Max Protection, learn about a staple in Jacksonville’s offense – Football 101

max protect

Max protection is used If a QB is reading an overload on one side of the ball, then he can kill a route to have the TE stay in and help with the extra man. He can also move a player to help with that.

This protection may have two running backs or, a FB and a RB to bracket the QB. It can use two tight ends, one to block and one to run a route, there a few combinations all based on what the defense is doing.

The drawback means only 3 players go out for a passing route, which can limit the choices the QB has to throw to. However, depending on the personnel, it can trick defenses. Blake Bortles has thrown a touchdown to a FB from this protection.

Besides using this grouping to protect the quarterback, it also can help block for a run. No matter the reason, whether a designed play or not, the QB can change an assignment (as in, change a TE from running a route to blocking, etc) or he can move the RB from one side or the other – those are just two examples.

When a defense loads up one side of the offense with pass rushers or blitzers with more defenders than offensive lineman, the OL can shift their call to the protection. Which is one reason why you may hear the Center and/or QB yelling #52 is the Mike”. That is centering up the defense from an offensive perspective so they can apply their rules/calls.

Sometimes an OL is weak because they’re not good or a back-up is used due to injury and Max Protect has to be used more than desired. If that’s the case, the offensive coordinator better be creative because defenses can use the extra DB to harass.

Shotgun Formation, the pros and cons explained – Football 101

NFL shotgun formation

The NFL uses three basic types of formations for the QB. Shotgun, pistol and under center. There are pros and cons to the shotgun formation, but every team uses it, including those operating mainly in a WCO system. In addition, teams will use more or less depending on who they’ll playing.

As we saw against the Patriots* at home, Blake Bortles operated frequently in the shotgun because they went away from run-first with the absence of Leonard Fournette.

The QB will line up 5-7 yards behind the Center who snaps the ball to him. Below is only a handful of formations out a very long list. In a pass happy offense, the choices of where the X, Y, Z, TEs, RB and FB line up is a long list.

  1. A generic 3WR set with a TE and RB.
  2. A 3WR set with a TE/RB and 3 receivers on the left side of the offense.
  3. A 2WR 2 RB set with a TE.
  4. A 5WR set with 4WR on the left side of the offense, which is aka an Empty set.
  5. A Shotgun Heavy with 2RB and 3TE.

Shotgun Formation,Shotgun Sets

As you can see, these are 5 simple examples; however, there are essentially endless versions that can be diagramed with teams creating new looks each and every week. Always bringing new tools to the chess match.

The shot gun formation is primarily for passing, so from the con standpoint, many running backs and fullbacks feel the QB is in the way. Plus, they’re getting the ball from a standstill instead of moving forward to get it, which gives them mojo when they hit the line. Hence, the formations are used more for a pass heavy offense. Running plays are a bit limited from the shotgun.

This leads to why is it called the shotgun? Since it’s considered a passing formation, teams regularly use more than two receivers. This means they are spread out across the field, stretching out a defense. There is an array of choices, like a shotgun can spread pellets.

A con is since the ball is traveling through the air before reaching the QB, there’s a higher risk of error. The other drawback is if the Offensive Coordinator isn’t creative, defenses will game plan and set up for a passing game. This can stunt the options.
The pros are numerous.

First, it allows the QB more time to read the defense because his eyes are down field from the snap. Second, it gives the Offensive Line more time to create a pocket. Third, if he hangs back, rushers are father away giving the QB more time to adjust.

Fourth, he isn’t holding the ball as long for receivers to get in position. This can lead to less sacks. If the QB is under C, he has to drop back before he can make a pass, so at times he’s holding the ball longer.

Fifth, while the RB may feel inhibited with the run game, he’s in a better spot for passes out of the backfield. Not to mention, having a RB and FB beside him, gives the QB “Max Protection” assuming they don’t drift out for pass routes.

Finally, good OCs/RBs/ QBs (especially if he can scramble) can use the shotgun against its opponents by using the run creatively. Also, a QB can act like he’s taking the snap under Center, but drop back at the last second or the reverse. For this to work though, the QB actually needs to run some from under C.

