Tag Archives: i formation

3 Offensive Line Tips for Full Slide Protection

More and more teams are using a lot more gap or full slide protections from football teams. I found a pretty good video over at eFootballFlix.com on Gap and Full Slide Protection by Pat Perles, formerly of North Dakota State. This blog post will give you a free clip of that video, brought to you by eFootballFlix, and it will give you 3 tips I grabbed that I thought would be helpful. But first, let’s discuss what full slide protection is.

Basics of Full Slide Protection

Full slide protection has the offensive line go all in one direction. The tight end, when on the line of scrimmage, may be involved in the same slide direction.

Full Slide Protection to the Right

Back Goes Left, Line Full Slides Right


A movement player, like an H back or a runningback, slides to the opposite direction of the line.

So if the runningback goes left, the offensive line goes right.
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Adding Unbalanced Formations to Your Offense

One of least utilized tools in the Offensive Coordinator’s toolbox has to be the use of the unbalanced offensive formations.

What I mean by unbalanced formations is either covering up an eligible receiver by other receivers to create an overload, or switching an offensive lineman and a receiver such as a TE to create dilemma between defending the passing or running strength.

Many option offenses often use different types of unbalanced formations, but not many Zone or Gap teams utilize these looks. The purpose of this article will be to present unbalanced formation concepts to these types of offenses to use against defenses when a schematic advantage might be needed versus a superior opponent. Continue reading

Disguising the I Formation Iso Play: Fullback Swipe

It’s important, that we as coaches, recognize ways to earn little victories in order to help our players be successful by aiding them in their opportunity to win match-ups. It’s a myth that the fullback in the I formation must be a bruiser (along with the idea that the tight end must be a man among boys). With small enhancements to the I formation, an undersized/under powered fullback can still be effective. The Swipe action on the the I formation iso play helps put the fullback in a position to be successful.

I formation Iso Play Swipe Concept

So what is the I formation Iso Swipe concept? I call it the “swipe” because essentially the fullback is pulling from an off-set position opposite the play to kickout the inside linebacker. I call it swipe because it’s not quite a pull or a wrap technique. The fullback works into the line of scrimmage, and should expect to kickout the linebacker. Essentially, everything is the same from your standard I formation Iso play, except that you are “swiping” with the fullback instead of “leading” up on him.


Fullback kicks out playside inside linebacker, combo gets dumped but accounts for nose tackle and weak inside linebacker.

What the I formation iso play swipe concept does is it essentially provides a really appetizing read to the Middle Linebacker. He gets an open door and sees the tailback coming right at him. It looks like a broken play, or Inside Zone with a combo on the shade. The linebacker presses the line, either looking to make a big play in the backfield, or to beat the combo block, and gets kicked out by the fullback coming underneath.

I Formation Iso Play: Swipe Technique

The fullback should come underneath the quarterback. He will not likely make the block on the other side of the line of scrimmage. If he does, it won’t be very deep. He should anticipate movement on nose tackles thanks to the combination block. He should use a blocking technique to a trap block. He should keep his head up the field, and kickout with his playside shoulder pad. He should use surface by using the flipper, and run his feet on contact.

The tailback wants to open like it’s a normal Iso play. This will get the playside inside linebacker to step up. The tailback should be ready to hug the combination block on the nose tackle.

The quarterback should make sure he doesn’t step off the midline as he reverse pivots to the tailback. If he steps off the midline, he risks forcing the tailback into the kickout on the linebacker. He should carry out whatever your typical play fake is.

I Formation Iso Play: Swipe Play Action

This run action actually works really well with any type of half-slide protection. The offensive line slides away from the call, with the playside tackle setting up on the end. The fullback, instead of kicking out, would sneak into the flat. The tailback is responsible for the linebacker tackling him (aka, playside inside). From there, the play is really up to the offensive coordinator. I always like Post/dig or Pound Pass (TE sits at 8-10, works off leverage of safety, and the flanker runs a post over the top) play action pass concept when the QB can setup right behind the tackle, so this play action works beautifully.

Vikings Play Action Pass Concept

Vikings Double Tight

Highlighted are the two tight ends

This Vikings play action pass is a sign of good coaching. When I watch other offenses, one thing I always look for is the quality of a solid play action pass concept. Play action passes are much more than a run fake. They should take full advantage of defensive keys in order to get the best coached defenses to fall for the fake. Otherwise, play action passes will work well against poor defenses, but not necessarily against great ones.

