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Film Room: A Study Of The Shed Maneuver, Part I

Doc Bear goes back in time to break down the Shed Maneuver.

Lou Tepper was the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the Colorado Buffaloes from 1983-1985. He moved up to Assistant Head Coach from 1986-1987. He coached at the Illinois Fighting Illini for several seasons, among several other destinations. In 2014, Tepper was named defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the Buffalo Bills.

Lauded extensively, Coach Tepper decided to write a book covering all the information and techniques that he’d been handing out for the last four decades. The outcome was Complete Linebacking, one of the most thorough books on the subject that I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. If it’s not in your library, I’d strongly recommend it. There are pro players to whom it would bring new insights.

What is perhaps the most interesting aspect in the 1st half of the book is that Tepper presents the basics in the order in which he sees them matter. His first topic is the 'stack-and-shed', sometimes called simply ‘the shed’. It’s how a linebacker (or other position) gets away from a blocker. Tepper ranked it above proper techniques for pursuit, tackling and coverage skills.

Although some would say that Tepper’s text—which was copyrighted in 1998—has lost some of its modern insight, I’d take the opposite perspective. Some of the college schemes he breaks down aren’t in common use right now. Everything goes around until it’s new again. The basic principles for dealing with offenses that employ similar strategies don’t change. While going through some previous years’ film, I found a play that demonstrates so precisely how to stop the run and use the shed that I wanted to share it with you. It’s from the first quarter of the Broncos' 30-23 victory over San Diego in Week 11 of 2012—the first play of the first possession of that game.

It exhibits two different versions of classic shed technique. By using them, the Broncos turn a potentially good gain by San Diego into a one-yard play.

In the first shot below, fullback Le'Ron McClain (33) is split out to the side. He pretends to go into motion, then settles back into the wing. Jackie Battle (44) is the ball-carrier. They’re in a two-tight end package, sometimes called a max, max-protect or, depending on personnel, jumbo package.

San Diego ran it a lot due to their odious offensive line—it gave Philip Rivers some degree of cover. Denver lines up with their defensive ends flipped—Elvis Dumervil (92) is on the defensive left, across from the outside shoulder of tight end Randy McMichael (81) instead of in his usual defensive right spot. Von Miller’s on the right.

The run goes right at Doom and will swing either inside or outside, depending on what the blocking gives the RB. Doom is hand-fighting with McMichael and trying to hold his position, while you can see above that McMichael is trying to turn Dumervil to the outside. It’s McMichael’s job to get and keep his helmet between Doom and the play.

McClain is coming through the C gap, isolated right on Wesley Woodyard. The right guard (former Bronco Louis Vasquez, #65) and tackle (Jeromey Clary, #66) have double-teamed DT Kevin Vickerson (#99) out of the play. At this point, everyone’s covered and you’d expect a decent gain on the play.

But here’s where it all goes wrong. The fullback McClain goes directly at Woodyard, but shaded to the inside (to Woodyard’s right). Wesley uses a basic shed technique—he lets McClain get into his body, then sheds him by extending his arms, not unlike a standing version of the bench press.

Keith Brooking’s experience has him moving smoothly behind the LOS, out of the ‘trash’, and towards the ball-carrier, while Woodyard’s technique against McClain will clog the C gap and force Battle to move outside Doom to get any yardage.

Above, Woodyard absorbs the impact of McClain’s attempted block with the right side of his body and will push off of him with his right arm, jumping into the C gap. A linebacker always tries to keep his outer arm free, so this is excellent technique by Woodyard. His leg is already partially blocking the gap, and the runner sees that happening.

Doom himself has used the force meant to turn him away from the RB and has turned McMichael like a steering wheel, forcing him to stand flat-footed and bent over to the right. McMichael has zero functional strength in that posture. Dumervil’s is shedding the TE by forcing him back onto the soles of his feet and bending him to the right—right out of the play.

Three important things are happening in the above shot, numbered to match these keys:

1. Brooking, well behind the trash is shuffling his feet without crossing them. He’s nearly even with the ball-carrier—he’ll get to him in microseconds.

2. The left arm and leg of Woodyard that I mentioned above have now fully obstructed the C gap.

3. That forces Battle to try and get outside, off his TE’s right hip.

You can see that the TE still has one foot back (and in his runner’s way) and he’s stepping forward with the other. The best outcome now, from San Diego's perspective, would be for McClain to hang onto some part of Woodyard, for Doom to be controlled by McMichaels, and for Brooking to make the tackle after about a five-yard gain—anything four yards or more is considered a good first-down play.

It doesn’t happen that way, though.

Tomorrow, we’ll examine what happened, and how two more versions of the shed made it possible.

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Doc Bear is a Featured Columnist for MileHighHuddle. You can find him on Twitter @DocBearOMD.

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