A variation on the traditional i-formation, an offset i-formation is when the fullback lines up shaded to one side of the offensive line rather than directly behind the quarterback. This is frequently labeled a Strong I or Weak I formation. The offset position of the fullback makes it easier for them to make a block to that side of the field or to get to the flat on a pass play. However, it makes the direction they will be going on a run or pass slightly more predictable.
An example of a regular i-formation compared to an offset i-formation can be seen below, both courtesy of the San Diego Chargers:
The offset i-formation helps fullbacks get out into space quicker, or into running lanes that are closer to the outside of a formation. In addition, the offset i-formation helps fullbacks get out into receiving routes quicker than a standard i-formation.
An example of the offset i-formation being put to use can be seen from the 2016 Week 5 game between the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders. With 10:53 remaining in the third quarter, the Chargers have a right offset i-formation in the backfield, a tight end left and a wing back right out of 22 personnel.
Watt being offset allows him to get outside of the offensive line quickly, and he can more effectively lead Gordon. Had he been in a standard i-formation it would have been more difficult to get all the way to the edge of the formation and then turn up field to block while staying ahead of Gordon. Watt’s blocking downfield is the key to Gordon gaining 24 yards on this play.
Fullbacks can also be deployed in the passing game from an offset i-formation, where their alignment makes it easier to get toward the sidelines on routes.
An example can be seen below, from the 2015 game between the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Razorbacks have 22 personnel on the field, and align in a left offset i-formation, with a tight end on the left and a stack formation to the right.
Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen (#10) fakes a handoff to the left before going into his drop. Fullback Jeremy Sprinkle (#83) fakes a run block on the left edge before running a wheel route along the sideline.
The offset i-formation is a simple yet versatile look that forces defenses to defend fullbacks playing the edge in the run and pass game. It is a common formation at all levels of the game, and will continue to be used from the middle/high school levels all the way up to the NFL.
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Ryan Dukarm wrote this entry. Follow Ryan on Twitter @DBRyan_Dukarm.
Film courtesy of NFL Game Pass and DraftBreakdown