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.
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)