Saturday, October 29, 2011

Running the Rocket with Downhill" blocks. Part I

Over the last couple of years the "rocket" sweep (or toss play) has gained in huge popularity with both flexbone and wing-t teams. It has given the offense a method to get to the outside quickly with low cost both in practice time and number of defenders needed to be blocker.

Basically, most teams block the rocket as below (fig 1, 2, and 3) with the line and slot basically running and reaching, in essence blocking the 1st thing that shows or crosses their face on their way through the alley.

Recently we have seen more veer blocking with the tackle and the guard now picking up the tackle's assignment as he pulls around (Fig 4 and 5) This was to make the 5 technique close as he would with veer triple and thus creating some "indecision" in the defensive player's assignment. (Dual conflict for all the wing-t people out there.)
Since I first learned the play in the early 2000's from VMI (The origin of this play and when it started is greatly contested but for the appearance and meaning of this article  - who cares!) we have always blocked it a little different. In order to show you how and why we block it this way - we'll take it in parts . First we'll take a look at the thought process behind our scheme (Part I - here), then we'll look at the way the academies are blocking the play and why we didn't think that fit our needs (Part II), next we'll look at our blocking system for the rocket (Part III), and, finally, our formation adjustments (Part IV) Although a little lengthy, I hope it will give you enough insight to help you run the rocket if you haven't before or add to your success if you have or just make you think of why you do what you do.

It should be said here that we are not saying our scheme is better then any others. There is a reason why Georgia Tech and Navy block it as they do and part of that success is due to the ability to cut on the perimeter and the difference in college and high school hashes. The point is just to give you another idea of "how to skin a cat!"

Our Rocket blocking scheme has been based on the following principles:
  1. You did not have to block the C-gap player. If left to his gap assignment he could not make the tackle on the halfback since the toss was to be caught be the playside slot of even wider.
  2. In a traditional 50 or 4-3 look and using our base formations, there was always going to be one player you could not block. (This was important to me when I later studied other teams and schemes running the play. Even with the schemes above, except for poorly played defenses - you come up short by defensive reaction.) Funny thing is an answer to this became the tightend flank not employed by the schools above. (We'll show that one later.)
  3. From the center back (including the fullback) was completely negligible in having a big effect on the play and you could do anything you wanted with them. (we have at times had them block a complimentary play run to their side with no loss t the play.)
  4. The key points for the carrying halfback were that he had to catch the pitch going full speed and be on the outside leg of the playside slot when receiving it. he also had to be running flat and not gaining depth. (These are the points that I think most offenses fail, regardless of their scheme - I've seen nobody blocked and this play gain yards because of the huge space where it is caught vs. lack of defenders - most coaches because of fear of the long pitch either run the motion too slow or catch it too early and allow for interior players to catch up to the play.)
  5. The play is best run when you can set an edge to the defense. That simply means that if you can create a pivot point where the defensive pursuit is separated from the perimeter it creates greater space for a halfback running full speed to operate in and places less defenders in that area: speed in space. A pivot point can be created in three ways - a leverage block, a block that quickly gains leverage with no responsibility of the blocker to movement away from the leverage, or movement of a defender going in the opposite direction of the play (i.e. veer blocking with the play going outside. (This is probably the biggest difference in what we wanted to do vs. the above schemes.) This was called having "downhill" blocks or blocks with an offensive advantage.
  6. Since this was a complimentary play - we wanted the rules to be definitive and have the ability to carry across the use of formations including the use of a tightend. Simply speaking (For those who read my article on cost) we wanted to keep the cost of the play down including it's learning curve. 
  7. In keeping with a downhill play - if we had to leave somebody free - that player would be the farthest player from the ball, who had a dual responsibility, if possible a cover guy who had to tackle in space.
  8. Wherever possible, we wanted to tie it in with our veer blocking scheme in hopes of helping our triple out but opening up the fullback some (5 tech hesitates to see play.) and getting a clean release for our tackle (teams widening the 5 tech in order to help on the rocket).
  9. Finally, we felt it had to be a man scheme so it did not talk any additional practice time then team. (Cost vs. use again)
Before we get to our scheme, I think it's important to analyze the run and reach scheme so as to see the difference and how it didn't fit into our needs. This will be coming next week in part II.

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