General terms

  • 3WR – 3 wide receivers
  • 2TE – 2 tight ends
  • 3TE – 3 tight ends
  • 4WR – 4 wide receivers
  • 5WR – 5 wide receivers
  • 4 wide- 4 eligible receivers with a RB/TE in the backfield
  • 5 wide – 5 eligible receivers
  • Twins- two WR on one side of the ball.
  • Trips – three WR on one side of the ball.
  • Quads – four WR on one side of the ball
  • Queens – A pair of stacked receivers
  • Kings – A trio of stacked receivers

Don’t you just love football?!

Under Center Concepts: I-Formation, Ace Set, Pro-set – Football 101

I-Formations

In this installment on Offensive Formations, we tackle formations where the play starts with the QB under center.  Those branch out into various base formations like the I-Formation, Ace Sets, and Pro Set formations the West Coast Offense (WCO) was built on.

Before we get into each of the three, there are some concepts and benefits that each of the three share.

Unlike a RB/FB being handed the pigskin in a shotgun formation, he’s not getting the ball at a standstill.  He’s already moving when he gets it, which gives him more of a head of steam when he hits the LOS. Harder to stop a moving train.

The quarterback and back move towards each other, and as soon the hand off is complete, each head in separate directions. This way the QB isn’t in the way for the back. In addition, if the QB is scanning the field because he’s pulled the ball down and about to throw a play-action pass, he doesn’t want the back there.

It’s a dance that requires practice to get the timing right and handoffs must look the same as his fake handoffs, each and every time.

In a recent trend, some quarterbacks spend the majority, if not all of their college career in the shotgun/pistol formations, so NFL QB coaches are having to teach, and to an extent, waste time on teaching concepts. Ones that should have been drilled into their head from when he first started playing the game. Therefore, there is an adjustment to taking snaps for some.

Ace/One Back/Single Back/Lone Back:

The Ace/One Back set is discussed in greater detail here, but it is simply a single back set that offers an abundance of options for offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to dial up. He can filter through various groupings (See Chart below) of  3WR/4WR sets and then go back to a 2TE set.

The team’s base set of running plays will be able to be run out of most, if not all of the looks. Personnel can change from 4WR to 2WR/2TE but the same dive play can be run up the gut from any of the looks.
Ace set formations

  1. 11Set 1RB, 1 TE, 3WR with the TE split out.
  2. 12Set 1RB, 2TE, 2WR with the WRs in a Twins Left look.
  3. 12Set 1RB, 2TE 2WR with the LTE split out in a Twins look with the X.
  4. 10Set 1RB, 0TE, 4WR with a Trips Right look.
  5. 10Set 1RB, 0Te, 4WR with a Trips Left look.

2-digit offensive formation chartWhen Blake Borltes is under center this season, variations of the Ace set will likely be the primary concepts that are used.

A huge stable of the quarterback dropping back is the play action pass. Even teams that use an Air Coryell system with the QB is shotgun will use the PAP. Teams think he’s dropping back to hand off for a run, but instead, he keeps it and tosses it deep because the defense sucked up for the run. Or he keeps the ball himself if he’s got wheels. They don’t know what they’re getting because every play starts off looking the same. That’s its greatest asset.

West Coast Offense/WCO: 

For a West Coast Offense, most of the snaps historically came from under center however, the offense has continued to evolve from Bill Walsh’s base concepts. Coaches have added and meshed other concepts and today quite a bit of it is run from the shotgun as well.

A WCO, quickly, is a scheme that capitalizes on short quick passes, as an alternative to an underperforming running game. They dink and dunk down the field with runs and short passes and then hit a go type route when the coverage loosens to stop the short. This eats up clock so the opposing offense has less time. If a team can score in these slow marches down the field, it’s a good scheme. If they can’t, they just ate up a bunch of clock with nothing to show for it.
bill Walsh west coast offense formation

  1. 21Set 2RB 1TE 2WR Pro Set
  2. 21Set 2RB 1TE 2WR Far/Weak (TE/RB Opposite Side)
  3. 21Set 2RB 1TE 2WR Near/Strong (TE/RB Same Side)
  4. 21Set 2RB 1TE 2WR FB in a Wing Left position
  5. 22Set 2RB 2TE 1WR Double Tight

A coach can use boot-action in a spread to employ a FB and keep a defense guessing.

