Adding a Wrinkle: Understanding the Wildcat & Wild Horses

Understanding the Trickeration:

Understanding the Wildcat, the Wild Horses, and Why the Spread Option is Coming

“Over the years, young coaches who want to get their teams to throw the football have written to me to ask about the best way to get started. My professional advice never includes my personal secret – knowing the single wing.”

-Lavell Edwards BYU Head Coach 1972-2000

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Recently, the Miami Dolphins began to something called the Wildcat.  While many announcers and seeming many NFL coaches were very confused the Wildcat is in fact based off the single wing offense, an offense almost as old as the game of American Football itself.

Most people have claimed that the Wildcat is a fad or a “gimmick offense” and is not here to stay.  I passionately disagree and will attempt to explain why in this article.  I will also explain how the Wild Horses formation used by the Denver Broncos is a logical continuation of the Wildcat.

1.) Why The Wildcat

First a bit of history on the Wildcat.  While it was brought to the N.F.L. by David Lee the current Quarterbacks Coach of the Miami Dolphins the Wildcat is not his creation.  Instead it is arguably the brain child of Guz Malzahn current Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach of Auburn University:

Malzahn is reticent to take credit for the Wildcat, which has roots in the century-old single wing formation. Its more recent origins remain a source of much debate Hugh Wyatt, a double-wing coach in the Pacific Northwest, claims he first dubbed his direct-snap package “the Wildcat” (named after his school’s mascot) in a series of videos and coaching journals in 1998; others believe it originated at Kansas State (also the Wildcats), where Bill Snyder used a similar formation as far back as the mid-’90s.

Whatever the source, there’s no denying Malzahn’s role in the Wildcat’s recent explosion. Having run the formation (an unbalanced line with both tackles and a guard on one side and a tight end on the other) and its two main plays (the “QB Power” run and the “Speed Sweep”) at Springdale with quarterback Mitch Mustain and receiver Damian Williams (both now at USC), Malzahn brought up the idea to Arkansas’ staff upon his arrival. However, at the suggestion of running backs coach Danny Nutt (Houston’s brother), he employed McFadden at the quarterback spot and Jones as the motion receiver who would take the fly-sweep.

Read More:http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/stewart_mandel/10/01/malzahn/#ixzz0n2BfMCrl

Regardless to who is the actual creator of the Wildcat package it is fundamentally sound football.  It offers a solution to the problem that plagues all offense from pee-wee football to the N.F.L., the problem of numbers.  On any running play the offense is out numbered by the defense.  If the offense were to block every single defender on a run player and snap the ball directly to the tailback their would still always be an unblocked defender.  This is because the tailback does not block.  If the quarterback hands the ball off to the tailback their is an additional unblocked defender because the quarterback does not block either.

As you can see in the diagram to the left below the Free Safety (“F”) can come through unblocked and tackles the tailback for a minimal gain.

The digram on the right above shows what happens if the offensive line uses a zone blocking scheme.  The unblocked defender is not removed, but the offense is able to choose which defender goes unblocked.  The two receivers with red arrows are able to let the defender who is the furthest outside go free while blocking the two inside defenders, the Free Safety (“F”)and the cornerback (“C”).  In the above diagram the “$” defender is unblocked while the Free Safety or “F” is blocked.  The “$” defender can only tackle the tailback if he is able to chase him down from behind while the tailback already has a ten yard head-start.  Whereas the Free Safety in the original diagram was equidistant from all of the possible running lanes the tailback could use.

Zone blocking does not however solve the problem of the unblocked defender that is created when the quarterback hands off the ball.  The most common way to handle this unblocked defender in the NFL is to have the quarterback roll-out of the pocket.  This forces the defender to account for the quarterback even though the quarterback is neither the ball carrier or a blocker.  As soon as the defender leaves the quarterback alone and crashes down on the tailback the quarterback will call a play-action roll-out where the quarterback pretends to hand off the ball to the tailback, but instead keeps the ball and heads upfield.

Both of the above images are from jtthirtyfour at Bruins nation (http://www.bruinsnation.com/2010/2/9/1292827/the-zone-play-in-the-pac-10).

