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Anatomy of A Play


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#1 Earl34

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Posted 07 December 2010 - 07:57 PM

This week is a little tough in the sense that I thought I had a pass play to discuss that was really interesting. The problem is that when I went back to look at it, it simply wound up being far less impressive than I thought when I watched it happen the first time. Nonetheless, as I've always told my students, not every case is exciting but they're all interesting. So, here's a play that unfortunately, did not lead to any points but it did show us some of the best of what the Browns can do. In other words, it's time to give y'all some HILLIS!

Situation: 1Q, 5:16 left, Browns have just been pinned inside their 10 yard line.
Score: 0-0
Down: 1st & 10 on the -6 (and you've got Jake Delhomme within the shadow of his own goal post)

1. Presnap and Run Game Tutorial



The Browns come out in '12' personnel (1 back, 2 TE) and have Watson to the left and Royal to the right. This is called many things by different offenses but generally speaking you can call this a double tight or "Ace" formation. The two WR are flanked off the line to the right (not on the screen). So, if I'm calling this formation in the huddle, it's "Ace, twins right". The Dolphins are in a 3-4 front and the safety is buzzing down toward Thomas. Their formation is shifted slightly. Against 2 TE formations, the defense has to declare one of them to be the "threat" and clearly they've designated Watson to be that guy.

You'll also notice some letters and numbers. Let's talk about the numbers first. In basic terminology going all the way back to youth football there is a numbering system for the ball carriers. The QB is the "1" back, halfback is the "2" (see Hillis?), FB is usually "3". In some of your backfield heavy sets like the wishbone, there's also a "4". In any case, that back gets the ball and has to go thru a hole. These are designated by numbers. As you can see it starts in the middle and moves its way out. Odd numbers to the left and even to the right. The "3" hole, for example, is between Steinbach and Thomas. So, if you wanted to call a run play off-tackle to Thomas' left, you would call it "25" and then you'd assign a description to tell you what the lead blockers are going to do (e.g., "blast", "power").

Now, let's look at the letters above the numbers. On defense, they have to be able to communicate about the running lanes too but they don't use a numbering system. They use letters to define the gaps. The gap between center and guards are the right and left "A" gaps. The gap between guard and tackle is the "B gap" and between tackle and TE, "C" gap. The gap outside the TE is the "D" gap. This is (to my knowledge) universally how it's called. Now, the different defenses may treat the gaps differently even if they call them the same.

In a 4-3 defense, the players on the line of scrimmage are playing 1-gap defense meaning that they are responsible for one hole only and they're typically trying to penetrate through that gap.

In the 3-4, it's a little different (unless you're Shaun Rogers and do whatever the hell you want when you feel like it and, in the process give up a long gain to Michael Turner). In the Parcells/Belichick/Mangini 3-4 (aka, the "Fairbanks-Bullough 3-4"), the players on the line of scrimmage play a "2-gap" principle where they engage an offensive player and try to control both gaps to either side. For instance,a NT will engage the center and play both A-gaps. This then allows the LBs to fill and make the play. In the "Phillips" variant, it uses smaller linemen than the usual 3-4 and they penetrate along with a LB on every play (more like a 1-gap). It's far more aggressive and it's what you see Wade Phillips run in SD and Dallas. The third 3-4 variant is the "LeBeau Zone Blitz" which is not totally 2 or 1 gap. The NT plays two gap and the DE's tend to drop out and switch with LBs or continue to rush.

The point is that with whatever system you run on defense you have to have what's called gap integrity meaning that someone is responsible for each gap. This is why the 3-4 that NE, CLE and the Jets run has had success against guys like Chris Johnson, MJD, etc because a two-gap defense can beat zone blocking from an offensive line (but I digress). Notice that the Dolphins are trying to block eight gaps with seven guys (we won't count the safety because he's so far out of the way). So with that out of the way...

2. The snap


- #1 shows Delhomme reverse or counter-pivoting. This means he takes the snap and turns opposite of where the run play is going. This is misdirection.
- #2 shows Hillis with a hesitation step to the left to allow the counter to develop
- the arrow shows Steinbach pulling to his right. The nose tackle had lined up in the A-gap and that was to try and force Steinbach and Mack to double team him. Obviously, Mack is going to handle this dude alone.
- the left side is straight forward as Watson and Thomas block left.
- Tim Dobbins is the Mike backer and he's looping into the left A-gap. Supposedly, Mack will be pulled left opening this up. Womack does a good enough job blocking down on him. St. Clair blocks down on the DE.
- Robert Royal is blocking Cameron Wake

- the reason this play works is Karlos Dansby. He's either keying on Delhomme's movement or the center and he's sucked inside. My guess is he's supposed to have C-gap responsibility but he's abandoned it.

