Tag Archives: two tight ends

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

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.

Two Tight End Offensive Formations

Two tight end sets are pretty tough to defend. Manipulation of multiple tight ends allow your running game and passing game to flourish. Now I know what you’re thinking, I don’t have two tight ends. So what?! Use an undersized linemen or an oversized or slow receiver. Anyone from 5’10+ will work for high school!

All you want in the passing game, for most offenses, is someone who can attack the flats, run a drag, or run directly at a safety and maybe break inside or outside. Also, in my opinion, technique trumps size in 90% of your on the field battles. Chances are, you are not going to have the prototypical tight end, but you don’t need one. Put your kids in a position to be successful. If they can block better, sneak them out on a flat route after selling pass pro for a count. If they can run routes, flood the defense.

Regardless, lack of ideal personnel should never be an excuse for not using one or two tight end sets. Think about this, you use defensive ends I bet without prototypical defensive end types, and you use two of them…

Two Tight End Gap Advantage

Now, onto the X’s and O’s regarding two tight end sets. Remember, what you want is the gap advantage. It is very difficult to defend and offense that puts two tight ends on the field.

First of all, is the extra tight end treated as a receiver, a blocker, or a second full back?

Do they have him on or off the line, and do they move him around?

If they move him around, what are their tendencies with motion?

These are just some of the questions a defense must ask itself. Now imagine you are a linebacker. The tight end goes from a wing position away from the tight end to a position to the strength. First of all,when are they going to snap it? Second, what are the new play call tendencies from here?

As a play caller, use the two tight end sets and motion to manipulate the defense. Some people ask, how can you limit verbiage in your offense? I personally like the idea of calling the “set” formation during the playcall, and having your tight end start off in a set position called before the formation.

For example, the tight end starts off in “Ace” and moves to “Plus”. The formation call in the huddle is “Ace – Plus Right”.  From informing our players and rep’ing our calls in practice, the players know we don’t have an “Ace – Plus Right” formation. They do know they are two base formations for us.

All formation adjustments, for this offense, come after the direction call. For example, Ace Right Twinz would be a regular formation call. “Ace – Plus Right” tells our J-Back (H-back like player) that he needs to move across the formation to a wing position off the tight end or Y.

What kind of structural problems can we cause for the defense? Lets start off with our first example, “Ace – Plus Right”. As the tight end gets set to the strength, we put the defense in a bind. Suddenly, what do we have?

We have gone from a 2 x 2 formation (two receivers to both sides) to a 3 x 1 formation, or trips. Not only that, it is a form of bunch.

Bunch, a subject of great advantage for another day, causes numerous defensive problems, even if its two players. First of all, it forces the defense to recognize a new gap, the E gap. The D gap, depending on the defensive structure, may need to be played in a new way.

Secondly, how are they going to match up to defend these gaps? Will they bring a strong safety over or bump the linebackers?

Maybe they’ll do neither, depending on the down and distance. But if they don’t, they’re minus one in the run game, and probably going to force the players to play a weird form of coverage that is slightly unfamiliar to them.

I’ll give some examples of how this formation’s intricate structure provides mis-matches against an opponent. The first play I like off this motion and formation is Inside Zone. Take that J-Back across the formation again to block the backside defensive end. First of all, linebackers, in the heat of all the motion, may assume that it is a puller and could over pursue, opening a cut UP instead of a cut back, probably through the C gap, putting a runningback on a safety or outside linebacker down hill, something you should like as a play caller if you have a talented back. On the other hand, the linebackers could lose that backside edge blocker and not play the cutback as well as they should, which is always great for an inside zone running team.

The next play I like is obviously the run action off of this play call. Oregon State gives USC a bunch of fits off this, but with a receiver. As the J-back comes back to act like he is blocking the EMOLOS, he hits the DE with his inside shoulder. This will knock the the DE inside allowing the bootleg. You can have your traditional backside flood then off of that bootleg. Also, you can run curl flat combos and even smash variations.

4 Verticals can be LETHAL if you have two undersized tight ends from this formation, and if the zone structure of the defense is unbalanced, or if the safeties jump on crossing routes. The Y, or traditional tight end, will run at an aiming point of 8-10 yards to the OPPOSITE hash mark (depending on his speed).

He should be looking for the ball against any inside linebacker blitz. The J-back or wing should move up the seem and hash mark, looking for the ball, especially if the free safety follows the ever so tempting crossing tight end. The X and Z can run comebacks if the corners settle inside or, if they have a step, run deep routes.

My personal favorite, however, is using the motion and formation combo against your traditional Under front, ESPECIALLY if they roll the inverted safety to the weakside before the motion.  You can run stretch, or outside zone, toss, or what I call power base, where the Y blocks the end and the J is responsible for the Sam and the Guard wraps on the Mike.

So, as a play caller, how can you know how to approach these tools in your offense? First, ask yourself how the defense plays the formation.

Do they rotate the safeties, move the linebackers, or both?

How does the top of the coverage work?

Remember, the coverage often dictates the front and how they play the run. Use YOUR playbook and find out how your plays can manipulate them. You shouldn’t be installing these plays, instead, you should use them as ideas on how to manipulate YOUR offense around your players. Maybe you pass more, and use the trips and bunch advantage to the strongside, which I didn’t mention. Maybe you run more, and you will use some form of counter or trap by utilizing the tight ends.

What about other two tight end formations, such as the tradition Ace back, 2 x 2 we were in before all that motion?