Goal of the Play Action Pass

The goal of this play action pass by the Vikings isn’t so much on the patterns run or the fake. While those elements are important, the most crucial aspect of this play action pass is the use of the defense’s own keys/reads against them. The Vikings start in 22 personnel, aka two tight ends and a split end. Both tight ends lined up next to each other, with a fullback in the backfield. This look forces a change in the back seven of the defense, because the offense, when the fullback and extra tight end is considered, can present two extra gaps to one side. The defense must overload that side.

Vikings' Tight Ends Block Down

Vikings Tight Ends Block Down

Play Action Pass: Use Over Aggressive Play Against The Defense

However, because of this overload, the defense knows they are weaker to weakside runs, especially given the alignment of Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. Looking at the 2i alignment (inside shoulder of the weakside guard) of the defensive tackle shows they understand this weakness. However, they are respecting the deep pass from the split end, because they are playing Free Safety Chris Conte deep and near the middle of the offensive formation.

So the Bears are selling out to a run to the strongside, or a deep play action pass. This leaves them weak specifically to the weakside runs. It’s clear to everyone that the Bears are weak here, including the defense themselves. So they will likely overly aggressively play run fakes to that side.

Breaking Down the Vikings’ Play Action Pass

Play Action Pass Double Tight Vikings

Interior Tight End Comes Off DE, Begins to Work into Flat

The Vikings take advantage of this with their play action pass. They run a full flow lead play action pass towards the weakside. As expected, the Bears play over the top. However, to better protect Ponder on his bootleg fake, and to get the weakside of the defense to buy the fake, both tight ends start to execute what looks like scoop blocks to the defense. The Bears heavily use run keys. One of those is the angle of the EMOLOS, in this case, the outside of the two tight ends. As the tight ends scoop through, the defense pursues the run. However, as the outside tight end continues to block, the inside tight end, Kyle Rudolph, uses the defender’s body to push off and work away from the play. By technically blocking down on the defensive end, Rudolph provides Ponder protection, and thanks to his teammate outside of him, he comes free into the flat as Ponder works his head around. Rudolph works up the field and into the voided secondary.

Tight End Play Action Pass

The tight end comes open as the secondary still reacts to outside tight ends block on play action pass

Patience with the Play Action Pass

The Vikings set this play action pass up earlier in the game, but were smart in waiting to execute the big play, and then also running it twice in a row on the same drive. This prevented adjustments by the defense and they actually used it on the next play, leading to a score for Rudolph. We see the genius of coaching here. First, we see that the Vikings understood that the Bears were not stupid, they knew the weakness of their look and would aggressively defend it. Secondly, we see the Vikings using standard defensive keys to open up the interior receiver, in this case Rudolph. Third, and more importantly, utilizing the scheme to it’s fullest capacity before Bears coaches could figure out what happened and adjust. This is the sign of good coaching. Sometimes the NFL has boring stuff. However, sometimes they take the boring things, and if you know what to look for, add some important and exciting stuff to them.

This style of play action pass shows the difference between an average offensive coordinator and a good offensive coordinator. The ability to manufacture big plays and points by using the defense against itself, while putting your players in a position to be successful. Play action passes can generate big plays easily, but playing against good defenses they may fall apart because of a simple element (say the outside tight ends run fake looked terrible for instance). Coordinators need to show patience with play action passes, coach them up, but also need to know when to utilize them to their fullest extent to maximize their return before the defense can adjust. For other thoughts on scheme, check out Chiefpigskin.com.

I formation Plays – Get The Must Out of Your Running Game

Getting the Most out of Your I Formation Running Plays

First of all, I want to apologize for the slow posting. I celebrated my 1 year anniversary, started Insanity workouts, and am looking for a new AC unit. I do have some very big things in the works, so keep checking back often. I hope you enjoy this post on I formation plays and how to create defensive confussion.

I’m a firm believer that the I Formation can still be one of the top offenses in football. Actually, any offense can work well if it has the right players and coaches. However, the I formation is, by default, one of the most easy to defend formations in football from a strategic stand point because most people draw up their defense first against the I formation. I think I formation football coaches need to be technique teachers first and foremost, and focus on that and not as much the strategy. Our schemes should be recyclable and sound against most fronts. We need our football players to beat the front seven… or eight or nine of the defense by using superior technique.

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That being said, there is a level of strategy that I think put’s some I formation, or any other 2 back team (or 2 tight end H back team), ahead of the pack. We need to create run fit confusion for the defense with the way we run out I formation plays, but utilizing motion.

I formation Plays – Run Fit Confusion

The main goal of run fit confusion is to get players who aren’t 100% focused on the run (aka not defensive linemen) out of position, or to make someone who is 100% focused on the run wrong.

