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View Full Version : A Good Read on the Spread Offense in the NFL.


MarioPalmer
10-02-2008, 11:33 PM
I found this as I was looking through Footballoustiders.com, I visit there pretty frequently and they have really good info that ESPN and other big netoworks don't deal with because of actual indepth analysis. So hopefully you guys enjoy. Here's the link, and here's the actual story I was interested in. It's a good site for indepth info that you won't find on many other sites. So....enjoy. I know it's long, but hey, what else you got to do?....lol

http://fo3.footballoutsiders.com/walkthrough/walkthrough-spread-dead


The Spread is Dead; Long Live the Spread
Tim Tebow stood in shotgun on fourth-and-1 in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter against Ole Miss. Two blocking backs stood directly behind the line of scrimmage to Tebow's right. Not surprisingly, Tebow plunged into the line behind those blockers, where he met most of the Rebel defense. No gain. Mississippi wins. National analysts criticized the play call, with good reason: With no other backs in position to take a handoff, there was no hope of play-faking, misdirection, or subterfuge.

How quickly times change. A decade ago, a shotgun sneak with two single wing-style blocking backs aligned one yard behind the guard and tackle would have been an exotic play selection. Now, it's so predictable that we criticize Urban Meyer for calling it. In college football, like the pros, last year's innovation is this year's cliché.

Spread and spread option offenses have taken over college football, and principals from both schemes have infiltrated the NFL over the past decade. In the past, teams rarely lined up in shotgun, empty-backfield sets on first down in the second quarter. A handoff from the shotgun was once a third-and-forever desperation tactic; it's now a large part of the Colts passing game, and the Patriots are likely to use the handoff as a play fake before a slip screen to Wes Welker. These principles are lifted from the wide-open offenses that have become so common in college football that I'm sometimes shocked to see an I-formation on a Saturday afternoon.

At Football Outsiders, we have been writing about the rise of shotgun and spread tactics in the NFL for years; I outlined the rise of shotgun sets in Pro Football Prospectus 2007, and Doug Farrar wrote at length about the spread in PFP 2008. Because we are FO, we try to be precise when delineating meanings, parsing out the differences between the pure spread (five wide receivers, extra wide gaps between the linemen), the spread option (Florida's offense, lots of quarterback keepers and misdirection), and the run 'n' shoot (the old Mouse Davis-June Jones system, usually with four wide receivers and lots of crossing patterns and draw plays). We always make it clear that no NFL team runs a true spread offense, and that Meyer's/Rich Rodriguez' tactics wouldn't form the basis of a successful pro offense. Still, teams like the Patriots, Packers, and Broncos run very spread-like systems, and we're often asked if the spread is the "next big thing."

I used to answer that spread principles are on the rise. I now think they have peaked and will soon be on the wane.

Just as the mainstream media is taking note of the spread, defensive coordinators are starting to defeat it. Last week's Tebow stuff is just one example of how defensive coordinators are bringing back balance. Roll the college highlight reels from recent weeks, and you will see more quarterback keepers getting stymied, more slip screens broken up or returned for pick-sixes, and a general sense that fewer defenders are fooled by the sprint-option right/toss back to the left tactics of coaches like Meyer. College coaches used to see one or two spread option teams per year. Now they see ten. They had to adapt or change careers.

At the pro level, the recent fascination with spread principles may also be subsiding. The Patriots set passing records last year, but they are learning that what works for Tom Brady may not work for Matt Cassel. The Packers are in a similar situation: Aaron Rodgers ran their multiple offense successfully early in the year, but his injury may force rookie Matt Flynn into a system that asks an awful lot of a young quarterback. The Broncos currently run the most spread-like offense in the NFL, and they have had a lot of success. But last week, shotgun handoffs to Selvyn Young were getting stuffed at the line, quick screens to the receivers had little success, and a too-cute pitch play to Brandon Marshall resulted in a turnover. All three teams are getting diminishing returns from their wide-open tactics as opponents learn to better defend them.

How are defenses adapting to all of the receiver screens, draws, and shotgun sets? I've seen some small but significant changes.

Cornerbacks and other edge defenders are protecting their legs better. In the past, receivers could lunge at defenders on those slip/tunnel screens and trip them up. Now, cornerbacks are staying on their feet and making more tackles. Coaches are probably emphasizing leg protection and shedding blocks on the edge.
More cornerbacks are lining up five yards deep and going for the pick when the quarterback throws the receiver screen. This must be a designated assignment: One cornerback crashes, the others stay back in zone coverage in case of a completion or pump fake.
Defensive ends are aligning extra wide and leaping to disrupt outside screens.
Linebackers are keying the run more aggressively in shotgun sets. You are much more likely to see a linebacker cheat toward the line and maintain gap responsibility on a shotgun play than you did a few years ago. This was very evident during Chiefs-Broncos, where Derrick Johnson was clearly keying Selvin Young on several running plays.

