Mesh is one of my favorite plays in the Air Raid. Let’s go through a couple coaching points that might help you as you install it.
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1) This play works against every coverage, but I especially like it against man or man-under because the rub of the two crossers will knock one of the defenders off of their responsibilities. Still, I will call this play against any coverage at any time. It is great on the goaline, great on 3rd and 2, great on 1st and 10.
2) Most of the time when I am calling this play, I am anticipating one of the Mesh runners getting the ball, but the corner route is actually the most important part of the route. Versus a 2-hi safety look the corner routes will hold the safeties so they can’t run the alley and attack the mesh route. Versus Man, the corner routes clear out the CB so that the mesh runners have clear grass as the cross the ball. A couple coaching points on this route.
a) First, make sure your receivers stem their man. I will write more on this in the future, but stemming is basically the process of squaring your man up. Whatever his leverage, you want your receiver to have a 2-way go. So, by the time you are ready to make your break you should square him up.
b) Second, if there is open grass, the ball may be thrown to a spot before the receiver looks. So, I like to teach my guys to aim for a spot 20 yards away on the sideline. This will lead to an angle somewhere between 30 and 45 degrees. That way, their angle is consistent and if the QB has to throw early, he can anticipate the angle. If you are inside the 10, they should aim at the back pylon.
3)The best way I’ve found to coach the Mesh routes is to have the receivers slap hands as the reach the mesh point. The mesh point is 6 yards directly over the ball. They will take the most direct route toward that point and slap with their left hands. So, the man coming from the right will always go over the top and the man coming from the left will always go underneath. Forcing them to slap hands will train them to run right off each other’s shoulders and create a nice rub. If they always remember to slap with their left hand, then you will never have a collision.
4) If you are game planning for a team that runs a lot of cover 3 or cover 4, then you must anticipate that an outside backer or strong safety will be sitting in the flat. We teach our mesh runners that if they see someone in their flat they should sit down and look for the ball. So, after the mesh point their eyes go to their flat. If it is open grass, keep running. If there is someone sitting there, then sit down and look for the ball. It is important you don’t guess on Friday night. Scout your opponent well. If they are a zone team, then practice your Mesh routes all week with your receivers sitting down. If your opponent mixes up their coverages well, then mix it up in practice.
5) This is the simplest progression in our drop back game. The Progression is Corner, Mesh, Swing. As the QB comes to the line (or based on the scouting report) he is going to pick his best corner route match up. As he takes his five step drop, his eyes go to that corner route. So, let’s say he picks the Z because you have identified that the right CB is weak. As he takes his drop, his eyes go to the grass where the Z is running. This is really important. Don’t stare at the Z. That’s how you throw picks to lurking safeties. Look at the area he is going. In this case, the break is at 10 yards and he is aiming at a point on the sideline 20 more yards in front of him. That is the area the QB needs to read. If that grass is open he throws the ball on his 5th If the Z is covered or there is a safety sitting in that grass, he resets and looks the mesh point to see which receiver breaks open. If they are both covered or if they get knocked of their routes, he finds his back in the flat. It is a really simple progression for the QB.
***The number one problem with young QB’s is that they wait too long to look at their first read. They do not read the first route in their progression during their drop. If your QB waits until his fifth step to look at the Z, he will miss his window and he will be too late to come down to the mesh point. You must read the grass during your drop. On his fifth step, the ball should be gone or he should be on to his mesh read.