The Houston Roughnecks are headed to Dallas to take on the Renegades this Sunday, March 1st at 4pm (eastern) on FS1. Houston’s head football coach is June Jones, one of the main names behind the Run & Shoot offense. I wrote about the Run & Shoot, and the Roughnecks here on SOTU before, because Rhett Lashlee will be using some Run & Shoot concepts in his passing attack and overall philosophy.
The Dallas head football coach is Bob Stoops and he’s hired the Godfather of the Air Raid offense, Hal Mumme, to be his offensive coordinator. Lashlee is known more for his Air Raid concepts than his R&S concepts but really the two offenses are hard to speak about without mentioning the other. I wrote about Mumme and his scheme on SOTU, as well.
Coach Lashlee has been defined as an Air Raid guy but you’re going to see a lot of similarities between the two schemes on Sunday afternoon. They’ll really be kind of tough to tell apart as both will rely on throwing the football, utilize running backs for “touches” over carries, and base on option routes and spacing.
Jones and Mumme won’t use the same terminology (which in the XFL we can actually hear the play call so that’s cool), and Mumme will line up in two backs much more often. Now think about Lashlee’s offense. Coach Lashlee will use an h-back more than either of these two innovators will. Donald Parham, the Dallas “wide receiver,” is truthfully Hal Mumme’s h-back. Jones runs most of his formations with 10 personnel (1 back, 0 tight ends) in trips (three receivers to one side) formations.
When you look around college football, the offense most of the NCAA runs has the play above, 92 (aka Mesh), as a concept (I talk mesh and its counter play, 95 Y Cross here). That’s true of Georgia Tech and their O.C. Dave Patenaude, Phil Longo who has his own brand of RPO-influenced Air Raid at UNC, and Alabama with Steve Sarkisian.
In my piece about the Run & Shoot a major reason to watch is the play of PJ Walker. Walker, a dual threat type of quarterback from Temple, has been electric at making plays. If you watch D’Eriq King’s highlight tape from 2018 and Walker’s through three weeks of the XFL you’ll see similar QB’s.
On the other sideline for Dallas is Landry Jones. Jones is much more of a typical R&S and Air Raid QB that we think of. He’s less mobile, weak armed, and is supposed to limit mistakes but Jones has struggled to do that at times. Walker has looked like the more NFL-ready of the two and Jones is the one with more NFL service time.
For both offenses, the screen game is huge. Miami has been missing out on taking advantage of horizontal space over the past few seasons. Mark Richt would dabble in it but never wholesale commit. Mumme and Jones like to speed up the tempo and take advantage of the sidelines.
Smoke is when the outside wide receiver comes back to the QB a little and the inside receiver or receivers will block out on the cornerback and flat defender. This gives the outside receiver room to work in space and change up the screen receiver. Someone like Jeremiah Payton could get work on the outside running this.
This looks like it was possibly a bubble RPO and Walker just liked the numbers game to the boundary. It looks like Houston got three receivers to only two defenders and with one of those defenders bailing on the snap it was an easy throw read. Of course Dee Wiggins and Mike Harley have bubbles written all over them, and I would even like to see Brevin Jordan getting these throws, too.
Scoring over the middle
Remember, in both the Run & Shoot and the Air Raid the biggest threat to the defense is the fluidity of the system. Mumme often calls “6” down in the red zone. Just because that’s a four verts play by design, it doesn’t mean the Dallas receivers are going to run four verts pre or post snap.
Here, it looks like Jones and Mumme have tagged (the beauty of the OC being able to talk to the QB through the pre-snap process) a slot lookie and the outside WR is running a dig. The inside receiver runs a vertical to push the defenders away. I prefer this with the inside guy running a corner, but if it works it works.
June Jones will also throw to the middle of the field in the red zone. With Walker being such a heady QB and his ability to run if the look is clogged, Jones has no fear of throwing a pick in this situation. The red zone fade was always popular as a “my guy or out of bounds” 50/50 philosophy but over the middle is where the touchdowns are in the XFL and college football world.
Spring Game and Summary
The Miami spring game will be played at Traz Powell Stadium on April 11th. However, the TV availability could be limited as it’s not an ACC caliber stadium situation. I’m not sure if it will be on TV or not, or filmed and available for later consumption. What I do know is that the XFL is on Saturday and Sunday and the Sunday 4pm matchup features some very Rhett Lashlee type football.
I do however expect Lashlee to run the football and utilize RPO’s much more than Hal or June but not quite to the level of Phil Longo. Picture a few of the concepts I’ve detailed above: Mesh, Bubble and Smoke- all being ran by current Hurricanes. Watch Walker’s and Jones’ film from the XFL and see how quickly the ball is designed to come out of their hands, and if it doesn’t, they either check down to a swinging back (Jones) or run for a 1st down (Walker).
I’m loving the idea of King looking like Walker in the Lashlee offense with the production of six-foot wide receiver Cam Phillips, or a six-foot-eight h-back type in Parham (picture Will Mallory in this role).