Category Archives: Tight Ends

Using the H-Back Pistol Offense to Manipulate the Defense

The “H-Back”. Talk about something most coaches as the small college, high school, and youth football levels decide to give up upon because they don’t “have that type of athlete”. Well, for those of us who aren’t pessimists, the H-Back Pistol Offense adds unique elements to manipulate the defense.

Let me start by addressing some of your concerns. Yes, you probably have an “H-Back” in your program. No, he’s not a 6’6″ tight end unless your New England in 2011. Let me also say you probably don’t have a QB of Tom Brady’s caliber either, but you probably still use a quarterback in some fashion or another. Don’t let that lame excuse force you to ignore this article. Okay, so rant over. You got to coach up all your players – use tight end drills like these to start.

The H-Back, or really any movement player with some running and/or pass catching and blocking ability, can add a whole new element to your offense. The H-Back does a number of things to manipulate the defense. First and foremost, he can move the offensive gaps around quickly and easily, forcing defenses to respond with some reaction. Continue reading

Tight End Drills: Guide to Improve Their Skills

As with all hybrid positions, tight ends have a lot of responsibilities. Because of this, it often times requires an athletically talented player and a great teaching coach. However, if you design your offense well, you should be limiting the overall skills the tight end needs to know. This can drastically decrease the amount of tight end drills that a coach needs to run, and should over emphasize the skill development of the most commonly needed skills of the tight end.

There is some details on philosophy, and video of tight end drills from teams like Vanderbilt Continue reading

3 Reasons to Use the Tight End at the High School Level

A lot of coaches, with the innovations in the spread offense, have forgone the tight end. They say they go to the spread because their is no tight end in their program. They don’t have that 6’6″ great athlete. I simply feel this is an excuse to not use tight ends. I think it’s a lazy answer for coaches. I mean, I don’t have 5 6’4″, 300lb offensive linemen, but I still have 5 of those positions.

The tight end is a huge benefit to a spread offense. Even if the athlete isn’t the best, if he puts in good effort blocking, he can be just about anyone as long as he has a little bit of weight so he can block. Continue reading

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.

Why Offensive Line Coaches Need to Understand Defensive Run Fits

I’ve touched on the topic of offensive line coaches understanding defensive run fits in the past. But it is absolutely critical that offensive line coaches spend time with their defensive coordinator in order to understand how defenses defend plays. Then, the coach needs to take this information to the next step and equip their plays to be better prepared for well coached teams. I’ll use a simple example, weakside iso versus a 4-3 over cover 4 front, to show the importance of understanding defensive run fits.

Offensive Line Coaches Understanding Run Fits: “The Play Looks Wide Open Coach!”

Or… “It’ll be there all day!” Then it’s not. We’ve been there as O-line coaches. The defense makes an adjustment. For instance, below is an example of weakside iso versus the 4-3 over front. Every offensive line coach licks his chops when he sees this. There’s a big, natural bubble, and all we have to do is get a body on a body.

Weakside I Formation Iso versus 4-3 Over Cover 4

Weakside Iso versus 4-3 Over

I always assume the defensive coordinator is smarter than me. They’re not giving me a huge bubble unless they’ve got a way to protect it. In other words…

It's a Trap!

As many o-line coaches find out the day after film, while we draw it up and it looks perfect, the execution kills us. That’s because good defensive teams understand run fits and they do them so often that this play get’s clogged up. As you can see below, it was indeed a trap. The Mike linebacker has strongside B, the safety fills outside, and the Will linebacker plugs the kickout by the fullback. In other words, it’s hard as heck to get movement on the double and get to the Mike linebacker with a traditional horizontal combination block through the nose tackle.

4-3 run fits versus I formation Weakside Iso

Notice the bad angle for the combo to keep the Mike from Inserting Inside the Fullback

The Mike scrapes to B gap, and inserts inside of the Will linebacker, who should be taking the block on with his inside shoulder. Even if the Will linebacker takes it on wrong, the Rover is there. We can’t account for the Rover unless we get into some double tight sets OR use a receiver and get to him. So let’s assume the Will does forces it back inside.

