22 personnel. Often forgotten about with today’s spread offenses. Often relegated to the goal line or other short yardage situations, these heavy two tight end formations can create big plays.
See, there is a certain psychology that comes with two tight end formations these days, grounded in what I just spoke about, goal line and short yardage situations. Many defenders run fits change versus 22 personnel, so they need to pay extra attention to their alignment and assignment, just like they used to do versus trips formations!
Because these two tight end formations use exactly that, two tight ends, the defense must respect an extra gap. They might do this by using their own goalline set, or by removing a safety and adding a linebacker. Regardless, you force a pass responsibility defender to play in an unnatural position – either because he’s the best backup and he’s not naturally used to being on the field – or because he’s a safety and he’s near the line of scrimmage.
By inserting this extra gap, play action passes out of two tight end formations and screens become a great opportunity for the offense. As I’ve charted in the past, I feel the best way to score is through big plays – and the easiest way to create these big plays is through play action. Well, the best way to enhance play action is over emphasizing the run, which this set does exactly.
Two Tight End formations: Play Action Concepts
There is one downfall to play action passing out of two tight end formations, you have less receivers on the field to make it work. However, that means your tight ends and backs need to be well coached in this passing game.
Over time, I’ve come to believe that protecting the passer is of the up-most importance when using play action. If the QB feels hurried, he will miss the big play opportunities down the field.
Using two tight end formations, we can use both running backs to protect and even both tight ends. Eight people can stay into protect the QB, two people in the route immediately. Of course, you can check these receivers out of the backfield.
Let’s break down this passing play, faking toss sweep.
As we can see, we have a full zone slide away from the play action pass in this two tight end formation. The fullback has the C gap, and the tailback has the D gap. If no D gap defender rushes, the back works into the flat. If he sees an immediate threat, the fake should be secondary.
The wide receiver runs a post at 10-12 yards. He’s taking the top off the coverage. He should be eyeballing the near safety. If he breaks the cap of the corner and safety, he should be ready for the ball.
The flanker side tight end should arc release (if possible, though I didn’t draw that up) and get eyes on the free safety like he’s going to block him. He should break for the corner between 8-10, and should work towards the out if he’s got space there. The QB will throw him open.
The tailback, after checking D gap, should work hard to the flat towards the flanker in this two tight end formation. He should eyeball the cornerback if he’s playing the flat and get him to sink for him. If the corner drops and the flat player doesn’t expand with him, he should be ready for the ball right now.
The backside tight end should make sure there is no D gap threat to his side. If there isn’t, he should use his inside arm/shoulder to help the tackle. He then should work to an area between 4-7 yards right over the playside guard. He should put priority on finding the hole in the zone.
After completing a great toss action fake, extending the ball in the general direction of the back, he works his eyes to the #1 receiver. If that receiver is capp’d, work to the option route for the tight end. He is the “Read” route using R4 terminology. Finally, the tailback is the rush route.
Another play action possibility out of this two tight end formation uses half zone slide protection. We want to work the backside of the coverage. Versus two tight end formations, you’ll see a lot of cover 3 and quarter quarter half with safety or linebacker force. The corner in this drawing has the half or deep 1/3.
We’re going to fake inside zone out of this 22 personnel two tight end formation. The backside tight end pretends like he’s executing a zone scoop before working straight up the field to 10 yards and breaking to the corner.
I have the fullback to the flanker side coming back. I feel like this action helps sell the play. The fullback must collision any backside runners who aren’t up the field with his up-field shoulder. He should be ready for an immediate throw versus any edge pressure.
The tight end to the flanker side out of the two tight end formation works between 7-10 yards over the middle. This gives us our triangle read to the nub tight end side.
The flanker runs a post over the middle.
The QB uses the nub tight end as his “rhythm” route in R4. Because he’s turning his back to the route, he should get a sense of the presnap cap by looking at the defender over the top. Through practice, he should have a feel for where the tight end should be on a clean release versus a heavily collision release. If the tight end is not to his spot by the time the QB gets his head around, he looks for the “read” route, in this case the other tight end working the middle. The rush route is the fullback out of the backfield. If he’s getting a rush presnap, he needs to get to the fullback earlier. The fullback can help the QB by saying something like “Rush” to indicate excess pressure off the edge. He should do what he can at that point to get open as soon as possible.
Overall, out of two tight end formations, play action passes can be lethal, whether your faking it inside or outside.
Two Tight End formations: Backside Screen
One of my favorite plays out of two tight end formations is the backside screen. It just is so easy to forget about that edge when you fake an outside play, like outside zone or toss sweep, shown below.
The tight end, backside tackle, and backside guard all fake their zone scoops before executing the banana technique. The tight end needs to get his numbers turned about 5 yards away from his initial alignment and one yard behind the line of scrimmage if possible. The tackle and guard should not be too far down the field, for penalty reasons.
The first defender we can expect to react is the deep defender, which is the corner. The tackle should pick him up. The guard should be looking inside, expecting the Mike linebacker.
The QB should execute another excellent toss sweep fake towards the flanker in this two tight end set in the direction of the running back. He should keep getting 2-3 yards depth after he “fakes” the toss. He should pivot off his back foot. He should aim for the ball to go upfield slightly, so the tight end can catch it on the run.
Overall, two tight end formations aren’t just for running the ball. Two tight end formations are for big plays based off of play action and screens.