New England Patriots Hoss Juke Concept
Guest post by Mark Dhooge- Mark’s Twitter
When Tampa Bay takes on Kansas City in Super Bowl LV, there’s a very good chance one pass concept might make an appearance: Hoss Juke. This concept became well-known during Tom Brady’s time in New England.
Brady and Rob Gronkowski made a living off this concept and have taken it with them to Tampa Bay. Many teams run this concept in the NFL, but these two perfected it. Of course, it doesn’t hurt when defenses have to worry about Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown as well.
So when you’re watching the game Super Bowl Sunday and see the Bucs run this play, you can tell anyone you’re watching with, “That’s Hoss Juke!” Or this year maybe just send out a mass text.
What is Hoss Juke? Let’s go over how the New England Patriots ran the concept in detail.
This is from 2015 when the Patriots opened up the season against the Steelers. This clip is interesting because of how the Pats started the game running Hoss Juke three times in a row. Brady probably could’ve ran this play all the way down the field for six. Instead, they went away from it and had to punt.
What makes the design of Hoss Juke so effective is its simplicity. As long as you trust your QB to get into the right pass protection, one of his pre-snap reads will most likely be open.
While Brady kept taking the easy completion in this clip with the boundary Hitch, he also had Danny Amendola open on the Juke route for all three plays. One other thing to note, is how Josh McDaniels used 12 personnel (1 running back, 2 tight ends), yet still got into Empty formations. This put the Steelers in a bind and had guys in coverage they probably didn’t want to have.
The Patriots used it as part of their no-huddle package a lot. On the following play they catch the Steelers off-guard with tempo and Brady easily hits Gronk on the seam route.
Another benefit of going no-huddle is that it keeps the defense’s current personnel on the field (unless they want to risk substituting). So, if the Patriots have a heavier personnel on the field like 12 or 21 the defense will likely be in base personnel, allowing the Patriots to create a favourable matchup for one of their quick WR’s when they spread out.
So what makes this play so simple to run and yet so effective? Glad you asked!
Hoss Juke is run out of an Empty formation, with both sides mirroring the Hoss (Hitch/Seam) concept. The Juke route is usually tagged to the TE (Y) or slot receiver (Z) but really any inside receiver can run it.
Against middle of the field open coverages (MOFO), it’s a great way of getting a quick inside WR matched up on a LB as the Mike LB has to match the #3 receiver in MOFO zone coverages.
Here is former Patriots’ OC Bill O’Brien talking about this idea.
Off Coverage: Outside receivers will run a Hitch at 6 yards, making sure to come back to the ball.
Press Coverage: The Hitch will be converted to a Go, with a mandatory outside release.
Middle of the field closed (MOFC): Outside release staying inside the numbers.
Middle of the field open (MOFO): Outside release, breaking towards near goal post once past 2nd level defender.
Man to Man or if zone defender matches:
Inside leverage will dictate a Return route - player starts on a shallow cross only to break back to the outside. Outside leverage means the receiver will run a Shallow cross. If a WR is matched up on a LB, and the LB isn’t walling off the inside, he’ll trust himself to beat him inside. The key is for the WR to square him up and get on his toes before breaking.
Receiver will sit and find the window to the QB, usually about 4 yards over the ball. If the defense is playing straight zone coverage then the QB will probably be throwing one of the seams or hitches as the two hook defenders will usually bracket the juke route. It’s mostly just against Tampa 2 that the QB will target the juke.
Josh McDaniels liked to use pre-snap motion/shifts to force the defense to give away its coverage. And once they did, it made life a lot easier for Brady.
First pre-snap read: Brady is looking for which CB is playing furthest off the Hitch. Take what the defense gives you.
Second pre-snap read: Safety box. How many Safeties? MOFO or MOFC? Is there a matchup that favors the offense? If Brady likes the matchup with Gronk on the Seam, then he’ll want to know what the Safeties are up to.
Final pre-snap read: coverage on the Juke route. Which potentially could become the first read if Brady thinks this is the best matchup.
The Patriots use their empty protection, 74/75, for the Hoss Juke concept. Within this protection, Brady could make a variety of calls to ensure any blitz is picked up. Those calls are made at the line of scrimmage.
