RGIII’ ROY Campaign: Running Inside Zone

The the following post is an excerpt taking from a comprehensive piece breaking down RGIII’s 2012 Rookie of the Year. Click here to read the entire piece at The Orange and Browns Report.

A major component of RGIII’s initial success (and downfall) can be attributed to his use in the run game. In addition to his tried-and-true Zone Stretch, Shanahan integrated a variety of interior zone-based concepts including Inside Zone and the Triple Option to take advantage of Griffin’s’ exceptional ability to make the correct decision when ‘reading off’ a defender.

The 2012 Redskins’ bread and butter between-the-tackles run concept was basic Inside Zone with a backside read of an unblocked defensive player (usually a defensive end or stand-up outside linebacker). The idea behind the concept is simple; leave a box player unblocked to rebalance numbers at the line of scrimmage in the offense’s favor. Anytime an offense can put a blocker on every defender at the point of attack, the play will likely lead to positive yardage. Due to Griffin’s natural speed and athleticism, as well as his familiarity with the play concept from his college days, Inside Zone proved to be exceptionally successful.

Inside zone is likely the simplest zone concept to block and run. Each offensive lineman is assigned a certain ‘area’ to block. If there is a defender in that area (known as ‘covered’) block him using zone technique (short lateral/45 degree step towards the play, aiming for the defender’s outside number). If there is no defender in that area (known as ‘uncovered’), start with a lateral step and read the next near defender. If the defender moves outside (Figure 1) climb to the second level looking for a linebacker. If the defender moves inside (Figure 2), double team him by engaging the near shoulder, getting hip-to-hip with the other blocker, and moving the eyes to the second level in case a linebacker shows (note there are MANY ways to read and teach Inside Zone blocking technique; each coach has his/hers own preference).

The running back will read the blocks on an interior defensive lineman (again these rules vary by coach) to determine which hole to hit. Generally, the read moves the tailback’s eyes from playside B-Gap, to playside A-gap, to backside A-gap.

The ‘option’ component of the play comes when the offense elects to leave the backside (away from the play) EMLOS (End Man on Line Of Scrimmage) unblocked, allowing the quarterback to read the defender’s movement at the mesh point. The quarterback has two choices with the read:

  1. If the read man pinches inside to play the running back, pull the ball and run outside through the area the defender has vacated. Read the defender’s shoulders. If they are pointed inside away from the line of scrimmage keep the ball.
  2. If the defender stays wide to play the quarterback bootleg, hand off to the running back, eliminating the chance of the read man chasing the play down from behind. Again the defender’s shoulders are the key. If they stay parallel to the line of scrimmage, give to the tailback as the defender will need to flip his hips to chase the ball.

In our first example, the Redskins’ offense aligns in a ‘Double-Tight’, using 12 personnel (number of running backs and tight ends) from the Pistol formation. The read man is the 6i defensive end (#84) aligned over the inside shoulder of the tight end.

Remember, if the read man holds his ground by staying square to the line of scrimmage Griffin will give to the tailback running Inside Zone. If the read man pinches inside, Griffin will pull the ball and run through the area the defender just vacated.

Focus on the read defender in the GIF below:

Let’s slow down the tape to watch the read again.

Notice that the defensive end not only pinches inside, but turns his shoulders perpendicular to the line of scrimmage. He has put his body in a position where he cannot turn his shoulders and hips to run with the quarterback should he pull the ball. Griffin makes a quick, decisive read and uses his athleticism to cut inside the cornerback for six.


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