Figure 1: Defending A Tunnel Screen
http://i508.photobucket.com/albums/s327/gsus8091/wlkFigure1.jpg

Figure 1 shows all four principles at work against a tunnel screen. Most defensive calls wouldn't include both an end and a cornerback attacking the backfield, but you get the idea. All of the small changes add up to greater equilibrium between offense and defense. Tunnel screens are still effective, but they have lost the elements of surprise and novelty. Similarly, empty backfields on early downs are now part of the NFL offensive canon, but they've lost their "wow" factor. Coaches will soon rediscover the simple joy of the I-formation run off tackle.

Let's review some of this week's games through the prism of the spread offense. All of the games below feature one team with a pass- and shotgun-happy scheme. Will recent adversity force them to scale back?

Team: Patriots
Spread Options: Matt Cassel told The Patriots Ledger that he spent the bye week working on his mechanics, watching film, and learning "how defenses are approaching us as an offense." That sounds like a guy who will still be slinging it from the shotgun this week, especially against a Niners secondary that got immolated by the Saints. The likely return of Laurence Maroney (who was practicing in pads last week) will improve the Patriots' draw-and-stretch game, making them less predictable when Cassel is in the gun.
Pick: The disgruntled Randy Moss takes a week off. The happy, streaking-through-the-endzone Moss clocks in. Patriots.

Team: Packers
Spread Options: The Packers offense is diverse. Mike McCarthy can load the formation with five wide receivers, get primitive and switch to the full house backfield (great for snowy playoff games against the Seahawks), or channel Urban Meyer and use a tight end as a blocking back in front of a shotgun quarterback. If Matt Flynn steps in for the injured Aaron Rodgers, expect lots of power running and max protect principles. That doesn't mean the Packers will run 45 times; McCarthy loves to call slants and fade patterns from run-heavy formations, and a few screens and quick slants will help Flynn get his rhythm while allowing the Packers receivers to work in space.
Pick: Injuries to Rodgers and Al Harris have exposed major depth issues at key positions in Green Bay, but Greg Jennings and company should feast on a porous Falcons secondary. Packers win, with or without Rodgers.

Team: Broncos
Spread Options: The Broncos have strayed far from their zone blocking roots in the last two years, embracing an offense as full of tunnel screens and spreadish trickery as any in the NFL. The change has brought a mix of big plays and big mistakes. Last week's loss to the Chiefs will force them to take a step back from the chasm's edge. There's no need to use Brandon Marshall as a tailback, and it's sometimes better to keep it simple against weak opponents. Mike Shanahan may cut down on the cuteness against a disciplined Bucs defense that loves to bait quarterbacks into mistakes.
Pick: This is the toughest game of the week to decide. The Bucs don't have the offensive speed to capitalize on Broncos defensive errors, and I expect the Broncos to protect the ball after Sunday's ice water wake-up. On the flip side, the Bucs defense is playing well, Joey Galloway could be back, and for all their talent and big-play potential, the Broncos could easily be 1-3 right now. Take the Broncos, but that's not the world's safest investment right now. Which is saying something.

Team: Colts
Spread Options:The Colts offense bears only surface similarities to a college-style spread, but they are constantly in three-receiver sets and operate out of the shotgun frequently. They are lumped here for convenience. The first-team offense practiced regularly against the first-team defense during the bye week, as Peyton Manning and company tried to perfect their timing. Center Jeff Saturday and tight end Dallas Clark are back, so injuries are no longer a legitimate excuse for the team's offensive woes. Don't expect many changes as the Colts head for Houston this week. "It's just trying to fix those little things," Joseph Addai said of his bye-week preparation.
Pick: The Texans are the best 0-3 team in football, and they're happy to have a home, if not a roof over their heads. With Steve Slaton adding a big-play run threat to the offense, they can keep it close. Still, look for the Colts to win; I like the idea of getting them with a three-point line.

Saints-Tigers
10-02-2008, 11:43 PM
Really good read, sort of answers Spurrier's question of "Why don't the Titans run the spread with Vince?"

Bruce Banner
10-02-2008, 11:43 PM
Tim Tebow has hope!

.....No, he doesn't, I'm sorry.

:(

MarioPalmer
10-02-2008, 11:44 PM
Really good read, sort of answers Spurrier's question of "Why don't the Titans run the spread with Vince?"

