BGA – One By One: The Running Game


With another game coming up tomorrow, I thought it would be fun to share a detailed breakdown of one play from the Jags game, looking in turn at each person’s assignment and how efficiently they carried it out.

One common caveat I’ll throw out there when doing my BGA analysis is that I can’t always be certain what each player’s assignment is, so I try to be careful when apportioning blame for a failed play. However, there are certain plays that have been an obvious staple of the offense, both before and after Marty Mornhinweg’s arrival, so I’ve picked one of those since, over time, I’ve become familiar with how it’s supposed to work.

The play selected was a running play that went for a one-yard loss and illustrates well how sometimes some players can do their job but the play will fail anyway because of an individual mistake by a teammate (or teammates). It’s plays like this that, when looked at in detail, give us a better sense of who is performing well, even if the lazy consensus might be something like “The second unit gave up a couple of sacks and didn’t move the ball well on the ground therefore we can assume that nobody on that unit played well.”

However, the obvious disclaimer here is that this was just one play and therefore nobody should be making the team or getting elevated to the starting lineup on the basis of this play alone. It’s more to give you a sense of what I am looking for when I evaluate film. Each week, I do this for every play and then summarize the results in BGA the following day.

To set up the play in question, the Jets are lined up in an off-set I-formation with Kahlil Bell at tailback and Tommy Bohanon at full-back, but lined up behind left tackle rather than directly behind quarterback Mark Sanchez. Two receivers are out wide (Braylon Edwards left and Ben Obomanu right), with Edwards motioning towards the left side of the line as the ball is snapped. The second-string offensive line are lined up conventionally with Konrad Reuland as a tight end on the left tackle’s shoulder. To counter, the Jags have three down linemen lined up inside the tackles and four linebackers of whom one is outside right tackle and two are outside left tackle close to one another. Their cornerbacks are up tight on the receivers in a position to press and the two safeties are deep in the middle for downfield coverage and on the edge of the box ready to support against the run. It’s second and seven.

After the jump, a GIF of the play in question and a breakdown of everyone’s assignment and how they fared.

Let’s start with the more inconsequential roles first:

RWR – Ben Obomanu – Obomanu’s role is two-fold. Initially he is running a clear-out route, to take the left cornerback away from the direction of a potential run over the right side. As you can see, he breaks off the line with an outside release and this does have the effect of not only moving the cornerback in that direction, but even turning his head away from the play. Obomanu then slows up so that he’s in a position to block him downfield, but this became moot once Bell fails to make it to the second level.

LWR – Braylon Edwards – As noted, Edwards is motioning towards the line as the ball is snapped. His role is to make like he’s going to run a route and then move inside and try and make a block if he can. This is a difficult assignment and not the kind of thing you’d be graded down on if you failed to achieve it. The Jags have to respect the play-action fake and quick slant, which is a well-recognized staple of the Jets passing offense, so either the safety will have to stay at home or the corner will have to back off. The latter happens here, so Edwards doesn’t need to turn back to the outside and make a block to prevent the cornerback from crashing in off the edge. Instead he plants and tries to get over to slow down the strong safety, but isn’t able to do so. Any hesitation on the safety’s part though and he can potentially contribute with a second level block.

QB – Mark Sanchez – Sanchez’s role here couldn’t be any more straightforward. He just drops back in a straight line and hands it off to the running back. Had this been a play-action fake, then Sanchez’s options would be a deep pass down the right sideline (if Obomanu continued his route and managed to get a step) or Edwards on a slant or crossing pattern, in front of the cornerback and in behind the strong safety. Beyond that, he’d be looking to check down to a back leaking out.

RB – Kahlil Bell – Bell takes the handoff having made a hard plant with his left foot. This indicates the run is going off tackle to the right, because he gets the ball heading for the line at a 45-degree angle. However, he is unable to get to the outside (we’ll figure out why lower down) and has to cut back up the middle to get what yardage he can.

This leads us to another common problem with stats and detailed analysis. The run here went over the right side, so you’d assume the right guard and right tackle were at fault. I’ve seen sites quote how successful runs over the right side were and use that to evaluate the right guard or right tackle, but it can actually be very misleading, as we’ll see.

RT – JB Shugarts – I’ve seen two versions of this play -– one is where the right tackle will perform a kick-out block where they get inside leverage on their man so they can push him out of the play to the outside. This is the other version, where the right tackle aims to seal his man on the inside. I believe this is a read/react situation for both the right tackle and the running back. If the defensive lineman, in his efforts to get into the backfield, makes his move to the inside, then the right tackle can get outside leverage and seal his man on the inside, as Shugarts does here. The back would then read this and hit the hole to the outside of the tackle with the lineman walled off from making the stop. Had the lineman tried to burst to the outside, then Shugarts would stay in front of him with inside leverage and drive him upfield and out towards the numbers and the back would cut inside him. If done effectively, the back’s direction shouldn’t really change but obviously he would have to react to how well the defensive player was able to stand his ground.