The trendy thing to do at the College and High School level is to use a “Zone Read” play to eliminate the unblocked defender responsible for the quarterback.  In this case the tailback will run across the front of the quarterback and the quarterback will choose whether to hand off the ball, this is called a “mesh point”.  The quarterback will choose whether or not to hand off the ball based on how the unblocked defender acts once the ball is snapped.  If the defender keeps his shoulders parallel to the line of scrimmage he is not a risk to chase down tailback from behind and the quarterback will hand off the ball to the tailback.   If the defender turns his shoulders to chase down the tailback he will be facing away from the quarterback and will not have the right angle to chase the quarterback down.  In this case the quarterback keeps the ball and heads upfield.  Regardless to what the unblocked defender does, if the quarterback makes the right read, the offense is always right.

The above diagram is from “All Football” (http://footballxos.wordpress.com/2009/09/14/new-playbook-for-ohio-state/).

However, even with the “Zone Read” their is still one unblocked defender.  One relatively common way to remove this defender from the play at the College and High School level is the “Inside Veer”.  The “Inside Veer” is essentially an exaggerated “Zone Read”, instead of not blocking one defensive end the offense does not block either defensive end (or does not block the playside defensive end and the backside linebacker).  The playside defensive end is read in the same way that he would be with the “Zone Read”.  If the defender keeps his shoulders parallel to the line of scrimmage he is not a risk to chase down tailback from behind and the quarterback will hand off the ball to the tailback.   If the defender turns his shoulders to chase down the tailback he will be facing away from the quarterback and will not have the right angle to chase the quarterback down.  In this case the quarterback keeps the ball and heads upfield.  However, this time when the quarterback or tailback heads upfield the left guard will have been “pulling” and should be able to block the Free Safety “S”.  This means that the only unblocked defender is the backside defensive end (remember the playside defensive end is “blocked” by the Zone Read) who will not be able to chase down the tailback or an athletic quarterback.

The above diagram is from Chris Brown at Smart Football. (http://smartfootball.com/defending-spread/tcus-inverted-veer-option)

For most NFL teams the other main type of run they use besides zone blocking based runs  is the “Power” in this case their will be two unblocked defenders.  Just as with zone blocking runs during the “Power” the defenders in the worse position to tackle the tailback will be left unblocked.  In the diagram below the outside cornerbacks are left unguarded while the receivers instead cut inside to block the safeties.  The cornerbacks immediately crash down on the tailback, but because they are so far outside they cannot catch the tailback from behind.  (For some reason the receiver on the right does not have a blocking arrow, but he also cuts inside to block the safety on the right.)

Again the images is from jtthirtyfour at Bruins Nation. (http://www.bruinsnation.com/2010/1/29/1273642/the-two-back-power-and-how-to)

This diagram is from Doug Farrar of Football Outsiders writing for the Washington Post.  (http://views.washingtonpost.com/theleague/predraft/2009/03/wildcat-widens-roles-in-nfl.html)

The “Power” run as it is traditionally run in the NFL is the most common run play used in the Wildcat.  Notice how the offensive line blocks in the same way that they do in the traditional example above.  However, their is only ONE unblocked defender.  Because the tailback is taking the snap directly the quarterback is not creating an additional unblocked defender.  This is fundamentally sound football.  The offense wants to gain a numbers advantage against the defense and instead of rolling out the quarterback, as is often done with zone running plays, or instead of leaving defenders unblocked and “reading” them the ball is just snapped to the quarterback.

The Free Safety or backside Cornerback is the unblocked defender.  One of the two defenders needs to keep track of the motioned tailback.  The other will be completely out of position.  The Cornerback will have to chase the tailback down from behind and the Free Safety will not be in posistion until the tailback is already about 5-10 yards downfield.

2.) Understanding The Wildcat

The Wildcat offense as run by the Miami Dolphins (other teams use direct snaps to a tailback, but very few use the Wildcat in the same way that the Miami Dolphins do and now even the Miami Dolphins are beginning to tweak the Wildcat) has three essential characteristics.

1.)    An athletic player at the quarterback position.

This means that it is not the Wildcat if Peyton Manning or Drew Brees is taking the snap.  This is why most call the Wildcat offense a gimmick.  Fans, announcers, even most coaches have an attachment to having a traditional quarterback receiving the snap and claim that anything else is “gimmicky” and “doomed to fail”.  However, as shown above having an extremely athletic quarterback just helps even out the numbers game for the offense and is fundamentally sound football.

