Film Study: Whipsnakes Slam Picks

By Joe Keegan

PLL Analyst

Jul 8, 2021

“That’s just Whipsnakes offense.”

Matt Rambo’s reply to Ryan Boyle is deeper than a cliché. What does "Whipsnakes offense" mean?

Whipsnakes offense means fast breaks off Joe Nardella faceoff wins. Whipsnakes offense means slow breaks led by Michael Ehrhardt staying, playing, picking, faking subs, and sprinting back for stepdown 2-pointers.

And in the 6-on-6, Whipsnakes offense means setting slam picks on GLE.

Head coach Jim Stagnitta’s offense executes more dodge-pass-pass-dodge sequences than any team in the league. It starts with unselfish midfielders who rarely settle for the shot down the alley; and it ends with Rambo or Zed Williams running off a pick at GLE.

“Zed does such a good job of using his body and angles,” Whipsnakes LC midfielder Brad Smith said on Sunday. “[The Archers] were kind of going under that pick at GLE. It presented opportunities for Zed to just come off the pick. No one was on his hands, so he could just turn and get his shot off there.”

Fight underneath like the Archers or switch like the Atlas, Zed arrives at the island all the same.

“I’ll set those picks for him all day long,” Smith said, smiling from ear to ear.

At the island, Zed can shoot topside and use his defender as a screen. He’s shooting 31% off the dodge in his PLL career – insane. That shot is usually available, because defenses are so scared of Zed’s inside roll.

Very few players would dare to dodge inside after running off this pick at GLE. Zed isn’t just boxing out the defender that switched onto him – he’s threading the needle between that defender and his original man trying to trap him.

His close quarters inside rolls are uncanny. Zed’s ability to pass out of would-be traps leads to some of the Whips’ prettiest passing sequences. He wasn’t even credited with the second assist here, but Zed made this play happen by rolling inside and baiting the double.

Those picks are as lethal working in the opposite direction. Rambo and Zed are left- and right-handed battering rams operating from behind the cage.

Both can bully a defender with physicality; neither makes mistakes with the ball. Rambo’s poise doesn’t get enough recognition. His assist-to-turnover ratio with the Hounds (26A:52TO) was worrisome; with the Whipsnakes, it’s impossibly impressive (49A:51TO). When he gets the switch off that slam pick, he resets, bounces away from the slide, pump fakes to manipulate the defense, and hits Smith on the delayed “roll.”

How will the Redwoods defend the slam pick?

Rambo has been ruled out on Saturday against the Redwoods. Simon Mathias and Ryan Tierney slid into his lefty attack role last week. That’s typically Garrett Epple’s matchup. Epple put on a v-hold clinic in the 2020 semifinals holding Rambo to zero shots and two turnovers.

Will Epple defend Mathias or Tierney for the lefty-on-lefty hold? Or will he bump over to Zed?

The Woods will switch almost every pick. Epple will try to fight through whenever possible – but the timing and location of these slam picks makes it difficult to prepare to fight through.

The dodge-pass-pass-dodge sequence also eliminates the crease slide. The defense is rarely flooding the ball side – if they slide from the inside, they’ll risk leaving Jay Carlson open for a curl while they wait for that original alley dodge defender to collapse.

When the Woods switch, the double will follow from that original on-ball defender. Atlas was able to trap Zed and Rambo in Week 3 at Homewood by turning the dodger back toward the pick. As long as the weak side is buttoned up, quick traps by the two defenders playing the pick can flush the ball out of the Whips’ playmakers’ sticks.

The Whipsnakes and Redwoods renew their rivalry on Saturday night at 6PM ET on NBC Sports. The Woods have added Rob Pannell and TD Ierlan this offseason to improve their offense and to play more offense.

But to beat the Whipsnakes, the gameplan still starts with the Woods' slide-and-recover defense slowing down the Whipsnakes' slam picks.

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