All season teams have had success throwing quick passes over the middle against the Buccaneers zone coverage, with last week in Washington being arguably the secondary’s worst performance defending inside passes.

But while many believe the issues are related to slant routes, that’s not necessarily the case, as explained by Tim Jennings.

Bucs CB Tim Jennings has given up 3 TDs in the red zone this year – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR“It’s not an up-the-field-slant. It’s like a dart,” Jennings said Monday in open locker room. “That’s a tough play… If there’s any space in between (the corner and wide receiver), then (the wide receiver) is just going now. It’s not like he’s running up the field and then doing a slant. It’s like a dart route.”

Jennings, a former two-time Pro Bowler, explained that in order for a cornerback to defend a “dart” – a pattern where the wide receiver immediately runs diagonal towards the center without taking a step up field – it’s either a guessing game to jump the route and risk the receiver releasing to the outside, or pressing within five yards in an effort to take it away.

“You either have to anticipate it and jump it, and then you risk letting them run a fade, or you can be aggressive on a guy (within 5 yards) and try to make them run somewhere else. It’s all about anticipation – taking away the slant and making them throw the fade.”

Perhaps the most famous successfully defended dart was in last year’s Super Bowl. Without hesitation, Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler cut off Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette as the ball was thrown and intercepted the pass. The key on that play, according to Jennings, was that Butler didn’t think about it, he just ran.

“He anticipated it and ran (the route) for him. He beat him there,” Jennings said…  “The thing about it is, he didn’t think about it. He just took off and made a play on the ball. That’s the only way you can play it. If (Butler) would’ve run inside and they faked outside, then (Lockette) would’ve had the whole outside beat. But he just thought, ‘I got it. I made up my mind and now I have to go.'”

The dart route is especially common near the goal line, where Lovie Smith reminded the media on Monday that it’s always man-to-man coverage in tight zones. Therefore in order for the secondary to start contesting these quick passes, they either need to be more physical within five yards, or make quicker decisions to jump the route and make a Malcolm Butler-like play.

 

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About the Author: Zach Shapiro

Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders. Contact him at: zshapiro12@gmail.com
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EastEndBoy
EastEndBoy
5 years ago

Slant, Dart, Cross…call it what you want, the rest of the league just knows it as the Buc-killer. Amazing thing is, Jennings seems to know how to defend it…but never does…is he honestly so worried about these fictitious fade routes that he can’t defend the Buc-killer route which is in reality what teams are throwing against us…I would much rather (especially in the red zone) have him take away the Buc-killer with it’s 80% success rate, than be defending the much more difficult fade throws…if teams beat us with great throws, at least we can say they were tough…when Kirk… Read more »

THECHEFO
THECHEFO
5 years ago

Perhaps he should explain this to Lovie.

Horse
Horse
5 years ago

Where is the pass pressure? Still the problem in my opinion..

MarineBuc
MarineBuc
5 years ago

There is ZERO chance of getting pressure on a slant/dart/cross…it’s 2 steps and fire. This cannot be laid at the feet of the DLine.

scubog
scubog
Reply to  MarineBuc
5 years ago

Glad you explained it to him Marine.

revfish
revfish
5 years ago

Excellent and timely article gentleman. Thoroughly enjoyed it.