Front 7 Tips – Football 201 from an NFL Scout

NFL Scout Report on front 7 tips

PART I. We’ve all heard about NFL Scouting, how do they make reports? What is in them? We’re going to give you answers with a real Scout’s data and his input. This installment is on Front 7 Tips.

I’m not going to reveal the NCAA conference or who the Scout made his reports for, but it covered every snap against ten teams and how one team and its players performed. I’m going to use the letter, “P”, as fill in when a team’s name was used or a player’s number.

When I read his first Front 7 Tips report, some of it was like looking at Greek, so I asked him to explain. His answers inspired me to start this series. Below is one page of analysis and then the explanations for each number. This is football 201, so I won’t be explaining as much as in the Football 101 series.
Tips:

  1. G Front team
  2. Will flip front on RB shifts
  3. Rock and roll safeties
  4. Will reduce in a ‘okie 4’ look
  5. Will show a muck-luck line on 3rd down
  6. Will flop fronts to TE motion/shift
  7. #P is a true N, strong, no feet
  8. #P is more athletic than P, more of a gap player.  Wreaked havoc against P in zone game when 4 hands didn’t get on him
  9. N/3T are cross-trained
  10. Will loop blitzers on 3+L
  11. Will run line games while #P is mugged
  12. DE’s are fast, speed rushers, will need help on 2+L, 3+L
  13. Will drop out of dbl mug look, double mug will look like a bear/pinch front
  14. #P will try to come across your face, but doesn’t always bring his hands
  15. LB’s and DE’s can be influenced in the zone game
  16. #P, if plays??, natural bender, disengages well.  P fan protected him when lined up over LG/LT.  When lined up on right, used TE and RB to chip.  Kept sliding protection to him. Also has ability to get his hands up in quick game. Will line him up to weakside as often as possible. Has had a lower leg injury.  Status unknown
  17. P and P went 5 against them and middle of field was open for all crossing routes and QB draw
  18. Against P, ran a lot of bomb/attack/wrap vs. Gold
  19. Will green dog the RB
  20. Showed P some true Okie fronts

After #1’s explanation, is a graphic for readers who are between 101 and 201. Obviously, below is just for you readers, it’s not needed for the pros. Hope you find how above translates into below to be informative.


Front 7

1. G Front teams: In a 4-3 base defense, typically the 2 interior DL are lined up in a 3 Technique (outside shoulder of the Guard) and in a ‘shade’ look (opposite shoulder to where the 3T) is. If they’re a G Team, that ‘shade’ now moves into what we call a ‘1 Tech’. He is now lined up on the inside shoulder of the guard.

Now it may not make a difference on some plays, it certainly has a few effects:

1. Changes the count in pass protection. It frees up the center to go opposite the nose and help clean up on the other side if they choose.

2. It changes the angle at which he gets blocked. If the center is looking to double team him with that guard, it changes how he’s going to approach that block and how it’s all going to time up. The guard needs to get his hands on him sooner because the Center is gonna be a hair late to get there to help.

3. If the nose lines up as a G, there’s more of a chance that he will slant (stunt) across the guards face and get into the B gap. This would mostly happen when there is pressure coming into the A gap from the 2nd level.

2. Will flip front on RB shifts: in a 4-3 base defense (the Denver Broncos are an odd *okie* 3-4 front team, but we still use the shading system that is used more in 4-3 defenses), there are different ways to designate where the 3Tech is going to line up and where the Nose is going to line up. Sometimes it’s set to where the TE (Y) is lined up.

Sometimes it’s based on hash marks. And sometimes, especially in 11 personnel 3rd down shotgun situations, the RB is the indicator to where the 3T will line up. Sometimes it’s opposite the RB, sometimes it’s to the RB.

Often teams will shift the RB to the other side to see if they can get the front to ‘flip’. Basically, that’s the old, ‘move move move’ thing where the defense either slides over, or the 3T moves real quick over the other guard. If they don’t move, you know you’ve got them locked into a front.

In this case: 1. When you move the RB and they flip the front, you know EXACTLY what front you’ll get, and you can dial up the exact run play that you want. 2. Moving the RB changes how the protection is going to change. If they flip, you can get them into exactly the front you wanna protect against.

3: rock and roll safeties. In basic 3 deep coverages, 1 safety has the middle 3rd of the field and 1 screws down to differing areas of the field depending on what the rest of the defense is called. Having rock and roll safeties just means that both guys can and will do both responsibilities, therefore making the qb’s presnap read even more difficult.

4: okie 4. True odd teams that are playing nickel, be it big nickel or regular nickel, will have a true bulldozer at NG, and 2 5T’s to rush the passer. Okie 4 is now where the NG and one 5T are lined up regularly, but on the other side, that 5 will reduce down into the inside shade of the tackle, and the WLB is walked up on the LOS.