No matter what pressure the defense might bring, Brady could set the protection while also having plenty of options to get the ball out of his hands quickly.
The reason Hoss Juke is such a successful play is because it can be used against any coverage. Let’s cover the basic coverages and go over the QBs reads within each.
This allows the QB to pick the best matchup. Cover 0 essentially turns Hoss into 4 verticals. And if the QB likes the matchup on the Juke route pre-snap, good chance that’s where the ball is going.
The juke route WR will usually be head up on the defender, so he can break inside, attacking the space in the underneath middle of the field.
The QB should look to avoid throwing the hitch route vs cover 0, even if it looks like free access as the CB will be reading the QB and should be in a position to jump the route.
Again, QB picks best matchup. If he thinks one of the Seams is the best matchup, he just has to direct the Free Safety away with his eyes and trust his receiver will win the matchup.
If the QB decides to throw one of the go routes then he usually throws it back-shoulder.
Some teams lock the hitch route on third down against press man, turning it into a stop route. On a stop route the WR will look to sell the go route for about 5-6 yards and then turn back into the QB. They can be very effective with WR’s like Mike Evans as the CB has to respect the threat of the go route and Evans can box anyone out at the catch point.
This is a slightly deeper stop route from Evans and they’re not running hoss juke but it illustrates how effective Evans can be running a stop route.
Against two man it will turn into four verticals, like against cover 0. The QB can decide to throw the juke route as that will have lots of upside as there will be tons of space in the underneath middle of the field. As the defender has no help inside, he will play with inside leverage, meaning that the juke route receiver will likely return out, like on the following two plays.
The key for the juke route vs 2 man is that the defender isn’t pressed.
If the QB turns down the juke route then he can read the half field safety: if he takes away the seam read then the QB can throw the go route.
If the QB doesn’t like the 4 verticals (after the Hitch is converted to a Go against a squat Corner,) the Juke route will have plenty of room to work underneath to find a window.
If the QB is feeling more aggressive than he can look to throw the seam read to the two receiver side. It’s important to focus on the two receiver side as the weak side, and the Mike defender in Tampa 2 opens up to the strong side, usually giving the QB a window in the weak seam.
The play above is another reason why the QB may look to throw the seam read as defenses sometimes dropout a defensive linemen to cover the space underneath the Mike, which would take away the juke route.
Everything is an option verse Cover 3. CBs play too far off - hit the Hitch. If the slot defenders don’t carry the Seams - it’ll put the FS in a no-win situation. And again, the Juke route will have plenty of space to work underneath.
The seam route will usually distract the curl-flat defender for long enough to leave the flat wide open.
If the curl-flat defender expands to the flat quickly then the QB can throw the seam.
QB can choose best matchup for either the Hitch or the Juke.
The juke side curl-flat defender will be put in a bind as if he looks to cheat towards the juke route then the hitch will be wide open.
Notice how Gronk’s seam route decoys two defenders on the first play
Another reason the Patriots used this play so often was because they had Julian Edelman. On any given play there was a good chance Edelman (in his hay day) would win his matchup on the Juke. And with Gronk getting attention on the Seam, it really made life tough for defenses. If teams chose to double both players, then someone on offense had a plus matchup which they’d would most likely win.
The following three play sequence from the Patriots-Rams Super Bowl is a great illustration of the key points of hoss juke and Brady’s familiarity using it in the biggest moments.
And the last, probably the most important aspect of the play, was how Tom Brady made it look so easy to get the Patriots into the correct protection. That’s the benefit of a Hall of Fame, 21 year career.
Fast forward to this season in Tampa Bay. With more overall weapons than Brady had in New England, Hoss Juke is a potential nightmare for defenses to see. Whenever TB goes empty in the Super Bowl, I’d look for KC to blitz and try to get the ball out of his hands ASAP. Give up the short throws and make the tackle.
Issue with that is Evans, Godwin, and Scotty Miller are all dangerous with the ball in their hands. Will certainly be an interesting matchup to watch come Super Bowl Sunday!
Tampa Bay doesn’t run Hoss Juke as much as Brady did with the Pats, so will we see this play Super Bowl Sunday? Just like Gronk getting open down the Seam, there’s a pretty good chance.