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Colts Scouting Journal: Stack release with the Tight Ends and DeForest Buckner’s deadly swim move

Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Colts fans! It is a new season here at Stampede Blue and I have decided to start a new running series. This series will be called the Colts Scouting Journal and will focus on a few different topics every week. You all know I dive deep into film so I decided to get a tad bit creative with this series. The basic premise is each week we will have a journal entry that talks about one schematic aspect of this Colts team (ranging from offensive plays and philosophies to defensive tendencies) and a Colts player's top trait or move. The idea is to have a full journal of schematic tendencies and top moves by players by the end of the season.

For our first Scouting Journal, we will be looking at a certain look from the offense. In this look, the Colts are able to put defenders in a bind with how they stack and switch players off the line. We will also be looking at the deadliest pass rush move on the Colts roster... the DeForest Buckner swim move.


Putting Defenders in a Bind

Before we even get into this first topic, let’s just establish that Frank Reich is one of the best and brightest offensive minds in the game. Coming from the Doug Pederson/Andy Reid coaching tree, Reich has mastered the art of scheming up plays that allow his receivers to run open on seemingly every play.

What is one of the factors in this success? Understanding how to put stress on a defense. Pass defense is hard enough as defenders have to try and cover elite athletes without knowing the play or where the receiver is breaking. When you throw in wrinkles like we are going to talk about today, it makes it even tougher.

The first topic we will be talking about in the Scouting Journals features the tight ends. Coming from Philadelphia, Reich loves to get his tight ends involved in the passing game. He understands that there are a lot of different things you can do with tight ends to put stress on a defense.

Look at this old clip from when Reich was an Offensive Coordinator in Philly. He talks about stacking the tight ends in line to make the defense key the run. From there, they then have the tight ends do a switch release off the line, which again is meant to throw off the defense. To further make things tougher on the defense, this type of play puts the outside corner in no man’s land as he has to choose which route to sit on. Listen to Reich explain it here:

Now flash forward to 2018 with the Colts and Reich is still using a similar concept. Against the Texans, he stacks Eric Ebron and TY Hilton on the outside. They use a switch release off the line of scrimmage to confuse the defensive backs and then have them cross yet again deeper in the route. This leads to the defenders having to either switch man assignments at the cross point or force Tyrann Mathieu to fight through contact to get to Ebron. Matthieu tries to fight over the top but is too late. Listen to former Colts QB Andrew Luck describe the play in an interview a while back:

This wasn’t the only time in 2018 that the Colts used this concept. Let’s look at another play featuring Hilton and Ebron. Same exact concept with the stacked look and a switch release off the line. The two pass catchers are close to each other off the release but stay tight to their routes. Hilton breaks inside and draws the attention of the two inside linebackers in the mid zone. Ebron begins to break outside but recognizes that the outside corner is sitting in a zone and waiting on the route. So instead, Ebron is on the same page as Luck as he sits in the vacant zone for a modest gain.

The key concept here is making the defenders choose their own poison which is what every offense wants. Look at this next clip in the redzone against the Bills in 2018. The Colts have the tight ends both in line showing run. The tight ends both begin to work up field before crossing after ten yards with one running a post and the other running a corner. This is designed to make the deep safety on the play pause. He sits on the corner route way too long, which it is hard to fault him with the year Ebron was having, and that slight hesitation allows Erik Swoope to cross his face for the easy score.

One more play before we jump to our next topic but this play was essentially designed to be a deep shot to one of the tight ends. Same concept as the last play as the tight ends cross from an inline position to start. The post is meant to hold that over top safety and leave the corner route on a one on one route. Luck is able to get the look he wants with his basketball tight end Mo Alie-Cox one on one on the outside with the defensive back trailing and the safety sitting on the post. This play is made by the scheme that opened it up (and the elite catch by Alie-Cox).

Overall this type of play should excite you all as this is what we could see again in 2020 with Philip Rivers under center. Last year a lot of these plays were scrapped with the last second quarterback change but this type of play is right in Rivers’ wheelhouse. He loves his tight ends in the passing game and he won’t hesitate to take advantage of certain matchups that are drawn up for him. Expect a few touchdowns this season off of plays like these ones above.


The Elite Buckner Swim Move

Pass rushers all have that one elite move that is known as their move. Von Miller has the dip and rip, Julius Peppers had the hump move, and Colts legend Dwight Freeney had the spin move. For the best pass rusher on the current Colts’ roster, his elite go-to move is the swim.

When I say elite, I don’t mean that lightly. It is a deadly move that is almost unblockable with Buckner’s combination of size, speed, and quickness. Let’s look at a few slow motion clips of the move to break down the elements of it.

First off, Buckner is just an insane athlete. The way he moves laterally for a player who is 6’7” and 300 pounds is unreal. That is the first element that makes this move so insane. Look at this side to side ability as he jabs left before breaking back to the right to set up the swim. The lineman doesn’t even false step, he is just too stiff to redirect his body back to make the block on Buckner.

The next element to this move is how quick his hands are on the outside. Here he stands up tall and opens up his chest plate to the lineman. While this is typically a bad thing, Buckner uses this to set up his move. The over eager lineman starts to lunge forward and as he takes his first step, Buckner already has his hand on the players back and is working around him. Even in slow motion the quick hands are impressive. Also look how in sync his body is with this move. As soon as the right hand is on the back of the lineman’s shoulder, the left arm is swimming over the top to move around. Hands are quick and always in sync with the rest of his body.

The other element I want to discuss is the chop move that he has added with the swim. When the lineman shows his hands early and lunges out towards Buckner on this move, he uses those quick hands to swipe down and create leverage that way. This move is highly effective with Buckner’s strength and the fact that linemen can’t get their hands out and on him due to the fear of being knocked off balance by the chop. So essentially, Buckner has perfected the swim move but also learned a valuable counter that makes the swim even more effective.

Overall it is just a devastating move that we will see a lot this year. The Colts plan to play Buckner at the three technique position this season which means he will get a lot of one on one situations in the passing game. I expect to not only see this move quite a bit in 2020 but also to see a ton of sacks and pressures as a result of this move. It truly is one of the best in the game of football and we get a front row seat to watch it for the next 5+ years.