5. Muck luck lines are what a lot of teams do on 3rd and long. They don’t particularly line up. They’re all standing on the LOS and at the snap, some will rush, some will drop. What this does is cause issues with the count for the QB as he can’t declare who the Mike is, therefore the lineman have trouble communicating who has who.

The Kansas City Chiefs run a version of okie 4. The Oakland Raiders used to, I would imagine they’re gonna be more of a Tampa 2 team now because that’s Jon Gruden’s baby. It also has very Belichickian principles to it.

6. TE motion to fronts. Same as shifting RB’s. Same concept.

7-9: true NG’s are road graters…farm strong guys who can battle a double team. They have to be thick on the bottom, and their ass better be massive. It’s a dirty work job. Bring your hard hat and lunch pal. 3 techniques are a slimmed down version of the NG, who are much more athletic. They don’t need to be quite as strong, but they need to be able to move their feet.

Their job is to be more of a disruptive force in the backfield. A lot of teams cross train their guys because college offenses run plays so fast that you can’t ‘flop’ your front.

10. Looping blitzers are self explanatory. Their goal is to not only come, but to get 2 OL blocking 1 blitzer and get the other blitzer a clean run through the backfield.

11. Line games: line games are like blitzes, only they just include D lineman. We see a lot of Tex and exit stunts. On a Tex stunt , the 3T will go across the face of the tackle, and the DE will loop around him hoping to get a free run to the qb. Similar to looping blitzers. (*editor note, I wrote about Jacksonville’s DL and their games=55 sacks.

12. DE’s are fast, speed rushers, will need help on 2+L, 3+L. Self explanatory.

13. Mugged LB’s: a lot of teams mug their backers. All it means is that their MLB will line up over the center on the LOS and he may come or he may back out. But again, in the count, he has to be counted in.

14. Bear front. This is a true 3-4 defense, only instead of a Nose and two 5T’s, now you have a Nose and two 3T’s. This is a fun stopping defense especially interior running games.

15…influenced backside DE’s and LB’s: these are guys who get nosy and try to chase down plays instead of staying home on the zone read stuff, or their backside responsibilities.

16 & 17 are about a player and explained

18Bomb, Attack, and wrap: these are 3 types of blitzes. Bomb is 2 LB’s going through both B gaps. Attack is 2 LB’s going through the A gap. And wrap is either a double A gap stunt or an A and B gap blitz to the same side. The trick is that this is a loop blitz. One guy goes first, and the other comes off his ass into the other gap.

19...Green dog the RB: this is something certain defenses use if the RB stays in on protection. If the RB stays in, the LB who has him, reads that the RB is staying in, so he now has to blitz. But he’s gotta make sure the RB is truly staying in for protection. But if he stays in, the LB picks a lane and attacks.

20True okie is just the old style 52 defense. It’s an odd front with two OLB’s on the LOS. A lot of teams have gotten away from this true front because they’re playing more nickel defense, and that OLB has been replaced by a Nickel Safety/Corner.  This is where okie 4 comes into the mix.

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.

 

Scouting Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: Traits the NFL looks for

scouting wide receivers and running backs

In this NFL Scouting series, we will cover each position group. In the real report I used, there are pictures of the player in various movements, with comments about each. In order to keep anonymity for the Scout, I’m only using the words, no photos, or the handwritten notes used. Scouting wide receivers and tight ends gives you a glimpse into what happens in their world.

Unlike the QB report, this is one page, but there’s less to analyze with this position group than the guys under center. Even so, when scouting wide receivers and tight ends, not only do they put together these analyses, but visit games, watch film, analyze them at the combine, any bowls and often host them at their facilities.

While there was less to cover, they still went in-depth and beyond what the average fan would consider. Scouting Halfbacks and Fullbacks gives the reader a chance to see inside the minds of what NFL general managers are looking for. Hopefully, this will help you watch the game with more detail and talk with knowledge.

They break down film, have them do whiteboard work, talk to coaches, etc. The actual one below is based on, had photos showing:

  • route running
  • sticking defender
  • downfield avoidance
  • homerun ability
  • catch in stride
  • body shield DB at catch point
  • body control at top speed
  • fast twitch
  • threat red zone

When Scouting Wide Receivers and Tight Ends they look for

  • Catch outside the frame ⊃
  • Speed Cut 〉
  • Square Cut ⌈
  • Double Move ζ

Body

  • coverage recognition
  • ball reaction – see & adjust track ball
  • body unravels in stride/cuts
  • crowd catch
  • extend to pluck
  • ball vs body catcher
  • adjust body on the move
  • fluid athlete
  • separation from defender body position
  • release vs man press (body strength, hand strength)
  • hands (soft/hard)
  • excess movement in stride
  • natural ball catcher
  • burst in route stem
  • top end speed
  • burst in/out of cuts
  • jumping ability/timing
  • R.A.C. – burst/acceleration/elude/efficiency/toughness
  • extra gear to separate
  • initial quickness
  • build to speed
  • release vs zone/man
  • lateral elude/make you miss

