Oakland Raiders No-Huddle Possibilities: A Chalkboard Preview
By Evan Ball
Attacking the Middle
Dec 28, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) prepares to hand off to running back Latavius Murray (28) in the second quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
The fear that the No-Huddle Spread keeps teams from running up the middle is entirely unfounded. In fact, it’s specifically the idea that this scheme forces the defense to always cover the entire field that opens up the middle for big runs. If the defense doesn’t respect the run, the offense runs on them. If they don’t respect the pass, the offense passes on them. If they respect both, but only in the short field, the offense throws the ball over their heads. All these decisions can be made at the line of scrimmage, after the defense has lined up on the ball.
Say Oakland is in the same drive as the previous play. They went with option 2 and Rivera got an easy first down. Oakland lines up in the same formation at first, without being able to change personnel. Musgrave sees the alignment, linebackers on their heels with deep safeties, moves Reece into the backfield, and calls in the following play.
Here’s a play that Musgrave found success with in both Jacksonville and Minnesota. It’s basically a lead draw, which will benefit directly from the packaged play from before. The initial alignment might have Rivera (Y) on the line on the left side with the X off the line. Rivera steps back, our X steps forward, and Rivera motions to the right side. This gives Carr a tell on the defense. It doesn’t particularly matter if the nickel corner follows him or if they simply shift, because what he’s looking for is the ability to identify the Mike (M, middle linebacker) on the play so the line can clarify their blocking assignments.
With the defense alert for passes and packaged plays they have to pay hard attention if Carr looks up at all during his drop back, even if the defenders see running backs moving toward the hole. As it is, there are basically 7 defenders in the box with seven blockers (including Reece at fullback, F). They proceed with the run play. Carr does a three-step drop with his eyes up t0 keep the linebackers and safeties honest, then hands the ball to Murray on the lead play. Reece doesn’t even try to sell anything, he goes straight into the hole for the lead block. Receivers run their first step or two as though it’s a route then go straight into blocking.
The threat of the packaged play is as follows: sometimes a pass isn’t just a pass and sometimes a run isn’t just a run. Now Murray gets to hit the hole with a full head of steam, a lead blocker, and a half-step hesitation from the linebackers. What a great situation to be in, with the exact same personnel on the field from the last play.