Tag Archives: I formation plays

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!