Play of the Day – Delanie Walker Tight End Screen

How do you keep the defense honest, especially when you bring a bunch of big guys on the field who are normally used to move the ball on the ground? Let’s take an example from the Titans playbook.

The Play

The Titans come out in 13T Personnel, where one of the tight end spots is being played by an extra offensive tackle (#71).

The one receiver they’ve actually got on the field is veteran Andre Johnson, who runs across the field to the opposite side to try and clear out the defense to that side, and maybe bring a defender or two with him.

Mariota carries out the play fake and then delivers the ball to Delanie Walker on a tight end screen, who gets a decent gain on first down.

This is a great way to create a passing threat out of a normally run-heavy personnel grouping.


What really sells this play is the two pullers, one guard and one tight end (Fasano) pulling to simulate the counter action on the play.

The weak side blitz that doesn’t get there in time just means that the Colts defense is a man short to that side, and it makes it a lot easier for the blockers to get out in front.

Here’s the Video:

Walker runs this route better than a lot of receivers. Instead of dancing around, he gets vertical right away, and turns this into a very productive first down call, setting up the offense ahead of schedule.

Having the ability to run the tight end screen out of multiple formations and personnel groupings gives your opponent something else they have to worry about. It’s a low-risk, high-reward approach that can turn into a big play if the defense doesn’t flow to the play and pursue properly.

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James Vint on Offensive Game Plan Efficiency

Coach James Vint is always a great read. We finally got to meet in person a couple of weeks ago at Texas HS Coaching School, but I’ve always been a fan of his stuff, and this article is another reason why.

He wrote a great blog post a couple of days ago about how to track the number of practice reps you’re getting each week and how that ties into how much offense you can carry with you into a game.

“I decided to take an analytical approach. We had approximately 50 team reps each day, 25 inside run reps, 25 team on air reps, and 25 7-on-7 reps each day. If we had four days of practice, we would get 500 reps a week. These 500 reps were sacred. We had to make sure we used them wisely so we were prepared each week.

The first thing we did was cut down on the number of calls we had in our game plan. In a typical game we are going to run between 70 and 85 plays. We aren’t going to run 85 different plays. We are going to repeat plays throughout the game. And often, we are going to find a call that works and repeat it over and over. Once we find a formation and concept that works, we often will call that concept several times.”


This is a great approach because it treats practice reps as the scare resources that they are, and that’s not something to be taken lightly.

Read the whole thing here.

Video: Paul Johnson Play Action Pass Rules For The Triple Option

Paul Johnson is the best play caller in America, and that’s something I’ve been saying for a while now. While it’s true that Georgia Tech makes their living in the run game, it’s impossible to ignore the success they’ve had in the pass game, especially using play action.

This offense of his has been fine-tuned through decades of tough, brutal competition at several different levels of college football. There’s not a lot you can show him that he hasn’t seen already.

Defenses have tried all sorts of creative ways to disguise their intentions. Everything from loading the box, to rotating an extra defender down low just before the snap, and all kinds of other trickery. Still, Johnson and this Georgia Tech offense usually find a way to keep them honest, through some kind of misdirection, or even more dangerous, through the play action pass game that he’s designed.

People often forget how successful Johnson’s teams have been throwing the football. Though a lot of it has to do with the talent he’s been able to acquire, Johnson himself deserves a good amount of credit as well. He’s managed to come up with a scheme that manages to put his athletes at receiver in positions to be successful against the secondary.

So let’s go deeper and learn more… » Read more

Why you should throw to guys out of the backfield more

Chip Kelly’s offense was inconsistent at best during his final season in Philadelphia, but what success he did have had a lot to do with incorporating the backfield into the passing game.

It would be easy to dismiss this as a simple “nickel-and-dime” approach to offense, but actually it’s a great way to maximize the personnel advantages he had at that spot in the roster.

But why?

The best possible matchup for a lot of offenses, at least in terms of pure speed and athleticism, has been their running back against one of the linebackers on the other side of the football.

1. Makes it very tough to press or disrupt the route

When you line a guy up at the line of scrimmage, you make it a whole lot easier for the defense to bump him, press him, or otherwise harass him as he’s getting to where he needs to go.

