The Yankee concept is a simple, yet very effective and explosive NFL passing route combination. This play call has been a Kyle Shanahan offense staple during his time with both the Falcons and 49ers. Now, it has become a favorite for Arthur Smith this season, being called in nearly every game. A majority of the Titans most explosive plays this season have come from the concept. In fact, the Yankee concept has accounted for 651 total yards, which accounts for 12.2% of the Titans total offensive yards and 19.4% of the total passing yards, and 4 touchdowns.
So what exactly is this “Yankee concept”?
The Yankee concept is a two man route combination with one WR running a deep post or go route over the top and the other WR running a deep crossing route underneath. This play call is employed from a variety of different formations and personnel groups and often incorporates a max protection with a play action.
The success of the Yankee concept is dependent on a four factors:
- Credible running game — Derrick Henry
- Solid max protection
- WR’s that can beat man coverage and excel after the catch — AJ Brown and Corey Davis
- QB that can throw accurately down the field — Ryan Tannehill
This is why this concept suits the Titans offense so perfectly.
This play call is used to attack defense with Cover-1 or Cover-3 with a single high safety. This puts a lot of pressure on the safety to make a decision. Either they ease off and help with the deep route over the top or they sneak down and come help with the crossing route underneath.
The quarterback looks at the positioning of the high safety to determine who he will throw to.
As you can see from this example against the Jaguars, the safety stays deep to help with the deep route over the top. This allows AJ Brown to beat AJ Bouye underneath and get the ball in the open field to do what he does best—create yards after the catch.
AJ Brown would go on to take this 65 yards for a touchdown. Also, the play action to Derrick Henry helps suck in the linebackers to give tons of open space in the middle of the field. This play is a great counter to teams the load the box and overcommit to stopping the run.
Now this is another example against the Chiefs.
However on this play, the safety comes down to help cover the crossing route underneath.
This allows a speedy WR like Khalif Raymond to get behind the defense for a huge 52 yard gain.
Like I said earlier in order for this to work, you need a WR to be able to beat his man down the field one on one and a Quarterback that can accurately throw this ball down field. Also due to how long it takes for the routes to develop, it is imperative that the max protection holds up long enough.
The examples I have shown are against man coverage on the boundary receivers, but it can also work against a deep zone.
Even against a Cover 3 zone, the deep post route over the top occupies the corner and safety, giving crossing route underneath plenty of space.
Arthur Smith has taken the Yankee concept and put some cool variations to it.
In Week 1 after showing showing the Yankee concept to AJ Brown for a huge gain earlier in the game, they come back to it, but instead set up a screen to Derrick Henry for a touchdown.
With the right personnel and execution, the Yankee concept can lead to a lot of huge plays and puts a lot of stress on opposing defenses. As we move into the playoffs, let’s hope a healthy Derrick Henry can get the running game going to set up more yankee concept deep bombs.
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