Hunter Renfrow is coming off his breakout season, receiving a Pro Bowl invite. This season, the shifty slot receiver became a route running aficionado, putting corners ankles through excruciating pain.
Hunter Renfrow is a top __ route runner in the NFL?— PFF (@PFF) January 10, 2022
The former Clemson Tiger proved he was a solid slot receiver before 2021. His intelligence and understanding of zone coverages allowed Jon Gruden to lean on him with choice routes. He succeeded early on, even taking a few to the house.
Enter Josh McDaniel as the head coach who brings in the Erhard-Perkins offense part of the Patriots system. Bill Belichick has been around this system since the 1970s as a coach in New England and followed Ray Perkins to the Giants with Bill Parcels.
Inside receivers are a big key to this offense to succeed. Every route has an answer against a defense, and the best way to earn chunk plays in the middle of the field. That is why Renfrow can excel for this offense. The play examples below paint why he can become big in this offense.
Turning Renfrow into a big-play threat
Renfrow's work with the Raiders has been underneath his first three seasons. He has become a comfort player for Derek Carr to check down to and create yards after the catch. He can be used for more significant plays and working from the slot in this offense.
A concept they call smoke (two verticals) is a staple of the Erhardt-Perkins system. The inside receiver will run a post vs. two high coverages and a seam vs. single high. The example below is the Patriots vs. the Chiefs from 2017. The Chiefs will be in two high before the snap and switches to cover 3 after.
Danny Amendola is running the middle-read route, and since it's single high defense, he knows to run the post. He sets it up perfectly, beating the one on one with the safety for a massive gain of 27.
Another deep concept for slot receivers is a variation of route combinations called Gotti(option route, and go from the outside receiver), as shown below.
With the Patriots using this to set up teams to play the option, they add a stick nod to the concept called throwback. As seen below, The Houston Texans show a two-high look and end playing bracket coverage or cover 7 post-snap. Chris Hogan fakes the out route on the option, which moves the safety in front of him and then turns it up the field. The Houston Texans are caught off guard and lead to a 45-yard touchdown.
The primary way Renfrow will get the football is with option routes, and there is plenty to choose from in this offense. The only difference between the previous offenses was none of the Patriots' routes break inside with a few exceptions. It is either hitch out back outside.
On this design, we have a dig with whip option. The Patriots call this route combination jinx. A whip route is when an inside receiver fakes an in route and then whips back outside. However, if the coverage dictates an opening in front of the slot receiver, it becomes a shallow drag.
In the example above, it is Amendola on the whip option route. He reads the defense correctly, seeing the opening left by the linebackers in coverage. He perfectly stays inside, and Brady hits him for the easy completion underneath.
The following option route is a weakside and strong option from a 2x2 set. The slot receiver can break out or do a hitch by reading the coverages.
Amendola is the target again, and the Jacksonville Jaguars are in the two-high quarters coverage. Amendola reads it based on the release knowing the out route will be wide open based on the coverage rules. Brady sees it and hits him for the first down late in the game.
Renfrow is already an ascending player in this league. He now has an opportunity to turn that consistency with Josh McDaniels and Erhardt-Perkin's offense. The future is bright for the fifth-round pick, and this offense will help him reach his full potential.