A good friend of ours here at Hogs Haven, Brian Murphy, posted his interview with newly acquired Redskins wide receiver Joshua Morgan today. It's an excellent piece, and I strongly suggest you go read the whole article (click here). But one particular point jumped out while I was reading it this morning.
"When I first got here, coach [Mike] Shanahan sat me and Pierre [Garcon] down in his office together on day one and said they wanted us to be a major, major part of the offense," Morgan said. "He said Pierre was going to be the X and I was going to play the Z. I think my biggest part is, when they call my number, I just need to be ready to make the play."
- Homer McFanboy, Getting to know Joshua Morgan.
This surprised me somewhat, because I was under the impression that Pierre Garcon played primarily the Z receiver role during his time in Indianapolis. Now I know at this point some of you are saying "UK, what the F@&K is the difference between a Z and X receiver?", allow me to explain.
The Z (or Flanker/FL) receiver is quite often the featured receiver of the offense. Years ago some west coast offenses would channel the majority of the passing plays to the Z receiver. But essentially, the Z receiver lines up a yard or so of the line of scrimmage and more often than not on the same side as the tight end (also known as the Y). The Z receiver would use this extra yard to help them avoid being jammed at the line of scrimmage by a corner; so generally the Z receiver would be a smaller guy with speed.
More after the jump.
X (or Split End/SE) receivers are usually more physical guys. They line up directly on the line of scrimmage, so have to be able to battle against a corner attempting to jam him at the line. This leads to the guys who are taller, stronger guys playing the X. The X will line up on the opposite side of the tight end.
For the more visual learners, here's what it looks like drawn up.
Notice how the Z receiver is slightly off the line of scrimmage, while the X is on par with the offensive lineman. The X is lined up on the opposite side of the offensive line from the tight end (who is marked as Y).
With that explained, lets go back to the Morgan quote. Morgan says that Shanahan told him Garcon was playing the X, while Morgan would be the Z. Now Garcon is listed as 6'0", 210lbs, while Morgan is listed as 6'1", 215lbs. As we learned earlier, generally the smaller, quicker guy would play the Z. But even as the smaller guy, Garcon is going to be played at the X, despite playing the Z for the majority of his time in Indy.
I was stumped as to why Mike Shanahan would do this. So I looked into the benefits, and the answer hit me. Play-action bootlegs and roll-outs. With Mike Shanahan's zone-blocking stretch running system, it's extremely easy to call bootlegs off of a straightforward run. Generally the fake run will go to the strong side of the line; that is, the side of the line with the tight end on it. We know from earlier, the X receiver lines up on the opposite side of the tight end, meaning he's on the backside of the play. On an average running play, the X would be ignored by the defense because he's on the backside of the run. This gives him a terrific chance to get open deep on play-action. If the defense is sold into believing the run, the could ignore the X, allowing him to run wide open down field.
Again, here's how it could look drawn up:
Even if the corner doesn't fully bite on the play-action, if Garcon gets a step on him, he can use his speed to run by him and get open deep. So my conclusion to Garcon playing the X is, prepare to see a lot of play-action bootlegs.
What do you guys think? Do you like the idea of Garcon playing the X, or should we stick to what he knows at the Z? Let us know in the comments below. As always, if you enjoyed this post, you're welcome to hit the recommend button.