RG – Vladimir Ducasse – The assignment here is pretty straightforward too. Ducasse blocks down on the nose tackle, hopefully sealing him and preventing him from penetrating or getting off the block so he can get into the lane created by Shugarts’ block. Ducasse goes above and beyond here though. He gets such a good get-off that he takes the nose tackle by surprise and pancakes him to the ground. This would create a huge amount of space at the second level and has the added bonus of slowing down the strong safety’s entry into the box. Unfortunately, mistakes elsewhere prevent the runner from being able to get to the second level.

C- Erik Cook – The first mistake Cook makes here is to allow penetration. When he snaps the ball, he immediately has to step to his left to block the right defensive end because the left guard (which we’ll get to) is pulling so Cook has to prevent him from getting in the backfield. Cook gets in front of him, but is driven back two yards into the backfield. He does manage to anchor himself and get his man moving in the other direction, but that’s when he makes his second error, by allowing his man to get off the block on the play side. By getting driven back, he interferes with the path for both the fullback and running back and then by not managing to seal his man to the inside, he allows him to get in on the tackle, lessening the chance of any move-the-pile style yards after contact.

LG – Caleb Schlauderaff – Once again, this isn’t an easy block to make and could be very boom or bust in nature. If Schlauderaff were to pull this block off once out of every three times, he’ll grade out negatively, but the team might actually prefer to have one run where the runner gets to the second level and two that go nowhere than just three basic runs for short gains. At the snap, he pulls right and it’s his job to prevent the linebacker coming off the edge from interfering with the running lane over the right side. In an ideal world, he’ll engage cleanly and it’s a kick-out block so that the runner can go inside him and outside Shugarts. Alternatively, in some versions of this play, he’ll get out in front of him and turn him back to the inside. (Willie Colon did this twice on Saturday, from right guard). The linebacker anticipates well and manages to step around Schlauderaff on the outside. This forces the run back inside. Cook getting driven back doesn’t help and maybe influences Schlauderaff as he tries to get out there in time, but either way, the play doesn’t develop fast enough for him to recover and block his man out of the way.

LT – Oday Aboushi – The Jets would be happy for both the outside linebackers on the right side of the defense to try and attack on the outside, because that’s going to take them out of the play. Aboushi deals with the first one correctly, walling off his route into the backfield and then passing him off to the tight end, who can ensure that he remains upfield. Aboushi then peels off so that he is in position to deal with the other linebacker, who reads the play and looks to pursue from the backside. So far so good, although he then doesn’t do a great job of getting his hands on his man and allows him to get past him and dive on the pile. With one less defender in there, maybe Bell could have moved the pile for an extra few yards. It’s not a big deal and if the play had popped as intended, his man was probably slowed down enough that they wouldn’t have been able to prevent the runner getting to the second level, but it’s an example of the smallest of details than can influence the result of a play.

TE – Konrad Reuland – Reuland does well here, taking on the outside backer after Aboushi passes him off and then staying with his block as his man tries to shed it. Eventually, he does make a counter move to get off the block, but by then it’s too late for him to get in on the tackle, so Reuland has done his job.

FB – Tommy Bohanon – Ideally Bohanon is going to lead the way through the hole and pick up the linebacker that is lined up over right guard at the snap. That’s what can turn this play from a modest gain into a big one. However, he never gets that far. With Cook driven back into his path, it looks like he realizes trying to lead the way is just going to bottle up any running lane even worse than it already is and instead does his best to try and get a piece of Schlauderaff’s man to try and stop him from making the play. Classic case of trying to make the best out of a bad job there, although if he had reacted more quickly to Schlauderaff’s missed block, then maybe he could have helped out on that man sooner and Bell might have been able to drive for a couple of yards.

In a game when every yard counts (that’s the game of football, not this meaningless preseason game in particular) you can see how even once a play breaks down, the smallest thing can turn it from a one yard loss into a short gain — or third and five instead of third and eight. When the starters run this play, you could expect Mangold to hold his ground better, but then again, the opposing nose tackle might not be moved off his spot so readily. Still, for the second unit to be running this play and just be a few small details away from it working like a charm, that’s perhaps not bad and a credit to the new or re-assigned offensive coaches.

Unfortunately, this play wasn’t replayed on TV and there is no coaches film available during the preseason, but during the regular season we’ll be able to see any given play that I decide to break down from multiple angles.

Bonus gif: Don’t feel too bad for Schlauderaff – he seemed to be feeling good just a few short minutes later…

As ever, this is something slightly different, so let me know in the comments if you would like to see more posts like this one or if you have any feedback