You know thats what I thought as well when I got done reading it. It, to me, really answered some questions I was having about the whys of the spread offense.

Saints-Tigers
10-02-2008, 11:46 PM
Then again, the spread does ask a lot, and Vince's athleticism might be able to exploit more things that collegiate teams get away with.

I dunno though, throwing in a few sets here and their is all good I think, but trying to have a heavy spread in the NFL is asking for trouble IMO.

Bruce Banner
10-02-2008, 11:48 PM
Vince Young can't hit a target 15 yards downfield and you expect him to be able to execute a spread?

MarioPalmer
10-02-2008, 11:53 PM
Then again, the spread does ask a lot, and Vince's athleticism might be able to exploit more things that collegiate teams get away with.

I dunno though, throwing in a few sets here and their is all good I think, but trying to have a heavy spread in the NFL is asking for trouble IMO.

Absolutely, I think he made a good point about the Broncos. He was saying that the Bronc's need to be more simple about their offensive game plan against weeker opponents, because like he said, being too cute will undoubtlably cause mistakes that weeker teams shouldn't have had been able to capatilized on it in the first place. Like you said, there is a time and a place for using spread formations or similiar plays, but don't make it to where your own team is having problems executing it because of its exotic look.

Also, like he said the Broncos, because of their exotic looks, were getting away from what made them such a great team of being simple yet effective.

MarioPalmer
10-02-2008, 11:57 PM
Vince Young can't hit a target 15 yards downfield and you expect him to be able to execute a spread?

One thing I thought that would have made Young a dangerous threat at the NFL level was his ability to throw on the run and throw to short routes, but because of his lack of being able to digest a play book and opposing defensive shemes he wouldn't be able to go through a prgression of 4 receivers let alone a set of 5. So I think the Titans fell into the trap that the Longhorns fell into, and that was setting up an offensive scheme that was super simple that relyed very heavily on the running game to open what limited amount of passing that was plausable to Young's talents.

Michael Vick, to me, was really the only real possibility of running almost a pure spread offense in the NFL. But that will never happen now, so no need to even bother with that topic.

Saints-Tigers
10-02-2008, 11:58 PM
The Saints had that same issue in 07, in 06 everything worked fine it seemed, we caught every break, every jump ball, every bounce, ETC.

In 07, Sean Payton was stuck on slip screens, toss plays, reverses ETC and it caused so many problems with turnovers (Like Reggie moving from 2 fumbles, to 8 the next season).

Vince Young hasn't had an NFL caliber receiver since he got to Tennessee lol.

MarioPalmer
10-03-2008, 12:00 AM
The Saints had that same issue in 07, in 06 everything worked fine it seemed, we caught every break, every jump ball, every bounce, ETC.

In 07, Sean Payton was stuck on slip screens, toss plays, reverses ETC and it caused so many problems with turnovers (Like Reggie moving from 2 fumbles, to 8 the next season).

Vince Young hasn't had an NFL caliber receiver since he got to Tennessee lol.

Agreed, but I think there are other issues then just not having a talented wide out to throw too, but I definitly thought he could have been a lot more impactful by his 3rd year.

BUt anyway, I definitly agree with your Saints comment, I think they fell into that same train of thought that the Broncos fell into these past weeks games.

Bruce Banner
10-03-2008, 12:05 AM
Vince Young hasn't had an NFL caliber receiver since he got to Tennessee lol.

I used to preach this but I have changed my mind.
No receiver can make Vince Young look good! The flaws in his game are being deferred to the partially unknown commodities in the WR core.
That said, do you even expect a receiver to develop with Collins or Young delivering the ball?

CashmoneyDrew
10-03-2008, 12:08 AM
The Saints had that same issue in 07, in 06 everything worked fine it seemed, we caught every break, every jump ball, every bounce, ETC.

In 07, Sean Payton was stuck on slip screens, toss plays, reverses ETC and it caused so many problems with turnovers (Like Reggie moving from 2 fumbles, to 8 the next season).

Vince Young hasn't had an NFL caliber receiver since he got to Tennessee lol.

That's complete horse ****. Have you seen how well Justin Gage plays when Kerry Collins is in?

Saints-Tigers
10-03-2008, 12:15 AM
Justin Gage? really? Justin effin Gage? 12 catches?

Anyway, I'm not here to argue about Vince Young, someone who most thought should sit 2-3 years before playing anyway, but are now crucifying him without him even getting into his 3rd season.

MarioPalmer
10-03-2008, 12:24 AM
Come on guys; let's not turn this into a Vince Young bashing thread. We know he has his problems, and his problems are a culmination of poor talent in the receiver department, a run first team and of coarse his poor mechanics and inability to learn a complex NFL offense and how to beat complex NFL defenses.

