Dagger Concept

By Casey Sully

The Dagger Concept is a longer developing play that attacks the middle of the field. Small adjustments can be made within the concept to attack multiple coverages and it’s a great play against both one and two safety looks.

Read about more coaching concepts

Dagger Concept + Assignments

The Dagger concept doesn’t have as much flexibility as some other schemes do. It includes two primary routes:

  • The inside receiver running a vertical route
  • The outside receiver running a deep dig or square in route at 16-18 yards

That frontside combination is usually paired with a shallow drag on the backside of the play. That drag is run at 2-3 yards flat across the field. The drag and dig combination creates a high-low read.

dagger concept
The Dagger Concept: a deep dig by #1, a seam/post from #2, and a drag from the backside

The vertical route is designed as clear out with the intention of pulling as many deep players with it as possible. As a result, the vertical route can change based on the coverage of the defense. Against Cover 1 or Cover 3, the vertical route can stay on their seam line and occupy the centerfield safety along with any seam defenders. Against any two-high looks, like Cover 2 or Cover 4, the vertical route needs to bend inside on an influence post to pull the play-side safety. That bend inside can also influence the far safety.

Read More: Sail Concept

Coverage Read for Dagger

Dagger attacks the underneath defenders. The goal is to create a high-low read between the drag and the dig over the top of it. If that drag pulls linebackers down, there’s a window to the dig behind. If the linebackers get depth, the drag has space to run. With the vertical defenders occupied, that can leave a huge opening for a yards after catch opportunity.

This is an extra clean coverage read because the Raiders are blitzing. Note how the seam from the #2 receiver pulls both his man in coverage and occupies the deep defender.

dagger concept holding safety

With the linebackers blitzing, that leaves nobody to defend the dig route. The receiver has inside leverage on his corner and it’s a wide open throw.

While there is still a single safety here, Robby Anderson reads that the safety is over-shifted to the two-receiver side. That means that he needs to bend inside of the safety so that he pulls him away from the dig route and threatens the weakness of the defense in this alignment which is the middle of the field. The linebacker is occupied by the release from the running back into the flats and there’s a nice window for the dig.

Read More: Stick Concept

For the quarterback, the read is pretty simple:

  • Confirm that the deep safety has been occupied
  • Read the the linebacker on the high-low between the dig and drag

When linebackers sink underneath the deep dig, the shallow drag underneath is a good outlet.

dagger concept drag read
Linebackers sink underneath the dig

That drag is also useful for dumping the ball off since dagger is a long developing play.

It’s rare, but when the safety or deep defender doesn’t carry the vertical route, there’s an opportunity for a big play.

dagger concept deep read

When you hit the dig enough, safeties may come down on it. That creates your opportunity to hit them over the top. That’s why as a quarterback, you always need to confirm that the deep safety has been occupied by the vertical before throwing.

The Dagger Concept is used mainly at the college and NFL levels, but offers an opportunity for offenses to get chunk yardage against any coverage. It gives a clear read for the quarterback and uses a high-low spacing concept to exploit linebackers in coverage.