Without Brady in the season opener, New England made few, if any, adjustments to the offense for Garoppolo. Chances are, they will maintain that standard with Brissett, though with an added element.
The Patriots utilize an Erhardt-Perkins-based philosophy. There are three general schools of offensive thought in today’s NFL: the Coryell design emphasizes the deeper passing game and timing routes; the West Coast offense stretches the defense horizontally and uses shorter, quicker routes; and the Erhardt-Perkins offense. This third school is known mainly as a run-first system that employs play-action to attack the intermediate levels of the field. The Patriots, however, have built upon this core approach to create a spread-based version for today’s game. Since offenses all borrow concepts from one another, the Patriots incorporate some West Coast designs into their game plan, but the bulk of what they do stems from the Erhardt-Perkins school.
One core passing concept the Patriots use is the Tosser concept, a two-man design where both receivers on the same side of the field run slant routes. If the coverage — particularly an inside linebacker — jumps the inside route, the quarterback throws to the outside slant. If the defense keys in on the outside slant, then the quarterback can target the inside route.
Here Brady runs this design against the Kansas City Chiefs in last season’s playoffs. The Chiefs play cover-one, meaning they have a deep free safety as well as an underneath linebacker – known as the hole defender – to help to the middle of the field. The rest of the secondary is in man coverage. Brady has the two slant routes to his right and, with his eyes, he influences the underneath linebacker away from Julian Edelman’s slant route before throwing the ball to the inside slant.
Similarly, here is Garoppolo in Week 2 also running the Tosser concept, hitting Edelman (No. 11):
And here is a play from North Carolina State with Brissett running this same concept. Brissett takes the snap and opens to the left, reading the coverage. Once he identifies man coverage on the outside, he knows the outside slant route is his best option because the inside slant route is running off the slot defender and creating space. Brissett quickly makes his decision, throwing two steps before the receiver makes his cut to the inside. The velocity and placement are perfect. Because of the arm strength, timing and placement, North Carolina State turns this second and 13 into a first down.
In Brissett, the Patriots have a rookie who ran an offense very similar to that of New England’s. Brissett made the bulk of his throws in the short-to-intermediate range, rarely attacking the vertical area of the field. He is also adept at throwing the slant route, a pattern that has been a key component of New England’s offense for decades. Some draft scouts knocked Brissett for being slow to work through his reads and make a decision, so that will be critical to how he handles his first regular season start.
While the Patriots will look to continue running their core offensive concepts with their backup quarterbacks, one element both bring to the New England offense is mobility — something offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has been quick to apply. Brady is a drop-back passer in the classic mold and, at this stage of his career, works in the pocket but rarely leaves it intentionally. Through two weeks, though, McDaniels called plays to move Garoppolo and Brissett out of the pocket, using their athletic ability to press the edge and give the quarterback a run-pass option.
This first example finds Garoppolo (No. 10) under center early in the Week 2 game against Miami. Garoppolo fakes a stretch play to LeGarrette Blount (No. 29) before peeling back to the right, where New England has a sail concept set up with receivers at three levels. Garoppolo chooses the intermediate route and hits Chris Hogan (No. 15) for a solid gain.
In the third quarter, after Garoppolo exited because of injury, Brissett ran the same design. This time the Dolphins have the play covered, but Brissett has the athletic ability to turn the corner and pick up the first down with his feet.
With Garoppolo and now Brissett, the Patriots have young quarterbacks who can function in the offense Brady has run for more than a decade. They have the added benefit of an athleticism that can bring a new element to this offense not previously shown by the Patriots. New England faces a short week to prepare Brissett, but the rookie has the raw tools — and experience in a similar offense — to perform well in his debut.
Mark Schofield graduated from Wesleyan where he was a four-year letter winner as a quarterback and situational wide receiver. He lives in Maryland with his wife and two children.