A mesh concept in football is a passing strategy that involves two offensive players running crossing routes that meet in the middle of the field. These two routes are run at very similar depths creating a natural pick against the defenders.
With a mesh concept, one of the two route runners is going slightly deeper down the field. This allows one player to go underneath while the other goes overtop as they cross.
As these players cross paths they should be extremely close to one another. What this does is create a crowd of players making it difficult for the defenders to stay with their man.
Mesh concepts also feature receivers running other routes during the play. Some players will be running go routes to clear out defenders while others will act as second or third receiving options for the quarterback.
Benefits Of The Mesh Concept
Now that you know what the mesh concept is it’s time to understand how this offensive strategy can benefit your team.
Creating A Natural Pick
Arguably the most important aspect of the mesh concept is the natural pick that is put on the defenders of the crossing routes.
Offensive players are not allowed to intentionally make contact with a defender, but forcing the defender to go around them is entirely legal.
If the natural pick created by the two receivers crossing paths can get the defender to take a step or two off his path the odds of this play being successful goes way up.
Ideally, one of the defenders will be forced to step around the receiver coming from the opposite direction as well as the defender covering him.
This will give the intended receiver more than enough separation for a pass to be thrown his way.
On some occasions the defenders may even run into each other, taking themselves completely out of the play.
It is the separation generated by the natural pick that makes this concept so successful in the NFL.
Finding Holes Between Zones
When running a mesh concept in order to create a natural pick you are expecting the defense to be playing man coverage.
If they are not playing man coverage the defenders will not run with the receivers across the field and therefore they will not be picked.
But do not fret the mesh concept can be successful against zone defenses as well. On these plays, the outside receivers often run routes towards the sideline in order to pull the zone defenders closer to the boundary.
This way when the crossing routes go across the middle of the field it will be very difficult for the defenders in the middle zones to cover the receivers. This is because they will have to pass these receivers off from zone to zone.
As the receiver enters the zone closest to the sideline they may find the defender has been pulled away by the outside receiver’s route.
This gives the quarterback an opportunity to throw these passes as the receivers cross from one zone to another. In order to stop this, the defenders will have to communicate extremely effectively when passing off the receivers throughout the play.
Huge YAC Opportunities
Another big benefit of the mesh concept is the YAC opportunities for receivers. YAC in football stands for yards after catch and refers the yards gained by a receiver after they catch the ball.
With a mesh concept these players have a chance to gain a lot of yards after the catch especially when playing against a man coverage defense.
When catching the ball in stride heading towards the sideline the receivers on these plays have a chance to bust off a big play up the sideline.
Oftentimes when running laterally across the field you can catch defenders flat-footed and beat them to the sideline. This can result in a pass as short as five yards turning into a fifty-yard touchdown.