Even if you’ve got a guy who is a lot more athletic than the defender across from him, he can still manage to disrupt the route and cause trouble for the guy as he’s trying to get off the line.

2. Gets one of your best athletes matched up on one of the least-athletic defenders on the field

There are no “bad” athletes in the NFL, including at the linebacker spot, but at the end of the day, it’s all relative.

Compared with the corners and safeties on the field, linebackers can have trouble covering many of the speedy and quick slot receivers and running backs in the league.

This is why guys like Luke Kuechly are so important to the success of a defense these days, because a middle linebacker with that kind of range and closing speed is a great equalizer, and eliminates much of the threat out of the backfield

If you’re not coaching in the NFL at the moment, that athletic advantage is probably even greater.

3. Creates opportunities for players coming open across the middle

If you want to stop a team from throwing routes out of the backfield, fine, but that just means you’re in danger of giving up plays somewhere else, especially in the middle of the field.

You can either play man coverage, which probably means your linebackers will end up matched up on them and clearing out the middle, or you can play zone, which in a lot of cases, ALSO means the linebackers will be matched up on the back because of pattern match rules.

PS – I’ve got a new book out.

(I know I’m biased, but I highly recommend it)

Get it HERE.

Carolina’s Offense vs Denver’s Defense in the Super Bowl

I know it’s Monday, but I’ve got some great news…

The first issue of the Every Play Revealed Newsletter is now available!

I wanted to really study Denver’s defense and how they managed to shut down Carolina’s offense in the biggest NFL game of the year, and I learned all kinds of interesting things that I put in this first issue, including:

  • How Denver disguised their coverage in key situations to confuse Carolina’s offense
  • The complex and interesting Carolina run game
  • Breaking down the Panthers offensive audibles
  • How the Panthers designed their formations to create lots of space for their elite tight end Greg Olsen
  • And more!

All 16 drives of Carolina’s offense taking on Denver’s defense have been analyzed and broken down for this first issue.

This is the kind of breakdown you can’t find anywhere else!

CLICK HERE to get it now!

Taking notes on film (and some zone read cutups)

I believe strongly, some might even say religiously, in drawing up what you see on video, in addition to whatever notes you take, because of all the benefits it brings.

I have a lot of reasons for this, including the fact that it forces you to watch the film over and over again, focus on the little things, and I’ve always believed that the physical act of using your hands to draw something creates a bigger impression in your mind, and lets you retain a lot more.

It just so happens, I was right about that last part.

As it turns out, according to a recent study, students who take notes by hand have been shown to retain more information than those who take notes in class on their laptops.

There really is something to the idea that the physical act of writing (or drawing) that creates a stronger and more complete impression in your brain.

Trust me, it can be very mentally exhausting to take detailed notes, but if you’re really interested in learning more about football, I don’t know of any better way (Though if you happen to have a better way, I’d love to hear about it).

So with all that in mind, here’s something else to draw up (and maybe steal a few ideas from).

Since so many people loved the power read clinic video from yesterday’s email, I thought I’d share some more offensive cutups I found on YouTube, this time from Appalachian State’s zone read scheme.

PS – I just put the finishing touches on the breakdown of Denver’s Super Bowl defense against Carolina, and can’t wait to share it with you on Friday.

-Alex Kirby

The Minnesota Power Read Play

Jerry Kill is one of those guys who just never got the credit he deserved for being a rock-solid football coach, and a great teacher of the game.

No matter where he went, he won, and was always great about incorporating new ideas into the way he did things.

This video is a perfect example of just that.

Someone was kind enough to put the clinic presentation on YouTube, complete with diagrams and film, so obviously I needed to share it with you guys.


PS – You wanted more play-by-play style breakdowns, and I listened.

Guess what?

Now they’ll be coming each month.

Instead of breaking down an entire game, I’ll be breaking down one team’s offense against the opponent defense so that I can bring you a different scheme each month.

I’m releasing the first issue of my “Every Play Revealed” newsletter beginning this Friday.

In this issue, I’ve broken down exactly how the Denver Defense shut down Cam Newton and the Panthers in the Super Bowl, breaking down every play of Carolina’s Offense vs Denver’s Defense.

I’m really excited to share what I’ve put together.

Stay tuned!

