What to look for in Clemson v. Bama Part II

With Clemson and Alabama set for a rematch in the National Championship game, I’ll be looking for two specific plays Clemson had success with in their win over Ohio State: the QB counter pitch and a unique jet sweep pitch. Let’s take a further look at each scheme.

QB Counter Pitch

The QB counter pitch is a natural evolution of the QB counter trey read, depicted below:

Instead of riding the QB/RB mesh point and reading the end man on the line of scrimmage, Clemson creates fast flow and misdirection with the QB’s first step and a fake pitch. As for the blocking, there are two pullers like counter trey read, but the Center and H-back pull instead of the Guard and Tackle. This makes the blocking scheme more like Counter OF, and is a better fit for the backfield action. Below, Clemson gets the middle Linebacker and play side Defensive End blocked without ever touching them because of the pitch action:

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Zeke Elliot’s 60-yd Split Zone TD with a Special Influence

Ezekiel Elliot all but sealed a Cowboys victory with a 60 yard touchdown run to put Dallas up 28-0 in a Week 5 matchup against the Bengals. The play was a traditional under center split zone scheme, but included one wrinkle that made all the difference, Jason Witten’s flat route:

Zeke 60

The Cowboys offensive line executed textbook combination blocks in the split zone scheme, with left tackle (#77) Tyron Smith blocking out, left guard (#65) Ronald Leary and center (#72) Travis Frederick combining to block the defensive tackle up to the left outside linebacker, and right guard (#70) Zack Martin combo blocking with right tackle (#68) Doug Free to take care of 3-technique (#97) Geno Atkins and middle linebacker (#58) Rey Maualuga. Tight End (#87) Geoff Swaim blocks across the formation to pick up “EMLOS”, or the end man on the line of scrimmage, (#96) Carlos Dunlap.

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Analyzing the Unique Panthers Running Game

The Panthers made it to Super Bowl 50 with one of the most dangerous running attacks in the NFL, having racked up at least 100 yards rushing in 29 straight games. Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula has utilized the strengths of Cam Newton to create a versatile and unique running attack that is very difficult to prepare for because of its mixed flow and deception. This article breaks down 6 key concepts from the Panthers running game that Denver will have to prepare for:

  • QB Buck Sweep (RPO)
  • Counter OF
  • QB G/T Counter Read or “Flash”
  • Jet Sweep Split Zone
  • Inverted/Power Veer
  • Triple Option

QB Buck Sweep (RPO)

Carolina is not the only NFL team that runs Buck Sweep, but Cam Newton allows the Panthers to run QB Buck Sweep, opening up other possibilities for the offense. Like the traditional version, the Panthers Buck Sweep involves 2 pulling lineman leading the way for Cam to run around the edge:

RPO Buck Continue reading

Cam Newton’s Big Run: A look at the Inverted/Power Veer

In the Panthers Week 15 win, Cam Newton became the first player in NFL history with 5 passing TD and 100 rush yards in the same game. He gained 47 of these yards on one play with one of the Panthers favorite QB run concepts: the Inverted or Power Veer. Let’s take a further look at the concept.

The Panthers start with two receivers left and one receiver right along with Tight End Greg Olsen. The Giants are in a 4-3 defense, with the 1 and 7 technique to the left side, and a 3 and 7 technique to the right side. Even on 1st & 10, with 2 high safeties, the Giants are outnumbered 8 on 6 in the box:

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Chip Kelly’s (Buck) Read Sweep

The Eagles Chip Kelly has taken the NFL by storm, bringing many exciting nuances and concepts to the league. One of these concepts is the Buck Sweep. Kelly’s Eagles run the Buck Sweep while reading an unblocked defensive lineman, making it more of a Read Sweep. Traditional buck sweep involves pulling both guards with the play side Tackle and Center blocking down, as pictured below:

Credit: Smart Football's "Does anyone still use Lombardi's Packer's Sweep"

Credit: Smart Football’s “Does anyone still use Lombardi’s Packer’s Sweep”

