder

QB Christian Ponder has led the surprising Vikings to a 2-1 record

It’s hard to believe we’re already talking about week 4 and the NFL season will be a quarter done after this coming Monday Night game.  It’s a busy week in the NFC North with some very good matchups to look forward to.

For the Green Bay Packers, week 4 is a very welcome sight.  Need I even explain the who, what, when, where and why?  They are eager to get that putrid taste out of their mouths after a very controversial loss on the final play in Monday Night’s game against the Seattle Seahawks.  They return home and host the 0-3 New Orleans Saints led by QB Drew Brees.

The Minnesota Vikings ride high into Detroit to face the Lions after having knocked off the previously undefeated and heavily favored San Francisco 49ers in Minnesota this past weekend.  It is the first divisional game for both the Vikes and Lions this season.  The Lions come into this game licking the wounds of a brutal overtime loss at Tennessee after scoring twice in the final :18 seconds to force the OT.

The Bears cap off the week with a Monday Night matchup in Dallas against the Cowboys.  Both teams are coming off wins and strong performances in week 3.  The winner of this one makes a strong statement as to their standing as a contender in the NFC.

And lastly, it must be mentioned that everyone is relieved (well at least everyone not in Seattle) and very happy to welcome back the union referees who agreed, this week, to a new CBA with the league.  They officiated the Thursday night matchup between the Ravens and Browns and will be on hand for the full slate of NFL games this weekend.

Minnesota Vikings (2-1) at Detroit Lions (1-2)

The Vikings have thrown a few surprises at us all so far in this young season.  Adrian Peterson did in fact return in time for the season opener and he is already having a productive season.  He has 230 yards on 58 carries and 2 TD’s.  Riding that production, the Vikes find themselves in first place in the NFC North for the first time since the end of the 2009 season.  They stunned the San Francisco 49ers this past weekend and handed them their first loss of the year.  The Vikes will be a team to watch having found some early success after entering the season as heavy favorites to finish last in the division.

6

November

NFL Week 9: Green Bay Packers-Dallas Cowboys Preview: Back in the Saddle

The Green Bay Packers beat the New York Jets 9-0 in a game that not even many diehard Packer fans expected them to win.  Even with five starters out, the Packers defense put together a superhuman effort against the Jets’ vaunted rushing game and the Packers got their first road shutout since 1991.

A win that could be a springboard to a title.

But before the Packers can start planning on a February trip to Dallas, the Packers first must beat Dallas in Green Bay. The Cowboys come to town Sunday night at 1-6 an seemingly self-destructing after losing starting quarterback Tony Romo for six to eight weeks.

All the more reason for the Packers to take the Cowboys seriously. No one needs to be reminded of the Tampa Bay game last season.

Breaking down the Cowboys

Actually, it seems the Cowboys are broken down enough already.

With the Wade Phillips Firing Squad on standby, the Cowboys are reeling.  Jon Kitna steps in for Romo and if the last game against the Jaguars is any indication, the Cowboys offense is in even worse trouble than when Romo was healthy.

Of course, the Cowboys offense still has weapons. Their three-headed rushing attack of Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice still packs some punch.  With Romo gone, the running game will have to carry the team.

The Cowboys have talented receivers in Jason Whitten and rookie Dez Bryant, but without Romo they don’t have a quarterback with a strong enough arm to move the ball downfield consistently.

On defense, the Cowboys seemingly can’t stop anyone, which makes this game as good as any for the Packers’ offense to try and get back on track.

Still, with Terrence Newman leading the way for the secondary, the Packers receivers, now sans Donald Driver will have their hands full. DeMarcus Ware will also provide a challenge for Brandon Jackson as well as the short to intermediate passing game.

When the Packers have the ball….

The broken record continues: the Packers need to establish the run. With a weak defense coming to town, the Packers will have every oppoortunity to do so.

Still, coming off the Jets game, it’s important for the Green Bay passing game to get its groove back. While he hasn’t been in a slump per se, Aaron Rodgers knows he has to play better. With him having a sprained ankle, Rodgers mobility could be limited so the Cowboys will likely blitz heavily.