– Alex Kirby

Breaking Down SMU’s Offense vs Baylor


Note: This is an excerpt from Breaking Down a Drive: SMU vs Baylor now available on Kindle here.

If you don’t own a Kindle, click here to download the FREE Kindle App on to practically any device (Yes, even an iPad).

Play #7 | 2nd & 9 | +26 Yard Line | 10:20 1Q



QB scramble for 13 yards and a first down.


If you want an example of how precise this offense is, look no further. Once again on 2nd and long, the offense calls a passing play (that leads to the QB using his legs), but the assignment of one of the receivers gives great insight into how Chad Morris coaches up his guys, and how much timing plays a role.

At first glance this play looks like your standard boot play. A play fake with a receiver underneath and another one dragging behind as the QB rolls to one side or the other.

In that respect, there’s not much different about this play. The interesting wrinkle comes from the X receiver’s assignment, and the timing involved.

You see, Morris has coached up his QB to make a decision, and make it quickly. In fact, the timing is so precise that the outside receiver to the side of the boot knows exactly how far down the field, and how long into the play he should start actively blocking the DB across from him.

If the corner is rolled up, it’s not an issue, because against press coverage he’ll just go vertical and take the corner with him and out of the picture.

What happens in a situation like this, though, when the corner is playing off?

You can’t just tell the receiver to go block him, at least not right away. That’s going to be a penalty, even if you know the ball will likely be thrown and caught in that area. So if you’re Chad Morris, you time up the play so that by the time the ball is thrown and caught, or the quarterback takes off with it, you know where the outside receiver will be, and you coach him up not to go after the defensive back until that point.

As the quarterback is rolling out to this left, he sees everyone covered, while at the same time, a big patch of green grass appears in front of him (with no defenders in it). So he takes what’s there, and uses his legs to pick up the first down.

So far on this drive, SMU has done a great job not putting themselves in difficult positions, where they have to make amazing plays to stay alive. As long as they can continue to gain consistent yardage on first down, they’ll be able to keep things simple because of the manageable down and distances.

You can read the whole thing here.

11 Trick Plays You Should Put in the Playbook this Fall

This past week I asked my subscribers to give me their favorite trick plays, with the best submission winning a copy of my newest book Every Play Revealed: Breaking Down Oregon and Ohio State in College Football’s Biggest Game.

(If you’d like to see the PDF with all 11 trick plays listed and drawn up, scroll down and sign up below and you’ll have it sent directly to your inbox in moments.)

I did something I haven’t done before, I picked two winners, because they sent me two unusual plays that I’d never seen before, and both of them happen to involve getting the football to the offensive guard.

Bruce Eien – Left Guard Special

Guard Handoff

This is one of the most interesting plays I’ve ever seen, it’s almost like a version of the fumblerooski where the whole offense runs one way and one person runs the other way.  There are a lot of things I could add, but I’ll just let the video that Coach Eien has posted on YouTube do the explaining.

Rusty Pixon – 41 Jailbreak Special

This is a very interesting twist on a play that a lot of people are running these days. This is what he had to say:

I’m an OL coach for a Tony Franklin System team in eastern Washington. We have this trick play that I’m pretty proud of. 
Bring a TFS team we run a ton of screens. They account for nearly 35% of our offense. Our most successful has always been the jailbreak screen. 
The OL invites the DL up field with a vertical set, releases and gets out into space. Our BSG has the peel block looking for and DL retracing their steps. The blocking scheme is simple and more importantly works. 
After teams see us run this a few times the entire defense starts to sit. To counter this we had  the BSG carry his peel block all the way to the sideline and behind our receiver. The receiver caught the ball and lateraled to our BSG who went streaking down the sideline in all his fat boy glory. 
It’s some school yard stuff, but out of the three times we ran it one went for an 80 yard touchdown, one went for a 40 yard touchdown and the last was a 2 yard loss. 
My lineman love it. They get to celebrate a fat guy touchdown and it’s the last thing anyone would expect. Doesn’t get much trickier than that. 

Jail Break Special - Rusty Pixon

Two is better than one: How Tom Brady gets New England in the right play so often

Tom Brady’s name is all over the news right now, and not for a good reason. Regardless of your opinion of “Deflate gate,” however, he put together an impressive performance in the Super Bowl against one of the best defenses the NFL has seen in a long time.