I Formation:
The I formation is a formation that every NFL playbook has a chapter on.  It is a bit more friendly to the pass/run ratio. The I-formation comes with the QB under center and a Fullback and Tailback, sometimes called the I back, behind the QB. It can come in variations that have 3WR, or 3 TE, or 2 of either 1 and one of the other. It’s not exactly as dynamic as the single back set above, but it is still versatile and offers more running options with the pair of backs in the backfield.
I-Formations

  1. 21Set 2RB 1TE 2WR with more of a spread out look.
  2. 23Set 2 RB 3 TE with a Tight/Heavy look.
  3. 21Set 2RB 1TE 2WR  with more of a tight look.
  4. 22Set 2RB 2TE 1 WR with one TE positioned on the wing.
  5. 23Set  2RB 3TE 1 WR with a Heavy unbalanced line to the right and the 3TE in a wing on the left.

It’s a big component of a team’s short yardage and goal line package simply because of the fullback. They are the battering ram that open holes and occupy defenders for half/tail backs to pick up extra yardage. Often, a FB with be in front of a RB to clear a path. It’s a lot easier if the QB isn’t in his path, which is why in the shotgun, the FB lines up differently. He’s useless if the QB is standing in his way.

 

Ace Set: a staple in every offense.

ace set

The Ace Set is a common name for an offensive formation that uses one running back. It is run with the QB under center. The running back generally lines up behind the QB but can be staggered off to one side.

Each of the generic sets shown  are variations of the Ace Set, which are also known as single back sets, lone back sets and obviously the 1-back set.  These sets have been utilized in a lot of proficient offenses from Joe Gibbs running it with the Hogs in Washington, to more pass happy versions utilized by the top quarterbacks over the last two decades . Each team has variations of it as staples in their offenses.
Ace set formations

  1. 3WR/1TE set with a four-wide look
  2. 2WR/2TE with the 2WR in a Twins left look
  3. 2WR/2TE with the LTE and X in a Twins look
  4. 4WR Trips right look
  5. 4WR Trips left look

ace set

6.   3WR Twins on the right

7.   3WR with the Y in a wing/slot opposite the TE to even up the formation

8.   2TE/2WR

9.   4WR with 3WR in a bunch/trips set to the left

10.  4TE Heavy set

The Ace Set is a very dynamic formation system since it allows the receivers to line up multiple places, giving the defense various looks. However, they can run the same routes, same play same call, just based on the various formation and where they are positioned.
Screen Shot 2018-09-11 at 7.41.58 PM
11.  3WR/1TE with 2WR in a tight wing formation on the right hand side

12.  3WR/1TE with the back offset to the left and 4 receivers on the left hand side of the offense

13.  3WR/ 1TE with the TE/Z stacked in a “Queens” look and the back is offset to the right

14.  4WR and TE in the back field

15.  2TE/WR with the back offset to the right. The TE/WR are stacked in a “Queens” look.

 

Offensive Line: power vs zone – Football 101/201

Offensive Line: power vs zone. We’ve “talked” often about power gap and zone block offensive lines, but this article will go deeper.

Quick history lesson. The Denver Broncos introduced the ZBS to the NFL back in 1997 with Alex Gibbs. It’s all about the run, the quarterback is the ultimate game manager, hand the ball off and throw enough to keep defenses honest. Instead of the OL worrying about who to block, they just defend their zone. Tandems double team to create space for a back to run through.
This changed the type of offensive linemen teams wanted from big mammoths to smaller more agile guys. While most OL can play both, most teams draft/sign players to be one or the other.

This part will cover Offensive Line: power vs zone as Football 101

Power guys use their feet to plant and push power up and out is the simplest way to explain it. Sumo wrestlers whose motion is more north/south. 5 guys making a wall, worrying about protecting their gap and/or focusing on a particular player.They are made to protect the quarterback.

Whereas, Zone guys need quick feet because they often move laterally. They need to slide sideways while blocking, often hip to hip with their partner. Run-first teams want to push the DL in one direction while the RB goes the other OR the RB runs laterally behind the line and then cuts through a gap.

