Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Running The Rocket with "Downhill" Blocks - Part II

In part I of this series we discussed the parameters we used as our blocking scheme developed for the rocket in relationship to the "traditional" "run and reach" blocking of the rocket sweep. (See figures 1, 2 and 3) Every scheme has flaws - every system has holes. This does not make it bad - on the contrary, Navy and Georgia Tech have thrived in this scheme. But as any good coach should we want to keep evolving and trying to find answers.

When analyzing schemes we always feel it's important to look at a couple of questions
  1. Numbers - will a blocker be left unblocked and who?
  2. Leverage - do we have an advantage to does the defense have a advantage before the start of the play
  3. Personnel - who are we asking to make a block vs. a defender and what is the skill set we asking our player to perform? Does it fit his base job description.
  4. Timing - does the entry point of the back time up with the blocks made so as to maximize the efficiency of the block both in duration (least amount of time held) and in scoop. (Does the block have to be at a specific point or does the back have a chance to "option" run off of him.
  5. How does the scheme enhance our offense in terms of sequentiality (in scheme along with backfield series.), techniques, and overall efficiency? (does the scheme give US the best answer of are we just using it because other people use it as their answer?)
  6. How does the scheme fit in as to where we are in as far as rules (in high school you can't cut, the hashes are different, etc.) practice time, personnel (sometimes a great scheme answer is not an answer for you because of your given personnel (at Langley we did not run the rocket because of the type of halfbacks we had.) and learnability and carryover.
When the base system is run against a reduced front (that is 2 guys outside the tackle - see 4-4 above) the numbers are natural. That simply means that you can get a hat on a hat.(WR on Corner, HB on SS / OLB, Tackle on DE or inside backer) Given the additionally fact that the ball was pitched outside the tackle meant the offensive tackle would only have to slightly tie up a running 5 tackle. If the tackle was able to get around the end and to the inside backer that was a bonus that just enhances the efficiency of the play. The play against the reduced front was basically a "downhill" play with a fairly positive payout.

After years of film analysis of this play, only negatives we felt to the scheme were the flat reach by the halfback and tackle and the fact that there was no other play in our offense where the tackle pulled flat taking away any conflicts from the defense. The reach scheme,essentially, gives the defense time to catch up - stretching the play further to the sideline where the defense may have time to catch up or you may run out of real estate. You are even bringing the C-gap out to the play, a defenderthat by the play's design you didn't have to block in the first place. (A real problem if forced to run the play into the boundary in high school - i.e. free safety over to the field.) Additionally, pulling to the sideline mismatched our halfbacks and tackles vs. physical blockers who kept themselves gap sound and knocked our undermanned players back. (If we could have cut in high school the problem would have been eliminated. Look at Navy and Georgia tech tapes and you see the offensive player barely getting into the legs of these two players but that's enough to get gain leverage to the outside quickly due to the wide pitch.)
The biggest problems from this scheme come against the 50 and the 4-3 look and this is what forced us to diverge from the norm. If you look at figure 2 and 3 above, the first thing you notice is that there are 3 people aligned with defensive leverage on the slot. (the SS / OLB / and Corner with just the slot and wide receiver to block them.) This means that you have 3 defenders equal to or wider then the point (Outside leg of the slot) that the carrier receives the ball. Somebody from the interior has to make these blocks. It certainly does not put the blocker in an advantageous situation especially given the entry levy or the back (He receives the ball a full man outside the tackle already running full speed!) and the aim of the play (to circle the defense.) This is totally different then asking a halfback to tuck inside the kick out of a sweep or to be almost directly behind an arc block with an option to make a two way cut. In this scenario, in order to match numbers, two interior blockers (guard and tackle) will have to block a player with a full man (and sometimes more) head start on him. (see fig 4a and b below) Certainly these blocks are considered uphill but add to the fact that you cannot cut in high school and you are asking you tackle to block a skill player in a race and in space (OLB) the advantage fails clearly to the defense. (Once again, in studying many years of college cutups of this play, you see these players nipping at the heels of the defender just barely bidding time for the halfback to outrun the defense. You also notice that against these defenses there are just as many zero yard plays as there are great gains.) Against the 5-2 the problem is even more pronounced with the tackle trying to catch up to and hook an OLB ON the line of scrimmage.

(I know you can change formations to change numbers but for this section we'll deal strictly with 2 x 2 formations. In section IV we'll deal with formation variations.)

Additionally, if the defense was sound and kept its gap integrity with the OLB in D and DE in C etc. you end up with nobody on the support player. The very player the defense places the responsibility of stopping this play. (Fig 5) Usually a strong safety that is placed in that position to make tackles and support the run in the first places

The play also featured the pulling tackle again, making it readable to defenses.

One additional note that made us evolve away from this scheme was the inability to veer block or place the 5 technique in a bind. (We always felt that this would cause hesitation and either open up the fullback in our triple or shorten the flank on the rocket.) If you veer schemed this vs. a seven man front it was virtually impossible to match numbers since the guard would now have to block the OLB giving him a two man advantage and starting the guard in poor relative position to block in front of the halfback. (fig 6)

Three thing that this play did accomplish were that it 1) slowed down option stunts between #1 and #2, 2) give the offense a way to run away from garbage inside now in an instant, and 3) gets the ball in a good halfback's hands in space when option defenses wouldn't allow that. These positives we wanted to keep. We also didn't want to teach zone blocking which would require more practice time. (If you read my last thread on cost vs. rewards, you would release that any play that involves the reading of defensive reactions requires more practice time.)

In part III we will discuss what scheme we evolved into, how this has helped us, and how it has even simplified the practice and learning of this play.

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