The basics (Running Game)…

When you talk about the run game in the NFL there are a few base schemes you have to understand to be up to speed.  The run game again features 2 distictive schools of thought, the Zone game and the Man game.  We will cover the basic zone scheme as well as a few of the man schemes you will see on Sunday afternoons. Lets look to the chalkboard to help us gain some understanding.

1) Zone

Let’s look at an inside zone running play in 11 Personnel (1 back 1 TE 3 WR) against a base 4-3 defense. 

As we look at what the offensive line’s blocking assignments are, it can seem a little overwhelming, but lets break it down.

I have color coded the lineman and the TE into two seperate groups, the red represents a covered linemen, to be covered means that there is a defender directly in front of your face or between your face and the lineman next to you on the play side (in this case to the right).  The yellow then represents the uncovered linemen.  This is how the linemen know what their job is on a particular snap. 

If you are a covered linemen your job is to execute a reach block on the man who is “covering” you.  Look at the LG for example.  The nose tackle is between the LG and the C, so the LG’s job is to work in front of the N and prevent him from penetrating and making a play.  The C is the uncovered linemen so his job is to stop the N’s progress until the LG can get in front, and then once the LG has the N under control he releases the N and works to the next level to block the Mike.

Many times the backside linemen, in this case the Left side, will use cut blocks inorder to stop the progress of the back side defenders.  This involves diving at the knees and ankles of the defender to either knock him down, or cause him to look down and put his hands down which will take him out of the play.

These assignments are the same for the covered and uncovered linemen across the board.  As you notice, the LT does not block the DE on his side, but instead works to the Mike.  This is important to notice as we move forward in future posts. 

The 2 main variations of this zone run play are the Inside Zone, or the Outside Zone (also called the “Stretch”).  The main difference is that on the stretch play the back takes a path parallel to the line of scrimmage and waits for the hole to open, and plants his foot and accelarates through it.

Think of the Houston Texans, and late 90’s Denver Broncos for examples of teams using this style.

2) Power G

Let’s look at a power run play from Base 21 Personnel (2 backs 1 TE 2 WR), against another base 4-3 defense.

As you can see from the diagram, the backside guard is pulling around to the playside, in this case LG pulling to the right, and is leading the back through the hole.  The TE blocks down on the Sam, and the RG and RT double team the DT. The back takes a hard downhill path to the line of scrimmage and follows the pulling guard through the hole.

3) Lead/Iso

Lets look at a lead play from our base personnel in a strong right formation, against a base 4-3 front.

On this play, there are no pulling linemen, instead each lineman blocks an assigned defender which is based on the front the defense is playing.  Then the FB leads the RB through the hole.   Some teams add a wrinkle to this play and ask their RB to pause momentarily before coming down hill to take the hand-off.  This gives the QB the time to set up as though he’s passing the ball to keep some of the defenders honest, then he makes the hand off to the back.  The Dallas Cowboys showed an example on Demarco Murray’s 91 yd touchdown run against St. Louis in 2011.

 4) Counter

Lets look at the counter play from base personnel in a Weak right formation against a 4-3 base defense.

As you can see the blocking on this play looks very similar to the Power scheme shown above, but the running back takes a step or two in the opposite direction in order to hold the LB’s in place and then turns and follows the G and the FB to the back side.

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