As most of you are aware, the zone running game is becoming common place in the NFL. With the Washington Redskins, the stretch play has become a staple, and back when the Hogs and Joe Bugel were here, some of our most memorable plays were part of the zone scheme (50 GUT, 70 CHIP anyone?). But with the zone game becoming so common place, defenses began to adapt.
So teams transitioned to the zone read offense. And again, defenses adapted, this time by using something called a scrape exchange. So what was the next adaptation? Well, the answer is something both high end rookie quarterback did in college, the Inverted Veer.
Thoroughly confused? Stick with me.
The basic premise of the inside zone game is to create running lanes using split-flow. Split-flow means that your running back and full back (or H-Back) go in different directions. The offensive line will all step to the zone side, so if we called inside zone right, all of the linemen should be stepping to their right and "getting on their tracks". Obviously, as the name implies, in zone you don't have a man. You have an area. When someone comes into your area, they become your man. The "split-flow" part comes in with the backside defensive end (or the last man on the line of scrimmage, sometimes that could be a linebacker).
The fullback goes and blocks him. This could create a major cutback lane to the backside, but there are generally lanes a lot easier and more realistic for the back to get to. On inside zone the runningback is generally reading the defensive tackle aligned to the side of the play that the lineman are stepping to. If he goes in, the back goes out. If he goes out, the back goes in. Cat and mouse.
On the stretch play, one of Mike Shanahan's favorite plays, you get full-flow. Which is the fullback going the same way. The object is to "reach" or "hook" the defenders. The read here is the EMLOS (end man on line of scrimmage), usually the DE. If he knifes outside, the cutback lane is inside of him. If he is successfully reached, the play hits outside. Roy Helu tends to go outside more often than not. Royster tends to see the cutback a bit better and Alfred Morris certainly sees it better.
So what is the zone read? Well, it was an adaptation on the zone scheme (using Power O blocking OR traditional inside/outside zone principles). This was something that came with the spread offenses. In this style, the line zone blocks or power blocks (this is a different play, that is extremely complex, that justice can't be served to trying to explain it quickly here. Look for it's own thread at a later time) just as they did in the zone scheme, and the back runs zone just like they always would. The difference being, the quarterback now has a read.
Since you use this play from a spread formation, you're usually without your fullback. And to keep teams spread out, you want to avoid motioning someone inside. So how do you account for the backside defensive end now?
You make it a read. It remains split-flow due to the quarterback essentially "blocking" the defensive end by reading him.
If the end crashes hard, the quarterback pulls the ball out from the running back's stomach and runs backside with it. If the end sits down, the quarterback gives the ball
(image taken from SBNation)
Now, looking at this diagram, let me try to explain how defenses adapted to the zone read...
The defensive end was widely known as the read man, and all of the blocking was going away from the quarterback. So the quarterback was essentially one on one with the end and the offense was hoping for the defense to run to the running back zone play.
So how did they counteract the play? Something called the "scrape-exchange". The defensive end, knowing that he was the read man, crashes HARD inside after the inside zone play. That should tell the quarterback that he's tucking the football and running outside, right? The problem was that the linebacker (W or the WILL in the diagram) would come down hard over the top and replace the defensive end, thus blowing up the read.
So the offense had to evolve again.
Here is where Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III made a living. The inverted veer. Now instead of split-flow, it became full flow.
Let me backtrack. Just to give you a real idea of how RG3 ran this at Baylor... Art Briles seemed to enjoy running the play with a pulling guard. The guard pulls to the playside. Linebackers see a guard pulling and they will generally fly to the side of the field that the guard is running towards.
Why? Because generally you don't want to take a player away from the playside, and the guard is essentially a lead blocker. In a VERY basic sense, the pulling guard makes that play "Power O" (remember the play that I said deserves a lot of time earlier? That's it, in a very basic nutshell )
Power O is generally run in conjunction with a zone scheme, they just seem to mesh well together. All of that said, you could JUST as easily and just as effectively (if not more effectively) run the inverted veer with a zone blocking scheme.
But here it is with the power scheme attached:
(image taken from elevenwarriors.com)
The end is still your read man, except this time you're attacking the playside defensive end. If the end flys with the running back, who is running outside zone, the quarterback keeps and runs inside that defensive end. If the defensive end crashes hard, the quarterback hands the ball off to the running back. Terrance Ganaway and Robert Griffin III made a living off this concept. The guard, on this play, cuts up inside the defensive end and looks for a linebacker flowing to the play.
The offensive line will down block (they block away from the defensive end. So if you're running inverted veer right, like in the diagram, the offensive line all blocks left.
But eventually, defenses will adapt to that, too. So what do you do to counter that?
Most linebackers, as I mentioned above, are taught to fly with a pull. The pull will generally take you to the football. So if you run the same play but decide to throw it, well, you have people evacuating their pass responsibilities to play run. And then what happens? A lot of points.
Bill Walsh once said, "The Play-Pass is the one fundamentally sound football play that does everything possible to contradict the basic principles of defense. I truly believe it is the single best tool available to take advantage of a disciplined defense. By using the play-pass as an integral pant of your offense you are trying to take advantage of a defensive team that is very anxious very intense and very fired-up to play football. The play-pass is one of the best ways to cool all of that emotion and intensity down because the object of the play-pass is to get the defensive team to commit to a fake run and then throw behind them. Once you get the defensive team distracted and disoriented, they begin to think about options and, therefore, are susceptible to the running game"
So by using the pull, you're really keeping teams off-balance as it is generally a run key.
(illustration taken from smartfootball.com)
That diagram is the power principle version of the pass, which is a more effective pass in my opinion due to the pull. If you ran inverted veer with zone principles, as I mentioned above as being effective, then the pass may not be as effective. Zone principles don't have the guard pull. Power principles do.
The premise is the same up front. The line all down blocks. The difference is the guard. On the inverted veer play we said that the guard wants to lead up inside the defensive end. On this play, someone HAS to account for the end. So the guard blocks him. It's a 5-man protection scheme.
The quarterback (Griffin III at Baylor) fakes the hand off and stays in the pocket.
As you can see, the backside slots runs sluggo (slant and go), but that's just one way to do it. You can use it in many ways, as the running back carrying out the play fake will jump to the flats and become the dump receiver.
That's it for now, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns feel free to share!
Thanks for reading!