How do you accomplish this out of the I formation? I prefer to slightly play with the gaps, or by running the option. I wrote a post on load option as a complimentary or “constraint” play for the power I formation play, so I’ll keep this entirely to creating gap problems.

I formation Plays – Gap Problems

I formation Plays: Full Back Movement Creates Safety Displacement

Full Back Movement Creates Safety Displacement

A lot of coaches think you have to get into overloaded or heavy sets to create gap problems, and that simply is NOT the case. You can create gap problems with I formation plays just by moving the fullback around. Put him in a wing position, put him just insight the tight end, put him in the off-set position to the strong or weakside and “pull” him across the formation (AKA… if you run power-o with the fullback kicking out and the guard wrapping, you can easily run counter with the fullback and guard switching repsonsibilities).

More important than moving the fullback around, or even the receivers, is understanding how the defense defends it. Make sure you do the same thing for a few plays before assuming anything about the defense. They may have lined up wrong, or been locked in a “static” play with minimal flexbibility to adjust. Once you understand how the linebackers or secondary respond, you can begin your attack.

Start by seeing if you have created spacing issues for the defense. Is the safety out of position? Did the linebackers move 2 steps to the strongside when you set the fullback from a weakside wing to a strongside off-set I formation spot?

Simple movements may buy your linemen the time they need to get to a better athlete at the second level. Or it may eliminate the need to block a defender on the backside. Or, better yet, you’ve changed the responsibilities of second level defenders, and first level defenders don’t know this change. Maybe now the defensive end should not spill, he should squeeze. But he’s got so many things on his plate (reading the near linemen, responding, disenaging the block) that he’s used to just doing what normally does. Or maybe, if he does realize it, he’s half a step out of position. And yes, sometimes you can accomplish just this by moving a fullback around from a near LOS position (wing) into the backfield on the opposite side. You’d be amazed at what that extra gap can do.

This may sound familiar for some Wing based offenses. I think the big benefit for I formation plays is that fullback can be an impact blocker, unlike a traditional wing back. He’s used to kicking out defensive ends. He’s used to matching up with the Mike linebacker. But for us I formation coaches, we may need to learn this lesson. If you can’t out athlete or be a better technician, you better cause run fit confusion.

Perhaps my favorite way to cause problems is using a very quick, easy motion, followed by a longer, receiver across the formation type motion. Not only does this make defenders think about their assignment and tendencies (with the threat of the ball being snapped at any time), but it also creates communication breakdowns. Perhaps the safety echo’s commands, but because he’s so busy with everything else going on, he forgot to tell the linebacker he’s not in a position to fit in on the backside of running plays because he’s covering the new slot receiver. Now we can run inside zone, and the cutback lane is open because the backside backer overpursued because he thought the safety was there.

I formation Plays – Communicating Shifts and Motions

As a coach, you should make motions and shifts as easy as possible for your kids. That means, ASK them what will help them remember so you don’t run into play clock problems. Don’t necessarily create a formula for this aspect of your offense if it will cause confusion.

If my players remember motion by me calling out their names in the motion call, then I should do that. Instead of Z Across (or Zac), I should Say “Smith Across”. Maybe they prefer Zac. But teach them why Zac is relevant (Z means the Z receiver, Ac is short for across).

I formation Plays – Conclusions

I think ChiefPigskin.com has some great videos that may address this. You should check them out. Overall, if you have any questions on this topic, please let me know!

Load Option versus Defensive Ends that Spill

How the Load Option Can Defeat Defensive Ends that Spill

I hate defensive ends that spill. They irritate I formation offensive coordinators. The defensive end spills power or some other off-tackle play and the linebacker or safety replaces him. It’s a good theory for defenses that want to use their speed and the sideline to give I formation teams fits.

Power versus Spill

Power Versus the Spill Technique

What is Load Option Option

Depending on your terminology, Load Option is the ability to block someone who is responsible for one aspect of the option on defense. For teams that spill, I like to use what I call load option on the defensive end. If a team follows block down step down rules, when the tackle blocks down or zone blocks inside, the defensive end should step inside as well. One of two things will occur. The defensive end will fly inside, thinking the play is power or some scheme to kick him out with the fullback. Some teams run Load Option to block the Quarterback Player, others the Dive player, and finally some Load run load option where they are blocking the pitch player. I like to differentiate the terms, but it’s whatever works for your terminology.

