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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Pat Shurmur’s personnel usage at the center of Vikings offensive success

By Matthew Coller

Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has taken a page out of Kyle Shanahan’s book and it’s paid major dividends for Case Keenum.

Last season, when Shanahan was the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, he routinely used heavy personnel packages with multiple tight ends to create mismatches for his gifted wide receiver Julio Jones. When quarterback Matt Ryan had two tight ends, his QB rating was 122.8 and when there were three TEs in the game, he had a perfect 158.3 rating (31-for-38 with eight touchdowns, zero interceptions).

Over the past four weeks, Shurmur has called upon No. 2 tight end David Morgan more often to create similar issues for defenses. Morgan’s snap counts have from from as low as 10.8% in Week 2 to 51.3% against the Rams and 45.2% in Thursday’s win over Detroit.

Head coach Mike Zimmer talked on Friday about the advantages of using multiple-TE sets. He said:

“It balances a lot of formations. Typically, you don’t get a lot of nickel against that kind of thing. Really, there are five or six different formations you can get and the protections are when you’re throwing the ball, it’s hard to predetermine what the protection is going to be. It’s kind of a hit and miss operation. You can use them as a fullback. You can use guys as wide outs. You can put the receivers on the same side and the tight ends on the same side. It’s hard to know the kind of formation you’re going to get before you get in there.”

Below we have a 12-yard reception by receiver Stefon Diggs. On this play, only Diggs, Laquon Treadwell and Latavius Murray go out and both Kyle Rudolph and Morgan stay in. The Lions only rush four, so the Vikings have each defender double teamed, giving Keenum all day to sit in the pocket and wait for a receiver to come open.

At the bottom of the screen, the cornerback has outside leverage, which Diggs eventually uses to his advantage, spinning the corner back the other way on a route that he sells as go, but slams on the breaks, leaving him all kinds of open.

As Zimmer mentioned, the presence of the extra tight end forces the opponent to bring in three linebackers. The Lions even brought a safety up to the line, too, giving Diggs even more room to work in the secondary. All three linebackers bit on a play-fake, leaving extra space underneath the corner, who was playing off coverage.

The result was a fairly forgettable 12-yard throw, but one that moved the Vikings into the red zone, setting up an eventual Keenum touchdown run. Here’s the full play:

Zimmer praised Shurmur’s creativity from week-to-week, pointing out that the Vikings’ offensive coordinator either runs similar plays out of different looks or different plays out of the same look. Zimmer said:

“Some of it is the same plays, different formations. The thing I liked about it, we’ve done a lot of different things out of the same looks. You take the play on the goal line when we were in London and they handed the ball to Jerick [McKinnon] when we were on the goal line. The next week we have a boot off of the exact same look. We’re starting to do a lot of things off of the same look that defenses prepare for that look and they get something else.”

On the play below, a 14-yard completion to Thielen, the Vikings again use seven blockers, this time with fullback CJ Ham. But the twist to this play is that the offensive line all blocks left, giving the appearance of a zone run to the left. Again, the linebackers bite and up safety bite.

With the linebackers all coming forward, Adam Thielen runs clean underneath the corner and safety across the field. This is a concept used often by Shanahan with three tight ends. Shurmur uses his ace receiver instead.

As you can see, the safety who was up in the box cannot recover quick enough to provide underneath help to the corner, leaving Thielen open.

The Vikings’ success on such plays is being driven in part by their running attack. Opposing defenses fear that if they left in a nickel corner against a personnel package with either two tight ends or one tight end and a fullback, the Vikings would truck them in the running game.

These plays are an example of an OC being in lockstep with his team. Shurmur understands the types of throws that Keenum can make and knows that Thielen and Diggs can get open against almost any type of coverage.

The post Pat Shurmur’s personnel usage at the center of Vikings offensive success appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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