Mentality

  • interest in run game
  • blocking tenacity
  • crack block
  • settle in voids/spaces underneath in pass game
  • scramble drill
  • make himself available to QB on run
  • work back to ball
  • find holes

Notes

Here are notes used when scouting wide receivers and tight ends. Notice that for most of the TE’s, he cared more about blocking than catching. That’s the #1 job in most scout’s eyes.

  • High points ball well. elusive in screen game. A little sloppy on his routes. Good feet. Question his game speed. Tough, but rough around the edges. Feel like game film would look different.
  • Long, good blocker. Facemask to chest type blocker. Finishes on his feet. Big frame and great bend. Put 30 pounds on him and he’s an athletic tackle. Really explodes through defender. Big legs.
  • Tough. Able to get to 2nd level. A little high on his drive blocks. Questionable hip bend. Hands like a WR. Queen TE. Does not look like he likes blocking.
  • Long legged strider. Runs with ease. Nice route runner. Comes back to ball well with ease. Good hands. Gets to you of his route with ease.
  • Runs through tackles. Elusive, fast and tough. Creative. Don’t know if he has a 4.4 speed, but would play well in the slot. Catches ball with hands. A little sloppy on his 3 cut. Goes and gets the ball. Good player.
  • Whoa tough as nails blocker. Refuses to be tackled solo. Uses body to box out smaller players. Football awareness high. Good bend and sink. Strong upper body. Could add 20 pounds. Good player.
  • Smooth route runner. High points ball. Basketball type player. Fluid movement, soft hands and hard to tackle. Climbs to 2nd level well on doubles Don’t know about brute strength. Skinny legs.

Hope this gives you insight into what the NFL looks for when scouting wide receivers and tight ends. Any questions, you can comment below.

Scouting Quarterbacks: read what the NFL is looking at

In this NFL Scouting series, we will cover each position group. The first will be scouting quarterbacks. In the real report I used, there was pictures of the quarterback in various movements, with comments about each. In order to keep anonymity for the Scout, I’m only using the words, no photos of the QB the below, or the handwritten notes used.

What’s fascinating about about the two page report is how detailed it is. When scouting quarterbacks, not only do they put together these analysts, but visit games, watch film, analyze them at the combine, any bowls and often host them at their facilities.

They break down film, have them do whiteboard work, talk to coaches, etc. Choosing a quarterback isn’t usually some whim, it’s a long process based on reports like below. The actual one below is based on, had photos showing:

  • stride
  • hit & throw
  • weight transfer
  • low take-away
  • ball sails position
  • level throw
  • throwing plane
  • ball carry during drop & pocket movement (*compact/2 hands on ball)
  • frame throws: shoulders, hips, lead leg aligned w target
  • slightly flexed front leg
  • high extended over the top release
  • daylight in the grip+adequate hand size
  • compact lead arm
  • hip torque
  • accuracy on the move

There were lines often on the photos showing the above notations.

After the snap how was his:

  • pocket awareness
  • vision
  • locate 2nd WR
  • force into coverage, release quickness
  • arm strength
  • quick/compact vs elongated
  • smooth fluid vs jerky
  • anticipation
  • short stroke
  • change release point
  • technician in mechanics
  • accuracy, short & long
  • touch
  • grip
  • resets quickly
  • balance
  • throws on the run
  • pocket mobility
  • lateral pocket movement
  • weight transfer
  • stride (short =2″-6″)

There’s more that they look at pre-snap.

  • leadership
  • poise
  • judgement
  • defense recognition
  • pre-snap reads
  • primary/secondary WRs
  • blitz recognition
  • audibles
  • who call pro?
  • redirect protections
  • respect for the football

In the pocket:

  • feel for rush
  • pocket use
  • slide/step up
  • strength in pocket
  • make 1st rusher miss
  • temperament
  • squirrelly in the pocket

We’re not done yet on scouting quarterbacks. More items they look for:

  • catchable ball
  • make WR adjust
  • throw away from coverage
  • drive ball into tight coverage
  • hit WR in stride
  • trajectory
  • TOUCH: throwing angles
  • velocity
  • improvisation
  • finds passing lanes
  • trusts his arm
  • leadership-ability to command
  • voice inflection
  • knowledge of the game
  • game manager
  • clock management

Grades on these types of throws:

  • go
  • seam
  • shallow cross
  • dig
  • out
  • deep out
  • comeback
  • quick slant
  • bubble screen
  • check down