You can deflate all the footballs you want, but you still need a sound gameplan, a backup plan in case your first idea doesn’t work, and a quarterback like Tom Brady who is smart enough to know what he’s looking at and also good enough to get the ball where it’s supposed to be.

Last month I released my latest book Every Play Revealed: Breaking Down Oregon and Ohio State in College Football’s Biggest Game, and I’m almost ready to release the next one. The title Every Play Revealed means what it says, the book is literally a breakdown of every single play of the National Championship game, along with analysis of each drive and the overall gameplan. I took the same idea and applied it to the Super Bowl, and I’m really excited to share it with you.

Before it’s made available, I wanted to give you a look at the kind of analysis offered in the book, so I took a play from the opening drive of the game, and looked at all the different perspectives on what happened and why. You may be surprised at how much goes on before and after the snap.josh-mcdaniels-8042c28649cfa58f

The Patriots have a way to basically call two plays at the line, and almost always end up in the right one. Of course, Tom Brady has a lot of leeway at the line of scrimmage, but there are certain plays that are packaged with specific formations, where there is a Plan A and a Plan B, depending on how the defense lines up. New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels gives Brady very simple rules in these situations, which takes the pressure off of him and allows he and the rest of the offense to just play.

To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, we’re going to take a close look at just one play. I chose this particular play not because it resulted in a big gain, but instead because it exemplifies the amount of detail and precision involved in the New England offense, and it gives you an idea of the kind of things offensive coordinators are looking at in the opening drive of a game.

Drive #1 / Play #6 / 3rd & 6 / -35 yard line / Middle / 12:20 / 1st quarter

The Patriots line up with a tight split from the X receiver, and on this play they send the lone back beside Brady, Shane Vereen #34, in motion out wide to the left. This is one of the many ways that New England has to get a read on the opposing defense.

New England begins to line up in a 3x1 set with a tight split by the backside receiver.

New England begins to line up in a 3×1 set with a tight split by the single receiver on the left.

The corner Byron Maxwell (#41) who is originally lined up across from Edelman, now widens with Vereen as he motions out to the left. The safety Earl Thomas (#29) comes down to press Edelman and replace Wright, and the linebacker in the box Bobby Wagner (#54) ends up exactly where he started.

Vereen brings Maxwell with him and Thomas adjusts for the Seahawk defense.

Vereen brings Maxwell with him and Thomas adjusts for the Seahawk defense.

The goal behind sending Vereen in motion out of the backfield to a wide alignment is not only to see who the defense sends with him, but also to find out whether or not, by removing the only real run threat from the backfield, whether or not Seattle will remove the linebacker from the middle of the formation, which would leave the short zones underneath in the middle undefended.

You may ask, “Who cares as long as the defense drops to take away the deep ball? It’s 3rd down, so isn’t the goal of the defense to force a short throw by Brady and then rally to the receiver to make the tackle?”

There are many cases where this would be a valid strategy, but in the biggest game of them all, knowing your opponent is the difference between hoisting that Lombardi Trophy in front of the entire world and watching from behind the ropes as the confetti rains down on the other team.

New England makes a living attacking the defense with the shallow cross concept, which is specifically designed to get the football to the receiver right about where the middle linebacker is standing in the picture below. In reality, the offense is trying to get the ball to the receiver once he crosses the formation and reaches the opposite hash mark which will let him turn up field to pick up the first down.

Wagner doesn't leave the middle of the field when Vereen goes in motion out of the backfield, so now Brady has to go to Plan B.

Wagner doesn’t leave the middle of the field when Vereen goes in motion out of the backfield, so now Brady has to go to Plan B.

Once you understand what New England is looking for on this play, it makes perfect sense why Seattle leaves Wagner in the box. Patriot offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels wants to find out as early as possible whether or not he can get the defense to vacate the middle of the field and make room for the shallow cross and other concepts which attack the middle.

On this play, he and Brady get their answer, which brings us to what happens next.

Brady points out Wagner, the middle linebacker, and makes his call based on that.

Brady points out Wagner, the middle linebacker, and makes his call based on that.