This changes the responsibility of the guards. He isn’t pulling for the RB because everyone is. While the line is moving in one direction, they can ignore blocking the guy farthest away from the play. This gives them the ability to also use tight ends efficiently. Does he block or catch?

Zone block scheme is dependent on a running back having great vision

When a lineman changes the torque on how he uses his body, some players will obviously be better than others at certain movements. Also, in zone, OL team up in duos, so communication is vital, they’re two guys taking on two.

Play action works great with this because a team doesn’t know if the QB is dropping back to hand off or throw. Also, ZBS lines don’t need to block long. The QB takes the snap, hands it off or often throws on the move behind the sliding line.
If the line makes a pocket for a pass, it’s more than likely going to break down quickly because they’re not made to block for 3-5 seconds. Hence quick passes are the name of the game.

Teams who throw 70% get their runs because teams back up to cover the pass and the back should have easy yards. No loaded box, it’s the element of surprise. Since these teams are built for passing, the pocket needs to hold so WRs can get depth and/or shake their defender.

The above is Football 101, it’s a simple explanation. Most sentences can have “usually” or “typically” slipped in it because there are all kinds of variances, but this is about teaching the basics.

This part is more Football 201 on Offensive Line: power vs zone

Below is more in-depth, but to understand it, you need to know the above. The reason we’re going into this is because I’m interested to see if the Jags use more or less ZBS based on how Blake Bortles and Fournette do.

Center or guard in a zone scheme
The center must be one of the smartest players on the field.  The point of using an inside zone run or an outside zone run is to get 4 hands on the defensive lineman, and 4 eyes on the linebacker. If the play is coming to his right, and the C has nobody on him (4-3 scheme), he knows he needs to work with the Right Guard.

This tandem will take the defensive lineman who’s lined up over the guard and the inside linebacker.  Neither knows which one is going to block yet, so at the snap they drive block the defensive lineman. If the ILB shows up in the A Gap, the Center should disengage from the defensive lineman and block that ILB.

If the ILB shows up in the B Gap, the guard will now disengage and block the ILB, while the Center stays on the DL. For this block to be effective, it is IMPERATIVE they 4 hands on the defensive lineman and 4 eyes on the ILB.  If they lose track of the ILB he will make the play.

Tackle in a zone scheme

A Backside Tackle (Left Tackle when the play is scheduled to go right) in a zone scheme, needs to be able to move his feet.  If he can’t help the backside Guard and climb up to the WLB, the line is in trouble. He must protect that B Gap while climbing the ladder to the WLB.

If done correctly, the RB has the ability to press the hole to his right, and if he sees a line, bend it back to the left.  It’s not a cutback as much as the defense is overloaded the right side. If he can get that backside blocked up well, there will be a natural lane to the left for the RB to use if he so chooses.

The Playside Tackle, depending on the front (in this instance, lets put a 5 Technique over him), has to work with the TE to block the DE and SLB.  Many times the TE Will end up climbing the ladder to the SLB, but this still needs to be a 4 hands on the DL, 4 eyes on the SLB.

This position requires toughness and the athletic ability to block strong and fast 5 techniques (read here about DL techniques) and not get pushed back.  It may be the hardest lineman to find, athletic enough to move your feet, and strong enough to take on a strong bull rush.

The whole genesis of the zone run scheme was to block 3 Defensive Lineman and 3 Linebackers with 5 Offensive Lineman and Tight End. Refuse to block the backside Defensive End, because he has contain and spill responsibilities. If he’s making the tackle, he needs to be running naked boots to his side as he’s getting way too nosy in the run game.

By putting 4 hands on the Defensive Lineman, they’ve given themselves the ability to not need 5 guys who weigh in at 315 pounds and can bench press a cow. Substitute some brute strength for a little more athletic ability.  6’6’’ 315 pound lineman who can bend and move and strike like a Pro Bowl caliber player are rare.