Instead the ball will be snapped to a tailback like Ronnie Brown, a wide receiver like Joshua Cribbs, or any other skill player who can both carry and throw the ball.  In fact the Wildcat would work just as well with a quarterback like Mike Vick or Pat White receiving the snap.  Again all that is needed is a player who can run and pose the threat of throwing the ball.  Just as the player doesn’t need to be able to throw a perfect deep out route, but does need to have the ability to complete simple crossing routes and other relatively easy throws the player receiving the snap does not have to be the next Jim Brown, but he does need to have some speed and elusiveness.  While significant lining up an athletic player at the quarterback position is not the single defining characteristic of the Wildcat, as many announcers seem to believe.

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2.)   The use of an unbalanced offensive line.

As you will notice in the videos below the offensive line has two tackles on the right hand side of the offensive line, this is an unbalanced offensive line.  A balanced offensive line is what we are used to seeing, a center flanked by one guard and one tackle on either side.  However, the Miami Dolphins use a “tackle over” (other teams also use unbalanced lines, most notable the Baltimore Ravens, but not all unbalanced lines have two tackles on ones side) unbalanced line meaning that both tackles and along with a guard are on one side of the offensive line (typically with a fullback) while only a guard and tightend are on the other.  Lining up the offensive line in this way puts a lot of power in a very concentrated place (the right C and D gap).

If the defense refuses to adjust their defensive fronts (the number of defensive linemen and linebackers they have on the line of scrimmage) accordingly the offense will have preferable blocking match ups at the point of attack.  While not as important as winning the numbers game winning the match up battle still really helps the offense.  It is easier to complete a pass to a star receiver when he is guarded by a linebacker and it is easier to run the ball when offensive linemen are blocking the linebackers.  But again, this is not the defining characteristic of the Wildcat.

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3.)   The use of the Jet Sweep.

The Jet Sweep is used to catch the defense off guard and pull the linebackers away from the tailback running the “Power” run and leave the backside open for the “Counter” run.  The jet sweep also lets the tailback get to the outside as fast, if not faster, than a toss play.  The tailback running the jet sweep, will run right under the tailback receiving the snap and will take the ball at full speed right behind the fullback and a occasionally a pulling guard.  The tailback who handed off the ball will then fake running to the other side to pull defenders away from the tailback running the jet sweep.  If the defense is not in position the Free Safety will be the first defender to be able to make a play on the tailback and that will already be about 10 yards downfield.

This diagram is from Doug Farrar of Football Outsiders writing for the Washington Post.  (http://views.washingtonpost.com/theleague/predraft/2009/03/wildcat-widens-roles-in-nfl.html)

This is the defining characteristic of the Wildcat, the use of the Jet Sweep to set up the “Power” run and the “Counter” run.  The Wildcat is simple series football it is more than a formation or personnel package.  The quarterback does not have to be split wide or even on the field.  The line does not have to be unbalanced (in fact Miami is moving towards using a balanced line with their Wildcat package now) or even unbalanced as “tackle over”.  The Wildcat is defined by the Jet Sweep and how it sets up the “Power” and “Counter” and this is why it is not a gimmick.

This same logic is used with play calling at any level of football.  The Inside Zone sets up the Outside Zone and the Bootleg.  The Zone Read sets up the Triple Option.  Plays are called until the defense can correctly stop them and then the offense calls the counter.  Think of it as a game of Paper, Rock, and Scissors where you get a good guess about what your opponent is calling.  You will always call scissors as long as the other guy is calling paper and as soon as he switches to rock you will switch to paper.  You will call Inside Zone runs until the defense stacks the middle of the field and then you will call Outside Zone runs and as soon as the defense brings down a safety you will call a Bootleg.

The Wildcat is a new face, but is still fundamentally sound football.

In fact, not only is the theory fundamentally sound, so are the plays themselves.

A.)   Jet Sweep (Steeler is the name this play is given by the Miami Doplhins)

The Jet Sweep is described above, so a lengthy explanation is not necessary.  Remember that the Jet Sweep is the base that the Wildcat formation is based on.  A player will come in motion from the left of the formation, receive the handoff and try to break the run to the outside.  In some cases the playside offensive tackle will let the playside defensive end go free allowing the tackle to quickly get upfield and block the playside linebacker out of the play.  The fullback will then use a “kick out block” to block the playside defensive end.  Or the the backside guard will “pull” and block a linebacker to create a running lane for the motioned tailback.

This play is the base of the Wildcat formation because it gets the defense flowing towards the sideline, which opens up the other running plays in the formation. (The Jet Sweep will be faked every play out of the formation so that the defense has to always take it into account.)  Here is video, again, of the Miami Dolphins running the Jet Sweep play against the New England Patriots.  Notice how the defense is caught out of posistion and the Free Safety is not in position to make the tackle until the tailback is already 25 yards down the field.


This diagram is from Doug Farrar of Football Outsiders writing for the Washington Post.  (http://views.washingtonpost.com/theleague/predraft/2009/03/wildcat-widens-roles-in-nfl.html)


B.)  Power

The “Power” play is why the Jet Sweep is called.  The “Power” will always begin with a fake of the Jet Sweep.  The Jet Sweep play sets up the “Power” in a similar way to how the outside zone run sets up the cutback in a zone blocking scheme.  By pulling the defenders towards the sideline the offensive linemen will be in an even better position to block the defense.  The blocking for the “Power” out of the Wildcat is the same as it is out of any other traditional formation.

The blocking of this play is pretty simple.  The playside offensive linemen will “block down” meaning they will block the defender to their inside.  This means the playside guard and center will block the outside shoulder of the defenders over them and the playside tackle will block the defender to his inside.  Often the playside tackle while blocking the inside defender will usethe technique of aiming for the back foot that was described in my previous article about zone blocking runs.  This will allow the tackle to head up field and block a linebacker after double teaming the defender over the guard.  However, keep in mind that by blocking down the playside tackle is letting his man, the outside defender, run free.

Just like the advantage gained by offensive linemen who take a sidestep in zone running plays “blocking down” allows offensive linemen to get great leverage on their assigned defender.  The offensive linemen will be pushing the side of the defender rather than trying to block the defender straight on.  The advantage the offensive linemen have in leverage should allow them to literally block their defenders out of the play.  The “blocking down” done by the offensive linemen also allows double teams right at the point of attack (where the tailback is running).  The “blocking down” effectively seals off the backside of the “Power”.

The only reason that the tackle can allow his defender to go free is that he has help, often from a fullback or an h-back.  This fullback or h-back uses a “kick out block” meaning that he blocks the defender while facing towards the sideline.   This “kick out block” creates yet another seal, the fullback or h-back is blocking the defender so that the fullback or h-backs body is between the defender and the tailback.  The tailback is therefore presented with a very clear running lane.  When done properly it should appear as a tunnel or railroad tracks with blockers lining either side.

The last part of the blocking involved in the Power run is done by the pulling guard (or a very athletic pulling tackle).  This player will lead the tailback through the gap and block the first defender he sees; often this defender is a linebacker.  The tailback following the guard ensures that there is no way (short of whiffing his block) that the guard can make the wrong block.  The tailback will adjust his running angle in such a way that the guard will be blocking the defender away from him.

Here is a diagram (this is the same diagram used for the the Jet Sweep above, this time the tailback the ball)  of this play without a pulling offensive lineman:

This diagram is from Doug Farrar of Football Outsiders writing for the Washington Post.  (http://views.washingtonpost.com/theleague/predraft/2009/03/wildcat-widens-roles-in-nfl.html)

The Wildcat formation is set up perfectly for the Power play.  The fullback is closer to the line of scrimmage and also closer to the outside of the offensive line, both of these differences make it even easier for him t”kick out block” the unblocked outside defender.  Placing both tackles on the same side means that an offensive lineman is not wasted blocking a player who will not affect the play.  Lastly, placing the runner at the quarterback position gives the offense a numbers advantage while running the play (as discussed above).

Here is video of this being run for a touchdown by the Miami Dolphins against the New England Patriots.

C.) Counter (70 Weak is the name this play is given by the Miami Doplhins)

The “Counter” or 70 Weak is the counter to the “Power” run out of the Wildcat formation.  The blocking as it is called by the Miami Dolphins in the Wildcat is also  similar to how it would be performed out of typical formations.

In a Counter play the tailback will take a quick step to the opposite side of the field from where he plans to run.  This will hopefully cause the linebackers to flow to the wrong side of the field making the blocking even simpler for the offensive linemen.  The linemen will “block down” gaining the same advantages as mentioned above.  The offensive linemen will have good leverage against the defenders allowing the offensive linemen to seal the defenders out of the play and the playside tackle will be able to initially double a defender and then go up field and block a linebacker because he is letting the playside outside defender run free.  However, in most traditional two back sets the benefit of the pulling guard is amplified even further in the counter play.  The fullback will block the outside defender on the side that the tailback makes his initial (and misleading) step towards.  This allows not only the guard, but also the tackle to pull playside (the defender the tackle was responsible for is being blocked by the full-back).”

However, there are also some important differences.  Due to having two tackles on the right side of the offensive line one tackle will pull (along with a guard) while one tackle will stay.  Typically the outside tackle will take one step inside to block a defender while the inside tackle and the right guard will immediately pull towards the side the tailback is running.    Both the fullback and the outside tackle (the one who does not pull) will block the outside defenders (usually with a cut block).  The last major difference is that the tightend will let the defender directly over him go free. This defender will be picked up by the center (the left guard blocks “down” to take the defender over the center) and the tightend will head up field to block a linebacker.  Here is video of this play being ran:

To clarify this play I will again go over the roles of the offensive players during this play.  One player will go in motion to receive the fake for the Jet Sweep .  The “quarterback” (the player receiving he snap) will take a step towards the right as if he was about to run the Power play, but will then run towards the left.  The fullback will cut block the outside defender.  The outermost tackle will block “down” while the inner tackle and right guard pull to the left.  The center will block the defender directly over the tight end.  The left guard will block “down” to block the defender directly over the center.  Lastly, the tightend will let the defender directly over him go free and will head up field to block a linebacker.  Here is a diagram of the play:

This diagram is from Doug Farrar of Football Outsiders writing for the Washington Post.  (http://views.washingtonpost.com/theleague/predraft/2009/03/wildcat-widens-roles-in-nfl.html)

These three plays the Jet Sweep, Power, and Counter play constitute all of the running plays run out of the Wildcat formation.  Below is a video of David Lee describing how these three runs were used together at Arkansas.
While these three running plays are the basis of the Wildcat occasionally (two or three times a game) the Miami Dolphins will pass out of the Wildcat.

A.)    PA Jet Sweep

In this play the “quarterback” (the player receiving the snap) will fake the Jet Sweep handoff and will run towards the opposite sideline.  The offensive line will block as if the Jet Sweep were being ran.  These defense will then head in the opposite of the direction of the quarterback, hoping to stop the Jet Sweep.

The receivers will then run the same routes they would on a typical bootleg play action.  The fullback will run a shoot route, aiming straight for about 2-3 yards down the sideline, the fullback might also block for the “quarterback” if needed.  The tighend will run a corner route at about twelve yards deep, he will run up the seam as if running a go route and then will cut at a 45 degree angle heading for the near pylon.  The receiver (lined up between the fullback and the “true quarterback”)will run a crossing route hitting the sideline about ten yards deep.  The true quarterback will begin a go route, but will often stop because the play is moving in the opposite direction.

The crossing route, shoot, and corner route create a flood against zone and the players running the crossing route and the corner route will often be matched up against linebackers if the defense is in man coverage.

Below is video of the Miami Dolphins running this pass play:

B.) Quarterback Reverse

This play allows the “true quarterback” to throw the ball.  The ball will be handed off to the player running the Jet Sweep and the offensive line will block for the Jet Sweep run.  However, the player running the Jet Sweep will hand the ball off to the quarterback  who fakes a block and then sprints behind the offensive line.  The receiver (lined up between the fullback and the “true quarterback”) will stand still as if about to throw a block and then will run straight down field.  The “quarterback” who handed off the ball will run a wheel route (where he runs towards the sideline and then heads up field).  The hope is that against both man and zone defenses the fake on the Jet Sweep will pull the safeties down to allow the deep pass.  Here is video of this play being run by the Miami Dolphins against the Carolina Panthers:

for a better breakdown than mine check out this video http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-network-playbook/09000d5d80ba9f37/WK-6-Anatomy-Wildcat-reverse-pass of this same play being run against the Houston Texans

3.) Why The Wild Horses Formation

This past season Josh Mcdaniels unveiled the Wild Horses formation.  The Wild Horses is the logical next step from the Wildcat.  While the Dolphins do pass occasionally out of the Wildcat it is only 2-3 times a game, if that.  Because of this defensive coordinators are quickly designing plays and packages that effectively stop the Wildcat.  The Wildcat series is limited by the inability of the offense to pass. A series consisting only of three plays is much easier to defend than one in which their are four or more plays.

The Dolphins also are leaning more and more towards using a balanced offensive line.  Below is a diagram of the “Power” play out of the Wildcat with a balanced offensive line from Dawgs by Nature (http://www.dawgsbynature.com/2010/1/4/1234172/disecting-the-wildcat-the-read)and video of it being run in-game against the New York Jets:

The Wild Horses  series was also run with a balanced line.

The Wild Horses formation splits the quarterback out wide and lines the tailback up about 7 yards behind the center, like the Wildcat.  However, unlike the Wildcat the quarterback will occasionally be motioned back undercenter.  This adds a new dimension to the Wildcat series.  Remember the Wildcat series was based on the Jet Sweep setting up “Power” and “Counter”.  Now the Wild Horses formation uses the quarterback being split wide to cause the defense to “stack the box” and then motioning the quarterback back undercenter forces the defense to also account for the pass.  Also by forcing the defense to account for the running game the offense is also forcing the defense to show their hand pre-snap.  This means that Kyle Orton can read the defense and choose whether he motions back undercenter.  In some cases Orton would motion back undercenter to cause the defense to shift out of the Wildcat package and then Orton would quickly shift back out allowing Moreno to easily run against the defense.

The Wild Horses is essentially removing the Jet Sweep in favor of the ability to better pass out of the formation.

4. Understanding the Wild Horses

Thanks to the http://www.thespreadoffense.com I have two play diagrams to break down from the Wild Horses.

A. Power

This is the base running play from the Wild Horses series and is run just as it would be out of any traditional formation.

Again thanks to The Spread Offense: http://www.thespreadoffense.com/search/label/wild%20horse

The blocking of this play is pretty simple.  The playside offensive linemen will “block down” meaning they will block the defender to their inside.  This means the playside guard and center will block the outside shoulder of the defenders over them and the “playside” tackle will block the defender to his inside.  If the play is being run “strong side” or towards the side of the offensive line with a tight end the tight end will block the defender to his inside rather than the offensive tackle.  In the case of the balanced formation that the Denver Broncos were running the Wild Horses out of the playside tightend would downblock, but not the backside tightend.  Often the playside tackle while blocking the inside defender will used the technique of aiming for the back foot that was described for zone blocking runs, this will allow the tackle to head up field and block a linebacker after double teaming the defender over the guard  (or in the case of the tight end he will double team the defender over the offensive tackle and then block the inside defender).  However, keep in mind that by blocking down the playside tackle is letting his man, the outside defender, run free.  Below are a few diagrams of “Power” being run out of the I-Formation, thanks to Jtthirtfour at Bruins Nation for the Diagram (http://www.bruinsnation.com/2010/1/29/1273642/the-two-back-power-and-how-to).

Just like the advantage gained by offensive linemen who take a sidestep in zone running plays blocking “down” allows offensive linemen to get great leverage on their assigned defender.  The advantage the offensive linemen have in leverage should allow them to literally block their defenders out of the play.  This is the same advantage in leverage gained by the sidetep during the zone running plays.  The “down” blocking done by the offensive linemen also allows double teams right at the point of attack (where the tailback is running).  In the diagrams above notice how the strong side defensive tackle “T” is being double teamed by the right guard and the right tackle (also the right tackle runs upfield to block a linebacker after the double team).  The “down” blocking effectively seals off the backside of the Power run.  Below is some good footage of UCLA running the power play courtesy of Bruins Nation’s jtthirtyfour:

The only reason that the tackle can allow his defender to go free is that he has help, often from a fullback or an h-back.  This fullback or h-back uses a “kick out block” meaning that he blocks the defender while facing towards the sideline.   This “kick out block” just creates yet another seal, the fullback or h-back is blocking the defender so that the fullback or h-backs body is between the defender and the tailback.  The tailback is therefore presented with a very clear running lane, there is a wall of blockers on either side .  When done properly it should appear as a tunnel or railroad tracks with blockers lining either side.

