How to evaluate a concept
One of the most important things as a coach is to first of all determine who to learn from, and more importantly, what concepts, techniques, and principles to learn from them.
This article will look at a list of criteria to consider when evaluating a concept, using the omnipresent mesh concept as an example.
What down and distance is the concept usually called? Where on the field is it usually called, particularly whether it’s red zone or not? Is the concept to the field or boundary (with a full field concept like mesh I would call the concept side the one with the first read, so if it’s mesh out, the side the out is on would be the concept side)? What coverages is it usually called against (pass)? What front is it usually called against (run)?
Mesh, in the NFL at least, is predominantly used to beat man coverage. As a result, it’s mostly used on third and mediums (3&3-6) as defenses usually play man coverage in those situations. Teams generally don’t run mesh much in the red zone.
So in summary, mesh is mostly used as a man beating play on third and medium outside the red zone.
How does the concept fit in an offense’s overall scheme? I.e does the coach set it up with other concepts, and if so, which concepts? Are there any variations that work off of the concept?
Coaches generally don’t set up mesh by calling other concepts first, thus mesh is context-independent.
The main counter to mesh that I can think of is mesh pivot/return, where the two pivot receivers sell shallow crosses, and thus mesh, before pivoting back outside. There are a couple of other variations I have seen such as the following ‘shallow and up’ and ‘shallow wheel’, but these are certainly uncommon.
3. Formation and motion-
As mesh is generally best against man coverage, using a shift (pre-snap motion) to help identify the defense should be beneficial. Something Oklahoma do frequently on their mesh out concept is to have the receiver running the out motion to a stack in order to get the DB playing softer.
Something I haven’t seen but could be effective is to use the same motion but with the receiver running the shallow as the DB will usually play softer and outside, making it harder to cover the shallow.
Mesh is usually used from tighter formations as the receivers on opposite sides will be closer to each other, and will usually be able to create more separation due to the defenders likely playing softer and outside.
4. Core idea-
The thing that distinguishes mesh from most other concepts is the rub that is created from the two shallow crosses, thus, this is the key element of the concept, and thus the core idea is to beat man coverage.
5. Problem coverages and potential pitfalls-
Coverages that have five underneath defenders will usually slow down mesh and force the ball away from the mesh itself.
Something I saw Cal use to good effect vs WSU is to have the defensive end drop out and cut any shallow cross routes. This again will likely force the ball away from the mesh.
Another coverage that will likely negate the mesh is when the defense passes off shallow cross routes when in man coverage.
An obvious pitfall is that a bad mesh between the two shallow crosses will likely result in no rub being set.
Thus, the key thing to evaluate is what contradicts the core idea of the concept- I.e what shuts down the key element of the play.