Example of the TE Throwback the Falcons ran in '16 season. 3 TEs in the game. Clear-out over the top. Sneak a guy back across the field. pic.twitter.com/xI6kM7WFHB— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) November 21, 2017
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.
Hard play to stop.— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) March 27, 2018
Engram motions into "sniffer" position (best name in FB).
Hard PA. Engram is already damn near impossible for a LB to run with but if he bites even a bit on PA.... good night, sweet prince. pic.twitter.com/WPdDf60c4X
Here's an example of a Fullback running fake BOB Inside Zone
Shot 13 - One of @BenFennell_NFL's favorite players and favorite plays. Shanahan likes the lead back releasing down seam. Saw it often! pic.twitter.com/P3tsiQKhpe— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) October 26, 2017
In the Rose Bowl vs. TCU, the Badgers ran the same play that the Jaguars ran earlier.— Robert Olson (@RobertOlson92) January 14, 2018
Tough for the ILBs to cover a FB running a route through the middle of the formation when there’s play action. pic.twitter.com/P1zN0Lre4T
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.
Shanahan staple over the years! https://t.co/h9C0pDI2UP— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) November 22, 2017
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)
A strongside Leak concept.— Space Coyote (@SpaceCoyoteBDS) September 22, 2020
Typically leak has weakside run action and the TE leaks across. Here, the TE sets strongeside, and then leaks *through the formation* (which I love).
Really cool design https://t.co/gGgHIePkS6