January 31, 2015

Saturday Learning Series - Superbowl Edition (Part 2)

Earlier today, the Saturday Learning Series turned it's attention to football. Why not, the big game is tomorrow and a lot of people watching will not be familiar with some of the concepts they'll see during the game, and watching like that, the plays can seem like random mad scrambles with no strategy behind what's going on. Nothing could be further from the truth. Football is a highly strategic sport and is as much chess match as it is physical contest.

Bearing that in mind, let's now take a look at the basics on the offensive side of the football, starting with the offensive formations:

Because there are so many types of plays that can be run on offense, it's impossible to provide a compact explanation. But let's start with the really basic notion that in order to advance the ball down the field to score points, an offense can either run the football by carrying it, or by making a forward pass and catch to cover more ground in less time (theoretically). There are different styles or approaches on offense and these styles are what you are more likely to hear about during any football game. The common types we are going to look at are the Vertical Offense, The West Coast Offense, The Option (or Read Option), and The Pistol.

Unfortunately, there aren't as many clear and simple videos on offense to the highly fluid nature of the options available as well as the interpretations as to what qualifies as what. So if you are keen to learn this stuff, you'll have to sit through some verbiage.

The Vertical Offense

The vertical offense (a type of spread offense) is one designed to spread the defense out so that they have to cover the whole field. That means deep and shallow, passing and running. Luckily there's video for this one. Firstly there's the vertical passing game, then the accompanying vertical style run game (in a spread focused offense).

The West Coast Offense:

From the NFL itself, the West Coast offense was one of the Top 10 things that changed the game.  Here`s a brief but basic comparison of the West Coast versus the Vertical offense.

The Read Option Offense:

This offense relies on the Quarterback reading the defense and selecting which option to sue depending on how the defenders react;
The most common option scheme in the NFL is run out of a one-back look from the shotgun or pistol alignment with the running back on the inside zone and the quarterback “reading” the initial path of the edge defender (defensive end, outside linebacker) through the mesh point.

With zone blocking up front, the quarterback can give the ball to the running back (dive) or keep (pull) based on his “read” of the unblocked edge defender.

If the edge defender crashes on the dive, the quarterback will pull the ball and press to the outside. If the edge defender stays up the field or “slow plays” the mesh point (lateral shuffle to play both dive and keep), the quarterback can hand the ball to the back.

The Pistol:

Here`s what Bleacher Report says about the Pistol Offense;
...Chris Ault had installed himself as head coach two years before and his new "Pistol" offense one year before. Ault wanted to combine the passing strength of a spread-out shogun offense with the power running game of a traditional I-formation.

Ault shortened the shotgun snap, placing his quarterback four or five yards behind the line of scrimmage and the running back directly behind the quarterback...

The short distance between quarterback and center allows for a much faster snap, and the short distance between running back and quarterback allows for quick handoffs and fast-developing run plays. The quarterback still gets an eagle-eye view of the defense, though, without standing so far back that he doesn't pose a threat to run.
And here's a video breakdown.

And there you have it, a brief primer of some of the basics of football offenses.

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