I think it’s now a known fact that Young has a ways to go to becoming a NFL starter let alone the guy, who everyone thought, 2 years ago, would be an elite NFL QB that would be the player that would revolutionize the position.

Back to the topic at hand, plus, let’s not get crazy over a player that still has a ton of talent, but might not have the mentality to stand up to the punishment a NFL QB will have to endure through out their career.

diabsoule
10-03-2008, 12:27 AM
I think it was evident that a spread/run 'n' shoot offense would not work when Steve Spurrier tried it with Washington during the late '90s.

So if the spread is about to wane, what is the next gimmick offense that begins to rise?

Bruce Banner
10-03-2008, 12:29 AM
a run first team

Most people would consider this beneficial to a young quarterback.

coarse his poor mechanics and inability to learn a complex NFL offense and how to beat complex NFL defenses.

This is the main problem. Probably the only problem.

who everyone thought, 2 years ago, would be an elite NFL QB that would be the player that would revolutionize the position.


I question the truth of this statement. I think most people learned from the "Mike Vick Experience".

Saints-Tigers
10-03-2008, 12:36 AM
Most people would consider this beneficial to a young quarterback.



This is the main problem. Probably the only problem.



I question the truth of this statement. I think most people learned from the "Mike Vick Experience".


That's bull and you know it. Vince had one game this season against a Steeler D, and it's not like Kerry Collins has stepped in and lit the world on fire here.

Vince has a lot to work on, but it's not like he got thrown into this wonderful offense that would help his growth.

Bruce Banner
10-03-2008, 12:37 AM
That's bull and you know it. Vince had one game this season against a Steeler D, and it's not like Kerry Collins has stepped in and lit the world on fire here.

Vince has a lot to work on, but it's not like he got thrown into this wonderful offense that would help his growth.

I just figured his reinvention of the position and HOF talent would offset the skill position woes. :eek:

giantsfan
10-03-2008, 12:39 AM
Just sayin but after Brady comes in for the browns and Anderson is put on the block should Tennessee go after him to give them a shot at glory now while Vince becomes an NFL QB?

Saints-Tigers
10-03-2008, 12:41 AM
Yea, because that's what I said right :-/

Bruce Banner
10-03-2008, 12:44 AM
Just sayin but after Brady comes in for the browns and Anderson is put on the block should Tennessee go after him to give them a shot at glory now while Vince becomes an NFL QB?

Trading for an NFL quality starter younger than 33 or so would be the nail in the Vince Young experiment's coffin.

giantsfan
10-03-2008, 01:11 AM
Trading for an NFL quality starter younger than 33 or so would be the nail in the Vince Young experiment's coffin.

Nah, Vince isn't going to be ready this season or next season to be an NFL starter. Give him a year after that to beat out Anderson for the job and DA's contract is up and he's an FA having had a chance to prove himself in the playoffs and Vince has beaten him out in Tennessee and as prepared as he'll ever be to actually apply his talents to their potential on the field. Mind Derek Anderson only has 2 more years on his contractl

Bruce Banner
10-03-2008, 01:15 AM
Nah, Vince isn't going to be ready this season or next season to be an NFL starter. Give him a year after that to beat out Anderson for the job and DA's contract is up and he's an FA having had a chance to prove himself in the playoffs and Vince has beaten him out in Tennessee and as prepared as he'll ever be to actually apply his talents to their potential on the field. Mind Derek Anderson only has 2 more years on his contractl

Sounds good to me but it's too good to be true. Too many egos, jobs, and expectations being thrown into the mix for this to happen.

Saints-Tigers
10-03-2008, 01:18 AM
Looking more at that play designed to stop the slip screen, that's the same play that gets Reggie lit up (see Sheldon Brown and Ronde Barber). We use those screens like that to pull the guy in, and most of the time, Brees makes that read, and he throws downfield against the safety single covering someone deep, but every now and then, the rush gets too him to quick, and he floats one to Reggie, who gets smoked by gunning DB looking for blood.

NY+Giants=NYG
10-03-2008, 09:53 AM
I would get the LT to block on down on CB, and then have the WR get the safety. I thought I saw the Bengals do that as well. I like when the Oline gets involved. Let the LT kick step, punch the breast plate of the DE, and go get the CB.

MichaelJordanEberle (sabf)
10-03-2008, 02:09 PM
I would get the LT to block on down on CB, and then have the WR get the safety. I thought I saw the Bengals do that as well. I like when the Oline gets involved. Let the LT kick step, punch the breast plate of the DE, and go get the CB.