On top of this, the Sam is probably flying to strongside A gap because the backside safety can take C gap. So now, we’re in a tough spot.  Three linebackers who are scraping fast towards the play. We’ve got to combo a nose AND hope the backside tackle takes a great path to the strongside linebacker.

Offensive Line Coaches Understanding Run Fits: Offensive Line Technique

As an offensive line coach, need to understand how your conference opponents will insert their run fits against your run game before the season starts. Why? Because then you can really focus on teaching the skills necessary to play their run fits, not where they are going to be at the snap.

Want More Offensive Line Material?
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  • Establishing Every Day Drill
  • Details on the “Finish Drill” to teach kids to block through the whistle
  • Working with an offensive coordinator
  • How to build confidence and communication between linemen

For instance, in the diagram below, we see a vertical combo block on the nose tackle through to the Mike. You may not get the dominating combo, but you will get a body on a body. The crease here in the 4-3 over weakside B gap is big enough naturally that the tailback should have no problem punching it through if the guard and center can get some vertical displacement on the nose and just come off to the Mike.

Weakside Iso versus the 4-3 Over Cover 4 with better technique

Notice the vertical combo on the nose tackle to the Mike.

The tailback also needs coaching here. He needs to trust that his linemen will come off off onto the Mike. If he cuts back at the line of scrimmage, he will run into cutback defenders. He should stay inside, true to the hole. It probably won’t be terribly clean, but he should be able to punch it through for 5 yards if not much more.

We also see the tackle and guard on the backside stepping tight together. This is almost a zone combination. Some coaches would say combo the backside defensive tackle to the Sam linebacker. I feel that the tackle, even on the vertical combo, can step too hard and knock the defensive tackle into the A gap in this scenario, closing that window for the linebacker, which in turn makes him press tighter to the playside because well coached linebackers go to the next open window. I’d rather have the backside of the offensive line here use a mentality like, “you two have those two”, and really zone through. So that way, if the 3 technique works into the offensive tackle, the guard can slip off for the Sam. If the defensive tackle gets hands on the guard, like he probably will, the offensive tackle will step inside (no matter what he’s doing that) and work on a 45 degree angle inside up to the Sam.

Conclusion

By taking time to understand how the Mike will flow (aka, his run fits), I will know to coach our guys to use a vertical combination block in this scenario, rather than a horizontal combo. Some offensive coordinators may need to be “schooled” on why that nose tackle shouldn’t be completely blown away by the combo. You need to care more about getting to the backer on this play. For winning teams, while it’s nice to physically dominate the defensive line, it’s better simply to get a body on a body so that way the running back can use his vision. So overall, when scheming plays, you need to make planning for a defense’s run fits a priority.

ChiefPigskin.com is a place you should visit today. They have some great drills that can help you.

Coaching the Spread Offense

Spread Offense Philosophy

Let me start by saying I typically don’t like the idea of making a general term apply to an offense. Each offense is different. The typcial spread offense that is seen in college and high school football today, by definition, is designed to attack the football field horizontally and vertically by using player leverage and field spacing. That’s basically the one aspect of the spread offense that is applicable for all teams.

So basically, this is my plead for all coaches, calling your offense the spread offense is limiting and lacks seriously detail. You’re creative, tell people that you like to “make defenses defend the width and length of the field with your running game”.

But still, is that enough? Is that an accurate description of your “spread offense”? Perhaps you should describe your spread offense like this… “From the shotgun, we displace defenders by using spread sets and when they’re isolated we attack them with multiple option plays”.

You might say, well, is all this necessary? It is if you’re telling you’re players you’re offensive philosophy from a technical stand point in a meeting. Maybe it’s not the kids (probably shouldn’t be unless you’re really trying to build buzz and can show them previous examples). Maybe you should save it for your coaches meeting, when you’re installing your offense. The main point is, telling people “I coach the spread offense” or, “We run the spread offense” is way too generic.

Coaching the Spread Offense Running Game

If we go back to the most basic theory, that our offense is “designed to attack the football field horizontally and vertically by using player leverage and field spacing”, then our running game should support that foundation. A necessary component of that theory is using the space defenders void when they go to cover a receiver. If teams don’t respect your passing attack or receivers, then they will close down at that spacing, making the spread running game ineffective unless you have vastly surperior talent.

