Mesh Concept Air Raid

Have you ever watched helplessly as your offense sputtered against man coverage…? One play that has consistently bailed me out is the Mesh Concept from the Air Raid system. This deceptively simple concept has been a staple of many playbooks for years, and for good reason.

The Mesh Concept forces defenders to navigate a web of crossing routes, often creating free releases for receivers. How many times have you seen a linebacker get tangled up trying to follow a tight end or slot across the formation…? It’s a thing of beauty.

In my opinion, there’s no better way to attack man coverage and keep a defense off-balance. Now I know some coaches think it’s too complicated to install, but hear me out…this concept is a game-changer when taught properly.

What is the Mesh Concept?

Mesh Concept Out Of Two Back

At its core, Mesh is a pair of crossing routes that “mesh” or intersect – usually a shallow drag or flat route combined with a deeper over or dig route. The routes cross paths to create a natural rub or pick, forcing defenders in man coverage to navigate the traffic.

Here’s a video I did talking about how Hal Mumme runs the Mesh Concept

Hal Mumme is the godfather of the Air Raid and the creator of the Air Raid Mesh concept as we know it today.

The concept gets its name from the mesh point where the two routes intersect and disrupt the defense’s coverage rules. Smart route spacing and timing are key to making this mesh point as dense as possible.

Tagging the routes is crucial for execution. Common tags include:

  • Wheel: Running Back or WR who normally runs a flat route will run a wheel route
  • Return: The Wide Receivers who normally mesh will fake the mesh and return to their side of the field
  • Post: One of the Receivers who normally run a corner route now runs a Post

The Mesh is highly versatile and can be run from any formation or personnel grouping. It’s a core concept in the Air Raid but is also used in every offense from the NFL to high school.

Here’s a video I did covering some of the best tags for the mesh concept:

In this video, I walk you through some of the best tags to use for the Air Raid Mesh Concept

Why the Mesh Concept Works

One of the many reasons why you should run the mesh concept.

The beauty of the Mesh is how it simplistically attacks the rules of any man or zone coverage…

Against man coverage, the two crossing routes create a natural rub that should (key word) be officiated as a pick. This frees up one of the receivers for an easy release and throw.

As Coach Hal Mumme said, “If they call it, we’ll run it again. If they don’t, we’ve got a free player.” Getting defenders stuck in the mesh leads to an easy completion and/or touchdown.

Against zone coverage, the mesh overloads the underneath defenders and creates a natural hi-lo stretch…With the drag or flat route occupying the hook defender, the over route can settle in the open grass for an easy catch.

This forces zone defenders to pass off receivers through the mesh point, which is nearly impossible to do correctly against a well-timed passing concept. Someone is going to be open!

Installing the Mesh Concept

The Original Mesh Concept

Enough philosophy, let’s get practical on how to make this thing work…

First, walk-thru the routes on air until the timing and spacing is second natural to your players. The mesh point should happen under 5 yards from the LOS, with the Y Receiver setting the mesh and the other receiver coming underneath.

Next, have your QB work through simple progression reads based on the different coverages you’ll see:

Man Coverage:

  1. Running Back
  2. First Mesh
  3. Second Mesh

Zone Coverage:

  1. Corner
  2. Running Back
  3. First Mesh

Once you’ve repped it a ton on air, move to half-line drills walking through different scenarios…

Emphasize keeping proper depth and spacing on the routes to create an effective mesh point. Finally, it’s time to install some core passing concepts that feature the mesh action:

  • Y-Cross
  • Shallow-Deep
  • Drive
  • Four Verts

…and don’t forget to sprinkle in some runs and RPOs too!

Okay, I know that was a ton of information…Let’s break it down with a simple example.

Imagine we’ve got ACE formation, with F and Y running the mesh. (Remember…the Y sets the Mesh Point.) This creates a natural mesh point around 5 yards downfield.

If it’s man coverage, the F should rub off the man defender on the Y, leaving him wide open on the over…Easy pitch and catch for the QB reading that side first.

If it’s zone, the F and Y will find the empty grass (meaning there’s no one in their area) and shows the quarterback their hands.

Mesh Concept Out Of Spread Formation

See what I mean? Simple, but brutally effective when executed right.

Now let’s workshop some ways to deploy the mesh in your offense…

From Trips or Trey formations, you can run a mesh with either the #2 or #3 receivers and the single wide receiver to punish teams who like to run some form of man with the #1 receiver.

You can even get the RB involved by having him run the shallow mesh route, with the TE or slot running the deeper over route behind him…Talk about putting stress on a defense!

This is a video showing different ways to run the Mesh Concept

The possibilities are endless once you master the basics. Get creative, find ways to threaten the mesh from different formations and personnel groups…Keep the defense guessing and reacting to you.

At the end of the day, the mesh concept is all about simplicity through complexity. It’s just two basic routes that every receiver should be able to run…

But put them together with perfect timing and spacing? Absolute magic.

If you aren’t using the mesh already, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a game-changer against man coverage and an easy way to disrupt any zone rules…Start repping it today, and I promise you’ll see results.

Talk to you later, coach.

PS – Don’t overcomplicate it! The mesh works because it’s simple…Stick to the fundamentals and let your players make plays.

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