The passing game has the Las Vegas Raiders offense off to a hot start when most thought they would take a step back. Instead, they are the number one passing offense and moving the football at ease the last six and half quarters.
One of the reasons for this is the efficiency of choice concepts. Derek Carr's stats running these designs exhibit the success of the play throughout the first two weeks. I charted the stats below.
- 87% comp
- 328 yards
- Three touchdowns
- 10.58 YPA
- 143.01 passer rating
Those types of numbers show how explosive these passing plays have become when called on gameday.
What is a choice/lookie? The design of these concepts evolves around a wide receiver running a hitch, slant, or out route. Usually, it's the z receiver in most offenses, but these concepts are for Waller and Renfrow with the Raiders.
Here is the famous Jon Gruden call with Chris Simms when he can't spit out the vocabulary.
Re-tweet from NFL Throwback ,"....... Not so easy to memorize Jon Gruden's play calls.— DFS Prime Lineups (@DFSPrimeLineups) August 13, 2019
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The Raiders play-caller has redesigned these concepts since his days in Tampa Bay. It creates matchup problems, and Carr has learned to hit every read. The main one used throughout his tenure is 3x1 choice shallow.
3x1 Choice Shallow
3x1 choice shallow can be confused with arches. Gruden added his spice by evolving the pass play into a choice route and added different reads from the 3x1 for Derek Carr.
The shallow route(drag) out of the bunch is key to this play because it usually frees up space for the choice route, especially versus two high. Against single high, it creates an even more significant advantage with the receiver reading based on leverage.
Above is the play versus a single high. The Ravens are in cover three against the 3x1 bunch. This being cover 3 creates a mismatch with the curl flat defender with the outside corner playing his third to cover Edwards. Waller reads this route correctly because Marlon Humphrey hesitates into his bail technique to make sure Waller doesn't go outside. Waller can still cross the face of the curl/flat defender and convert a first down on the catch.
Here it is again inside the red zone(where the Raiders should use this play more often). The Ravens are in man-to-man defense. The shallow route creates the one on one for Waller with plenty of space to the inside. The safety tries to break on the throw, but Carr gets it out on time, allowing Waller to spin out.
The safety dropping highlights the adjustment created by Gruden to this play concept. He adds the big post as the first read because safeties were jumping the choice routes.
It took us back to third and two versus the Chiefs back in 2020. The Chiefs are in cover 0 and are ready to jump the choice routes. They were not ready for Gruden's new wrinkle at all, and Carr saw this pre-snap. After the snap, Carr knows Ruggs has the advantage. The quarterback remains strong under pressure and delivers a strike for a 72-yard touchdown.
Then we saw the same adjustment last Sunday. Derek Carr saw that Minkah Fitzpatrick is the single high safety and diagnosis the blitz pre-snap. Post snap, he buys time to the post by holding Fitzpatrick and then throws a moon shot for Ruggs to run under the football. Sixty-one yards later, it's a touchdown and game over.
3x1 Choice Shallow with Dig
Choice routes come with a dig alert on specific concepts. It can be a spot concept with the dig route replacing the corner on the top of the bunch or an isolated backside dig. However, Gruden implemented a different version that led to an explosive play.
Against the Pittsburgh Steelers cover 3, there is a new wrinkle. Usually, the dig comes from the opposite side of the Choice route. The wide receiver runs a corner route on the same side as Waller.
The Raiders will be running two digs with Ruggs creating a hi/lo concept for Carr. Post-snap, the robber safety is pulled down to Edwards, leaving an open lane for Ruggs. Carr throws with anticipation hitting Ruggs on time for Yac and a gain of 30.
3x1 Choice Max Protection
Choice max protection is another variation of the 3x1 choice shallow. Instead of the man at the top of the bunch running a shallow, he runs a deep cross to create a big play. The max protection helps when they are facing cover 0.
The Baltimore Ravens learned the hard way about this play in overtime. They lined up in cover 0 with an all-out blitz dialed. The post route becomes the first read with no safety, and the slow release from Renfrow keeps in the corner behind Humphrey from moving. It creates a natural rub for Zay Jones, and he can release for a wide-open touchdown to end the game.
The choice concepts will be a staple for this offense as we go along. Gruden always finds ways to get creative and add new pieces to the scheme to keep teams off guard. We haven't seen all the profound variations out of the 3x1 this season. Hopefully, Gruden saves those for the end of the year run.