With the influx of collegiate talent coming in that are used to running more and more zone schemes, the NFL has diversified and put a lot of zone schemes right next to their G schemes. They’re running both which is one more thing for defensive coordinators stay up late at night to figure out what’s coming at them and when it’s gonna come. Good ones figure it out.
Offensive Line: power vs zone
Offensive Line: power vs zone

Offensive Hole Numbering System – Football 101

What is an offensive hole numbering system? Why are they used? It starts with technique and knowing an assignment. Then it’s included in play calls.

A RB and O-Line need to be on the same page, so that the line knows who to block and the running back, tail back, or half back, knows what “hole” to shoot through.

  • 0/1 are off the centers hips
  • 2/3 are off the outside hip of the guard
  • 4/5 are off the outside hip of the tackles
  • 6/7 are off the outside hip of the tight ends
  • 8/9 are off the outside hip of a Linebacker.

Plays run through the 0/1 holes are usually dives and traps
Plays run through the 2/3 are dives/isolations
Plays run through the 4/5 are called off tackle plays, and can be isolations/powers/leads
Plays run through the 6/7 are usually powers/leads
Plays run at the 8/9 hole are usually sweeps

2-Digit Personnel Chart & Abbreviations – Football 101

NFL 2-digit Formation Personnel Chart

NFL 2-digit Formation Personnel Chart

At times, you will hear commentators or analysts during games or on shows on ESPN/NFLN, refer to a 12 set, a 13 set. It is a form of short-hand in the football world that communicates the Personnel Package for the offense.

Some posts/articles that are written here, have spelled out 12 set as ACE 2TE/2WR, others have referred to it as a 12 set.
2-digit offensive formation chart
As you can see, some terms (Heavy/Jumbo/Double Tight), etc show up in multiple groupings and that is because the concept is used in multiple groupings.

General Football Abbreviations that are used in posts and graphics:

Offense

  • 4 4th wide receiver
  • 5 5th wide receiver
  • C Center
  • FB Full Back
  • FL Flanker
  • G Guard
  • H H-Back
  • HB Half Back
  • LG Left Guard
  • LT Left Tackle
  • OL Offensive Line
  • QB Quarterback
  • QB1 Starting Quarterback
  • QB2 Backup Quarterback
  • RB Running Back
  • RG Right Guard
  • RT Right Tackle
  • SE Split End
  • T Tackle
  • TB Tail Back
  • TE Tight End
  • WR Wide Receiver
  • X outside Receiver
  • Y Slot Receiver/known as TE in some circles
  • Z Outside receiver

Defensive

  • CB Cornerbacks
  • D Dime Back
  • DB Defensive Backs
  • DE Defensive End
  • DL Defensive Lineman
  • DT Defensive Tackle
  • E Edge Rusher/OLB
  • ILB Inside Linebackers
  • LB Linebackers
  • LCB Left Cornerback
  • LDE Left Defensive End
  • M Mike Linebacker
  • N Nickel Back
  • NT Nose Tackle
  • OLB Outside Linebacker
  • RCB Right Cornerback
  • RDE Right Defensive End
  • S Sam Linebacker
  • W Will Linebacker

General Terms

  • EMOLOS End Man on Line of Scrimmage
  • IG Intentional Grounding
  • IR Injured Reserve
  • IR-RD Injured Reserve Designated to Return
  • LOS Line of Scrimmage
  • NFIL Non-Football Injury List
  • OPI Offensive Pass Interference
  • PAP Play-Action Pass
  • PAT Point After Touchdown
  • PI Pass Interference
  • PUP Physically Unable To Perform
  • WCO West Coast Offense

Special Teams

  • G Gunner
  • H Holder
  • K Place Kicker
  • KR Kick Returner
  • LS Long Snapper
  • P Punter
  • PR Punter Returner
  • UB Upbacks

Coaches/Staff

  • GM General Manager
  • HC Head Coach
  • OC Offensive Coordinator
  • DC Defensive Coordinator
  • STC Special Teams Coordinator
  • QBC Quarterbacks Coach
  • RBC Running Backs Coach
  • TEC Tight Ends Coach
  • OLC Offensive Line Coach
  • DLC Defensive Line Coach
  • LBC Linebackers Coach
  • DBC Defensive Backs Coach