Load Option versus Defensive Ends that Spill

Load Option versus Spill

Playside EMOLOS Technique

When the defensive end drives inside to spill, he will be giving the play to a linebacker or safety to make the tackle. It is of pivotal importance that your end man on the line of scrimage (EMOLOS) rips UP the field if he’s working to a linebacker directly or if he’s comboing he needs to keep his shoulders parralel to ensure he can at least get his body on the linebacker who is supposed to replace the defensive end when he spills. Usually defensive ends who are taught block down/step down rules are taught to get hands on the person executing the down block to help keep them off the linebacker. Well coached teams do this better than others. The tackle, if he has does not get a free release to the linebacker, needs to fight pressure with pressure and expect contact right at his first step. He should lean into his rip, much like a defensive end would do against him. If the EMOLOS, be it the tackle or tight end, can’t get directly to the linebacker, he needs make sure he gets his hands on him enough to run him past the hole. Sometimes all you need is a body on a body. The ball carrier (or potentially carriers in the case of the option) should be able to see this and adjust their path.

Fullback Technique on Load Option

For the fullback, the fullback should attack the outside hip with his inside shoulder and be ready to really drive his feet on contact. He should be aiming as low as possible so he can bury the end at least back to the line of scrimmage. He can’t fall down as he rotates his hips either. Some fullbacks try to do this when kicking out, but when they rotate and fall, they clog the running lane with their feet. They must keep their feet driving and underneath them.

Quarterback Technique on Load Option

The Quarterback needs to step off the line before moving down the line of scrimmage himself. When a defensive end spills, he will be fighting to get into the backfield, not just to clog a hole, but if the play was power, to prevent the guard from getting to the linebacker who was replacing him. By clearing himself from the LOS, the quarterback ensures he will be able to get around any trash. Teams that run two back pistol or shotgun power and load option will likely be able to avoid this problem all together since they are removed from the line of scrimmage at the snap.

Formation Adjustments to Increase Big Play Opportunities

I Formaiton Twins versus Spill

The Secondary Rotated to the Twins Side, Opening up a big play opportunity to the tight end side

Understand how the defense will adjust to your different formations. If you get into a twins or slot formation out of 21 personnel, will they play 3 over 2 to the 2 receiver side? If that’s the case, you should try to run load option to the strong side and isolate the pitch on the deep half or deep 1/3 player, as seen in Diagram 1.

Using unbalanced formations can really boost the big play effectiveness, however, I do not recommend running the option on the first play or two. It’s hard to predict how teams will respond to overloaded lines or unbalanced offensive lines. This is because coaches may change their philosophy for your team OR the players may be misaligned. While sometimes misalignment is good, it can also spell doom for your playcall if you can’t check it at the line of scrimmage, and in the best case scenario you may need to call a time out. Once you understand the defensive run support system from the secondary, you can execute option plays.

What to do when the EMOLOS Boxes Out

So what do you do when the defensive end starts to box out your fullback, meaning play contain rather than spill. He may do this because they switched their run support… or because he doesn’t trust his coaches anymore. Either way, if he starts to do this, forcing your quarterback to run into C gap, which many I formation coaches won’t like, the best solution is to run power again. Remember the reason we run LOad Option. It’s a constraint play. It’s designed to make the defense play us honestly. I want to run Power or Iso every single play. Period. But… if the defense takes our A – C gap running game away, they’re giving us something else. People usually think you have to pass and that is simply not the case. You need to understand what the defense is trying to do to make an impact on them as a play caller.

What to do when the defense rotates to the fullback

i formation twin speed option versus spill

Run Speed Option away from a team that has a secondary that rotates to the Tight End Side

My favorite way to defeat a defense that shifts the position of their linebackers or the secondary is to run speed option quicklyaway from the fullback. By rotating the secondary and because the play hits so quick, the possibility for a steady run game exists. Any other running play that works away from the fullback can work as well.

Chiefpigskin has a 3-3 stack video up from Glenbard South HS in Illinois. Check it out.

Defeating the Under Front Defense with the I Formation Offense

Let me start by saying, the Under front is a fantastic defense versus 21 personnel I formation teams.  They provide excellent leverage against on the outside. Let’s start with the basics of the under front and why a defensive coordinator would utilize that against the I formation offense.

The under front presents an offense with a shaded nose to the strength, a 5 technique end outside shoulder on the tackle, and a outside linebacker or defensive end in a 9 technique on the tight end.  To the weakside you often see a 3 technique over the outside shoulder of the guard and a 5 technique outside linebacker or end outside shoulder on the tackle.  The weak inside linebacker sits in a 20 technique or a 20i technique, with the strongside inside linebacker sitting in a 30 technique normally. According to Jerry Gordon, author of the fantastic book entitled Coaching the Under Front Defense, the weakside inside linebacker in the 20 technique often needs to adjust his width to stay just outside of any fullback to ensure that the defense does not get outflanked.