That could work. Only problems would be the DE could, after this tactic has been learned, lock up with the LT, thus preventing him from getting to the CB. Also, let's just be frank here, with the exceptions of very few LTs, I'm gonna take the CB to win in open space like that.

NY+Giants=NYG
10-04-2008, 08:35 PM
That could work. Only problems would be the DE could, after this tactic has been learned, lock up with the LT, thus preventing him from getting to the CB. Also, let's just be frank here, with the exceptions of very few LTs, I'm gonna take the CB to win in open space like that.

He won't lock, the DE's goal is to contain or crash. So either way he will get off the ball, so you have the LT kick step to draw him in. THe DE's keys then would be satisfied and so the DE will be drawn in. When that happens the LT aggressively punches the DE, and heads to CB.

Actually not true, the LT catches the CB, the most inside dangerous man and gets him. The alignment of the WR in the formation is paramount. That's why teams, pro and college,and even my college team I coached, ran it out nof Trips, bunch and cluster formation.

illmatic74
10-04-2008, 08:53 PM
Football Outsiders is great everyone should read there book Pro Football Prospectus

MarioPalmer
10-05-2008, 10:59 AM
Football Outsiders is great everyone should read there book Pro Football Prospectus

Yup, I picked up their 2006 book, and bought the last 2 issues because of it. It takes a while to get their vocabulary down and the way the determine stats, but when you do it definitly brings a whole new look at pro football. It's like this, remember when WHIP became the next big thing for the MLB pitching? Or when On Base % became just as good of indicator as slugging if not better? Thats what FO Prospectus does, it uses those types of stats to bring a new way to look at the NFL. Definitly a different way to look at things.

Flyboy
10-05-2008, 11:08 AM
Looking more at that play designed to stop the slip screen, that's the same play that gets Reggie lit up (see Sheldon Brown and Ronde Barber). We use those screens like that to pull the guy in, and most of the time, Brees makes that read, and he throws downfield against the safety single covering someone deep, but every now and then, the rush gets too him to quick, and he floats one to Reggie, who gets smoked by gunning DB looking for blood.

That play is usually ran two ways by use. As a screen or a swing pass - and almost each time, Brees calls a "kill" at the LOS by reading the defense. It's the same read that won us the TB game in Week One and what Bush scored his second TD in the Broncos game.

Saints-Tigers
10-05-2008, 02:38 PM
<3 Brees!(ten)

jballa838
10-05-2008, 03:02 PM
How many thought the Wildcat would work?

giantsfan
10-05-2008, 03:17 PM
Sounds good to me but it's too good to be true. Too many egos, jobs, and expectations being thrown into the mix for this to happen.

Probably but if the Titans go to the playoffs this year and can win a game with Collins under center I'm pretty sure they'll really want to bring in someone who can be a good starter for them next season.

Vince just needs to have all expectations removed from him and they need to just work with him on improving his reads and accuracy before they even consider putting him out there again.

So they're going to have someone other than vince starting next season, Anderson's contract has 2 years left, he'd start next season and the season after that you have the two battle it out in TC and if one of them sells you on being a franchise guy you trade the other one.

BBIB
10-08-2008, 04:49 PM
I think it was evident that a spread/run 'n' shoot offense would not work when Steve Spurrier tried it with Washington during the late '90s.

So if the spread is about to wane, what is the next gimmick offense that begins to rise?

Yeah it was really garbage when the Packers and Patriots ran it last year wasn't it?

How many thought the Wildcat would work?

How many think it has failed?



http://year2.wordpress.com/2008/08/26/spread-quarterbacks-in-the-nfl/

BBIB
10-08-2008, 04:59 PM
It's obvious that the status quo people feel threatened by the spread. THey keep trying to proclaim it's demise.

First it was "dead" when Missouri lost to Oklahoma last year according to CBS Sportsline.

Nevermind the fact that the spread offense abused Oklahoma in the form of West Virginia and Texas Tech in two spread offenses. And Missouri actually scored the 3rd highest number of points behind those two schools vs Oklahoma.


Now it's dead because Tim Tebow got stopped on 4th and 1?


Everyone loves pointing out Alex Smith and Vince Young. What about all the pro style QBs who fail like Matt Leinart?


And how are those two guys proof that the system is inherently flawed? How about the guys who have made the transition like Brees, Roethlisberger, McNabb, Vick, and even Kyle Orton?


There is such an agenda when it comes to people hating on this offense.


Ive seen all the major networks try to tear it down. Sports Illustrated has made them, CBS, and even ESPN.