The Mesh concept is one of the staple plays of the Air Raid, and probably one of my favorite plays to call for several reasons. It is a dynamic play that is a good call versus any defense. There are built in answers for any coverage the defense throws at you, and there are multiple tags you can add to "dress up" the play to make it look more complicated for the defense.
Here is the play diagram from the Chris Hatcher playbook:
However, there was one problem I had with the play that I could never figure out how to coach. As you can see above, Z has a Corner route, which is the first read for the corner route. We have had success throwing the corner route when run by the #2 receiver (Smash, Y-Corner). Throwing the corner route to the #1 receiver is a different proposition. It is a very long throw and takes a great deal of touch to make it work.
The more I watched Texas Tech and other Air Raid teams run that route, the more it looked like something I had seen before: The Run-and-Shoot Choice Route. Every time the corner was playing loose Cover-3, Z would break off the route at 8-10 yards. The more I watched, it was obvious that he knew to break it off if he knew he could not beat the corner deep.
At the high school level, we basically only see Cover 3, Cover 4, Man or Cover 2. Either the corner is playing loose (Cov 3/4) or pressed (Man/Cov. 2). I simplified the read for the QB and Z by giving Z a pre-snap "Choice".
If the corner is playing loose (+5 yards), then Z will run an 8-yard out. He should press vertical at the corner's inside hip, make a stick move at 8-yards, and break out to the sideline. The QB should throw the ball on rhythm, and place to ball on the sideline where either the ball is caught or it is out of bounds.
With this change, the corner can really never be right. If he wants to play off (we throw a ton of hitches), then we will throw that out all day. If he is pressed, we use the principles of Pat & Go to throw the fade over the top. Since making this change, our QBs throw the Choice route about 75% of the time.
Tag: Flip Formation
When we move Z to the left slot in "Flip" formation (where he is now the #2 receiver), we give him the option of running the Corner or Post. He will base his decision off the leverage of the safety and the green grass he sees. It basically becomes another version of Smash where Z is the high read, and H on the flat or swing becomes the low read.
Here is video (powered by Hudl) of the Choice route: