Monday, March 16, 2015

Flexbone-The Passing Game

One of the typical misnomers of the Flexbone offense, is that it is not a passing offense. This myth is completely false! How can an offense, that utilizes the basic Run-and-Shoot offensive formation, not be considered a passing offense?
            The truth of the matter is, most teams that run the offense do not typically do a lot of passing. However, the Flexbone offense, can be a very formative pass offense that spreads the defense both horizontally and vertically.
Playaction Passing-The Routes
The staple passing game of the Flexbone offense is the playaction passing game. Since the base play is the inside veer, the playaction passing game is based on this play. There are other runs, within the offense that have playaction passes off of them, however the main focus of the Flexbone playaction pass game, should be the Veer Pass (Figure 8-1).

Figure 8-1 (Veer Pass)
            There are three versions of the veer pass that should be utilized. These three pass plays have routes that mimic the perimeter blocking schemes that are utilized. When facing an eight man front, the front side route combination is the whip route by the play side slot, and a takeoff route by the play side wide receiver. This route combination looks very similar to the perimeter blocking scheme utilized on the inside veer play when facing eight man fronts (Figure 8-2).

Figure 8-2 (Seal perimeter scheme)
            If utilizing the arc block scheme, as discussed in earlier, then the play side routes are altered by having the play side slot also run the takeoff route (Figure 8-3).

Figure 8-3 (814 Veer Pass)
            Lastly, if the offense has been using switch blocking on the perimeter, then the choice of routes is also called switch. Switch routes, shown in Figure 8-4, have the play side wide receiver running a deep post route to mimic the crack block on the safety, while the play side slot runs the wheel route to mimic the arc block on the cornerback.

Figure 8-4 (Veer Switch Pass)
            On a side note, to keep things simple, the backside of playaction passes follow a very simple rule. If there is only one receiver to that side, then that receiver runs a deep post route. If there are two receivers on the back side of a playaction pass, then the widest receiver runs the post, and the inside receiver runs a drag route behind the linebackers. If there are three receivers backside the widest receiver runs a post, the second receiver runs a deep drag (behind the linebackers) and the inside most receiver runs a shallow drag in front of the linebackers (Figure 8-5). This rule also holds true for sprintout passing as well.

Figure 8-5 (Backside playaction routes)
            Another playaction pass off of a common run in the Flexbone offense is the Waggle. The Waggle is run off the Rocket Toss play discussed in an earlier post. As shown in Figure 8-6, the play side wide receiver will run a Sally route, or what some call a corner route. The play side slot will fake the Rocket Toss play and run a wheel route up the sideline opposite of the play. The backside slot runs a drag, and the back side wide receiver will run a deep post. The B back will chip block the first defender outside the play side tackle, and will run a flat route. The quarterback will fake Rocket and boot out to the play side and read high to low (deep to shallow) for his reads on this passing play. The quarterback should be schooled to throw the Sally first, drag second, and lastly hit the flat route to the B back if the deeper routes are covered. If pressured quickly, the quarterback hits the B back in the flat immediately.

Figure 8-6 (Waggle Pass)
            Another good playaction pass in the Flexbone offense off Rocket Toss is the screen to the B back. This is a good playaction screen that involves getting the ball to one of the offense’s best athletes in space. The beauty of this play lies in the fact that it attacks one flank of the defense with the Rocket action, and then immediately attacks the opposite flank with the screen, as shown in Figure 8-7.

Figure 8-7 (838 B Screen)
Playaction Passing-Pass Protection
A pass play is only as good as the scheme utilized to protect the quarterback. Both the Veer Pass and the Waggle Pass have different schemes, that are utilized to keep the signal caller protected so that the play may succeed. Here are the rules and scheme for both Veer Pass and the Waggle.
Veer Pass
When running Veer Pass, the offensive line utilizes a simple slide protection scheme. The rule for the offensive line is simple, slide protect one gap away from the direction of the play. So, if the offense is running Veer Pass to the right, the offensive line, will run slide protection one gap to the left. Now, this usually leaves at least one, and possibly two defenders unblocked on the play side. How these defenders are handled is up to the coach. You can have the slot that goes in motion, run a swing route and throw hot if the widest defender comes on a pass rush move (Figure 8-8). If this method is not preferred, or this defender rushes every time, then the play can be tagged with a max call. Max, is a call that tells the backside slot to go in tail motion and block the first threat outside the B back's block to the play side, as illustrated in Figure 8-9. Either method of protection is acceptable, however the Max protection scheme is the preferred method of running the Veer Pass.

Figure 8-8 (Veer Pass-Swing)

Figure 8-9 (Veer Pass Max)
Waggle Pass
The Waggle utilizes a scheme taken from Wing-T coaches that run a very similar play. As shown in Figure 8-6 the offense will use a mixture of slide protection, and a backside puller to help if the defense chooses to overload the play side with rushers. The play side tackle and guard will both slide protect one gap away from the direction of the play. The center must block back for the pulling guard, while the backside tackle executes a hinge block. The hinge block, is similar to a scoop block used on run plays in that the offensive lineman will zone step toward the playside, looking for anything threatening the inside gap. Once there is no imminent threat to the inside gap, the lineman will drop step and hinge, putting his back to the action and look for any pressure coming off the backside edge of the offense. The pulling guard looks to run a sickle pull where on the second step of the guard's track, the guard will bow or bend into the backfield looking to get depth. The guard is looking to hook or log block any defender that comes free outside the play side tackle. If the guard cannot execute the log block, then the object is to simply drive this player wide so that the quarterback can step up inside this block and make the throw.
            The B back has a special job in that the back must chip or bump the first threat that is encountered outside the play side tackle. This slows down any rusher that may be coming off the edge of the defense, and allows the guard time to get around in position to execute the log block. Once the B back has slowed the edge defender down, then the B back can release and run the flat route. If two defenders are present on the play side, then the B back cannot release on his route and must help block the perimeter of the defense.
Three Step and Five Step Passing Game-Routes
The routes used for both the three step and five step passing games are shown in Figure 8-10 and 8-11. These routes are numbered one through nine. There are also tagged routes that are shown in Figure 8-12 and 8-13. Any combination of these routes may be used however some routes combinations are better than others.

Figure 8-10 (WR passing tree-numbered)

Figure 8-11 (Slot passing tree-numbered)

Figure 8-12 (WR passing tree-tagged)

Figure 8-13 (Slot passing tree-tagged)
            For the three step passing game, routes are adjusted to shorter depths than if running a five step route. The receivers know to adjust the depth, based on the protection called (70, 60 or 61 protection). An example would be the five route combination (Figure 8-14). If the play were called 560 then the wide receiver (X and Y) would run the fade route, while the slots (A and Z) would run five yard out routes. If 570 were called, then the out routes would deepen to a depth of ten yards. Three step plays end in either 60 or 61 with the last digit telling the side of the offense that the quarterback is to read first. So in the play 560 play, the quarterback will drop three steps reading to the right side of the offense first.

Figure 8-14 (5 route example)
            Five step protections are all tagged with the final numbers of 70 in them. Passing plays that end in 70 are to have deeper routes than those with a 61 or 60 in them. This allows the passing tree to span both the three step and the five step passing game.
            There are some plays that are not universal to either pass drop scheme. The universal routes are listed below:
1.      1 route
2.      4 route
3.      5 route
4.      7 route
5.      8 route
The two, and three routes are for the three step passing game only. The six route should only be used in the five step passing game.
            If the zero route is called in the huddle, then all the receivers are running the tagged route. Some examples of the zero route with tags are shown in Figure 8-15. The zero route is an easy way to utilize a common passing concept known as spacing, and is very effective against zone pass defense.

Figure 8-15 (Zero routes)
Three Step Pass Protection
Three step pass protection is very simple. The scheme used here is known as a full slide (Figure 8-16) protection, where the offensive line slides one gap in the direction of the play. The B back is the sixth blocker and will take the first gap outside the backside tackle. Any wider defenders than the B back's block, are accounted for with the speed of the three step drop. The idea on three step passes is that by the quarterback's third step, the ball is in the air, or the quarterback is running with the football.
            The offensive linemen and the B back are all assigned a gap in the protection scheme, any defender to enter this gap is blocked. If a defender leaves this gap and stunts, they do not get chased (Figure 8-16). Slide protection is a very simple scheme that does not take a large amount of practice time to perfect.

Figure 8-16 (Slide Protection vs. stunts)
Five Step Pass Protection
The scheme utilized in the five step pass game is called BOB, for big-on-big (Figure 8-17). BOB protection puts the offensive linemen on the defensive linemen, reducing the chances of a mismatch (such as a running back on a bigger defensive lineman). The rules here are that the side of the offensive line that has two defensive linemen past the center will have the guard block the number one defender and the tackle block the number two defender (see Figure 8-18). If there is a side where there is only one defensive lineman, then the guard and the center will combo block any lineman aligned on the center and look for an inside blitz to their side (Figure 8-19). If there are two linemen to each side of the center, as in Figure 8-20, the both sides adhere to the one-two rule. If there is a side with three defenders to it, the offensive tackle to that side must make a one-two-three call to alert the center to take the number one to the side of the call, and the guard now takes number two, while the tackle will block number three.

Figure 8-17 (BOB Protection)

Figure 8-18 (Shade/Five Protection in BOB)

Figure 8-19 (BOB vs. inside blitz to shade)

Figure 8-20 (BOB vs. Double Eagle)
                        The B back is the extra blocker, and must know where to insert. As a general rule, the B back always protects away from the quarterback's throwing arm. However, the B back should also know the calls the offensive linemen are making, as he is asked to protect away from any one-two-three call as well.
            BOB is somewhat more complicated than teaching the full slide, and is therefore a little more time consuming. BOB pass protection is a good scheme, however, as it handles a lot of what the defense can throw at it, and it pits the offense with some very good matchups having the offensive linemen blocking defensive linemen.
Additional Protections
There may be some cases where the offensive line will need additional help in pass protection. This scheme can be utilized if the defense is bringing pressure, or there is a mismatch between the offensive tackle, and the number two rusher. The call by the offense is simply to tag the pass play with the word stay. Stay, by itself, tells both slot backs to stay in and block as shown in Figure 8-21. A specific slot can also be tagged to stay in and block while the other slot executes the route called. In Figure 8-22, the A back has been tagged to stay, while the Z back runs the route called.

Figure 8-21 (Stay Protection)

Figure 8-22 (A stay only)
Passing Game out of the Trips Formation
The Flexbone offense utilizes a mirrored route concept when in the base formation. What this means is that when a play is called, the route combination called is run to both sides of the formation (Figure 8-23). The Trips formation is a very popular way to get a defense to roll coverage, putting the offense in a more favorable position to attack this rolled coverage. The mirrored route rule holds true when passing out of the Trips formation. The wide receiver and flexed slot (middle receiver in the Trips formation) will run the called route as they normally would from the base set. The inside slot will run the route called, but will run to his landmark from across the field as shown in Figure 8-24.

Figure 8-23 (Mirrored Routes)

Figure 8-24 (Trips mirrored routes)
            This mirrored concept from the Trips formation still allows the offense to attack the areas on the field with the routes called without having to use some special tag system to get the receiver where they are needed. This system also threatens the defense by forcing a rolled coverage, but uses balanced routes attacking back to the side opposite of where the defense rolled their coverage.
The Use of Tags in the Passing Game
The Flexbone offense has the flexibility to modify any route combination by simply tagging a receiver to run a different route. As shown in Figure 8-25, the call is 870 Y Dagger. The tag is Y Dagger which tells the Y receiver to run the Dagger route. The tag system is also very prevalent in the sprintout passing game.

Figure 8-25 (870 Y Dagger)
            These tagged routes were illustrated in Figure 8-12 and are very useful for attacking a defensive coverage. The possibilities are endless when it comes to tagging routes. The zero route is used when all the receivers will run a tagged route, which can be a useful tool for attacking zone coverages.
Sprintout Passing Game-Routes
The routes do not change in the sprintout passing game, however the use of the tag system is much more prevalent. Figures 8-26, 8-27 and 8-28 are three popular sprintout passing concepts used by the Flexbone offense.

Figure 8-26 (888 Y Comeback)

Figure 8-27 (888 Z Comeback)

Figure 8-28 (888 Z Whip)
            All three figures are popular Run-and-Shoot concepts that fit easily into the Flexbone passing game. Some other popular routes that do not involve tags are shown in Figures 8-29, 8-30, 8-31, 8-32, and 8-33.

Figure 8-29 (188)

Figure 8-30 (488)

Figure 8-31 (588)

Figure 8-32 (788)

Figure 8-33 (888)
The backside routes in the sprintout passing game follow the exact same rules as used in the playaction passing game.
Sprintout Passing Game-Pass Protection
The pass protection scheme that is used in the sprintout passing game is commonly referred to as hinge protection, or turn back protection. The offensive line, will use zone or scoop step technique on their first step, stepping to the play side. Once this first step is in the ground, the line will then drop their outside foot and hinge off their inside foot, so as to be turned 90 degrees to the line of scrimmage. The rule for hinge protection is that each offensive lineman is responsible for any defender that enters the first gap away from the direction of the play. For example, as shown in Figure 8-34, if the sprintout pass is being run to the offense's right side, then each offensive lineman will protect the gap to their immediate left.

Figure 8-34 (Hinge Protection)
            The running backs, both the A and the B backs also have a role in pass protection in the sprintout scheme. The slot back, is a very critical blocker, in sprintout protection. The slot back is to hinge as well, protecting the inside gap. The slot back will do this for a two count, and then will release into the flats on a delay route. The delay route is a route that starts behind the line of scrimmage, and ends up no deeper than three yards downfield. This route is to be used as an outlet route for the quarterback, and to put three receivers on three different levels to one side of the defense. The slot back cannot release however, if the slot back cannot gain outside leverage on the defender to the inside. If this defender, widens, the slot back must work to gain outside leverage, and can only come off on the delay route once outside leverage is gained (see Figures 8-35 and 8-36).

Figure 8-35 (Slot back delay route)

Figure 8-36 (Slot back blocking)
            The B back will run a deep loop block (Figure 8-37) and will look to wrap around the block of the slot back. The B back will block the defender assigned to the D gap, or the player assigned to contain the quarterback. The key coaching point in this instance, is that the B back maintains this block. If the B back loses this block, the worst that can be done is to lose this block to the inside.

Figure 8-37 (B back loop block)
            If slot back is needed to stay in and block on the sprintout pass play, then a simple stay call is used to let this player know that they are to stay in and block their assigned gap. There is no need to tag who stays, as the rule here is that the action side slot will be the only slot who will stay in and block (Figure 8-38).

Figure 8-38 (Stay protection in sprintout)
The Screen Game
Screens are a valuable asset to the Flexbone offense. The screen game is valuable tool that can be used to slow down a tough pass rush, and get the football to some of the best athletes in the open field. There are four types of screens in the Flexbone offense, and they are:
·         Playaction screen
·         B screen
·         Middle screen
·         Quick screen
            The playaction screen was discussed earlier and is off of Rocket action, however there is also another playaction screen off the triple option play, as shown in Figure 8-39. This screen mimics the Veer Pass play, but involves the quarterback reverse pivoting and throwing a middle screen opposite of the playaction fake.

Figure 8-39 (814 X Middle Screen)
            Blocking in the screen game is quite simple. For middle screens (Figure 8-40), the rules are as follows:
·         PST- 70 protect for a two count, release defender outside and block corner back.
·         PSG- 70 protect for a two count, release defender outside and block the alley defender.
·         C- 70 protect for a two count, release defender, and block linebacker to near safety.
·         BSG- Same as PSG
·         BST- Same as PST

Figure 8-40 (Middle screen blocking)
An important note is that the offensive linemen do everything they can to release their defender outside. This puts the rusher further from the quarterback and allows the play to develop.
            Screens that have a direction, such as the B screen (shown in Figure 8-41), are blocked as follows:
·         PST- 70 protect for a two count, release defender outside and block corner back.
·         PSG- 70 protect for a two count, release defender outside and block the alley defender.
·         C- 70 protect for a one count, release defender, and block linebacker to near safety.
·         BSG- 70 protection
·         BST- Same as BSG

Figure 8-41 (B Screen Right)
With directional screens, only half of the offensive line needs to screen block. The B back will also block in this case to the side the screen is called to. After a two count, the back releases his defender and sets up where he releases the defender and awaits the pass from the quarterback.
            The quarterback on both middle and directional screens will drop back five steps and take a quick pause. The quarterback will drop and additional one and a half steps, and then deliver the ball. This extra drop, allows the blocking to set up, and gets the pass rushers further up field so they cannot play both the receiver and the quarterback.
            The middle screens can be run to any receiver, as shown in figure 8-42. The B back will always run a flare route away from where the receiver is coming from. So if the X is coming from the offense's left side to run the screen, the B back will run a flare route to the offense's right side. The quarterback, once he hits his fifth step will pump fake to the B back, then drop the additional one and a half steps and deliver the football. This pump fake further adds to confusing the defense, by forcing the defense to honor the back out of the backfield. Obviously, if running the middle screen to the B back, there is no flare route needed.