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Split Zone

With many NFL teams using zone blocking concepts to run the ball, the Split Zone is a variation of both inside zone as well as the zone read. It is a great complimentary concept because it aligns with an offense’s zone principles but gives the defense a different look and blocking scheme. Split Zone can be run from both Shotgun and under center. Here, the Seahawks run Split Zone against the Packers for a Touchdown from Shotgun in 11 personnel (1RB 1TE 3 WR):

Split Zone (like inside zone or zone read) entails all lineman taking a play side zone step, or stepping with their play side foot first toward where the run is designed to go. Like Zone Read, the end man on the line of scrimmage is left unblocked by the offensive line. Continue reading

The Zone Read / Read Option Chess Match: How Belichick and the Versatile Pats D handled Russell Wilson & Marshawn Lynch

The Zone Read (or Read Option) played an integral part of Super Bowl 49. It is undoubtedly a staple in the Seahawk offense, and as I wrote in my SB XLIX preview, how the Patriots defended the Zone Read from an X’s and O’s standpoint would be crucial to the outcome of the game. The Patriots used their strength (the secondary) and almost exclusively played Cover 1. This allowed the Front 7 to play uncommon fronts and do a variety of things including feather, crash, loop, and squeeze the Read. By my count, not including the last Seattle drive, the Seahawks ran 12 Zone Read type plays out of 46 offensive plays, over a quarter of all their plays. Let’s take a further look at each Zone Read:

1st Quarter, 10:52, 0-0, 2nd and 7: Ball to Seattle 24 for Gain of 5

The Pre-Snap look with blocking assignments:

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Keys to Victory: Previewing the 2015 NFC Championship

The 2015 NFC Championship features a rematch from Week 1, with the Green Bay Packers visiting the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks won handily in September, but the NFC championship will have different key players, schemes, and match ups:

WHEN GREEN BAY HAS THE BALL:

Green Bay cut the field in half when they chose not to attack the right side of the field to avoid Richard Sherman Week 1; Green Bay aligned #11 Jarrett Boykin to the right on the vast majority of snaps. The Packers must attack all parts of the field in order to be successful this week.  While the Packers will almost certainly line up #87 Jordy Nelson to the right more often, the emergence of rookie #17 Davonte Adams gives Green Bay a viable threat even when Jordy Nelson is on the left side of the field. However, attacking the right side of the field doesn’t necessarily mean attacking Sherman 1 on 1. Look for Green Bay to manipulate formations to move Sherman away from the outside most Receiver. Dallas was able to do this from a Trips tight formation, with the TE as the lone eligible receiver to the left, and 3 Wideouts to the right:

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Sherman moves with Dez Bryant to the slot

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Texans’ Outside Zone Stretch & Arian Foster’s TD Cut

Every NFL Sunday, the “Zone” run play is called and executed countless times. However, few run it better than the Texans’ Arian Foster. For years Gary Kubiak made the “Outside Zone” or Zone Stretch play a staple in the Texans playbook, and Bill O’Brien has continued to run the play with one of the NFL’s best Running Backs. A perfect example of the Outside Zone was on display this past Sunday on a 3rd Quarter Arian Foster Touchdown.

The basic premise of the outside zone (or zone stretch) play is simple; every lineman will “zone their gap”, or block the immediate area to the side of the play. (in this case, the linemen’s left). Lineman are given the “On or Outside” rule, meaning they should block the player immediately on them, or if nobody is on them, the first player to the outside. If a lineman has a defender immediately to the inside, they will give help so the next lineman can “take over” the block. Arian Foster will run to the outside leg of the Tight End and then make one cut: either continue outside if all the defenders are sealed, or if a defender has overrun the play, plant a foot in the ground to make a zone cut up the field. Here is the look the Texans saw against the Cowboys pre-snap:

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Here, the Tight End (#87 C.J. Fiedorowicz) will help the Left Tackle “take over” the Defensive End, (#58 on Dallas), and then attempt to reach block up to the Linebacker, #52, Justin Durant. Meanwhile, the rest of the line takes their Zone step in sync: Continue reading