We have all seen Marcus Mariota electrify football fans by breaking the backside of a defense on a zone-read play with his legs, but there are other opportunities created in a zone-read offense that fit the skills of a live-armed and game-speed intelligent quarterback.The concept highlighted in the diagram above is a smash route concept over an inside zone read (IZR) that runs 3-receivers through a primary read zone in the defensive backfield. This allows the QB to concern himself with reading just 1/2 of the field.
During the ride, the QB can read the primary zone in the defensive backfield by looking in one direction--roughly 10' o'clock. It's the QB's responsibility to know when to pull the ball and when to deliver the ball to the running back. If the unblocked defensive end attacks the QB, he needs to deliver the ball to the RB and allow the RB to take advantage of the double team blocks at the line of scrimmage.
If the defensive end plays a contain position or crashes on the RB, the QB has the option to ride the mesh and read the coverage (contain DE) or pull the ball, roll and make a quick throw into the primary read zone (crashing DE).
Basic read progression during the mesh ride:
1. The slant route from the 'X' is the quick hitting route--the rhythm route (mesh-pull-throw). If the coverage is favorable, this option is determined pre-snap. It also puts pressure on the WILL linebacker and Safety.
2. The development of the chair route (out-and-up) from the 'S' is the read route (mesh-ride-read-pull-throw). The route combination creates a natural rub in man coverage and gives the 'S' an opportunity to sneak behind a zone coverage or draw the deep cover safety from the middle of the field.
3. The drag route (crossing route) from the 'Y' will fill the cleared space of the slant and the chair. This is the check-down read (mesh-ride-read-pull-throw). Jordan Matthews made his bones on the drag route from the slot in 2014. This route puts pressure on the linebackers to shadow the cross in zone coverage and potentially move off their best spot in defending the tailback run option. Its simply devastating against man coverage.
At this point in the mesh-ride, the QB's eye's have moved from a 10/11 o'clock focus (the slant and chair routes) to an 11/12 o'clock position--picking up the drag and peaking downfield at the safety.
4. If the QB does not like any of the previous passing options, it should mean that the defense is giving ground against the run and the QB can deliver the ball to the RB (mesh-ride-ride-deliver). As the QB continues to ride the mesh-point and his eyes turn to 12 o'clock, he'll get a good final look at the post route from the 'Z' receiver. If the safety has rolled coverage to the chair route by the 'S', stepped-up to the slant route from the 'X' or stepped up on the run-option, the QB can pull it and go downtown for TD (mesh-ride-read-ride-pull-TD).
At any point in the process, the QB cannot go wrong by simply delivering the ball to the RB and letting him hit the hole hard and go to work. The spread formation stretches the defense horizontally and a hard-hitting runner will have ample opportunity to burrow for 2 to 4 yards behind his offensive line's double teams at the line of scrimmage.
This smash over zone-read concept is just one way Chip Kelly's scheme can work with a conventional QB and a hard running tailback.
Here's a video where you'll see a very similar concept. Its a slightly different pass pattern layered over a zone-read look.