On Chris Palmer’s offense

I plugged his work in my thoughts on the Titans-Vikings game, but Alen Dumonjic has written a longer post on how the run-and-shoot is alive in Tennessee.  Obviously, the real run-and-shoot offense as run by the Oilers and Warren Moon in the early 1990’s (and also by the Falcons and Lions in the same time frame) is dead and not coming back, at least in the NFL.

Chris Brown of Smart Football, who shows up frequently when I write about technical passing game stuff, wrote a useful series on running the run-and-shoot in the modern era that’s probably worth taking a look at (see parts one, two, three, and four).  One thing that he stresses, though maybe more in other posts, is that some elements of the run-and-shoot really are alive-and-well.  You see some of these incorporated in the league’s best passing offenses, such as the Colts and Patriots, and early evidence strongly points to more of them with the Titans than they’ve shown in the recent past.  Post-snap reading by the wide receivers is one thing I don’t think the Titans did very much under Mike Heimerdinger, but for example one of Nate Washington’s grabs against the Bears looked like an instance of that.

The hire of Dave Ragone as wide receivers coach makes much more sense from this perspective.  Ragone was of course a quarterback who played under Chris Palmer when he was with the Texans, and thus has some familiarity with the kinds of reads Titans receivers will now be asked to make.  It’ll be absolutely crucial that the receivers and quarterbacks are on the same page, and we’ll see which receivers adjust quickest to the new offense.  I think this actually played a role in Justin Gage getting cut; his veteran experience actually meant less because he doesn’t have a history of being asked to adjust his route based on the defense.

The other half of that page is of course the quarterback being on the right page.  I’m not perfectly familiar with Hasselbeck’s career, but I don’t believe that he’s ever played in a system that requires the same amount of post-play reading by the wide receivers.  Given his experience level and expertise with reading defenders in general, I’m none too concerned about him picking it up.

For Jake Locker, of course, it’ll be part of his transition to the NFL, as I’m more sure he did little of the same sort of reading while at Washington.  One thing incorporated in some versions of the run-and-shoot I expect to see is something Alen mentioned in the Vikings game, the semi-rollout as a regular feature.  This was part of the Oilers’ offense back in the day, as Moon was a good athlete, and Palmer has noted Locker is a more accurate passer while on the move.  This also can be used as a partial solution for some of the protection problems that plagued the run-and-shoot (though of course it also creates others).

One aspect of the “true” run-and-shoot that I’m not sure will survive is that it was very small receiver friendly.  Lining up with a receiver trio of Hawkins, Washington, and Damian Williams wouldn’t have been particularly out of line back in the day, and I’m not sure that’s something the Titans would be interested in doing regularly.  One thing I wonder about is if the new offense, plus the current personnel, might result in more of a formal position change for Jared Cook, where he lines up as an in-line tight end hardly at all.  I don’t think that’s something in the immediate plans, as using him in a variety of roles would help the Titans present more multiple looks, which should help the running game.  I’d expect to see Cook used a fair amount in motion, since that’s been a staple of the run-and-shoot.

Anyway, this is something I’ll be following throughout the season.  Preseason plans to write more and regularly about various aspects of the Titans have a way of not working out, but I’ll try to make an effort this season to highlight plays when the Titans are doing something interesting in the passing game.

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