Running Scheme: Jets Power Lead Toss

The New York Jets get a lot of attention for their defense, led by cornerback Darrelle Revis and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. Brian Filipiak looks at what makes their offense so productive, starting with the Jets power lead toss play.

New York’s offense enters Week 7 leading the NFL with an average of 146 rushing yards per game. Led by running back Chris Ivory, who is averaging 5.5 yards per carry, the Jets running attack has gone over 200 yards twice already this season. One play that has contributed significant chunks of yards gained on the ground has been the Jets power lead toss.

The power lead toss concept was prominently featured – with great success – in the Jets victory over Washington in Week 6. Running a variation of the power toss eight times in all, mostly with Ivory as the ball carrier, the Jets gained 99 yards on the ground, including three runs that went for 18 yards or more.

It’s Not Quite A Toss Sweep

The traditional toss sweep involves playside and/or backside offensive linemen using the pull technique to flood the alley and create space for the ball carrier on the perimeter. But the Jets version of the power lead toss is essentially an off-tackle run that simply replaces a traditional handoff with a short pitch to the running back.

Since a toss “handoff” is associated with an outside run, a defense – and in particular the force/edge defender on the playside – will often overplay the outside threat. This, in turn, creates favorable blocking angles for the offensive line and significant cutback lanes. The toss also allows the running back to receive the ball quicker, read the blocks more clearly, and get downhill a little faster.

Toss One

The Jets used the toss play early and often against Washington, including on their first two rush attempts in the game. Each run was executed out of different formations with slightly altered blocking principles.

On 1st and 10 from their own 17 yard line, New York uses 21 personnel out of a weak i-formation versus an eight-man front featuring five Washington defenders on the line:

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Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick takes the snap, turns, and shovels the ball to Ivory in one fluid motion. The off-set fullback Tommy Bohanon (#40) leads into the hole created by right guard Willie Colon’s (#66) down block and right tackle Breno Giacomini’s (#68) kick out on the force defender – outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (#91). The fullback hits the first defender he sees – inside linebacker Perry Riley Jr. (#56) – sealing him to the inside.

As Ivory follows his lead block into the hole, right guard James Carpenter (#77) and center Nick Mangold (#74) complete a combination block on the nose tackle, with Mangold then chipping inside linebacker Keenan Robinson (#52) at the second level. With both middle linebackers neutralized, Ivory bounces the run toward the sideline where a cadre of blockers are positioned to spring the ball carrier for a large gain. But as he makes his cut to split the alley between the blocks, Ivory slips and loses his footing, limiting the run to five yards.

And A Two…

The very next play involves the Jets using 11 personnel, with Ivory standing eight yards behind center with an unbalanced line to his right (strong-side). This time, Washington deploys their nickel defense and a 4-2 defensive alignment:

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Lacking a fullback to lead the way, New York instead has the right guard pull toward the edge. With the entire offensive line including tight end Kellen Davis (#47) blocking down, Ivory takes the toss and presses outside, using the (rather ugly) cut block by Colon to turn the corner.

Ivory picks up just four yards on the carry. But if not for Mangold’s poor angle and subsequent whiff on the block attempt of Robinson at the second level, the running back could have captured a much larger gain – especially with wide receiver Eric Decker pinning the defensive back along the sideline.

The Washington defense, however, does a good job fighting through traffic and filling the run lanes – something they were unable to do on the third power lead toss run they faced.

And A Three.

Early in the second quarter on a 1st and 10 from their own 25 yard line, the Jets run the power lead toss again. New York operates out of a strong i-formation using 21 personnel versus Washington’s base 3-4 under defense:

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Similar to the first play, the fullback leads up into the hole with Ivory following in tow. In order to create favorable blocking angles, the tight end attempts to down block the 4 technique (Chris Baker, #92). The right tackle folds underneath to kick out the edge defender, outside linebacker Trent Murphy (#93).

Giacomini manages to funnel Murphy wide on the fold and kick. Davis ends up blocking Robinson because Baker slants down the line, away from the direction of the run.

While Davis shows good recognition by adjusting his blocking assignment on the fly, it almost backfires since Bohanon gets bottled up behind his teammate, before he is able to join in on the block. But because of the aggressive flow toward the action by Riley Jr., the defense leaves open a large window for Ivory to exploit. One failed run fit leads to more, as the backside defender – Kerrigan – over pursues and gets washed out of the play. Ivory races across the field, takes advantage of a good downfield block by wide receiver Brandon Marshall (#15), and finishes off a 54-yard run.

Ivory Key

On the year, Ivory has eight runs for 15 or more yards and averages 3.19 yards after contact, according to Pro Football Focus – good for second in the league behind Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (minimum of 60 rushing attempts).

In New York’s only loss on the season – a game against the Philadelphia Eagles in which Ivory was active but did not play a single snap because of a quad injury – the offense was held to 47 rushing yards on 16 carries. But stopping the Jets running game when at full strength, with the bruising Ivory in the backfield, is easier said than done. Not falling prey to, and remaining disciplined against, the power lead toss is a good starting point for any defense attempting to slow down New York’s explosive ground game.

Follow Brian on Twitter @Brian_Filipiak.

Brian Filipiak knows about proper blocking technique, the basics of run defense,  how to defeat an overload, and the point-of-attack.

All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.

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