Figure 8-42 (Middle screens-all)
            The receiver running the middle screen will drive up field hard for one step, then plant on the outside foot and work back down the line of scrimmage. It is imperative that this receiver catch the football behind the line of scrimmage. Once the ball is delivered, the coaching point to the receiver on how and where to run is much like that of a kickoff return. The ball carrier should turn up field as soon as possible, and stay in the middle of the blockers as long as possible. Dancing around or attempting to juke defenders at or near the line of scrimmage is a recipe for disaster, and should be avoided. If the defense has sat on the screen, and the quarterback still throws the ball to the receiver, this receiver should drive up field quickly and get all the yardage they can get out of the play.
            All other receivers will run the eight route. By running the takeoff route, these receivers will draw the attention of the defensive backfield away from the receiver running the screen. These receivers, once they read their defender stop honoring their route, now turn into blockers. The coaching point to make to these decoy receivers is similar to blocking for a punt return. Take the defender wherever he wants to go, but maintain the block. This scheme also holds true on the directional screen pass as well.
            The final screen is the quick screen. The quick screen is a very useful play that can be called in the huddle, or read by the quarterback on the field. Protection is very simple, the line will slide to the direction of the call, as show in Figure 8-43. The B back blocks opposite of the call, looking for the first defender outside the backside offensive tackle. Both sides of the offense will run mirrored screens. This keeps both sides of the defense honest, and slows down any backside pursuit by the defense. The slots will release outside and attempt to block the cornerback to their side. This is a simple shield block, and is very important that the blocker has the head in front, so as not to have a penalty called.

Figure 8-43 (Quick screen)
            The receiver will drive up field hard for one step, then plant, and drive back to the line of scrimmage, turning their body 90 degrees to the line. The receiver will await the football, looking inside to the quarterback. Once the ball is caught, the receiver should set up the slot's block, by taking the ball slightly outside, then cutting inside off the block.
            The quarterback simply takes one step back, turns the shoulders to point at the receiver, and delivers the football. If the quarterback comes to the line, and sees a defensive back aligned deeper than normal over the receiver, then the quarterback can check into this play at any time utilizing an audible. If the quick screen was called in the huddle, and the defense comes out in press coverage, then the receiver and quarterback should each tap the side of their helmet, and check the screen route into an eight route (takeoff), as shown in Figure 8-44.

Figure 8-44 (Quick screen check to fade)
Trick Passing Plays
Though not being a staple of the Flexbone offense, a coach should always have an ace up his sleeve for certain situations. Here is a couple of nice trick passing plays that will keep the offense guessing.
            The hitch special play is a knock off the hook and lateral play, where a wide receiver is thrown the football down field, only to pitch the ball to another receiver as they run by. In Figure 8-45, the offense aligns in the Flex formation and both the Y and X receivers run hitch routes. The slot backs run wheel routes, but run them very close to the receiver to their side. Once the Y or X receive the ball, they then turn and pitch the football underhanded to the slot, who then takes off getting all the yardage they can get.

Figure 8-45 (Hitch Special)
            The other trick passing play is one the author ran as a youth coach, and really stressed defensive coaches with. The players love this play as it has so many possibilities. Rocket Pass is a wild trick play that is fun to install, and easy to run. As shown in Figure 8-46, the offense will run the Rocket Toss play, but instead of the running back working down field, the back will work flat and look to throw the ball to the receiver running a lazy takeoff route down the field. If this route is not open, the back has two options. First, the slot back could simply keep the football and run for what they can get, or the slot can turn and throw the ball back to the quarterback. One element, that must be stressed to the quarterback is that after the initial pitch, the quarterback must bow deep into the backfield, so that if the slot passes the ball back to the quarterback it is not a forward lateral. Once the quarterback has the ball, there are also two options. The quarterback can either throw the football down field to the receiver, who has run the corner route, or take off and run. Again, this is not an every down play, but a very fun and exciting play that will have the players begging to run it every down.

Figure 8-46 (Rocket Pass)
            Something to remember here is that when this play was run it was worked on at least once a week during the rest of the season. When running trick plays, one of the Achilles heels is that coaches don't spend enough time installing and mastering these plays. If either of these trick plays are going to be used, then the author suggests putting in the time to perfect them.