I’m excited to continue my series over new Packers head coach Matt LaFleur’s 2018 play calls as I take a look at the running game from week 3 when the Titans took on the Jacksonville Jaguars.
By now I’m starting to see a slight trend in LaFleur’s offense. Just to name a few, here is what is starting to stick out to me when I watch film over his offense:
- The use of the I formation
- Bunch set runs
- Zone scheme
I want to touch briefly on each of these points before we dive in to the film. Like I’ve said in previous articles, this is a great time of year to get acquainted with how the Packers offense could look in 2019. Fans wouldn’t think it, but the offseason really is a good time of year. Aside from not watching live football, us film junkies get to give head in to a mountain of tape and break down the things that could make an offense or defense click in the upcoming season. I would encourage everyone to do the same. You wouldn’t believe how much it changes the way you watch a game.
First I want to talk about how LaFleur has used the I-formation. I have seen my fair share of 21 personnel through 3 weeks alone. He has run a few 20 personnel sets but not as often. After seeing the I the biggest conclusion that I came to was that the Packers need to find a solid fullback, and they could potentially have their guy right now with Danny Vitale. LaFleur runs a decent amount of zone concepts such as the stretch or toss play from the I. Zone schemes call on the fullback to be a lead blocker, especially with the toss. He is the guy that could make or break a big toss play. The fullback “runs the track” as I say, and looks for a big kick out block or turns up field as a lead man from the get go. I don’t know how confident I feel in having an H back line up and ask him to square up a defender and block, especially looking at what the Packers offense has to work with.
Second, the bunch sets. I like the use of the bunch. Its great in the pass game but can be utilized in the run. One of those three receivers can be used as a decoy man to draw a defender away from the box or used as a reverse man off of dive plays, as you will see an example of later on in this article. A lot of hot offenses go to the bunch frequently around the league, including the Rams and Chiefs.
The thing that I like about LaFleur as opposed to McCarthy is that he uses motion in a ton of plays. McCarthy’s offense could get stagnant and use limited motion. Lack of motion could allow any offense to become predictable and the defense could start picking it apart like a book. Motion gets defenses out of different coverages and fronts, which helps their advantages tremendously.
Lastly, I want to talk a little about the most obvious part of his offense which is the zone run. The league has really changed over the course of the last couple of seasons. We don’t see offenses use 2 backs to pound the ball up the gut. While we do see an occasional trap our counter play, it’s just not run like it used to be. LaFleur, like many others, go to the zone run game as a staple in his offense. The meshes well with what he does in the pass game, such as with the RPOs.
Let me just say this as clearly as I can…I do not like RPOs. At all. Ever. But that’s a different subject for a different article. Lets just get to the film.
Before I even turned on the tape I was curious to see how the Titans offense would fare against Jacksonville’s 4-3 defense. The 4-3 is a stout defense that is focused on stopping the run. I always say, there’s a reason that defenses have been using it as their base for over 50 years now. A lot of what Jacksonville was a base over and under look, meaning there is always a player in a 1 and 3 technique.
In the clip above, we see what appears to be an isolation play. The tackle kicks out the end, the guard blocks down on the 2i-tech and the fullback lead blocks on the Sam backer. That’s the idea of it anyway. The Jags do a pretty good job sniffing out the run but the philosophy behind the play is what is important. As you can see pre-snap, the Sam starts to creep up to the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped, getting a head start on the play. The fullback does a good job of squaring him up but he is already in the offensive backfield. Had the Sam stayed at linebacker depth the outcome could be very different. Both the Vikings and Lions run 4-3 looks so the Packers will be scheming against it several times a year.
I talked a little about the use of the bunch and here is a good example of what I meant. The offense starts out in a tight 2X2 look and motions into a bunch. Watch the play fake after the ball is handed off. There is essentially 3 phases to a play like this. The first is the dive hand off. The second is the end around. The third is quarterback action, setting up like he is going to throw. You have to keep the defense honest in all three phases.
LaFleur could go back to this play several times in a game. He could call a hand off, like he does here. The next time he could hit the end around. Then he could call it once more and fake both the dive and end around and set up to throw. Note the quarterback’s action once he fakes the end around though. Not very good. I don’t think he convinced a single person, mostly the free safety, that he is going to throw. All fakes have to be tight and convincing. He did a decent job faking the end around, but you must carry out all fakes.
The play itself ends up being a small 3 yard gain. But as some film guru’s have said before, “A three yard gain can be the most beautiful play.”
Packer fans are all too familiar with the inside zone play. McCarthy ran it to death in the final part of his time with the Packers. It has become a go to for a lot of coaches around the league. I like the inside zone for the fact that it sets up the mesh with the back and play action off of that. Notice the blocks by both guards on this play. They do a good job at handling both the 3 and 1 technique players. An important block has to be made by the center as he is 1 on 1 with the Mike linebacker. With a player like Corey Linsley I don’t worry about that block. I have sung high praises about Linsley all season. He is a fantastic zone blocker who does a great job on a play like this.
I decided to go with less film clips and breaking down simple plays in this article. I think it will be beneficial to all of us as fans to start with the basics of this offense and let the breakdowns stem from there. Vince Lombardi once spoke on his famous Packer sweep at a clinic….for 8 hours. Think about that, talking about one simple sweep play for 8 whole hours. I’m nowhere near that in-depth, but the idea behind it is true.
Keep an eye out for my next article as I dive in to the passing plays LaFleur called this same week against the Jaguars.
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