Here are the types of notes that can be made when scouting quarterback:

  • Touch, but power on his 8 cut through traffic. Elusive, quick, nice touch on the run. Eyes downfield on scramble. Power runner, looks for contact. Tough kid that’s quick. Very accurate on the run. Don’t know about pocket awareness. Gets to 2nd level well. Tough player. Needs to get stronger. Eyes downfield on scramble.
  • Steps up nicely in the pocket. Elusive. Big arm. Puts ball where only his guys can catch it. Gets away with some high school dare balls.
  • Bullet for arm. A little too reliant on arm strength. Throws off back foot sometimes. Confident. His highlights are based most off of 4 vert concepts. Quick feet. Can buy time on the move. Ball comes out high. Nice 3 ball. Stands tall and delivers strikes. Uses frame well. Drops ball well into coverage.
  • Long motion. Electric. Nice job looking off safeties. Would like to see more reads/routes, but system doesn’t seem to allow for it. Further evaluation needed. Athletic enough to play in both a pro and spread offense.

There you have it, what scouts look at, the type of items they look for and some notes they’ll make. Obviously, the bulleted items above will have numbers or notes and on their QB eval sheet will have many hand scribbled notes.

Learn about Stem Routes and why running them well helps the quarterback: Football 101

Over the last two seasons, we’ve seen inconsistent quarterbacking, but the receivers (and tight ends) weren’t consistently performing at their top-level. Plus, the depth behind them was poor. A very good QB can overcome, but weak play from receivers only compounds poor quarterbacking.

Why bring this up with Stem Routes? Because the Stem of a route begins the moment the wide receiver (or TE) pushes off. The black line below is the stem. As mentioned in the option route piece, WRs need to sell every route as looking the same. Running a Stem sounds simple: run until you turn (make break). It’s not.

*to note: this is Football 101, simple is used. Many sentences can use the words, usually or typically.

At the LOS, most plays will have a CB line up against them, either in soft press, hard press or off man (seven or so yards back from the LOS). That CB wants to mirror his guy, read his hips and respond. A good WR is able to keep his hips pointing one direction, sink them, plant his outside (or inside foot), and turn on a dime before the CB can react.

This creates separation.
It’s important to know that while the Stem starts at the line of scrimmage, mentally it begins much sooner: in the film room. Receivers need to know the CB’s who will be covering them. If he is an aggressive guy who likes to play hard press, then that first push at the LOS could be a step back. Why?

As covered in hard press, the CB wants to jam his guy, disrupt his timing so the route is shot. When the ball is snapped, the good WR takes a step back and lets his CB come at him, then pushes him aside and bam, he gone.

Remember in press, the hips don’t lie? The stem is all about the hips. If a receiver can get his hips inside, he’s open. That’s the size of an NFL window—the width of a pair of hips.

The dance between the WR and CB is all about who can get their hips to lie, read their opponents (and QB) and get the other to bite.

Rookie receivers tend to struggle with that part. They can run a route, catch the ball, but the ability to do what Diggs does in the below play, is tough to come by. Selling the stem and making the cut against the #1 CB.

Have a QB who can’t throw a rocket or on a dime, but still manages to make good plays? He has receivers who help him by creating space they can maneuver in. If the ball is a tad slow or off by a foot because there is separation, it lessens the chance of an interception. It also allows the receiver to adjust to the ball since there’s no defender draped over him.

Seasoned CB’s know which QBs struggle and they will try to jump a route, this makes selling the stem that more important. Get the CB to bite on a dig, but run a post, etc.

The below gif was against Aqib Talib in 2015 (who was tops), Stephon Diggs was a rookie in his first game against the top corner that season. Diggs keeps his head straight, his hips straight, plants his leg wide as if he’s going to go inside and instead runs an out route. Gets Talib to turn his hips out. Perfection.

Good Stem Routes should create separation.

My guess is Talib got over-confident. Didn’t expect this from some 21-year-old kid, so he got burned. That step sold it, look at all that space. The crappiest of crappy QBs can look like heroes if their WRs can give that barn door-sized window.

Jacksonville needs their young receiving corps of Marqise Lee, Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook and rookie DJ Chark to play at Diggs’ level who’s even better now. One step is all it takes to help or hurt Bortles.

Another trick WR’s can do on their Stems is a double (or triple) move. They can be used at any depth; it’s all about where the WR thinks he can shed his coverage. When he can get leverage off the hips, get the CB’s pointing away from where the route should end, he’s won. Even though he’s making more than one cut, it’s still the same stem because the route is about where the ball should be caught.

In summation, the stem is to trick the corner into going one way, while he goes another and to do that, he needs agility, speed, knowledge and a connection with his quarterback. Here’s to hoping our receiving corp can deliver.