Monday, November 28, 2011

Some Offensive Terms!

Today’s lesson explains two terms that you may have heard without knowing what they meant.  You may have even kept a serious look on your face and continued to watch and nod knowingly.  These terms are the “play action pass” and the “draw.”  After reading the descriptions, you may wonder why these aren’t considered trick plays.  I’ll explain why they're not.

Play Action Pass

In the play action pass, the offense tries to make the defense think that they will run the ball, but they actually want to pass.  This play is set up well if the offense has been relying heavily on the run; the defense is prepared for the run and will commit to defending it. 
When the ball is snapped, the offensive linemen block as if they are trying to open a hole for the running back.  The quarterback acts like he is going to hand the ball to the running back, who runs toward the QB as if he is going to take the ball.  When the two meet, the quarterback pulls the ball back toward him and tries to hide it; he then looks for an open receiver.  The running back continues to run up toward the line of scrimmage as if he has the ball.  At the snap, the receivers get in the act, too, by blocking the cornerbacks as they would in a running play.  However, they quickly break off those blocks and run their routes and look for the quarterback's pass.

The Draw

The draw is pretty much the opposite of a play action pass.  The offensive linemen begin the play in pass protection—i.e., blocking defenders to give the quarterback time to throw instead of opening a hole for the running back.  However, as they pretend to pass protect, they also try to move the defenders in such a way as to create space for the running back.  For his part, the quarterback steps back with the ball as if he is looking for a receiver.  Instead, he hands the ball to the running back, who has been pretending to assist with the pass protection. 
To complete the misdirection, the receivers actually run their routes so that the secondary commits to covering them.  If they do commit to covering the receivers, the defensive backs won’t have time to converge on the running back before he makes a big gain.  A variation of the draw is the quarterback draw, where the quarterback pretends to look for a receiver then keeps the ball and runs down the field himself.

So, why aren’t these considered “trick” plays?  Each involves deception and misdirection:  in the play action, the offense tries to make the defense think it is running when it is actually passing; the draw makes the defense think the play is a pass when it is really a run.  However, the offense is never supposed to telegraph its intentions to the defense.  Defenses need to be prepared for a variety of options depending on the situation and the formation of the offense. 
Trick plays are those that are so rare and involve such unusual actions by the offense that the defense shouldn’t consider them likely.  Play actions and draws are relatively routine and defenses should be expected to prepare for them, especially in certain circumstances.  For example, if an offense has been relying on running plays for the entire game, a defense should eventually consider the play action pass a possibility on any play.

So, now you can watch and nod and KNOW what's going on, right?

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