Previously, we looked at how the Outside Zone Blocking scheme could be utilized with a variety of option reads to attack the defense. This time, we’ll move on to look at Inside Zone in the same manner. The options are a bit less up front, but note that it is typically a bit easier to cut back across the grain on inside zone (thus making it a bit more versatile in and of itself) and is typically easier to counter with man/gap schemes. So as pure zone variants go, there aren’t quite as many.
Just giving a precursor look here with how Inside Zone is run from the shotgun. Note here that the backside DE must be blocked.
Inside Zone Read
This play utilizes the same blocking scheme as the inside zone play, but doesn’t block the DE, who is effectively blocked by the read. This allows the backside OT to quickly get into the second level and prevent any secondary player (or apex LB) from crashing in and making a play on the RB.
A lot of teams like to make a BOB read to the weakside if the DE is very athletic and can attack the mesh point extremely quickly. Likewise, teams that like to run a wide-9 can see a BOB read worked against them to seal the DE outside. This is also a great counter to potential scrape exchange games from the defense. Optimally, you’d prefer your OT plays the DE straight up in this scenario, but it is essential that the OT doesn’t allow the DE to switch gaps. If the DE lines up outside, he must be sealed outside. If the DE is lined up inside, he should be sealed inside. You do this because you don’t want to allow the defense to exchange gap responsibility post snap to make the QB’s read incorrect.
This works just like the zone read, but the RB is going to align on the opposite side. The play designed below is intended to go to the right (though IZ cutback lanes still apply). The RB needs to get in front of the QB so that the QB can adequately read the DE while at the mesh point, at which point the RB will stop his forward momentum and cut back. This is a great way to attack toward the RB alignment (while most zone read teams attack across from the initial RB alignment) and read the DE opposite the RB, while working with an inside zone scheme. Works as a great counter to outside zone flow as well (with the RB lined up directly next to the QB initially, the RB will give OZ flow before cutting up for IZ).
This is a frontside read for the QB (just like the origins of the wham play) with the RB going inside of the Wham read and the QB attacking the opposite side of him. The key here is for the QB to ride the mesh point and force the 3-Technique DT to commit to crashing down on the RB or staying home.
This can be run with or without the pitch element attached (making it a true veer triple option). Here we show it without, and that’s fine. The RB has the same cut options as he typically does with IZ, this time toward the read side. If the DE stays home, the QB gives. If the DE crashes, the QB keeps, with the added advantage of having a blocker to fill the alley or handle any frontside scrape exchange.
This is pretty much the same as the Kick Read play above, but the read is moved back to the second level LB. It should be noted immediately, that while sometimes the fast flow of the LBs can allow for the second level read to be easier, there is also more wash between the QB and his read (making it more difficult to read based on keys (like the shoulder or V of the jersey) and forces the read to be relied more on feel or flow), and more time (because of the distance) for the LB to react to the play.
Anyway, If the DE is causing issues by being able to play both options well, then the read can be moved away from the QB to the LB level. Optimally, you’d prefer your TE plays the DE straight up in this scenario, but it is essential that the TE doesn’t allow the DE to switch gaps. If the DE lines up outside, he must be sealed outside. If the DE is lined up inside, he should be sealed inside. You do this because you don’t want to allow the defense to exchange gap responsibility post snap to make the QB’s read incorrect.
Note that this is simply a switch with responsibilities for the Lead Read from an OZ look. This time the RB is the interior run threat, while the QB is the edge threat.
This works just like the switch read did for the OZ play, only now the OL is IZ blocking for the QB rather than OZ blocking. This makes a great addition with jet motion and makes for a nice short yardage play with a strong, between the tackles QB.
Switch BOB Read
Similar to the Switch Read, but now moving the read to the second level. This works great if the backside is trying to fast flow to catch up to the play or is shooting gaps (either inside or outside) from an apex position. Also, if the DE is athletic enough to stop the RB reaching the edge, this puts a blocker on him to maintain that block long enough to allow the RB to reach the edge.
Switch BOB Crack
Toward the QB run direction, we are still looking at Inside Zone blocking. However, on the backside of that, we are now cracking the DE. This doesn’t work quite as well for your standard switch read (though you could use it by cracking the WILL) because the pull from the OT would want to get outside the DE and would more or less draw the DE to the play (allowing the play to be stretched out rather than having the OT act as a lead blocker). But here, it does allow the OT to act as a lead blocker, but the DE can’t stretch the play out because the slot receiver cracks him back inside. In fact, by pulling underneath the DE, the OT is pulling the DE toward the crack blocker to better set him up. The same read on the WILL can be made as before, but now the QB has a little more leeway. This is because the OT can still theoretically block the WILL if he adjusts to the handoff. If he doesn’t, if he stays home, the QB can keep and has plenty of zone blocking for himself. Again, this is great for putting athletes in space, and in this case can be paired with OZ with an athletic QB to attack both edges.
Switch Midline Read
This simply moves the read inside DT. If the playside DT chases, the QB keeps and has blockers in the second level. If the DT stays home, the RB has blockers on the edge and should hopefully be able to beat the DE to the edge. This is a great play against aggressive DTs that are attempting to win playside. Note here that you can actually run the zone scheme in either direction (and in the same vein, could read either DT theoretically, if you insist on sticking with reading the 3T).
We've now looked at numerous ways you can utilize a one back, shotgun/pistol backfield, and only two blocking schemes, and effectively act in a very multiple manner. These plays attack inside and outside, in the same direction and in opposite directions. They can get players in space or get that critical yard on third and short. By consistently threatening a variety of players with "read" plays, you force the entire front to maintain their responsibilities and punish them for trying to do more than what they are tasked with doing. In theory, that results in a slower playing defense that has to think more than simply react.
Next, we're going to put another back in the backfield so that we can utilize some of the blocking schemes we discussed previously within our read option playbook and the triple option game. Then we can begin looking at the multiple counters we can scheme in for these zone blocking schemes, utilize gap/man schemes and play action.