Brian Flores brings leadership, stability, accountability, and a swarming defense to Miami. Joining Flores in the migration south is an accomplished staff. Complementing Flores’ defensive ingenuity are former Patriots Receiver’s Coach Chad O’Shea and Assistant Quarterback’s Coach Jerry Schuplinski.
The party is B.Y.O.S - Bring Your Own Scheme. Flores offers his multiple, modernized defensive scheme while Schuplinski will aid O’Shea in implementing the most successful version of the Erhardt & Perkins attack.
You’ve probably heard of the Erhardt and Perkins offensive scheme by now. The purpose of this article is to teach Dolphins fans the basics of the route concepts, the penchant for a run-heavy offense, and the general application we can expect to see in Miami under this new staff.
The Basics of the E&P
Football is presented as an esoteric game of chess to the casual fan, but rocket science it is not.
There three qualities that make the E&P offense so popular are:
1.) Builds the Scheme Around the QB - Rather than distributing responsibility to the skill players with a wide array of sight adjustments, everything comes back to the most important player on the field - the quarterback. The route combinations are each designed to attack a specific coverage, leaving it up to the QB to identify the pre-snap coverage and adjust accordingly.
2.) Streamlined Verbiage - The age of 20-word play-calls is a thing of the past. Convoluted mouthfuls spelling out each player’s role on a given play is a derivative approach that serves only to slow the offense down. The E&P condenses play calls making each one easier to communicate.
3.) Simplistic Adaptability - Using one word to define a route combination (the role of two, sometimes three players) increases the offense’s play speed. The E&P expedites the process of changing the play at the line-of-scrimmage and allows the team to adjust its coded calls on a weekly (or even on a play-by-play) basis.
Initially, the E&P scheme was designed to make life easier on the quarterback and elevate the importance of the ground game. But as it evolved, the streamlined communication allowed more savvy signal callers to exploit defenses with multiple options both in the run and pass game.
The whole of New England’s ground game has always been greater than the sum of its parts, thanks to the E&P. With a list of run and pass options from every set, the quarterback commands everything at the line-of-scrimmage.
The common misnomer about modern day football is the heavy reliance on the passing game. And while every team throws more than it runs, the E&P leans on the run more than the league average. Adam Gase, a proponent of the scheme, brought this identity to Miami but failed to properly institute that balance.
This attack is designed to allow the offense to run the same concepts over-and-over, but remain multiple via varied formations, shifts, and motions. The tempo-based attack gets the offense to the line-of-scrimmage, where the shifts tip the defense’s hand, giving the quarterback the information he needs.
One word describes an entire route combination. So, when you hear Tom Brady shouting “Rita! Linda!” Those two words serve as the entire play call (sans protection calls). “Rita” can tell the boundary combination (often the back and tight end) their two-man route combo while “Linda” defines the three-man route combo to the field side of the formation.
In the video above Julian Edelman’s backfield alignment allows the Patriots to conceal their play until the motion begins. Because the corner is out-flanked the play is won before the ball is even put into play.
The quarterback can pick and choose which elements to change. If he doesn’t like the combination he has to the boundary, he can change that aspect and keep the field combination as is.
Brady’s mastery and unrivaled preparation is the catalyst of the scheme, but it’s the Patriots ability to identify the defense’s weakness and attack it relentlessly that gives them balance and, ultimately, utter dominance.
The first video in this column shows New England effortlessly converting a 3rd and 3 in Miami. The two prior plays of the series were a power gap-scheme run off-tackle. The very next play is a lead draw out of 21-personnel (2 RBs, 1 TE, 2 WRs). The tackles take vertical sets to invite the rush up-field while Fullback James Develin leads Sony Michel inside - a rarity in today’s NFL.
Simplifying the communication allows the quarterback to come to the line of scrimmage with multiple plays that he can check to via the air or the ground.
Few teams have the stones to run the ball on third and medium (or third and long, for that matter) with the willing ferocity of the New England Patriots. This video shows a pair of conversions - one on 3rdand 4 and the other a 3rd-and-11-situation.
Again it’s a simple read, a quick motion, and taking advantage of the defensive scheme that the quarterback identifies. Want to play the linebacker in coverage or blitz the weak-side edge? No problem, the Pats will just run away from the pressure, pick up a seal and a key block and move the chains.
The Super Bowl was hardly an offensive showcase, but New England’s lone touchdown displays the difficulties a defense will face when going up against a finely-tuned Erhardt & Perkins attack. Four plays from the same personnel grouping with mixing up formations, with the same play, and a little tempo sprinkled in - see below.
Running backs must present a threat in the passing game in this offense. Swings, flats, and the occasional corner route are often the primary read as part of two and three-man route combinations. When the Patriots offense was struggling early in the season Brady insisted they feature James White, and that’s precisely what they did.
Miami had a lot of similar success with Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage, but often went away from those successful options in the passing game. At its peak, Adam Gase’s deployment of backs in the passing game was awfully similar to what the Patriots do with their backfield stable.
Brady is often accused on checking down and dinking-and-dunking his way to the end zone (quite nitpicky, don’t ya’ think?) When the offense is as sharp as New England’s iteration of the E&P, the vertical shot-plays are built in. The repetition of showing similar looks, multiple times, can lull the defense to sleep. The same was true of Gase’s offense, often springing Kenny Stills down the field. Here are two examples of in-game adjustments capitalizing on the defense’s aggressiveness and throwing a wrench in the film’s tendencies.
I’d be remised not to mention Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant in this piece. We look to Julian Edelman as the comp in the Patriots offense, and while it would be an injustice to pigeonhole Wilson and Grant as strictly slot players, both can make a lot of hay from that position in the new offense. Three plays here show Edelman, Wilson, and Grant stacking the defender, allowing each to flatten off the top of the route and make a big play as a result.
The success of this offense is going to fall on the shoulders of the quarterback. If Miami successfully identifies a sharp, accurate quarterback to execute the scheme, wins will follow. The beautiful thing about this new staff is the amenability to fit the scheme to the players - at least that’s the hope.
The process is solid and the foundation is legitimate. The only thing left to do is execute on Sundays.