Zone Run Constraint Plays

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The best offensive coordinators in football always have answers in their game plan to protect their best plays. A well designed offense will have plays to make the defense pay when they load up to stop their base offense. I’m going to breakdown how the Seattle Seahawks and Wisconsin Badgers use the jet sweep as a constraint play to protect their outside & inside zone running game.

The Seahawks wasted no time in the Super Bowl using the versatile and explosive Percy Harvin on the jet sweep. The key to this play is that the offensive line is blocking outside zone to the right. Nothing changes from the traditional outside zone blocking scheme where Lynch is the ball carrier, except for one block.

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The only player not blocking outside zone to the right is the tight end, who’s responsibility is to seal the end man on the line of scrimmage.

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This concept puts the defense in a tough position. The offense is showing split-flow principles to the defense. The majority of the defense is keying on the Seahawks base run scheme, which is outside zone. But they still have to account for Harvin running the jet sweep in the opposite direction.

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Early in the game the Broncos are geared up to take away the Seahawks bread and butter play, the zone run game. By blocking it with their traditional outside zone scheme, it causes both Denver safeties to pursue towards Lynch, as well as freezing the back side end who must play the cutback or bootleg on outside zone.

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The tight end easily seals the back side defensive end after the defensive end read a false key. With the safety also reading zone to the right, there is no force defender in the alley to take away the jet sweep and turn the play back inside. Harvin picks up 30 yards and nearly breaks it for a touchdown.

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Seahawks Jet Sweep

Seahawks Jet Sweep EZ

A couple of drives later in the game you’ll see how the motion by Harvin and the threat of the jet sweep allowed the Seahawks room to operate what they do best in the run game, give the ball to Lynch on the outside zone. It’s the same formation & motion as the previous example.

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Outside zone blocking to the left with the jet sweep to the right.

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This time the Broncos are determined to not get beat by the jet sweep. They use the nickel back to travel with the motion by Harvin, rotate the free safety into the middle of the field and bring the strong safety down into the box as a force defender.

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While the Broncos are in a much better position to defend the jet sweep, they have now left themselves vulnerable to the outside zone run to the left. The Seahawks are able to get a hat on a hat in the run game and the Broncos have no safety support on the left side after the safety rotation to account for Harvin.

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While the Broncos would have been able to limit a big play had the ball gone to Harvin, the motion opened up room for Lynch to gash their defense for 6 yards and a first down inside the red zone. Even if the ball never went to Harvin again after the initial carry, the motion forces the Broncos into a tough situation on whether to play the jet sweep or stop the outside zone. The jet sweep limits and restricts what the Broncos can do defensively to stop the outside zone, thus the constraint play.

Seahawks Outside Zone

Seahawks Outside Zone EZ

Wisconsin runs similar concepts with the jet sweep off of their inside zone running game. In this example the Badgers run the jet sweep out of a double wing set. From tackle to tackle the offensive line is blocking inside zone. The Badgers use the tight ends to block for the jet sweep. Once again it’s a split-flow read for the defense, running backs going in opposite directions along with two different blocking schemes.

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Arizona State’s front four, along with four defenders from their back seven all work downhill to take away the inside zone run. That leaves only three defenders left for the Badgers to account for on the jet sweep. The tight ends work a double team on the end man on the line of scrimmage up to the safety who is the force defender. The receiver blocks the corner and Melvin Gordon is off to the races for an untouched 80 yard touchdown run.

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Wisconsin Jet Sweep

Gordon is a great athlete which always helps, but the play was very well designed. The success the Badgers have running inside zone occupied 8 Arizona State defenders just by showing the inside zone blocking scheme and handoff fake. Just like the Broncos, Arizona State would be forced into a guessing game for the rest of the night. Do they continue to key the inside zone run or move additional defenders to stop the possibility of the jet sweep?

So whether you run inside or outside zone, you can see what an effective compliment & constraint the jet sweep is to keep defenses in check. It only takes minimal adjustments up front, but it can allow your offense to continue to effectively run your base schemes.

2 thoughts on “Zone Run Constraint Plays

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