Spread Offense Run Plays – Using the Quarterback as a Running Option

A big part of many spread offense run plays involve using the Quarterback (QB) as a running option. This enables the offense to gain an extra number in the run game, and also increase the amount of defenders in conflict. By adding the QB as a run threat, offenses can greatly increase the variation of their run plays to gain favourable matchups against the defense. This is achieved in a variety of ways, including the use of different formations and alignments, as well as pre-snap motions and wing attachments. In addition, adding a QB as a running option also allows offenses to implement ‘triple option’ variations to their plays to stress defenders at multiple levels. The Tennessee Titans vs Oakland Raiders 2017 Week 1 Game is a great example of how to use the Quarterback as a running threat to outnumber the defense.

Tennessee Titans vs Oakland Raiders (Week 1, Sep. 11, 2017)

The Week 1 game between the Tennessee Titans and Oakland Raiders saw a heavily favoured Raiders team securing an easy victory over the Titans. However, the Titans executed some incredibly effective read option run plays with their young QB Marcus Mariota. These plays made the Raiders tough ‘front 7’ look helpless as Mariota rushed for 25 yards on 2 attempts, scoring 1 TD. Mariota’s big gains running the ball set up Titans RB Demarco Murray for a 21 yard gain off of the read option. This article will discuss the inside zone read option, wing attachments and receiver attachments in a triple option look.

Run Play 1 – Inside Zone + Arc

The first read option play the Titans ran was from a condensed set with 3 tight ends and resulted in Mariota having an easy 10 yard touchdown run. What’s interesting to note is that one of the TE’s is actually an extra offensive tackle lined up on the left hand side of the formation. Having an extra O-Lineman enables the offense to create a bigger wash on D-Line which creates a bigger running lane for the inside zone path of the RB. On this play, the O-Line are running an inside zone blocking scheme and the Y arcs out to block the outside shoulder of the CB. The H motions to the other side of the formation pre-snap, then arc blocks for the QB on the playside post-snap. The QB reads the EMOL (End Man on Line of Scrimmage) to decide whether he hands the ball off to the RB or keeps it and runs the ball himself. Running this play out of a condensed set with multiple TE’s is a very effective way to make your QB a running threat. The Y has a size and strength advantage over the CB which creates a favourable mismatch for the offense. Also on this play in particular, the offense is able to gain an extra number in the run game by lining the H up on the backside of the formation, and then having him arc around to become an extra blocker for the QB.

Run Play 2 – Inside Zone + Arc + Bubble

The second read option play run by the Titans was a triple option variation play which resulted in a 15 yard gain by Mariota on the ground. This play is run out of a 2×2 condensed formation with the TE in the wing position. The O-Line block inside zone and the TE arc blocks for the QB around the formation. Again, the QB reads the DE to determine whether he hands off the ball to the RB or keeps it. If he keeps the ball, he makes the next read on the 2nd level defender to determine if he throws the bubble to the receiver, or if he keeps the ball himself and runs. Normally, the ‘triple option’ is run with two RB’s (one RB runs inside zone while the second RB runs speed option). However, the triple option phase of this play run by the Titans involves the slot receiver running a bubble path instead of a speed option path from the backfield. This is an effective way of being able to create a triple option look without the need for a second RB, and also enables the offense keep the defenders in conflict.

Run Play 3 – Inside Zone + Shoot

The final read option run play used by the Titans brought them their biggest run of the day for 21 yards from their RB Demarco Murray. This play is run from a 3×1 formation with the Tight end on the single side. The O-Line block inside zone and the QB and RB run inside zone like normal (with the first read man being the DE or EMOL). The TE runs a shoot route to the flat instead of blocking the inside zone. The QB reads the DE, if the QB keeps the ball, he reads the next outside defender covering the TE. If that defender (in this case the CB) comes down to tackle the QB, the QB throws the ball to the shoot. If the CB widens to cover the shoot, the QB keeps the ball and runs. On this play the defenders both widen to cover the QB and TE, which caused Mariota to hand off the ball to the RB. This also allowed the O-Line to block the remaining 5 defenders in the box which created an easy seam for Murray to gash the defense on a 21 yard run. This is another variation to read option, adding a triple option phase with the TE running a shoot route. Again, this is an effective way of manipulating the defense by using the QB to gain an extra number in the run game.

Using the Quarterback as a Running Threat

Utilising your QB as a running option gives your offense the ability to attack the defense with multiple variations of the read option. It places defenses in conflict and forces them to play strictly disciplined to their defensive structure and rules. In addition, by gaining an extra number against the defense with the QB, your offense will have higher success rates in moving the football as each read option or triple option play has built in answers. To put it simply, the more variations you have, the harder it will be for the defense to stop you.

Feature image photo credit:

photo credit: Brook-Ward Mariota” class=”redactor-linkify-object”>http://www.flickr.com/photos/5… to Murray via photopin (license)



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