Playbook Profile: Going Big for Short Yardage

LaDainian Tomlinson boasts the superhuman ability to churn out spectacular runs on a weekly basis. However, sometimes it's his 2-yard dives that are the most amazing. Team expert Michael Lombardo breaks down a formation used to help the Bolts move the chains in short-yardage situations.

The Jumbo I formation is a look that former Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer leaned on heavily. Although Norv Turner doesn't use it as much, it's still tabbed in his playbook for the right time and the right defense.

The Jumbo I is a variation of the classic I formation, in which the fullback and halfback line up directly behind the quarterback. In the Jumbo look that the Chargers deploy, there are two tight ends -- Brandon Manumaleuna on the left and Antonio Gates on the right -- with WR Vincent Jackson off-set to the right.

Prior to the snap, the Chargers motion the right tackle (Jeromey Clary) and have him reset as a tight end on the left side of the alignment. Manumaleuna scoots over and backs off the line, but stays tight to the formation. Gates slides over to fill in at tackle.

The Chargers now have a string of blockers on the strong side consisting of Manumaleuna, Clary, Marcus McNeill, Kris Dielman and Nick Hardwick. Throw in the lead block of Andrew Pinnock, and suddenly LaDainian Tomlinson is in a great position to use his vision and reflexes to pick a hole and dive through it.

There are some obvious limitations to this formation. For one thing, it cues the defense to the intent to run, allowing the linebackers to play downhill and hit holes aggressively. Secondly, there are virtually no cut-back opportunities for L.T., as Gates is playing over his head at the tackle spot.

Nonetheless, this is a specialized play that can be very effective when executed in specialized situations. It sends the message to opposing defenses: "I'm going to tell you what we're going to do and you still won't be able to stop it." Executing a power play like that can both inspire an offense and demoralize a defense.

Like the other offensive plays that have been featured in this Playbook Profile series, this is one that should only appear a few times per season. But when it does, prepare to see smash-mouth football at its finest.

Other Offensive Playbook Profiles

--Playbook Profile: Power Running Formation
--Playbook Profile: Goal-line Misdirection

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.

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