Attacking the zone

Among other new pieces, ArtofTroy over at USC Trojan Football Analysis has an excellent article posted at his site about how offensive coordinators can go after various forms of zone defenses.

The most interesting part focuses on the role of the QB in getting an offense into the right play and then executing. See if this doesn’t make you think about how Stafford’s freshman season progressed:

Head Coach Rich Rodriquez of West Virginia made a similar point in a different way at a 2007 Nike Coaching clinic. Paraphrasing slightly he noted that all elite QB’s coming out of high school that he sees today can identify the main coverage schemes noted here (and others) and identify where to attack them immediately. Credit the high school coaches and QB camps around the U.S. for making this happen. No single defense in isolation can work any more. Against a good QB it quickly becomes a defensive liability. The defensive coordinators have to resort to mixing coverages and confusing the alignment of the LB’s and secondary at the line of scrimmage. Otherwise the advantage is all with the offense.

In order for a pass attack to succeed nowadays the issues is rarely one of “play calling” ability or strategy for most top flight teams like USC – it is one of execution and teaching the QB. The QB has the final responsibility of knowing when to stick with a call on the field or to check to a different play at the line of scrimmage. Also there are anywhere from one to five players that can go into pass patterns for the offense depending upon the alignment and play. The QB has to scan the field quickly, make the right read, and throw to the open player – i.e. take what the defense gives. Increasingly this means that football is a game of execution and less about simple play calling. [Emphasis added.] There is also the dichotomy in football of power and deception on any given play. The teams that have been winning for the past decade or more all are “balanced” offenses in that can both run the football and throw as well. Being able to do both in different situations has its distinct advantages for putting the defense into certain types of alignments as well as taking advantage of them as well.

Good stuff.

If you’re looking for a breakdown of what different zone coverages look like, Art’s got that covered here.

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