Archive for December, 2008

I have stated before on here that the key to a successful running attack is giving the blockers great angles on the defense. The Jacksonville Jaguars have perhaps the most prolific rushing attack year after year. This is because they have a good O-line, tight ends that can block (which is becoming rarer in today’s NFL) and they do a great job clearing out lanes to get their backs into space. The line and blocking schemes have made Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor into household names.

The first play I want to look at is the Singleback Counter Trey the Jags run. This was a concept popular in the Joe Gibbs power running game. Gibbs loved to pull both the backside guard and tackle, from a two back set, send one back to fill for the missing linemen and the other on a counter step then take the handoff through the hole. The guard would kick out the outermost defender in the box and the tackle would lead up into the hole. The Jags like to run this play out of a singleback formation though, this means that there is no fullback to fill for the missing backside of the line, a quick DE or DT could make the tackle. So instead, the Jags pull both their backside and playside guards. The only reason they can do this is because their TE, Mercedes Lewis, is an above average blocker for a tight end.


On this play, the defense was in a 4-4 front with only one safety, they are concerned with stopping the run game of the Jags. However, having a tight end that can handle a DE one-on-one is a great advantage. The center is going to chuck the backside DT to make sure he doesn’t make the play then he is going to try to get to the next level and stop the backside linebacker’s pursuit. The playside tackle will crash down on the other defensive tackle while the tight end will reach the defensive end. It should be noted that if the defensive end had been playing a true outside 9 technique  and the outside linebacker had lined up off the ball, the TE would most likely have gone straight to the middle linebacker and left the DE to be kicked out. The advantage to kicking out the outermost defender is, the outside defender has contain responsibilities, so he must come upfield for at least a few steps, this makes the angle on the kick out much easier.

The fun game comes with the two guards. The playside guard kicks out the outside defender and the backside guard leads up into the hole. The beauty of this play was the way the formation helped the play. Since the defense had taken a safety out for an extra linebacker, a linebacker must cheat over to cover up the slot receiver. This means both of the middle linebackers take a step or two towards the slot to compensate, this gives the backside guard the slight edge he needs to seal off the playside middle linebacker.


This is the same basic kick-out, fill the hole concept as the other play. The difference here is that this is a much more direct sprint play, so they don’t want Maurice Jones-Drew counter stepping in the backfield and having to wait for the blocks to develop. Instead, the Jags are going to cross block with the playside tackle and the tight end to effectively form the kick-out block (making the angles easier on both players), then they will pull the center to lead on the linebacker instead of making Jones-Drew wait to for the guard to make it through the hole and read the block.

Another play the Jags use very well is the inside draw. The basic concept behind the draw is to show pass, freeze the linebackers, then get upfield and let your linemen get on their linebackers. If you can get your back behind your bigs 3-4 yards down field then you are in great shape.



The key to this play is to get both defensive tackles moved out of the middle. The center will help give a shot to the defensive tackle to help the left guard move him, while the right guard and tackle will take the other defensive tackle. The tight end must get an outside release on the defensive end here. That tells the defensive end that it is a pass and will lure him into a pass rush, it will also freeze the linebackers. As they see the quarterback raise the ball and the tight end with an outside release they will start to drop into their zones. Once the linebackers start their drops the center can easily get his block on the middle linebacker and the tight end has a much better angle on the outside linebacker. Fred Taylor can then get through the defensive line, read the blocks on the linebackers and he is one-on-one with the playside safety, a good situation for the offense.

The Jacksonville Jaguars do an unbelievable job of controlling the line of scrimmage against their opponents, allowing them to run the game and control the clock. When you play in the same division as the Indianapolis Colts, keeping your offense on the field and their offense off the field is the best way to win.


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The offense has some great advantages in football. The offense dictates much of how the defense will line up (by determining the strong side of the field and where the eligible receivers are lined up), the offense dictates when the play starts, and the offense tries to dictate where the play will go. The New Orleans Saints do an excellent job of using their formations, alignments and personnel to force the defense into mismatches. They do this most commonly by passing out of running formations. The defense substitutes while the offense is in the huddle. They substitute based on who the offense has brought into the game and the down, yardage situation. If the defense sees the offense bring in a 4 wide receiver set, the defense will substitute their nickel package into the game to counteract that. When the offense keeps their running formation in the game, the defense has to leave their run stoppers (defensive tackles and linebackers) in the game, unless it is an obvious passing situation. If the offense can force the defense to keep players in the game that are less competent in pass coverage, they can create, and then exploit favorable matchups.

Here is an example of the New Orleans Saints creating, recognizing, and taking advantage of bad matchups. They use this play to get Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas into space and allow them to use their speed to make plays. This is an I-formation RB Swing Pass.


As soon as Drew Brees gets to the line on this play, he knows he will be throwing the ball to running back Pierre Thomas. The defense is in a man cover 2 defense, with three linebackers in the game to stop the run. Both the cornerbacks are on the offense’s right side man-to-man with the receivers. There is an outside linebacker in man coverage on the tight-end and linebackers in man on both backs. The receivers on the right side of the formation are going to run a fly-post combination, mainly to clear out the sideline and take the safety down field. The right tackle will chip the defensive end, but will leave him basically unblocked. This leaves the right tackle free to get out into the flats and block the linebacker that is in man-to-man on Thomas. The matchup this play creates is putting a linebacker in a foot race to the sideline with a speed back like Pierre Thomas or Reggie Bush.


Here is what the play looks like when it develops. The defensive end is left unblocked (red circle), but gets big eyes and starts thinking sack, effectively running himself out of the play. The linebacker covering Thomas knows he is in a foot race with Thomas, so he takes off toward the sideline. Here Thomas was able to beat him to the sideline initially, but as the defender began to over pursue, Thomas cut right off the right tackle and set up a great block on the linebacker. Since the receivers had run off the safety and cornerbacks Thomas is able to run free for about 13 yards before anyone even gets close to him.

Throwing the ball out of traditionally run formations keeps the defense on its toes and allows the offense to take advantage of poor coverage players having to play the pass. If the offense is successful throwing out of these formations and the defense tries to substitute a more traditional pass package (nickel or dime defenses), the offense can audible and run the ball on a now much smaller defense.

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