Sometimes a team needs to implement a unique scheme to get things going. The Oakland Raiders added a wrinkle to the zone running play to get more out of their offense. Ted Nguyen explains what the Raiders opposite zone running scheme is and how Oakland has used to help improve a formerly weak aspect of their offense.
After a poor showing last year the Oakland Raiders are significantly better at running the ball in 2016, a large reason for their 4-2 start. One of the Raiders most effective running plays this season is a version of the inside zone. I don’t have the exact terminology, so I’ve been calling it “opposite” zone because the linemen zone block in one direction while the running back receives the handoff going in the opposite direction. For example, if the linemen take a zone step to the right, the back would take the handoff on the left. It is an interesting variant of the inside zone that slows the defensive flow down and makes it easier for the offensive line to get on their blocks.
The Raiders are in their 13 personnel. They have a three tight end surface to the right and the Tennessee Titans are in a 4-4 under front. The offensive line and tight ends all zone block to the left, while running back Latavius Murray (#28) gets the ball to the right:
The key blocks to make this play work are the double team between the left guard and tackle on the left inside linebacker and between the the two tight ends, Lee Smith (#86) and Clive Walford (#88) to the inside linebacker to the right. If the running back gets the handoff to the left, like on a regular inside zone play, the two inside linebackers could flow more freely to the running back which would make the key blocks on the inside linebackers much more difficult:
The inside linebackers do not flow towards the zone movement of the offensive line because Murray opens up to the right. This makes it much easier for the blockers to come off their double teams and make their blocks.
Murray reads the two double teams and finds a lane in the A gap to the right and makes the safety miss en route to a touchdown.
The “opposite” zone concept isn’t a staple run concept but it is a nice complement for teams that run a lot of inside zone. The blocking scheme is the same, so it doesn’t require additional teaching for the offensive line. It’s a small switch in the backfield that could garner some big results. So far this season, it has been a great concept for the Raiders and their improved run game.
Follow Ted on Twitter via @RaidersAnalysis. Check out his site and his other work at ITP, such as how Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey seems like an omniscient back, Washington’s use of formations and on the evolution of the counter trey rush.
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All film courtesy of NFL Game Pass