Once the defense has finished making adjustments and all players have “declared” who they’ll be lining up across from, it’s now time for Brady to make sure the offense is in the best possible position to succeed. He’s not going set himself up for failure by running a receiver on a shallow crossing route, only to be beaten up by Wagner who is sitting there waiting for the receiver to come underneath. Instead, after surveying the look of the land, Brady makes a check at the line to go to the alternate play that New England has in this situation.

Just like a lot of passing plays have a particular read, usually a specific defender, the Patriots also have a specific package of calls where they will line up a certain way, and sometimes send a man in motion, observe how a specific defender reacts, and then adjust the call based on that. What it basically means is that the Patriots call two plays, one being the default play call, the other being “Plan B.”

Brady signals to Vereen and Edelman that the offense is switching to play #2.

Brady signals to Vereen and Edelman that the offense is switching to play #2.

What was the original play call? The offense had planned to send a receiver, either Edelman or Vereen, underneath on a shallow crossing route, with another man coming from the opposite side to run a dig route at ten yards to stretch the middle of the defense.

Obviously it’s impossible to know for a fact what the Patriots had planned at first, but it’s safe to assume that the original play was designed to attack the middle of the field underneath as well as a defensive structure that kept both guys deep in a two-deep look. The diagram below should give you some idea about the kinds of things the offense was looking to do on this play.

Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola go vertical on the right side to clear out space for Edelman once he makes the catch and turns up the field for the first down.

Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola go vertical on the right side to clear out space for Edelman once he makes the catch and turns up the field for the first down.

In this scenario, the defense has sent Wagner out to follow Vereen in motion, leaving the middle wide open for Edelman to come underneath and make some good yardage after the catch, especially since Amendola (#80) and LaFell (#19) take their defenders with them and leave nothing but green grass and room to run on the right side of the field for Edelman.

Now that the call has changed, however, the offense is now attacking the areas outside of the hash marks, since the middle of the field looks to be crowded once the ball is snapped.

Still, to keep up appearances and give the impression that the shallow cross is still coming just like Seattle expects, Brady brings Vereen in short motion back inside where he is extremely close to Edelman and the two of them are almost “stacked” like the Patriots often do.

The corner (Maxwell) follows Vereen back inside and starts to give depth as well.

The corner (Maxwell) follows Vereen back inside and starts to give depth as well.

At the snap, Vereen comes underneath the vertical release of Edelman, and takes a few steps toward the hash as if he’s going to run the shallow crossing route, but once he gets to the hash he pivots back out to all that wide open space underneath to the outside. The corner (Maxwell) is disciplined and doesn’t allow himself to be out-flanked, staying with his man.

Vereen is actually Brady’s final read on the play, since his eyes are moving right to left while in the pocket. Once the ball is snapped he peeks over at the wheel route by Amendola, who is trying to gain leverage on the defensive back over him, but is unable to do so. Next he looks for Gronkowski, who should just be making his break to the outside once Amendola’s wheel route starts to turn vertical, and LaFell’s post route gets Richard Sherman out of the way, but K.J. Wright (#50) is playing with outside leverage and Gronkowski can’t break free.

Edelman gets a good release inside, and ends up on the same level as Gronk, coming in and replacing him over the middle, but Wagner has dropped into the passing window and it’s an easy interception if Brady tries to jam it in the tight window. So finally, Vereen is breaking to the outside and looks to have some room even though Maxwell has kept great leverage on him.

Because of how close the two receivers are, the corner has to give ground, which opens up space underneath to the outside.

Because of how close the two receivers are, the corner has to give ground, which opens up space underneath to the outside.

Maxwell does a great job of recovering and getting to Vereen so that Brady has to put it low and away from the defender, and Vereen can’t bring it in. The pass falls incomplete and New England has to punt the ball to Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense. You can see the actual play diagrammed below.

New England found space outside but Maxwell does a great job of staying with his man and forcing an incompletion.

New England found space outside but Maxwell does a great job of staying with his man and forcing an incompletion.

The Patriots get a lot of valuable information on their first drive of the game, but they still come up empty.


Even though it wasn’t a successful play, all the decision-making that went into putting the Patriots in position to get an open man on 3rd and 6 is still an interesting study for coaches and fans alike.

If you want to know when the book will be ready, just sign up below and you’ll receive a notification when it goes live on the site. You can also check out the original book that broke down the National Championship Game by clicking here.


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