Nothing stresses out defenses quite like giving a fast player the ball on the outside. This premise is exactly why the Jet Sweep is one of the most universal plays in football. Regardless of the style of offense and formation the Jet Sweep is a simple addition that forces the defense to respect the outside run.
Incorporating the Jet Sweep into Your Offense
There are a few things that every sound defense must do. The first is account for every gap between the tackles. This means that they need a player to stop the run in every gap. The second thing every defense must be able to do is stop the forward pass. They can do this through man or zone concepts but at the core there must be players who account for the receivers and defend them if the offense tries to throw the ball to them. The last non-negotiable of defense is that they must have a force player. This player is the first defender to take on any outside run. Many times this player also has a pass coverage responsibility as well. As a result defenses normally put their most dynamic player in these force position roles.
The reason it’s important to know about the non-negotiables of a defense is that it allows the offense to take advantage of these different responsibilities. The Jet Sweep is the most consistent way to stress the force player. By simply running a jet motion the defense must react either pre or post snap and have the force player set a hard edge. This gives the play caller an advantage because now he knows where one of the most dynamic players on the defense is going to be. He can then use that knowledge to either run the Jet Sweep (and give one of the fastest offensive players the ball in space) or run the ball inside without having to worry about the force player.
While the Jet Sweep is a great way to neutralize a great force player it can also be used to slow linebackers. Motion, especially fast motion, has the effect of grabbing linebackers eyes. This tends to take their eyes off their read keys and leaves them a step behind. In addition to this one long outside run create a disproportionate amount of worry in the linebackers and cause them to chase the motion. Again this opens the door for interior runs.
The final way a Jet Sweep can mess with the defense is in the secondary. Many secondaries will roll a safety to stop the Jet Sweep and align in some form of single high coverage (either cover 1 or cover 3). This can open up multiple zones for vertical pass routes. One of the more popular reads is a simple backside slant or hitch. If the defense is rolling a safety down on Jet motion the backside receiver now has one on one coverage. Normally the Cornerback will back off to avoid being beat deep. The effect is an easy hitch or slant route for 5 yards that is a missed tackle away from a Touchdown. The other passing option off a Jet Sweep is on the side the Jet is running to. If the Safety is rolling down than the #2 receiver is almost guaranteed to be open in the seam directly behind the filling Safety. If the defense is using the Cornerback to defend the Jet Sweep then the #1 receiver will be wide open along the sideline for an easy pass and catch.
Regardless of the offensive style adding the Jet Sweep can create problems for the defense that allow you to take advantage. Beyond getting the ball to one of your best players in space it can open up multiple ways to attack the defense.
(See Also) The Jet Sweep Play in Youth Football