Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Written in Chalk: Releasing through the OL

I love receivers releasing inside of the offensive EMOL. This can be done from the RB position after receiving a play fake. It can come from the FB or blocking back (sniffer), where it looks like he is executing a lead block. Or even from a TE aligned inside another TE. In this post, I'm going to explain why this fairly basic design (and not all together new design, but one that is coming back to light), is so effective.

Why it Works
Here’s why it’s effective: it hard sells the run in the minds of the defense.

This is because, in theory, releasing through the OL tends to limit your release options. Why would you run into traffic in order to get away from coverage? Teams used to do it quite often with their check release, but defensive linemen learned that they can hit these guys and limit the release even more, and even then, it used to be more about a delayed release (once it was identified the back wasn't needed to block) then it was intended as part of the route concept.

So it’s starting to make a comeback because defensive lines are really focusing on rushing the passer. If it’s nominally a blocker release through the line, defenders are often attempting to avoid him in order to fill their gaps. More players coming from the secondary means they need to react faster to run action to hold the play down, so now they are charging downhill and unable to both take on a blocker and prevent a release.

If it’s the nominal ball carrier running through the OL, once he is identified not to have the ball, defenses tend to forget about him because he typically becomes a blocker and they need to get back to their coverage threats (this is also why a lot of slow screens start with a fake handoff to the player that is ultimately receiving the screen pass).

Lets look at some examples.



This isn't even a hard sell. Look at the OL, they aren't even pretending to fire out. Is this BOB Zone? Or Weakside Iso? Doesn't matter. The backfield action and the FB's release through the OL completely sells the run to the 2nd and third level, and the defense is beat.

Here's an example of a Fullback running fake BOB Inside Zone

Here's a Fullback running fake Lead Zone

Tight End
Here's an example of a throwback play to the TE. Note that the two TEs are lined up in an TE-Wing combination. Both look like they are initially down blocking to hold the edge for run or rollout. But it is the inside TE, who acts like he is working to the 2nd level, then ends up releasing.

From the secondary or LB level, often what they are going to look for is an immediate release. A major key is the outside TE releasing downfield into a route; if he stays in to block, that is a run tell or at least a tell for a rollout (hard PA). Often, these two TEs are going to have some sort of combo coverage, but when the outside receiver stays in to block, the coverage's eyes will divert.

LINK to the throwback by the former Falcons OC and current 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan
TE releasing on throwback.

And here's two other plays discussed by Mark Schofield about a shallow delayed cross and one similar to the Falcons example above

LINK (1st and 2nd play discussed)

The first play described above is a "Leak" concept, with the inside TE releasing on the leak route. Ted Nguyen (maybe you're noticing I recommend to follow him on twitter and at the Athletic) also posted a clip of leak with strongside run action (aka the leak occurring with the TE releasing to the side of the run action). In order to "leak" the off-TE sets up like he's blocking stretch, then leaks inside the OT/OG to get vertical. A really cool wrinkle


  1. Both look like they are initially down blocking to hold the edge for run or rollout. But it is the inside TE, who acts like he is working to the 2nd level, then ends up releasing.

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  2. This brings back some painful memories. This used to be the bread and butter when I played and I suffered a nasty injury on this play. Rehab was my life to get back at it. Its pretty cool seeing the XO break down though.