A huge trend on offense right now in the NFL is to flex a running back or tight end out wide. Some of the best offenses in the NFL are doing this. Last year, the two teams that did it the most were New England and Atlanta.
Is it by chance that the two best offences are doing this? Probably not so what do they gain? Well it is the most effective way to know if it is man or zone coverage. This becomes even more valuable when you have a matchup problem at these positions.
The offense gains a huge advantage. If a line back goes out to cover RB/TE then you know it is man. If the corner stays out to cover the RB/TE then you know it is zone coverage.
NFL Defenses need to have an effective counter to this because tipping your coverages before the snap is gives the offense too big of an advantage.
In order to understand the reasoning behind what I am suggesting, we first have to understand how NFL zones work. When NFL teams run their zone concepts, especially on third down when knowing the coverage is even more important, they are note simple cover 2, cover 3 etc. They are vastly complex with so many rules that you need players to specialize in their particular roles to be able to run them effectively. A solution would be, why not have the line backer follow the TE/RB out and then still play zone. Well the line backer won’t have mastered the rules to play the outside corner in their zone concept effectively. On the flip side, if you play man out of a zone look, then you will have a line backer matched up on a WR and that is a big advantage for the offense if they can identify the coverage.
Now getting back to my original point. I believe that teams should show on film the opposite of what their coverage tip shows. They just need to do it enough to make the offense believe that it is a possibility that you could be showing man but actually be in zone or vice versa.
Now I know that I am arguing against myself. But few things to consider:
- You’re not going to do this all the time, just enough to make the offense think twice. It might put you at a disadvantage for a play or two if the offense can identify it but for all the others you should be at an advantage
- When you initially run it, the offense should be surprised giving you the upper hand. Should reduce the concerns about running it initially.
- I believe you can scheme up a coverage that can compete on a small sample size. Let’s walk through them:
- Zone – In this case you are going to have a line backer and a corner out of position. The plus of this is it’s on the same side of the field. You’ll have to go more simplistic on that side of the field but there are a number of variations that you can run to roll coverage to that side of the field. This will discourge throwing to that side of the field and on the opposite side you can run your more complex coverages.
- Man – In this case the mismatch is the line backer on a wide receiver. The plus is you’ll have the flexed out WR or TE covered by a corner which 9/10 is a dominating matchup for you. You should be able to use your free defenders to help the linebacker.
If you do it a few times you can remove that huge advantage that an offense gets by using formation to know the coverage. Worth while trade off in my opinion.