AbsolutAnalysis: Football 101

Welcome to the first installment of AbsolutAnalysis, vNetTI. For the new readers, during the season I will break down each game by addressing what I call "Impact Plays," which are plays that had a meaningful role in that week's game, or are otherwise simply cool looking plays that I enjoyed.

Welcome to the first installment of AbsolutAnalysis, vNetTI. For the new readers, during the season I will break down each game by addressing what I call "Impact Plays," which are plays that had a meaningful role in that week's game, or are otherwise simply cool looking plays that I enjoyed. Please check out my archive once the rollover to TI is complete if you want to get an idea of what I do, or are interested in games from last season.

Alas, it is the off season, and I am forced to use the creative part of my brain, and come up with my own topics since I have no games to break down. For this first entry, I am going to do a little "Football 101" and touch on all the basics that will be the foundation for future columns. What I hope to do, is make a natural progression over the course of the season, using each column as a building block of footballin' knowledge. Sure I will go over things plenty of you know, but there will be stuff that will be new. I don't claim to be the mighty all-knowing Yogurt, but my goal is to help someone be able to not only enjoy the game from a purely spectators standpoint, but be able to understand why something happened on the field.

I used the last two columns at .Net to introduce basic defensive coverage schemes, so when those make their way over to TI, please be sure to take a look. For the new digs, I have several columns planned, such as blocking schemes, pass route packages, building a play call, installing an offense from the ground up, putting together an NFL style game day play sheet, building opening drive play scripts, as well as much, much more. As you can see, I have a lot I want to get through. I will try to keep it as cohesive as possible, but we may jump around a bit.

As well as those columns, I'd like to try to have a weekly Q & A section, where I answer emails from readers. So why not get started now, email me any questions about the game at hawksfan124@yahoo.com. Moving on, let's take a look at the first "Football 101" image I put together.



This image diagrams a few different ideas that will be often referred to in this column. Let's start with the colored parts. The metallic colored zones on each side are the 'flats.' These areas extend from the backfield, a few yards up field past the line of scrimmage, and are the responsibility of the CB's in a 2 (men) deep coverage such as Cover 2, or the WLB and SS in a cover 3 shell coverage. Offensively this are is usually occupied by the TE and\or RB's coming out of the backfield on pass routes.

Moving up the field, we see the width of the field split into 3 parts. When a 3 deep coverage is run, this is how the zones are organized, with the terms used to describe them. Keep in mind that these terms won't be used exclusively for coverage's, but at any time when referring to those parts of the field. In a basic 3 deep coverage, the CB's have the outside thirds, and the FS has the deep middle third. In a 2 deep coverage, the safeties split the field into deep halves, and the CB's stay up and cover the flats. (See the archive for my columns explaining coverage's).

Next, you'll notice that both receivers, the TE, and both backs have their corresponding letter inside the oval. The backfield is pretty simple, H for Halfback and F for fullback. The split end is the X, and is opposite the TE in a base set. To help remember, think of it as the Y is TIGHT end, therefore lined up with the offensive line, and the X is lined up on the line, but SPLIT wide. The Z receiver is the flanker, and is lined up to the side of the TE. As you can see, the letters go in order, X, Y, Z in a base set. Of course, there are 12 men on the field in this diagram, for the purpose of putting a 2nd TE on the field, which would be the U. When running two TE sets, a WR usually comes off the field because it is a run based formation. Although you will see passes out of this set, that is usually the case.

Finally, I included all the offensive and defensive "coordinates" for each gap, or hole. This is the space between each pair of offensive lineman. (The distance between the linemen is called a "split.") In defensive terms, the gaps are symmetrically lettered.

The A gaps are between each center and guard, B gaps between guard and tackle, C gaps between tackle and tight end....you get the picture. On the offensive side of the ball, each hole has its own unique number. As you can see, they start low at the midline (right up the middle of the center) and move up by two as you progress though the gaps. The even numbers are on the right side, with odds on the left (which as far as I know, is universal). I put the numbers ten and eleven in parentheses because some offenses don't extend that far our, as far as numbering gaps goes. Some feel that using eight and nine is plenty, while others label one more gap.

These numbers are used for a couple of purposes. First, they are used as direction for the running game. A play call will tell which back to go through what gap on the line. For example, a "23 lead" would tell the HB to take the hand-off to the left, and run through the 3 hole. We will get into deciphering play calls and how to build one in the future. Second, they can be used to direct a player where to motion to. If a play call includes a phrase such as "F 8" it would be telling the FB to motion to the 8 hole spot on the field. Again, we will learn all about that in the near future.

That pretty much covers the easy stuff for this week. If you want to read some more, check out the last couple archived columns on coverage's and simple coverage rotations in the secondary. But before I finish this thing up, one feature I'd like to include in this column is a NetTI playbook. I will add a couple plays each week, maybe one running and one passing, and create an archive to compile a nice little playbook we can have as a resource or for me to take examples from. If you have any you'd like to add, please email me. With that, I'll sign out for this week. Any comments or questions for a future column, please let me know. Any complaints, please email my boss. Here are this week's plays, see you next week!



Above is a play the Seahawks ran successfully several times throughout the 2003 season. It's a play I really enjoy, and especially like how Mack Strong is used to seal off the edge vs. the Sam, allowing the RB plenty of space behind the pulling G and C.



Here is an example of a basic pass play used in many college and pro systems. I will have column(s) in the future dedicated to the understanding of play calling, but I'll explain this one to you. "I Rt" is the formation, meaning I Backs, Strong Right. "628" is the route package, with the X running a 6 route, Y running a 2, and Z running an 8. The routes numbers are taken from what is called a "route tree," which I will show you in the future. "H Swing" is a tag telling the H back to release on a Swing route, abandoning his blocking duties immediately.


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