The play that will be discussed in this article is what is often referred to as a leaky TE fade. The TE engages his block on the Defensive End and then releases (leaks out) late for a wide open throw and catch. This is effective as defences will often just assume the TE is run blocking and ignore him in order to fulfil their run game responsibilities. This often leaves the TE uncovered and allows him to run his route without any threat from the defense.
Play 1 – PA Feed Me + TE Fade
The first example we will look at came in the 2017 Week 4 matchup between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens. This play is a variation of the Feed Me concept which is discussed in our earlier article: Misdirection Football Plays – Using Bunch Formations to Move the Defense. On this play, the Jaguars are lined up in a 3×1 squeeze formation with the Y lined up in the TE position. The flanker (Z) runs a reverse while the H receiver arc blocks for the receiver running the reverse path. The Y blocks the End and then leaks out after a few seconds to run a fade route.
This variation of the leaky TE fade is effective because there is so much movement behind the line of scrimmage. The defense doesn’t know which player will end up with the football and they are forced to keep their eyes in the backfield. This freezes the defense and draws their attention away from the TE (Y) who appears to be blocking. This creates a lot of space in behind the defense for the TE to run his fade. The result is a wide open throw and catch for an easy touchdown.
Play 2 – ‘Z’ motion + TE Fade
The next example has us looking at the Jaguars once again, with this play coming in the 2017 AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars are lined up in a 2×2 formation with the Y in the TE position on the right hand side of the formation. The flanker (Z) motions into the wing position pre-snap, blocks the defender over the TE post-snap and then releases on his route across the formation. The Y once again blocks the End and then leaks out to run the fade. The QB and RB fake inside zone to the opposite side of the formation to draw the defense’s attention away from the TE.
This variation is effective as the defender who is responsible for covering the Y is forced to engage the fake block from the Z receiver, which draws his attention away from the TE. This allows the Y to get a free release once he sheds his block on the End. The result is once again an open throw and catch for an easy score.
Play 3 – PA Inside Zone + TE Fade
Jaguars? Again? Yes, but this time we’re looking at an example from the 2019 Week 3 Matchup between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans. On this play, the Jaguars are lined up in a two-back formation with the Y in the TE position on the left hand side of the formation. The H receiver is lined up in the fullback position and performs an iso block on the linebacker. The RB fakes an inside zone handoff to the opposite side of the formation (away from the TE). This brings the defenders down to play against the run and draws their attention away from the single side TE. Once again, the Y engages his block on the End then leaks out to run the fade. Yet again, this results in an open throw and catch for another easy touchdown.
The next time we saw this concept, it came the following week in the Week 4 game between the Los Angeles Charges and the Miami Dolphins. The Chargers ran this play with similar success and it should have resulted in a touchdown, but the TE stopped running his route and started backpedalling towards the goal line. This caused him to trip and fall before he reached the endzone and stopped him from scoring. If he had kept running forwards instead of turning around too early then he would have scored. He did leave the field with an injury after this play, so perhaps that’s why he lost his footing and fell short of the endzone.
Play 4 – Flea Flicker + TE Fade
The next variation of this concept came in the 2019 Week 6 game between the Falcons and the Cardinals. On this play the Falcons are lined up in a 2×2 condensed formation with 3 TE’s on the field. The H motions into the single side TE position on the left hand side of the formation pre-snap. The Y lines up in the TE position on the right hand side of the formation along with the Z receiver (who is also a tight end on this play). The X receiver lines up in a squeeze position close to the box. The QB hands the ball off to the RB who then turns around and tosses it back to the QB.
This flea flicker draws the defense down to defend the run, leaving them vulnerable for a pass in behind. This is also effective at drawing attention away from the H receiver who is engaged with blocking the End. The H then leaks out to run the fade and is wide open for an easy throw and catch.
Play 5 – ‘Z’ motion PA Inside Zone + TE Fade
The next variation of this concept came later in the season during the Week 8 game between the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals. On this play the Saints are lined up in a 2×2 formation with the Y in the TE position on the right hand side of the formation. The flanker (Z) motions across the formation into the opposite slot position pre-snap. The QB fakes the handoff to the RB and then throws the ball to the Y running the leaky fade.
As you can see, this is essentially the same concept but with another different formation and variation to confuse the defense. The pre-snap motion from the Z receiver is also a great way of revealing whether or not the defense is in man or zone coverage. The motion reveals that the defense is in man coverage pre-snap.
This is an effective play call on 3rd and short yardage situations as the defense is ready to stop the run and very vulnerable to the TE leaking out in behind them for a wide open catch.
Using Variations to Get Your Tight Ends the Ball
Throughout this article, we have looked at a variety of different variations to this one particular concept of the leaky TE fade. As I do in all my articles I encourage you to add as much variation and window dressing to your plays as you can in order to make it harder for defences to stop you from moving the ball. The examples we looked at in this article have provided several different variations with which you can implement a leaky tight end fade to good success.
If you have any questions or would like to add to this discussion please comment in the section below.
Feature image photo credit:
photo credit: Keith Allison <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/27003603@N00/31851372268″>Eric Saubert</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>