What is a "Gadget Player" and What They Mean for an Offense (1 Viewer)

TCUDan

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I was replying to one of the responses on the Taysom Hill thread regarding whether or not Payton actually "changes the offense" when Hill is in the game, and I think it is a question worth unpacking a bit more.

The short answer is "no". There is a nuanced misconception out there--one that is probably even perpetuated by tv analysts and announcers--that Hill is the Saints' "Wildcat QB." But that is a very misleading label to put on him. The idea of a 'wildcat' (or whatever you want to call it) offense is to put an extra runner and/or extra blocker on the field and scheme and formation in ways that enhance the 11-man run game. It is typically not a part of the base offense (the system). Your wildcat QB is usually someone not on your QB depth chart.

Taysom Hill is two things: He is a (true) QB, and he is a gadget player. He may take 25 offensive snaps in a game, and 7 of them are at QB while the other 18 are at other positions (WR, RB, H-back, etc.), but the Saints are running the same plays that they run when Drew Brees is at QB or Dan Arnold is at H-Back. More importantly, they're using the SAME FORMATIONS. They aren't going unbalanced or using jet motion and running some very specific version of QB power. They're running Inside Zone out of 21 personnel, only now instead of that H-Back sifting back on the DE he's arch releasing to the LB and Hill is reading the DE. Maybe they aren't running their spacing concepts in the passing game, but Hill is running the same play action and drop back plays that Brees is asked to run--concepts that are already built into the offensive system.

The difference isn't that the plays or formations Hill is given are vastly different... the deference is in the variety or ratio of plays that are called with him on the field in relation to the capacity of the playbook. When you think about Taysom Hill as a package player, I think the most appropriate comparison would be Reggie Bush. Bush was a RB, but he was also a gadget player. He could be lined up out wide, in the slot, run routes and catch screens. When he was a RB, he played RB, but usually in nickel situations, out of 10 and 11 personnel vs. lining up in I-Formation and running power like Pierre Thomas would. He was a RB who was used in packages of plays--within the system of the Saints' offense--to increase their effectiveness and stress defense both in terms of personnel and formations.

There are pros and cons to using the gadget/package players. The pros are that you spread the opposing defense really thin in their planning phase during game week. As a coach you have to think of time as a very finite resource (you only have so many hours with the team in the classroom and on the field). Now you are being forced to devote meeting time and practice periods to "This is what we do when #7 is at H-Back" or "This is what we do when #25 (Bush) is in the slot". You are forcing the defense to spend some of their finite time on a very small overall portion of your offense. A very simple anecdote I can offer is anytime I face a team that runs the "swinging gate" on PAT (you can google it if you aren't sure what it is). 99% of the time, they are going to shift back into their field goal formation and kick the PAT, but I am still forced to spend 5-10 minutes of practice time making sure we line up correctly against it, accounting for numbers and gaps so they don't get a sneaky 2 point conversion on us.

Getting back to the pros/cons of packaging certain plays for certain players, the main con is it can weigh the offense down a bit with tendencies. It is easy to chart the 5 or so plays from the previous week that the Saints ran when Hill was on the field (going back to last season) and prepare your defense for what to anticipate. This is why even when Hill is lined up as an H-Back and just sifting back on a DE or iso-ing a LB, that is a really important play because it serves as a tendency breaker. If you are just finding a way to get him the ball every time he is on the field, then suddenly his effectiveness is neutralized.

If the preseason is any indicator of what is to come, I expect Hill to be given a larger pie of the offense in 2019--particularly when he is lined up at QB. But make no mistake that if he does eventually become the successor to Drew Brees, the Saints will have to fundamentally change the foundation of their system, moving away from their current West Coast style and to something similar to what you see in Carolina or Seattle. It's fortunate for Hill that he has come along in an era where NFL coaches are not as opposed to moving to more college-style (spread option/RPO) offensive systems as they were 15-20 years ago.
 

superchuck500

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Looking at the numbers, Hill had 37 rushing attempts to only 7 passing attempts in 2018, only 3 of which were completed. I think that if Hill can add effective passing to his repertoire on his QB sub package, it would be a game changer.

If his ratio continues, teams can play him heavy to run, which we have seen defenses do. If he can improve his passing efficiency, I think it opens the playbook on him and takes the defense off of the front foot - which could be all he needs to break off bigger plays, and open up how we use him in motion and pre-snap formation changes.
 
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mdharper

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Nice post as usual. I really like the Reggie Bush analogy.

Personally I wish Hill were better at reading the DE on the zone read. He seems to have made up his mind pre-snap.
 

superchuck500

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With Hill at QB and Brees at WR, it's like we're down a man on O.

Has Hill ever thrown to Brees? Do DBs ever press Brees?
The reason why we do that is to limit the defense's personnel. If Brees subs out, the defense knows Taysom is taking the snap. If they're both in the huddle, the defense has a to presume Brees is going to be the QB. But given how effective Taysom is running, it's helpful to have Brees in the huddle - otherwise, the defense can go to a more run-stop personnel.

It doesn't usually take us a full man down because they have to stick somebody out there at least near enough to keep it from being a free sideline play to Brees. But I don't think they ever actually press him.
 

dutar76

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With Hill at QB and Brees at WR, it's like we're down a man on O.

Has Hill ever thrown to Brees? Do DBs ever press Brees?
Drew has been asked if he's actually playing as a receiver out there on those plays. He said something along the lines of: If they're putting a corner on me then I'm doing the job. If they don't, then I hope Taysom sees that I'm wide open.
 

Yatman

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Just seems a worthless risk, unlike say, an onside kick to start a second half.

If Brees were ever thrown the ball, an opponent may well think, "I'm removing the key to your offense with this big hit, legal or not."
 

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Just seems a worthless risk, unlike say, an onside kick to start a second half.

If Brees were ever thrown the ball, an opponent may well think, "I'm removing the key to your offense with this big hit, legal or not."
Not really. I mean, you don't throw to Drew if he's covered. But if the defender bites on a run or fake... or falls down... and Drew gets behind him. You absolutely throw to him. From there Drew knows to get out of bounds if necessary.
 
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TCUDan

TCUDan

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Just seems a worthless risk, unlike say, an onside kick to start a second half.

If Brees were ever thrown the ball, an opponent may well think, "I'm removing the key to your offense with this big hit, legal or not."
Drew is not getting the ball unless there is no one within 20 yards of him. The defense has to respect that he is one of the 11 players on the field, and the pros of keeping him on the field/in the huddle outweigh the cons of a defender going rogue and trying to get a cheap shot on him.

Keep in mind that he's also not a faberge egg. He's an NFL athlete, and he knows how to keep himself out of the fray as much as needed.
 

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Tha Pats ran a gadget play with Brady as the receiver recently. However, visions of a Robey-Coleman-like late hit on Brees cloud my brain. As TCU mentioned, Brees is still a very good athlete and he also has uncanny spider senses about impending pressure. I think he'd be okay.

And great to have you posting, TCU. I love to hear your breakdowns.
 

SaintSpyNDallas

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Tha Pats ran a gadget play with Brady as the receiver recently. However, visions of a Robey-Coleman-like late hit on Brees cloud my brain. As TCU mentioned, Brees is still a very good athlete and he also has uncanny spider senses about impending pressure. I think he'd be okay.

And great to have you posting, TCU. I love to hear your breakdowns.
Has everyone forgotten his run against ATL? Brees is an athlete who can take a hit and finish the play.
 

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