Running Backs in zone scheme – Football 201

Running Backs in Zone Scheme

Last week, we talked about the difference for Offensive Lineman between running the zone play as opposed to running the power play, and what it required from each position. Lets now advance the ball and talk about the Running Backs in zone scheme.

Yes, it is true that all 32 teams have both the zone scheme and the power scheme in their playbook. Below we look at the different skill sets it takes for the RB to have in the zone scheme as opposed to the power scheme.

For a zone RB, patience is a virtue as the crease and the hole isn’t always exactly where he hopes it will be pre-snap.  What looks like a cutback play is really the RB using his vision to see that due to the defensive scheme, the hole is going to open in the backside B Gap as opposed to the frontside B Gap.

Obviously, all RB’s need to have vision and have to be quick. Vision for a zone RB is paramount, and the ability to see a crease on the backside as he’s pressing the frontside hole. If the play is blocked right, typically the RB will have a hole, and half-a-hole to choose from when he presses the line. He really can’t go wrong by choosing either.

If the back sees the half-a-hole open to the play side, he can take his 3 or 4 yards and keep the chains moving. However, if he has the vision, gets the right blocks, he may wait on a bigger hole developing on the backside. That hole can turn into a bigger gain. This where patience comes into play. It’s all in how he sees it. He can only have so much patience and often, he should just take his half-a-hole and get what he can.

Leonard Fournette is a power running back. He runs some zone plays, but he is devastating with a lead blocker like, FB Tommy Bohanon in front of him and getting downhill quickly. This is a guy who is more of a 1 cut runner, who puts his foot in the ground and gets into the hole and delivers the boom.

He is a more physical running back who, due to scheme, is going to need to be able to beat 1 guy, as the backside defensive end will have to be accounted for in the blocking scheme since there is usually no threat. This leaves one guy he needs to be able to beat. That’s the rule. Over him, around him, through him…just beat him.

More and more running backs are coming into the league with experience in the spread/zone schemes, so the transition is easier for them to keep running with the zone scheme.

Power/G schemes are a little less used collegiately, but it hasn’t gone the way of the doo-doo bird, so there are players in the draft that excel at running behind a G scheme. Top tier RB’s have the ability to do both, and are also a threat in the passing game (hello Todd Gurley), and if you find a guy like that, he’s pretty special.

Outside Zone

In case you’re very new to football, the reason backs aren’t as thrilled with the G scheme is because they go hand in hand with the QB typically in shotgun in a pass happy scheme. Read here for why.

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