3. The Hole


- #1 shows an obscured Dobbins who's been blocked out of the way (at least well enough) by Womack. At a minimum, his momentum is going one way and the play is going the other.
- #2 shows two things. First St. Clair is holding big time. Second, and more importantly, Steinbach has pulled around and has an angle on Dansby who's been pulled inside on the counter motion.
- #3 shows Robert Royal who can't catch worth a damn but God bless him he's blocking Cameron Wake. Did I mention he's blocking Cameron Wake?

LOOK AT THAT CANYON THAT'S OPENED UP! You could drive a TRUCK through that! Luckily, we have one and he wears #40.

4. North and South Running


This is just to show Peyton Hillis stay square to the line and cut upfield quickly. Steinbach is having some trouble with Dansby (so what else is new? Does he have a "Li'l Captain" in him?) and there's Robert Royal!

5. The Finish


This is just to show Brian Robiskie. Perhaps it made no difference on this play but neither he nor his defender look like they even WANT to get physical. Note to Brian: Being a Cleveland Brown means you have to block. If you're watching, you AIN'T PLAYIN' FOOTBALL! Watching this play again, he never even touches the defender. Poor Peyton Hillis has three guys hanging on him and you can't be bothered to knock the CB on his ass? Big gains on the ground in the NFL are usually a result of two things: downfield blocking and lack of gap integrity. On this play we see the former.

SUMMARY: On this play, we see a nice counter that resulted in a big play. The combination of counter-action, some adequate but not great (except for Royal!) blocking, a mistake by a LB and good ol' #40 makes this play a success. "Ace, Twins right, 26 counter"

Hope this wasn't too boring.
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#2 peterbell

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Posted 07 December 2010 - 08:25 PM

That ain't a little trouble with Dansby..Steinback got stood up and has no leverage..He should be sealing him and not getting pushed backwards..Royal should be getting his ass in the hole and also sealing off. Good down blocks by Mack and the guard. Well designed run
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#3 BROWNandORANGE

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Posted 07 December 2010 - 08:30 PM

thanks Earl! You be a bad ass mofo!
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#4 Richiswhere

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Posted 07 December 2010 - 08:35 PM

QUOTE (Earl34 @ Dec 7 2010, 07:57 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
5. The Finish


This is just to show Brian Robiskie. Perhaps it made no difference on this play but neither he nor his defender look like they even WANT to get physical. Note to Brian: Being a Cleveland Brown means you have to block. If you're watching, you AIN'T PLAYIN' FOOTBALL! Watching this play again, he never even touches the defender. Poor Peyton Hillis has three guys hanging on him and you can't be bothered to knock the CB on his ass? Big gains on the ground in the NFL are usually a result of two things: downfield blocking and lack of gap integrity. On this play we see the former.

SUMMARY: On this play, we see a nice counter that resulted in a big play. The combination of counter-action, some adequate but not great (except for Royal!) blocking, a mistake by a LB and good ol' #40 makes this play a success. "Ace, Twins right, 26 counter"

Hope this wasn't too boring.



Wasn't boring at all ....did Robiskie's guy make the tackle?

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#5 Earl34

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Posted 07 December 2010 - 08:47 PM

QUOTE (Richiswhere @ Dec 7 2010, 08:35 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Wasn't boring at all ....did Robiskie's guy make the tackle?


No...so it's probably a moot point but I'm watching on the replay and he never even touches the defender.
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#6 Earl34

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Posted 07 December 2010 - 08:48 PM

QUOTE (peterbell @ Dec 7 2010, 08:25 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
That ain't a little trouble with Dansby..Steinback got stood up and has no leverage..He should be sealing him and not getting pushed backwards..Royal should be getting his ass in the hole and also sealing off. Good down blocks by Mack and the guard. Well designed run


The photos don't do Royal justice. He knocked Wake on his ass as Hillis ran by. Not the best technique but it was the best result.

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#7 VaporTrail

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Posted 07 December 2010 - 08:52 PM

That's beside the point, when you're a receiver, your head is turned and your goal is to block the guy in front of you. You have no idea what's going on behind you until either

A) A whistle blows

or

B ) You see Hillis blow past everyone and your corner giving up on trying to beat your block
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#8 BrownsBacker

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Posted 07 December 2010 - 09:05 PM

The fact that Robiskie never even touches the defender, let alone put a nice block on him like he should do, makes me want this bum cut from the team come January. Our receiving corps needs a huge re-working, I like all the guys effort besides Robiskie, but we need change here BIG TIME.
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#9 Mark O

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Posted 07 December 2010 - 09:08 PM

That is fantastic....

absolutely love your posts...
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#10 ClevelandBigDawg

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Posted 07 December 2010 - 09:25 PM

Whats so wrong with Brian Robiskie here. I honestly hated the pick, and still do to be honest with you. His man is 15 yards off the line of scrimmage and still in front of him to throw a block if Peyton gets through. I would say he did his job there...
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#11 Earl34

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Posted 07 December 2010 - 11:00 PM

QUOTE (ClevelandBigDawg @ Dec 7 2010, 09:25 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Whats so wrong with Brian Robiskie here. I honestly hated the pick, and still do to be honest with you. His man is 15 yards off the line of scrimmage and still in front of him to throw a block if Peyton gets through. I would say he did his job there...


