Tue, 24 May 2005
First Downs and Scoring Touchdowns
You have seen it over and over in pro football, a team is moving up and down the field with ease until they get into a situation that they need to get the final yard to score or get a first down. Why do great offenses stall in these situations. I have theory that I would like to share with you.
First off I have to make a disclaimer...I haven't seen any statistics to back up my assertions that teams are having more problems in Goal line and short yardage situations. It is just anecdotal evidence witnessed on my part.
My Theory: Over the past 20 years game of pro football has become more of game of horizontal movement on the offensive line. Instead of displacing players vertically, plays and players are taught to get movement horizontally. Simply put, players are not knocking back players they are moving opponents side to side. When the inside zone became a big part of most of most pro teams offenses in the mid eighties, lead stepping offensive lineman went out the way of dinosaurs. Now, it became drop and crossover steps that were being taught to pro offensive linemen. The inside zone play is a play that counts on 2 big guys getting a push at the point of attack and then one man coming off late for a LBer who most of the time will flow over the top of the rolling double team. The lineman who releases then simply screens LBer as he tries to come back on the cutback. The running back starts as if he is going to hit the tackle area and then if he sees flow over the top he will cut it back behind the two behemoth linemen. If he sees a hole in the tackle area he simply takes to the hole and takes what he can get.
But why was the drop cross over steps taught in the first place. I think there were a couple obvious reason. First players were having a hard time moving defensive players vertically. It take a physical mismatch for a offensive lineman to move somebody back. The day of the 6'6 275lb NG was over. Now there were NG's and T's who were short and stout, in the 6'2 320lbs. range. These guys are built to stand their ground, it takes a hell of a man to push these guys around.
Reason number two when you take a drop and crossover it reduces the chance of defensive lineman skimming the combo block when 2 guys are working together. When you lead step into a combo block there is a small area known as no man's land where because you are firing out and stepping forward and the player you are working with is taking a short lateral step, if the defensive line plays the angle right there is a chance that he may split the combo block. The drop cross over all but eliminates that threat. But what you gain in security you lose in vertical movement and power. What usually happens in this scenario is the defensive lineman absorbs the initial shock of two players on him pretty well...there isn't a lot of movement, but as the d lineman rises to find the ball carrier, that is when the rolling combo gets him moving it may be horizontal movement but it is movement just the same.