Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wide receiver blocking on jet sweep

I've been critical of some of Michigan's wide receivers' blocking this season, namely Devin Gardner and Jerald Robinson. Against Purdue, Al Borges called a play in which the wide receivers were doing something in the blocking game that Michigan State used to burn the Wolverines last year: seal the playside linebackers to the inside.

Michigan comes out in a three-WR set and will run a jet sweep for Jeremy Gallon (lined up in the slot at the top of the screen). Purdue counters with 3-4 front and three-high zone coverage.

As the ball is snapped, left guard Ricky Barnum will pull across the formation and run through the playside B gap looking for a Purdue defender downhill to block.

Rather than heading straight upfield to block the cornerback lined up over him, Devin Gardner (bottom of the screen) runs toward the middle of the field to block the playside ILB that is flowing down the line with Gallon. Toussaint will act as a lead blocker on the playside OLB and chip block him before heading upfield.

Toussaint engages (highlighted) and Gardner squares up his block. Notice Barnum still running upfield. His intended blocker is the free safety coming from the middle of the field:

The key to this play working is Toussaint making a good chip block before heading upfield. He hits the OLB with enough force to stop him from tackling Gallon in the backfield but is able to continue toward the cornerback. Barnum is still running toward the free safety.

Unfortunately, Gallon tries to bounce the play outside toward the sideline rather than cutting back inside where he had his blocking set up.

The play ends with Gallon being led out of bounds despite blocking set up to the inside.


The Takeaway
It's pretty clear why MSU gashed Michigan with this last year. If Gallon cuts back to the inside, the only player with a chance of tackling him is the backside ILB (#39) who is doing a good job of flowing downhill with the play but probably has a 50/50 chance of actually making the tackle.

Borges has finally started to utilize bubble screens on a semi-regular basis, which is a great addition to Michgian's arsenal. Prior to using them, Michigan rarely tested a defense sideline-to-sideline. The only other plays the Wolverines ran that did so were these jet sweeps, which always seem, at best, moderately effective. Changing up a blocking scheme to seal the opponents playside linebackers and put a ball carrier in space against a single defender is all you can ask for. It will be interesting to see how this evolves throughout the season, but testing the outsides more frequently and effectively can only mean good things for this offense going forward.


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