Perhaps, on some level, it's simply a bias that arises out of what we've seen from him in the past. There doesn't always seem to be consistent effort and that's a perception more than it is a fact. Before that still shot of Robiskie, he's looking back at Hillis. The fact that he never engages his man physically is what's bothersome. Does he need to drive him into the bench? No, but if Peyton breaks a tackle, he has to hope he's in good enough position to block the man. Depending on how fast Hillis is in the open field, that may not be possible. Like I said above, it's probably a moot point but it bothers me. My cross to bear, I suppose.
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#12 slowburn

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Posted 07 December 2010 - 11:10 PM

Aces. Thanx Coach!!!
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#13 Richiswhere

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Posted 07 December 2010 - 11:27 PM

QUOTE (Earl34 @ Dec 7 2010, 11:00 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Perhaps, on some level, it's simply a bias that arises out of what we've seen from him in the past. There doesn't always seem to be consistent effort and that's a perception more than it is a fact. Before that still shot of Robiskie, he's looking back at Hillis. The fact that he never engages his man physically is what's bothersome. Does he need to drive him into the bench? No, but if Peyton breaks a tackle, he has to hope he's in good enough position to block the man. Depending on how fast Hillis is in the open field, that may not be possible. Like I said above, it's probably a moot point but it bothers me. My cross to bear, I suppose.



I was a bit short in my first reply. You really dont see the ending of the play. In the last picture it still looks like he has good position on the CB. Now should he have engage the CB earlier sure he could/should have.

Nice to admit you might be a bit bias towards Robiskie but its not like you havent point out other players mistakes including Hillis. Hey I'm a bit bias towards Robo myself but I want to see the guy to succeed. Hes not going to be a #1 or even#2 but I damn sure know after watching him at OSU for 4 years he can catch the ball.

Now I ask you Earl if you can go back and watch the Panther game and see what you think of Robiskie's blocking in that game.
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#14 Guest_Metcalf_FTW_*

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Posted 07 December 2010 - 11:35 PM

I have seen Brian Robiskie make plenty of solid blocks.
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#15 Earl34

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Posted 07 December 2010 - 11:59 PM

QUOTE (Richiswhere @ Dec 7 2010, 11:27 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I was a bit short in my first reply. You really dont see the ending of the play. In the last picture it still looks like he has good position on the CB. Now should he have engage the CB earlier sure he could/should have.

Nice to admit you might be a bit bias towards Robiskie but its not like you havent point out other players mistakes including Hillis. Hey I'm a bit bias towards Robo myself but I want to see the guy to succeed. Hes not going to be a #1 or even#2 but I damn sure know after watching him at OSU for 4 years he can catch the ball.

Now I ask you Earl if you can go back and watch the Panther game and see what you think of Robiskie's blocking in that game.


Rich, I don't know if you were asking me to do this or whether or not you had a formed opinion about Robiskie's performance in the Carolina game...so I went back and looked wink.gif

I watched 18 running plays that Robiskie was in on. I graded him + if he did a good job, - if he did poorly and "0" if it was indeterminate or he was obviously asked to do something other than block (for instance he decoyed on a fake bubble screen twice which was actually kinda cool). I gave him a separate grade for effort and for technique/outcome (proper position, leverage, etc).

Of the 18 plays, he was indeterminate on 8 of them. On two, he was a ++ for good effort and good technique. I also had another play where I graded him a + for effort and indeterminate for technique because he really wasn't all that effective. The remainder (seven plays) he was - -. If you recall, Hillis had a run called back because Robiskie was holding Captain Munnerlyn.

Blocking is all about two things: proper technique and attitude. In looking at that game, there are some concerns about Robiskie as a blocker. First off, he's definitely NOT what scouts call a willing blocker. Look at Roddy White and, yes, Hines Ward. If you're gonna get physical, get physical. On many plays, Brian will take the proper steps to get in position to block but then he does several things which are just not correct:

1) He doesn't get into the defender (you can't block by extending your arms)
2) He grabs the shirt (he really is obvious about grabbing a defender by the shirt up around the shoulders).
3) He does a lot of hand slapping with CBs. That's not blocking, that's patty-cake.
4) When he does engage (and that's being kind) he's very upright. He will get absolutely no leverage this way. He's got to get under their shoulders and drive them back. He's trying to do too much with his hands and arms and that's simply not going to cut it in the NFL.
5) He doesn't move his feet once he gets a hand on someone and if he's holding...it's easy to turn him around where it's obvious.

