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Establish the Fun: Let Tom Brady cook

Plus, Daniel Jones has the Giants in the playoffs once again

Welcome back to Establish the Fun, where football is fun and I like to establish that, most of the time.

Sometimes, football isn’t fun. Sometimes, football throws the worst situations in our faces and becomes everything that it’s not supposed to be. That situation happened on Monday, when Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest on the field and had to be resuscitated on the field, before being taken to the University of Cincinnati hospital.

I think the biggest thing that stands out with this situation is just the mortality of it all. Hamlin is 24 years old, in the prime of his athletic life, and it took the quick actions of medical staff to keep him with us. It’s often said that the NFL stands for ‘Not For Long’, and that mortality was brought to a head on Monday. More importantly than that, the outreach from across the NFL was awesome to see, and I hope that when Hamlin woke up, he saw all the money that was raised for his charity. Continued prayers and well wishes for his recovery.

Now, let’s establish some fun.

Let Tom Brady Cook

Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had an ... interesting season to say the least. Expected to be one of the Super Bowl favorites, they’re limping into the playoffs at .500 after needing to beat the Carolina Panthers to win the division last week.

A large part of the struggles on offense have been due to inconsistent playcalling. It feels like the Bucs are still riding the offensive gameplan they had when their offensive line was the best in football: run the ball at you, then attack vertically off of that. However, the Bucs offensive line took a huge hit in the offseason with center Ryan Jensen’s injury and the retirement of Ali Marpet, and rookie Luke Goedeke hasn’t played well. Yet, they were ninth in early down passing rate before last week, after being third in the metric from 2020 to 2021. Their early down EPA/run is 30th in the NFL, and their early down passing EPA/attempt is eighth.

Which is why I’m going to borrow a phrase from Seahawks fans: Let Tom Brady Cook. The Bucs signal caller is still as sharp as he’s ever been, and his splits per Sports Info Solutions when they go no huddle vs. non no huddle and early downs are staggering.

Let Tom Brady Cook

Situation Total EPA EPA/attempt Adjusted net Yards/completion Completion Percentage
Situation Total EPA EPA/attempt Adjusted net Yards/completion Completion Percentage
Huddle -28.69 -0.05 5.6 65.50%
No-Huddle 43.08 0.26 7.9 70.30%
Early Downs 39.02 0.074 6.6 68.90%

As you can see, the Bucs and Tom Brady are better when they let him cook, and it helps the offensive line as well.

Let’s dig into the old man’s game against Carolina, and how the Bucs could be a formidable opponent in the playoffs if they just let him cook.

This first throw is on first and 10, and the Bucs use play action and run WR Chris Godwin on an over route out of a tight split, which is how they normally align when Godwin is in the action as a run blocker. There’s a post behind it by WR Russell Gage, and Mike Evans runs a curl route to occupy the attention of the corner to the side the action is flowing to.

Yes this throw is wide open and it gets a first down, but watch the end zone angle. Watch Tom Brady’s eyes move the intermediate defender away to create an even larger window for his receiver. It happens quickly as well—Brady looks one way, then comes back and fires it in an instant. That’s what being in the league longer than I’ve been alive will do.

One of Tom Brady’s three long touchdowns to Mike Evans was absurd for a 45-year old man. The Bucs are running 989, a concept where the two outside receivers run a go and the inside receiver runs a post or an in breaking route, and the Panthers are in quarters coverage. This is a route concept you run when you know your guys are better than theirs, and the Bucs run it a lot. Watch where Brady is when he throws the ball, then where the ball is caught. The anticipation on this throw is also outstanding. Just overall great play.

The second long Mike Evans TD was Brady coming back around to Evans on a backside vertical route vs Quarter Quarter Half coverage. The Bucs are running a trips concept to the front side, and nothing is open. Brady gets through that concept in an instant, flips his hips and finds Evans, and I don’t think the corner even thought that ball was going to be thrown.

