The breakout of wide receiver Courtland Sutton has a been a shining bright spot in a what has been a tough season for the Broncos so far.
So far in his sophomore season, Sutton has racked up 26 catches for 401 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 15 yards per reception. Additionally, of his 26 receptions so far this season, a whopping 20 of them have gone for a first down or touchdown.
His emergence has been, in part, due to his refinement in route running and continued development of his contested catch ability. MHR’s Joe Rowles broke down Sutton’s game last week, so check that out if you haven’t yet read it.
However, another just as important piece of Sutton’s impressive start to this season has been Rich Scangarello drawing up concepts to specifically to get Courtland Sutton open, and take advantage of his skillset.
Every offensive playmaker needs a great schemer behind them, putting them in the best position to succeed, and Scangarello has done that with Sutton so far.
Let’s take a look.
I broke this one down after the Packers game but it’s worth mentioning again. One of the techniques we’ll see throughout these plays is Scangarello creating space within the defense for Sutton to go to work, often using 3x1 sets or motioning a running back out to create essentially a trips side where the other receivers work to pull defenders away from Sutton.
We see that here, starting with the RB motion. The motion pulls the underneath slot defender towards the sideline and holds him there so he doesn’t interfere with the passing lane. Next, Sanders in the slot will occupy the underneath defender on the inside.
What this creates, and what you’ll continue to see, is a sort of seas parting effect where there is a perfect window for Flacco and Sutton to connect.
This is great design.
You’ll see another similar design here in the red zone against the Jaguars. Lindsay moves in motion right before the snap and draw the overhang defender outside to chase him, Fant will hook up inside, walling off that underneath defender.
This leaves Sutton 1-on-1 with great leverage and safety help too far away.
Flacco puts some mustard on the throw and rips it in for the touchdown.
This one is a variation of Double China 7 where the #1 and #2 receivers on the trips side occupy the slot and wide corners while Sutton comes over the top on the corner (or 7) route.
This is great against both man and zone as it puts Sutton as the #3 WR, creating a mismatch in coverage.
Sutton executes it perfectly and I’m actually ok with the underthrow from Flacco which keeps Sutton away from the safety.
Scangarello draws it up to get it in Sutton’s hands, and then Courtland does the rest with some excellent after the catch moves for the score.
I saved the best for last. This play is one that Vic Fangio commented about after the game and said was one of his favorite plays of the game.
“The play that he made the other day two plays before his long touchdown where he caught the ball two, three yards, maybe even four yards short of the first down and plowed his way to get the first down was one of my favorite plays in that game. That’s what set up his big one two plays later. He’s playing well and he’s playing with confidence.”
The play that Fangio is talking about is actually a concept that Scangarello brought over from the 49ers offense last year.
It’s actually a play they unleashed on Denver when they played the Broncos last year. It’s a corner route with a return route underneath it. Kyle Shanahan also flairs a RB out here to pull away the interior LB.
It’s great for man coverage as the vertical route functions as a pick and Kittle’s initial break confuses Stewart here who tries to go over the top to break on the out, but then Kittle whips the route back inside and is wide open.
Love this Route Concept from Kyle Shanahan out of Tight Twins!— Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) February 26, 2019
2️⃣ Stack behind #1 ➡️ Out ↩️ Return
Safety gets caught running over the top to the Out Route pic.twitter.com/WHnsOg1hlL
Scangarello adapted this on Sunday’s game on a big 3rd down play.
The two route combo is the same as the play above from Kyle Shanahan, but Scangarello adds a crossing route by the TE to draw away the underneath defender instead of the running back flair out.
In the first example, this was a great man beater, but the Chargers play zone on the concept, and it works well here too, because the vertical route pulls the zone defenders deep, and the crossing takes away the hook defender.
This leaves Sutton essentially 1-on-1 again.
Flacco throws this perfectly on time and there’s enough space for Sutton to make the catch and then make some magic happen after the catch.
Here it is from another angle.
Scangarello has been a breath of fresh air for this Denver offense and has really impressed me so far five games into being the leader of the offense.
He continues to put Denver’s playmakers in good positions and I am excited to see him continue to grow as a playcaller along with the rest of this young offense.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!