ITP Glossary: Pin-Pull Sweep

Football is littered with specialized terminology. From D Gap to wheel route, commentators rarely get to explain everything you need to know before the next play. Inside The Pylon’s glossary was developed to give fans a deeper understanding of the game through clear explanations, as well as image and video examples. Please contact us with any terms or phrases you’d like to know more about.

Pin-Pull Sweep

The pin-pull (or pin and pull) sweep is a run blocking scheme that uses a combination of down and reach blocks to seal (or pin) defenders to the inside in tandem with multiple pull blocks toward the perimeter. The aiming point by the ball carrier is the furthest gap outside of the tackle box.

The pin and pull is a variation of the outside zone play. The aiming point is the same for the running back. The back attacks the outside gap and cuts up the field if the contain defender does not get sealed off. However, in the pin-pull sweep, the down blocks give linemen better blocking angles instead of the reach and run technique used in a typical outside zone play.

The blocking assignments within the pin-pull sweep are most often determined by the alignment of the defensive front. In this example, the Dallas Cowboys use a pin-pull sweep out of a singleback formation against the New Orleans Saints‘ 4-3 under front. On the run direction side, the offensive lineman and/or inline tight end will block toward center on a defender that is shaded to the inside of him:Pin Rules

The remaining uncovered offensive lineman utilize pull technique around the edge, providing a convoy of lead blockers for the ball carrier:Pull Rules

From there, the pulling lineman will attempt to wall off and/or execute cut blocks in order to eliminate the second level defenders from the play. On the backside, offensive linemen will typically reach block the nearest defender that is shaded to the inside, similar to the blocking action on an outside zone / stretch play, or pull playside:Post Snap

The uncovered left guard Ronald Leary (#65) and right guard Zack Martin (#70) pull toward the playside, while the covered center Travis Frederick (#72), right tackle Doug Free (#68), and tight end Jason Witten (#82) attempt to pin the nearest defender to the inside. The pair of pulling guards hit the second level, with Leary disrupting the flow of linebacker David Hawthorne and Martin kicking out safety Kenny Vaccaro ‒ the secondary force/contain defender on the play. Here is how it all comes together:

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Running back Darren McFadden avoids the backfield penetration and presses wide before shooting upfield and splitting the blocks made by Leary and Martin on the 14-yard run.

Dolphins Pin-Pull Sweep

The Miami Dolphins execute a pin-pull sweep out of a shotgun formation against the Tennessee Titans nickel defense. The running back is aiming for one yard outside the pre-snap alignment of the tight end:

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The defensive front determines which blockers pull and which blockers pin. In this case, the uncovered center Mike Pouncey (#51) and right guard Billy Turner (#77) both pull toward the run direction while right tackle Ja’Wuan James (#70) and tight end Jordan Cameron (#84) down block the 3 technique and 6 technique defensive linemen, pinning them toward the inside.

Although this is a straight handoff to Lamar Miller on the pin-pull sweep, two Tennessee defenders react to the potential QB keeper first. Defensive end DaQuan Jones (#90) uses a swim move to gain penetration into the backfield, but bites on Ryan Tannehills keeper fake and allows running back Lamar Miller to race past him unimpeded. In addition, inside linebacker Zach Brown (#55) false steps toward the QB, which delays his backside pursuit. Miller bursts into the second level and splits the crease created by the pull blockers, gaining 22 yards on the play.

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Brian Filipiak & Ted Nguyen wrote this entry. Follow Brian on Twitter @Brian_Filipiak. Follow Ted on Twitter @CoachTed07.


All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.

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