Monday, December 22, 2008

Stocking Stuffer | by Jay

What says Christmas more than June Jones and Bob Davie breaking down the Hawaii run-and-shoot offense?

If you're questioning the appropriateness of the Bullet in any conversation about effective offense, you should know that Bob Davie -- yes, that Bob Davie -- is partially credited with helping to kill the run-and-shoot as a widespread phenomenon. This post at Smart Football (one of the best Xs and Os blogs out there) delineates the rise and eventual fall of the 4-wide choice route offense.

It becomes a study in game theory and reading and reacting. So defenses responded to this tactic. They had to keep at least one safety or another defender back to spy the RB. Why does this mean no blitzing? If the RB is able to block the end man on the line of scrimmage while another player must sit back and not blitz, simply to see whether or not the RB releases on a screen. The net result was that R&S teams rarely, if ever, saw Cover 0 blitzing man defenses. They could always release four receivers, block with six (assuming their six could block the other teams' six) and not face any overload blitzes.

Enter the zone blitz. Back in his days with Texas A&M, Bob Davie was an innovator. Against run and shoot teams like the University of Houston, he would run his 3-4 defense, blitz his outside LBs (thus forcing the RB to stay in and block), and drop off defensive linemen and interior linebackers so he could still play zone with six to eight defenders. As a result the R&S's protection and formation scheme broke down. They blocked with six, had the running back on a bad matchup with a good OLB, faced an unblocked rusher, but the defense still had 6-8 guys in coverage, so the R&S's "hot reads" and breakoffs did not work either. The run and shoot finally had to adapt. Sure they could do things like certain quick breakoffs and other gadgets, but free rushers and seven guys in coverage was a losing battle for the QB.

So it was not merely "disguising coverages," (as Run and Shoot QBs and receivers were well coached and could still find the voids or the single man), or the blitzing (as shown above, Run and Shoot teams could defeat the blitz), it was the defensive combination of always being able to always get an unblocked rusher, eat the RB, and run a disguised zone that eventually rattled and slowed down the "pure" Run and Shoot.
I like our matchups on defense in this game, both from a personnel standpoint (a pretty solid defensive backfield) and scheme-wise (plenty of experience in zone blitzing).