Just my observations. You may disagree. It's not the end of the world. Blocking can be taught but the desire to block cannot.

PS- Forgot...our own Josh Cribbs is a crushing blocker at times. He bends at the knees and hips and gets low enough to hammer people.
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#16 Richiswhere

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 01:38 AM

QUOTE (Earl34 @ Dec 7 2010, 11:59 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Rich, I don't know if you were asking me to do this or whether or not you had a formed opinion about Robiskie's performance in the Carolina game...so I went back and looked wink.gif

I watched 18 running plays that Robiskie was in on. I graded him + if he did a good job, - if he did poorly and "0" if it was indeterminate or he was obviously asked to do something other than block (for instance he decoyed on a fake bubble screen twice which was actually kinda cool). I gave him a separate grade for effort and for technique/outcome (proper position, leverage, etc).

Of the 18 plays, he was indeterminate on 8 of them. On two, he was a ++ for good effort and good technique. I also had another play where I graded him a + for effort and indeterminate for technique because he really wasn't all that effective. The remainder (seven plays) he was - -. If you recall, Hillis had a run called back because Robiskie was holding Captain Munnerlyn.

Blocking is all about two things: proper technique and attitude. In looking at that game, there are some concerns about Robiskie as a blocker. First off, he's definitely NOT what scouts call a willing blocker. Look at Roddy White and, yes, Hines Ward. If you're gonna get physical, get physical. On many plays, Brian will take the proper steps to get in position to block but then he does several things which are just not correct:

1) He doesn't get into the defender (you can't block by extending your arms)
2) He grabs the shirt (he really is obvious about grabbing a defender by the shirt up around the shoulders).
3) He does a lot of hand slapping with CBs. That's not blocking, that's patty-cake.
4) When he does engage (and that's being kind) he's very upright. He will get absolutely no leverage this way. He's got to get under their shoulders and drive them back. He's trying to do too much with his hands and arms and that's simply not going to cut it in the NFL.
5) He doesn't move his feet once he gets a hand on someone and if he's holding...it's easy to turn him around where it's obvious.

Just my observations. You may disagree. It's not the end of the world. Blocking can be taught but the desire to block cannot.

PS- Forgot...our own Josh Cribbs is a crushing blocker at times. He bends at the knees and hips and gets low enough to hammer people.



Well I thought he did well and I was wrong 2 for 18 is not good in anything
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#17 Earl34

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 06:52 AM

QUOTE (Richiswhere @ Dec 8 2010, 01:38 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Well I thought he did well and I was wrong 2 for 18 is not good in anything


Rich, it's not something that's usually noticed unless they do really well or really poorly on a play. Let's hope that this time next year we are raving over how much he's improved at it. There's no saying he can't learn but he has to want to. He isn't the first or last receiver who isn't an aggressive blocker.

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#18 ATENEARS

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 07:38 AM

Good stuff considering everyone in the building knew the rock was getting handed to Hillis.

Along a different subject, but on the physical play of our WR's; Stuckey has caught crossing patterns on 3rd and 5 or 6 in recent games where he had to break a tackle or at least fall forward for the first down. He was hammered to the ground short of the sticks in each. Had that been Cribbs in there, he usually puts a whopping on the coverage and powers over the line and moves the sticks. We need him back healthy asap.


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#19 Earl34

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 02:11 PM

QUOTE (ATENEARS @ Dec 8 2010, 07:38 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Good stuff considering everyone in the building knew the rock was getting handed to Hillis.

Along a different subject, but on the physical play of our WR's; Stuckey has caught crossing patterns on 3rd and 5 or 6 in recent games where he had to break a tackle or at least fall forward for the first down. He was hammered to the ground short of the sticks in each. Had that been Cribbs in there, he usually puts a whopping on the coverage and powers over the line and moves the sticks. We need him back healthy asap.



I couldn't agree more. I think that you can win in this league with average talent at WR IF they play physically. Look at the Patriots in the early 2000's. That's sort of what Belichick is trying to re-create now but he's doing it a little differently. He's using two talented TEs to keep the safeties off of his WRs. No one will argue that Welker isn't any good but he is a slot receiver, not an "X". Back to our guys though, I have gotten used to the idea that when teams defend third and long, the checkdown short of the sticks is sometimes the only play and while it's irritating that they didn't just run a deeper route....perhaps this is what the defense is giving and they're daring you to try and break a tackle. Very good point Atenears.
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#20 halfsane

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 02:54 PM

I love these thread Earl! Thanks again!


You are going to be the first poster in brownsboad history to earn more thanks than posts if you keep this up!
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