On combination routes for Jaguars offense

November, 21, 2012
11/21/12
3:57
PM ET
Back in August we considered the Jaguars’ philosophical commitment to isolation routes in the passing scheme.

Andy Benoit if the New York Times Fifth Down wrote back then:
The questionable talent at wide receiver could be extra debilitating given that (Mike) Mularkey’s scheme uses, almost exclusively, isolation routes. In other words, none of the receivers’ routes will combine to work off one another. Everything is separate and easy for defenses to identify. New offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski (who will actually be the one calling plays) had a similar type of passing game in Cincinnati. This rudimentary approach can work when you have high-powered receivers (Mularkey had Roddy White and Julio Jones in Atlanta; Bratkowski had Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens a few years ago in Cincy), but can be constricting when you don’t.

I thought maybe that would simplify things for Blaine Gabbert and rookie receiver Justin Blackmon.

But it clearly didn’t do much to boost what was a terribly anemic Jaguars’ offense until Sunday.

Monday, I found a very smart comment on this post about Mularkey deciding to go with Henne even if Gabbert was healthy.

Wrote Blackjacks1:
I think the Jags changed their offense in this last game. One of the link[s] you posted to a Jags preview early in the year talked about how Mularkey's offense used isolation routes exclusively. As you know isolation route are WR routes that do not work off of each other (ie. pick plays, moving the safety off his spot, etc). Isolation routes put more pressure on the WR to get open, because they don't get any help from the routes working together. I believe you made a comment about how that's not a good idea for this weak WR corp.

I've got great seats at the Jag home games. I can see the WR routes develop really well from my seat. And I'm telling you that the Jags were running isolation routes pretty exclusively in every home game this year. The WR were having all kinds of issues getting open and were getting no help from the offensive scheme.

But yesterday's game was different. The WR were definitely not running as many isolation routes. They were running pick plays. They were sending a man deep to clear up room for mid-range throws. And the WR (especially Blackmon) excelled in this gameplan because the pressure of getting open wasn't all on them. I also think this is why Houston's defense struggled to adapt. They hadn't seen any of this out of the Jags offense on film this year.

I took that to both Henne and Mularkey in conference calls just before lunch on Wednesday.

Mularkey said the offense is pretty much the same as it has been since his days running it in Pittsburgh, with some things from new assistants sprinkled in.

But Henne offered more, and enough to confirm that Blackjacks1 is a smart football observer.

“I think we’re definitely making combo reads with our receivers and a little bit more progression reading,” he said. “We’re just trying to find ways of how we can attack a defense and get our playmakers the ball. And whether that’s one-on-one matchups or combination routes, we’re going to try to add them all and see what they do best.”

Sunday, the Titans will be more prepared for some of the new stuff that may have been used for the first time in Houston. The Jaguars should continue to try stuff that extends beyond the core isolation routes philosophy.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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