Under Front Strengths:

  • Only One True Bubble (Strongside B Gap)
  • The Will (Weak Inside 20 tech) is protected by the defensive line
  • A true 5 man front, can get 9 defenders in the box quickly
  • Can Be played both aggressively and non-aggressively
  • Capable of multiple coverages
  • Tandem DL to prevent outside runs or off-tackle runs

Under Front Weaknesses:

  • Limited Coverages to a nub tight end 
  • Weakside A gap provides good angles
  • Weakside safety can be manipulated with twins/slot looks
  • Tight end trade
  • Fullback motioning to a wing position next to the tight end

How to Attack the Under Front

You need to game plan what way is the simplest way to efficiently attack the Under front.  For instance, do you have time to install tight end trade or motion the fullback?  If you don’t think that is worth your practice time, you should look at utilizing a twins formation.  Personally, I think the Under front does have two bubbles.  I believe the weakside A gap needs to be attacked constantly.  The Will linebacker in the 20 technique is someone who is often undersized.  This presents a solid matchup for potential fullbacks in the I formation.  In addition, the angles the shade to the strength and the weakside 3 technique defensive tackle offer great angles to attack the defense.  Therefore, since you can essentially neutralize two potential strengths of the under, it seems like a great place to attack.

In this example, we see how the weakside A gap can be attacked in a number of different ways from the I formation, using the Iso play and the Midline play. By using the I twins formation, a football coach can easily create a seam in the defense.  The coverage above is a cover 2 look, with the strongside corner playing the deep half and the sam linebacker playing the flat.

In you receive a lot of cover 2 looks, you should also run to the strongside.  If your tailback can make a defender miss, especially a cornerback, this presents big play opportunity.  The picture to the left doesn’t illustrate this, since we are in an I formation pro look, but it does illustrate how the power play would indeed look.

A lot of Under fronts run Cover 4 or Cover 6 (Quarter Quarter Half) with the quarters being played to the 2 receiver side.  This presents a lot of 2×1 21 personnel teams problems because of an unblocked defender to the weakside.  Using the twins formation can control this player.

As the picture to the right indicates, we are probably getting a true cover 4 look, or a cover 2 “read” look where the corner reads the #2 receiver with the free safety and breaks to the flat if the #2 receiver does bubble or go flat from a slot position.  Here, the offense called a strongside iso play, but because the rover is in the box and the free safety is at a depth of near 10-12 yards, the bubble play is a great adjustment.  Even if they ran the original play and simply had the receiver run the bubble, it should control the rover allowing the tailback to pick up a few extra yards.  That is what football is all about.  Finding small adjustments to pick up 3 more yards on any given play.

But how can you control the Under front with the passing game?  Especially quarter quarter half teams.  I have spent a long time contemplating this.  Overall, I feel a read route by #2 running at a depth of approximately 10 yards is ideal.
The free safety will be in a bind because the depth of the Z receiver’s route here.  The z receiver also needs to feel the leverage of the rover.  This play can be run from a play action look or a 5 step drop.  The box indicates the QB’s primary read, in this case, the near safety.  The QB should identify his position immediately after the fake if it’s a playaction.  If the safety jumps the read route, then the quarterback needs to look to the corner.  This is a big play opportunity for the QB. If the safety stays over the top, the QB should read the leverage of the Rover safety on the Z receiver running the read route and throw the ball the opposite way.  The tight end’s goal here is to acquire the attention of the strongside half field player in order to clear room for the post.

Finally, this is a route combo I picked up from Coach Petrino, offensive coordinator at Illinois this weekend.  It’s your tradition cover 4 beater, double posts and a wheel.  Except he added one more flat route whose goal is to be seen by the hook/curl or flat defender who typically would follow the wheel.  The wheel defender usually expects someone else there to pick up the wheel with the flat player’s presence.  This settles his hips and allows the wheel to become wide open in the spot cleared by the double posts, which move the free safety and corner.  Protecting the QB would probably be the only issue.  The posts, according to Petrino, are not part of the read.  It’s a high low read on the wheel and the back in the flat.  One of them will be open.

Overall, defeating the under front can be tricky.  However, with small preseason planned manauvers, a coach can setup their offensive side of the football for success.  Simply be patient and work the play action combo’s when they are there.  Understand the coverages they play and take full advantage of them.

These are only some suggestions, but if you have more, please feel free to leave a comment.