The Bucs are headed to the playoffs, and despite all of the struggles they faced during the season, they still have Tom Freakin’ Brady. If the Bucs let Brady steer the wheels of the offense instead of only relying on him when it gets into second and third and long, they could go far.

Danny Dual Threat

Of all the QBs with a minimum of 30 designed QB runs or QB draws, Giants QB Daniel Jones ranks:

4th in Yards per Rush

1st in First Down Rate

3rd in EPA/attempt

T-3rd in Rushing TDs

This is all for a team that ranks third in EPA/attempt on the ground, and a large part of that is Jones and Brian Daboll designing runs that not only fool opposing defenses, but play to Jones’ strengths as well. Jones isn’t the fastest QB (4.81 40 yard dash), but he’s fast enough to make defenders pay for not accounting for him in the run game.

This rushing TD Jones scored against the Colts was really fun, and a concept that Brian Daboll used for Josh Allen in Buffalo.

Naturally, he took it with him to New York and Daniel Jones. New York shifts the TE from one side to another, and flips RB Saquon Barkley to the other side. This prompts a shift by the defense, moving their defensive line strength to the same side the tight end is on. This creates favorable blocking angles for a pin-pull QB sweep concept away from the strength. A safety walks into the box, creating another favorable look for New York. A great block by the WR, combined with the pulling linemen, and Jones has a lane to the end zone.

You can tell which players are genuinely stunned that Jones is moving like he is, because every time he pulls the ball on a zone read the defense acts like they’ve seen a ghost. This is also very good usage of motion and shifts, and keeping the TE on the line of scrimmage as the only receiver ensured that the corner would stay, forcing him into the run fit.

Almost every college team runs this stick draw that the Giants run here. The Barkley motion forces the defense to account for four receiving options to one side, so they shift at the snap to account for it. This means to the side Jones runs, there’s a lack of numbers. Football is a numbers game—run where they aren’t, and that’s exactly what Jones does.

Now, Jones isn’t going to make people miss. In the same 30 or more carries bar for QBs earlier, Jones is dead last in Broken and Missed Tackle rate and only gets 0.9 Yards after Contact per attempt, so designing him runs where he can capitalize on the mistakes and loopholes of defenses is critical. Daboll deserves a lot of credit for that this season, and in the Giants playoff run, it’ll be critical to keep Danny Dual Threat moving on the ground.

Aiyuk has the Juice

49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk is playing the best football of his young career this season, blossoming into a de facto WR1B next to Deebo Samuel, who is still injured. This development adds another dynamic chess piece to Kyle Shanahan’s fortress, and makes the Niners even more dangerous in the playoffs.

Aiyuk does most of his work over the middle. He’s 17th in the NFL in Routes Run over the middle and is third in the NFL in Yards per Route Run over the middle for players with a minimum of 50 targets (he’s actually tied with teammate George Kittle). Aiyuk’s ability to get the tough yards over the middle helps the Niners offense so much with Samuel on the sideline. Aiyuk has gotten so much better with his route running that he can create easy separation to truly win on those in breaking routes so he can get to the run after catch stage of the play.

Watch how Aiyuk gets the DB to open up for a split second before getting back to the inside of him to win on this in breaker. He nailed this against the Raiders and is a welcome development both for his individual career and the success of the Niners offense.

Late in the game, the Niners hammered the ‘Brandon Aiyuk over the middle button’ and it worked to great effect. Aiyuk has speed and bursts out of cuts, which makes it extremely difficult to defend him, even on contested throws over the middle like this one.

The Niners are even giving Aiyuk designed rushes like this reverse. Watch how the Niners are able to get everyone out in front of Aiyuk off of the GH Counter look. There are like five white jerseys in that space, and Aiyuk almost scored.

Eventually, Samuel will be back, but the development of Aiyuk as a legitimate receiving threat opposite Deebo will help make the Niners more dangerous than they already are as they gear up for a Super Bowl run.