This is the first part in a series on what new offensive coordinator Joe Brady could bring from the Saints to the LSU offense:
Part 1, “What can we learn from the Mormons?”
One of the frustrating aspects of LSU’s offense during the 2018 season was the under utilization of quarterback Joe Burrow in the run game. As the dust settled near the end of the season, it turned out the staff didn’t want Burrow running the football because, secretly, Myles Brennan was nursing an injury for a chunk of the year and the team didn’t want to risk losing Burrow either. Running Burrow was probably an important plan going into the season as evidence by his 29 carries against Texas A&M in the last game of the season when they knew they wouldn’t be playing again until a month later.
If LSU has a viable backup plan, I would hope we see more designed quarterback run schemes for Burrow. It remains to be seen if there is a transcendent running back on the roster to give the ball to when the defense loads the box. That running back didn’t exist last year and the offense really opened up when Burrow was allowed to be a part of the run game.
The edge gained in using your quarterback in the running game is that it evens out the numbers advantage the defense has when defending the run.
When the quarterback isn’t a part of the scheme, the defense can choose to always have 1 more defender than blocker.
6 blockers for 7 defenders.
With the quarterback as a threat, the offense can play 7 on 7.
Some defenses have become masters at defending quarterback runs and yet still, LSU’s best runs of the season might have come on Burrow keeps:
I wanted to take a look at what Brady could bring from the Saints 2018 offense so I fired up the tape and took a look at our favorite Mormon, Taysom Hill.
Flip the Read
Right off the bat, what I noticed was that when the Saints were going to run a zone read scheme with Hill, they would shift the running back right before snapping the ball.
(that’s me scrubbing the film back and forth)
The idea is that by switching the back late, it messes with the option rules from the defense. When defending zone read, the defense must account for the dive, the keep and, potentially, the pitch. Because defenses don’t often align evenly throughout their front 7, the responsibilities for the defenders change depending on whether they are on the strong side or weak side.
Cody Alexander from Match Quarters has some ideas on this concept here
On zone runs to the weakside, the strongside defensive end is being read by the quarterback. Because there is a player next to him in the B-gap, he can hold his ground and force the quarterback to give the ball to the running back. The strong-side end has the C-gap, the tackle has the B-gap and the Mike has the A-gap.
In this scenario the end has the QUARTERBACK and the Mike has DIVE responsibilities.
If the end commits to the running back and the quarterback pulls the ball and runs, the Sam linebacker is in a bad spot. He can be blocked or read for the triple option.
If the run goes strong, it’s the weakside defensive end who is being read. With a nose tackle in the A-gap, he doesn’t have anybody next to him in a gap. This makes him the DIVE player. He forces the quarterback to pull the ball while the Will linebacker loops around the block of the offensive tackle to take on the quarterback.
If the weak end stays put and forces the ball to the running back, the offensive tackle has a nice angle to block the Will.
Because of this, defenses can set their d-line and linebackers based on which side the running back lines up next to the quarterback. If you want the quarterback to keep the ball because he isn’t a great running threat, you play it one way. If you’re playing an elite athlete at quarterback, you play the opposite way.
Flipping the alignment of the back right before the snap doesn’t allow the defense to set comfortably.
Instead of messing with the defensive line every time, the Bengals here flipped their linebackers. Now, those two backers aren’t really set, and No. 50 attacks the B-gap first even though the defensive end is also attacking the B-gap and it allows Armstead to cover #50 up and block him. This is a touchdown if Hill just reads the damn block by Armstead.
You could conceivably do this with more than just zone plays also.
Anyways, the more I watched the more I came away liking what Ensminger showed last year. Sean Payton and Ensminger called a lot of the same concepts for Hill and Burrow, respectively.
Bash means “Back Away from read”. Instead of the running back running the inside path and the quarterback keeping it around the corner, it’s the opposite. The back takes the outside path and the QB is the inside runner.
You can add a Bash tag to really any run concept but I’ve noticed it being tagged a lot with GT counter. The Saints do so here even though it doesn’t work:
If the end stays outside, the quarterback keeps. If he crashes inside the quarterback gives.
That Burrow touchdown against Texas A&M?
Bash GT Counter ~~from unbalanced~~
Really nice design.
Ensminger’s regular QB counter is BAsh also. They ran it a few times against Auburn. Instead of the backside guard and tackle being the pullers, it’s the backside guard and tight end.
One of my favorite tags for zone runs (although you could use them on any run scheme where the defensive end is left free) is the “Arc” tag.
Usually done with a fullback/tight end/h-back type of player, the tag tells him to run by the unblocked defensive end before coming up the field and blocking a second level defender. This gives the quarterback a lead blocker if he keeps the ball.
The tagged player could come all the way across the formation or already be lined up in on the backside.
With Hill, the Saints ran something like this on pretty much all their zone runs.
LSU ran this as well
But also ran their zone read “naked” often as well
I was happy with Ensminger’s scheme for Burrow and hopefully he (or Joe Brady) won’t be afraid to call more of these plays in 2019.