The Rams and the Chase Morlock Wheel

The season is just around the corner. Can you feel it? Can you smell it?

Before we get to kick-off, I wanted to look at one more play I’d like the Packers to work into their 2018 offense. According to Ross Uglem, it’s called the Chase Morlock Wheel and it was originated at North Dakota State.

Let’s watch the play. This was taken from the 2017 Rams Week 4 victory over the Cowboys.

Now let’s break it down a bit.

The Rams come out in 11 personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end, 3 receivers), with two receivers on the left and a single receiver on the right. The outside receiver on the left goes in motion before the snap on a Jet Sweep look. You can see the safety kind of shadow the movement, but not too extreme.

After the ball is snapped, the Jet Sweep continues across the field and runs to the flat. You can see how this moves the linebackers. The two in the middle shade towards the flat while the defensive back to that side breaks down on the receiver.

There’s a reason for this. As with so many plays, this isn’t a one-off. This is the culmination of dozens of plays that look exactly like this. This is not the first time the Rams ran something that looked like this. This could have been a Jet Sweep, in which case the linebackers and defensive backs to that side need to attack and set the edge. It could have been a way to get the motion man in space on the sideline. Fake the jet sweep, pull back then hit the man you just faked to. In that case, you can’t leave that man alone, so you drift towards the sideline and the line of scrimmage.

The defenders aren’t looking at this play in a vacuum. They’ve seen a variation of this before and will react accordingly. It’s misdirection on search of a larger gain. And if that larger gain isn’t there? Hit another receiver and try it again.

Here’s a little snippet. Watch how the linebackers shade and the defensive back crashes the line to the side the motion is heading. Keep this in mind as we move forward.

The receiver to the right takes off on a go route, dragging his defender with him. This is why it’s so important that the inside defensive back crashes: there’s no one wider than him on the field. If this is a Jet Sweep – or if the throw goes to the flat – there’s no one else out there. That’s his responsibility.

On the left side, the slot receiver also runs a go. This ends up taking two defenders and forces the single high safety to stay near the middle of the field. With two deep routes, it’s difficult to crash either side. You want to keep him away from crashing the wheel side, and this does exactly that.

The tight end pulls off the right side of the line and runs a drag. This is big. After initially being pulled over by the Jet Sweep, the linebacker in the middle is forced to recover and follow the tight end. This is big for a couple reasons:

  1. It removes a defender from the wheel zone.
  2. It gets the defender changing directions. If the wheel isn’t there, the misdirection could open up a throw to the tight end.

As you see here, this route also pulls the slot defender away from the go route. If the safety crashes the wheel side, this movement could open up a throw on that route.

What does all that get you? A nice open area of the field.

The running back runs a wheel behind it all. You still have a couple defenders to deal with, so timing is important. Here’s another angle showing some of the movement of the linebackers and the defensive back, along with the throw itself.

Watch Jared Goff [16] here: he looks down the middle of the field while dropping back, hits that back foot, bounces to reposition and fires. You can’t really go over the top to hit the wheel or it gives the safeties a chance to make a play. So it has to be on a line, but that’s a nice window to hit.

Now, here’s the twist.

I said at the top I wanted the Packers to work this into their playbook. Well…

…it’s already in there. The Packers ran this last year. Watch Ty Montgomery [88] run the wheel from the backfield. The routes are slightly different – the tight end carries the route up the field on a post instead of a drag and the Jet Sweep comes from the slot receiver instead of the outside receiver – but it’s the same play. Here’s how that diagrams out:

Based on how the defense plays this, the window is tighter on the deep wheel than it is on the Rams play, but there is plenty of room early in the route. The defender on the tight end has his back turned, so a quicker throw finds the defense out of position and the running back in space. I’ll take that all day.

Give me this same play with Davante Adams as the sole wide receiver on the left, Randall Cobb/Trevor Davis on the Jet Sweep, J’Mon Moore as the right wide receiver, Jimmy Graham as the tight end and Aaron Jones as the running back and Aaron Rodgers as the quarterback.

One of the things I love about this play is that there are so many ways you can beat a team with it. If the defense shifts to account for one player, someone else is open. It’s a shot play dressed up with a lot of different options.

One final thing on this play: if you look at the diagram above, you will notice that this play is basically a variation on the Four Verticals concept; a staple of the Air Raid offense. When run well, it can be a lethal concept.

This takes Four Verts, dresses it up a little with misdirection and plays off of tendencies that have been established. It shows them something they’ve seen before then pulls the rug out from underneath them. I’m a sucker for Four Verts andwheel routes, so it’s no surprise that I’m madly in love with this concept.


Album listened to: Big Red Machine – Big Red Machine

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