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Patriots vs Dolphins preview: Lamar Jackson, Hoss, and a Sunday in Miami

Mark Schofield takes a closer look at New England’s next opponent.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

We know a few things to be true about offensive schematics in today’s National Football League. One of that is that the Hoss Concept is a core component of what the New England Patriots like to do on offense. After all, they ran Hoss Y-Juke three straight times in Super Bowl LIII with success, and if you paid close attention on Sunday night you probably saw them run it a few more times. The other is that the NFL is a copycat league, and if something works for one team, other teams are going to use that design themselves.

Putting those together, you can be sure that New England is going to run their fair share of Hoss this weekend in South Beach. After all, Lamar Jackson and company used it successfully last weekend against the Miami Dolphins.

First, let’s start with what the design looks like. Here is an example from New England’s playbook, of Hoss Z Juke. In this design the Z receiver comes in motion towards the football and runs the juke route over the middle of the field:

The Hoss element is a Hitch/Seam combination. On the outside the receiver runs a hitch route, which can convert to a go route against press or rolled coverage. Inside the receiver runs a seam route out of the slot, which can convert to a post route if the middle of the field is “open,” say in Cover 2 or Cover 4. If there is a safety in the middle of the field, as you would see against Cover 1 or 3, that receiver stays vertical.

Now here’s New England running it against the Los Angeles Rams, for what is likely the last catch of Rob Gronkowski’s career:

Now let’s look back at two plays from Jackson against the Dolphins last week. The second-year passer had a huge day down in Miami, completing 17 of 20 passes for 324 yards and five, yes five, touchdowns. But beyond the numbers, astute observers of Jackson saw growth from him as a passer, including anticipation throws and the ability to use his eyes to move defenders. Some of his best work came with the Baltimore Ravens running Hoss elements.

Take this first example. The Ravens face a 2nd and 8 on the Dolphins’ 33-yard line. They line up using 11 personnel and empty the backfield, putting Jackson (#8) in the shotgun and aligning three receivers to the left and two to the right:

They run Hoss Y-Juke here, with the tight end running the Juke route from the left:

As this play unfolds you will see Miami run man coverage and use a bracket on the tight end. That gives Jackson his choice of the two seam routes from the slot, as both are open. He chooses to throw to Willie Snead (#83), and his decision is rewarded:

Two things stand out on this play. First, the coverage decision. The Dolphins were very concerned about stopping the run in this contest and loaded the box often, and used a variety of pressure packages and schemes. As Kyle Crabbs, the Lead Editor of Dolphins Wire, told me on Episode 14 of The Scho Show, they dared Jackson to beat them in the passing game. That left them playing a lot of man coverage, even Cover 0 like we see here, in the secondary. Second, on the replay angle watch Jackson’s eyes. He knows that Snead is open and that the middle of the field is unoccupied thanks to the bracket coverage, but he still looks off the middle of the field, peeking at the vertical route on the left. This is a QB showing progress with his mind:

In the second half, the Ravens faced a 3rd and 14 in their own territory, and they turned to this basic concept once more. They put Jackson in the shotgun formation again, but this time kept running back Justice Hill (#43) in the backfield to the left of the quarterback:

This time they run a variation of Hoss Y-Juke that we will call Hoss A Check Down, to steal New England’s parlance a bit. Everything remains the same but for Hill out of the backfield, who will knife through the line and run a check down route over the football. (You could also call this Hoss A Sit):

The Dolphins show pressure once more, with the defenders in off-man coverage alignments and the linebackers in blitz posture. But they do not bring pressure, and they spot drop into a basic Cover 3 coverage:

Against a Cover 3 look, this is an ideal route to run from the QB’s vantage point. He can use his eyes to move the free safety to one of the inside seam routes, and then throw the other. Here, Jackson looks to Mark Andrews (#89) out of the left slot. Notice when he pulls the trigger here:

Jackson is starting his motion just as Andrews clears the underneath defenders. He’s throwing him open, and not waiting for him to come open behind the linebackers. This is a good sign for Jackson’s development as a passer, but more importantly for Patriots’ fans, it is another example of the Ravens getting a big play in the passing game using a core New England concept.

Obviously Brian Flores knows what he and the Dolphins’ defense are facing on Sunday afternoon down in South Beach. So Miami might have a few tweaks to their gameplan in store for Tom Brady and company. But judging off the film from last Sunday, you can expect the Patriots to be able to run one of their core elements and enjoy continued success against this Miami defense.