For the spread offense, you have an advantage over the I-formation (“CoachCP… are you feeling okay?!?” – peanut gallery). The advantage is defenses cannot disguise what they are doing as easily on film or from the box view. It’s a lot harder to tell alignment and assignment when you’re coaching 21 or 22 personnel football (which is why I think it often get’s overlooked).

Overall, it’s important to establish then some sort of attack out of the spread that forces the defense to honor the width of the field and the players across the field. If they don’t, you’re offense will struggle. From the running game perspective, you can use quick jailbreak screens or bubble screens as an extension of your running game. Think of it as your I-formation toss sweep play.

In addition, speed and load option can quickly put full flow to one side of the field, making defenders cover a lot of grass to catch up to them.

Once you force defenders to honor your slot receivers, you should force them to respect the box as well. By utilizing the zone read, or trap, or QB inside runs (like the QB Power Play), you suddenly force the defense to be wrong. They can no longer properly defend the box running game. A lot of teams feel that the running game inside is limited. This is simply not the case. You can be creative. Almost anything you run out of the I-formation, can indeed be run out of the spread offense sets as well. You may need to utilize the quarterback or make the quarterback read a defender, but it can be done.

Coaching the Spread Offense Passing Game

The same element about the running game can be said about the passing game. Forcing defenders to respect the box should open up your passing game significantly.

Using coverage beaters on both sides will hamper you though without a strong play action passing game. You need to be able to have receivers cross the formation to force “playside” defenders in the passing game to honor them. That way, the defenses linebackers simply don’t flow directly to the hook/curl. If they do, the drag from the backside will hurt them. Overall, full field passing games are necessary to attacking the full width of the field in the spread offense. Use your quick passing game when you want to attack specific coverages (hitches versus cover 3 or cover 4, and double slants versus cover 2).

In addition, utilizing a strong quick passing game will force the defense to cover receivers right now. Enabling your quarterback to quickly throw those routes will only amplify your running and passing game. The rest of your offense might run zone read, but your QB may have identified the quick bubble being open and simply makes a call in his cadence or with his hands to the slot and #1 receiver.

The play action passing attack is great if you don’t feel you can adequately attack a portion of the field (horizontally or vertically). Play action and good “ride” actions by the QB will ensure that defenders at the linebacker and secondary don’t just jump passing routes. A safety being flat footed for half a second may open up the post route directly behind him.

Coaching The Spread Offense’s Forgotten Tight End and Unbalanced Sets

I think the least understood aspect of the spread is the idea of gaps. This is prominent in 21 personnel attacks (we go overload sets, tight end over, unbalanced, ect…). I believe this is lost sometimes for spread coaches. The theory of the extra gap that a tight end can present is excellent as well. Some teams simply don’t use a tight end because they can’t find the prototype. Your tight end doesn’t have to be 6’4″+, or over 220lbs even. He can be a regular athlete, who can block decently well for his size. If you’re tackles are road graders, they can make a huge difference in helping him block on the edge. So even if it’s a slightly above average sized athlete, you can still use him well and have a lot of aspects of the spread. Presenting that extra gap changes run fits entirely for a defense as well. Using him on the backside or the 3rd receiver in trips can change the entire dynamics for a defense, but all your blocking schemes can stay the same.

In addition to the tight end in general, using unbalanced sets can work. A lot of times, defense will have problems finding a good answer early in a game for an unbalanced set in the spread. With the element of the zone read and other option plays, even by showing it on film or using it once or twice a game will force defenses to spend signifcant time defending the running game and still ensuring they respect the passing game in practices. If they don’t do that, then you can take advantage of a poorly aligned defense quickly.

Conclusions on the Spread Offense

I hope you enjoyed this post, designed to detail the basic theories of the spread and how to be successful with it. A good spread offense will typically be able to force the defense to defend the full length of the field and the players across it. You can do this and be focused on the rushing attack or the passing attack. However, you must use both to keep defenses honest and to maximize efficiencies. Mike Leach may disagree, but even his team will run versus 5 in the box.

Make sure you check out ChiefPigskin’s videos!

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.