Inside Zone can dismantle the all out blitz. Many coaches check to a toss play or a screen versus the heavy blitz look – however this can become overly predictable.
This article will discuss the how and why you should use the inside zone play versus the heavy blitz play, at least in some situations.
Basics of Inside Zone
Inside zone can be blocked several ways. I won’t spend too much time on it here, but I have covered it before in this article on inside zone blocking.
Essentially, there are two rules for the offensive linemen that ask if they are “covered” or “uncovered”. Uncovered offensive linemen try to work with their playside teammate unless a special call is made where they work to their backside teammate.
Covered offensive linemen expect help to their backside from a teammate unless their covered or they get a call from them. Regardless, they take a shorter step trying to cover up their defender.
To oversimplify the blocking scheme, the offensive linemen and tight ends have their playside gap (or they work together with that teammate to a numbered defender). As I mentioned before, you can find more detail here.
An H-back, fullback, or QB read element handles the backside EMOLOS. If you’re blocking that defender, you should try to kickout, but don’t be afraid to bury them into the LOS in a glorified log block if they come down the line of scrimmage hard. Just make sure you drive them up the field.
1st Reason to Run Inside Zone versus the All-Out Blitz – It’s Easy!
The first reason to run the scheme is that it is EASY from a mental stand point. Everyone has their playside gap.
The technique is also pretty easy from a repetition stand point. Sometimes you have to get exotic with schemes when you get exotic looks. Offensive linemen might not be used to those schemes, and might not execute them well. With inside zone, they just treat the walked up linebacker that he’s a down linemen. The further he is away may change his aiming point with his feet a bit, but that’s something that should be rep’d anyways.
2nd Reason to Run Inside Zone versus the All-Out Blitz – The Runningback Won’t Get Nervous
Sometimes an overlooked element of running into the line of scrimmage is the back might get worried about run through. This means he might not pay attention to the hand-off.
You might roll your eyes at this, but it’s the honest truth. Especially with a young back, who might be in the game in a situation like this.
Inside zone should ease their mind. Their read is still the first down linemen past the guard (at least in my case), however they can quickly anticipate cutting it back. While they should remain patient and cutback close to the line of scrimmage, they will hopefully get several wash blocks down the line. This will put the cutback lane probably around the spot of the center originally. All he has to do is react to the block of the fullback, as seen in the screengrab below.
As we can see, the runningback is cutting back all the way past the fullback, reads his block, and punches it. Works line a charm.
3rd Reason to Run Inside Zone versus the All-Out Blitz – Safe w/home run potential
The inside zone has huge potential to hit a home run. We’ve all seen it and I don’t need to explain why. The offense gets horizontal movement. The runningback cuts it back. The secondary doesn’t react well to the quick hitting play, and it goes to the house or for long yardage.
As long as you rep these “ugly” looks with inside zone, it still has that potential. Just rep some ugly looks. Put some pressure on the defense.
4th Reason to Run Inside Zone versus the All-Out Blitz – Play Action Possibilities
After a while, the defense may sit on you running inside zone. Or, you may need a safe play on 2nd and short that converts.
Regardless, both situations setup the play action off of inside zone. No matter the concept or the QB landing spot, the play-action pass is nasty because it’s so well simulates inside zone, especially with full slide or half slide protection.
In many cases, you are getting a zone blitz with this inside zone look. You may very well have comeback and corner routes open in that situation. If you’ve got a man look, the same might be true.
Either way, you’re going to suck up the few non-blitz defenders, and your going to increase the possibility to get separation on the outside.
Overall, inside zone in run heavy situations gives a nice, safe alternative to toss plays and screens. In addition, once you have this set up as a tendency for your offense, the play action off inside zone can be lethal.
Of course, make sure you rep the play versus some ugly looks. However, once your kids master the play in the summer, you should be able to run it quite often with good success.