The last part of the blocking involved in the Power run is done by the “pulling” guard (or a very athletic “pulling” tackle).  This player will lead the tailback through the gap and block the first defender he sees; often this defender is a linebacker.  In the above diagram in all of the examples but the play in the top right the left guard is “pulling” and block the Sam “S”.   The tailback follows the guard ensuring that there is no way (short of whiffing on his block) that the guard can make the wrong block.  The tailback will adjust his running angle in such a way that the guard will be blocking the defender away from him.  If the guard blocks the defender so that he is on the inside of the tailback the tailback will run outside, but if the guard blocks the defender so that is on the outside of the tailback the tailback will cut inside. Below is film of the San Diego Chargers running the Power run play with LaDanian Tomlinson.

B.) Smash

Without proper game film this is the only pass play I can break down out of the Wild Horses formation.

Again thanks to The Spread Offense: http://www.thespreadoffense.com/search/label/wild%20horse

The Smash concept is at its core a two man passing concept.  This means that in a four wide set where their are two receivers on either side of the field the levels concept will only needs to be run on one half of the field, only by two of the four receivers.  In the case of the trips-right formation that the Denver Broncos ran the Wild Horses formation out of the Smash concept was run by the two far right receivers.  The inside or slot receiver (H in the diagram below) will run about 10 yards down the seam as if were running a go-route and then will cut at a 45 degree angle towards the near pylon.  Meanwhile the outside receiver (X in the diagram below) will run about 5-6 yards upfield and then will make a sharp cut so that he is facing the quarterback.  As should be clear from the diagram the defender tasked with defending the flats (the area just past the line of scrimmage near the sideline) the “W” defender ‘will either have to drop down to cover the “smash” route (the quick 6 yard curl by the outside receiver) or drop back deep to cover the corner route being run by the inside receiver.  Often the defender will drop back deep allowing the easy completion to the 6 yard “smash” route.

Image courtesy of Brophy Football (http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_ivRtwtEUBBU/SwUwNYRAMWI/AAAAAAAABEQ/LBwCMXu_YE8/s400/ScreenShot055.jpg)

This route is also timing based, the quarterback most throw the ball as soon as he has completed his drop.  However, instead of being coverage based the quarterback simply needs to read the defender covering the flats (the cornerback in a Cover 2 defense).  Again, if he drops deep throw the quick “smash” route if he stays shallow throw the corner.  When throwing the corner it is the responsibilty of the quarterback to throw the receiver open.  This means that the quarterback throws the ball into empty grass and the receiver has to go get it.  With a quick receiver and a good throw by the quarterback the corner route becomes very hard to cover in man coverage (also since the corner route is being run by the inside receiver it is probably being defended by a linebacker or nickleback).  Against any coverage the trick is the mastering of the “smash route”.  Once the receiver has turned back towards the quarterback it is his responsibility to “drift open” so that he has gained some separation from the defender covering him.  If the defender shoots towards the sideline the receiver drifts in, if the defender covering the flats does not shoot towards the sideline the receiver drifts towards the receiver.

Here is video of the game winning play by the Steelers against the Cardinals in the 2008 Superbowl.   Notice that they are running the Smash concept on the right side of the field.  Rothelisburger must have seen the defense jump on the hitch route which allowed Holmes to get behind the defense in the back of the endzone for the game winning score.  Oh and that is what I meant by a good throw and catch.

The only difference in adding the go-route to this concept is that against a Cover 1 defense the deep safety will be forced to choose between either the g0-route or the corner route.  Against Cover 2 the Strong Safety must make the same choice.  This is particularly relevant because the Wild Horses was forcing the Patriots to drop their Strong Safety into the box.

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