Some plays are like Rorschach inkblots because there’s no definitive answer to why they unfold the way they do. This new series examines plays that have more than one viable explanation and may be too difficult to draw a single conclusion. The fun part is that you have a voice in it.
RSP Rorschach No.1: Fitzgerald Toussaint
This is a two-yard gain on 1st and 10 with 2:01 in the first quarter from a 21 personnel set. It’s an offset I-formation with the fullback to the strong side and one receiver split to the weak side. Notre Dame is in a 4-3. Before the snap, the safety at the left hash creeps to linebacker depth over the receiver. Also note that the outside linebacker in the left flat takes a couple of steps towards the line of scrimmage as his safety reaches this depth.
At the snap, the line slants right and the fullback works across the formation to the left edge of the line. The outside linebacker executes a run blitz and the fullback is confronted with two choices: block the outside linebacker or attack the middle linebacker. The fullback chooses the middle linebacker, allows the outside linebacker to continue his blitz unimpeded, and Toussaint takes a path directly into the middle linebacker and falls forward for two yards.
Why did this play unfold as it did? Here are some of my thoughts. While I have my opinion that I like the most, I’m not sharing it. I want to hear what you think is the most viable of these theories. Have your own that’s not listed? Post it in the comments.
Theory 1: The Fullback Makes A Bad Choice
The fullback’s original assignment is the middle linebacker. If the outside linebacker doesn’t blitz, the fullback seals the middle linebacker inside and Toussaint bounces the play to the outside shoulder of the fullback. But with the outside linebacker’s run blitz, there’s no outside line unless the fullback changes his plan and attacks this run blitz. In theory, this change would have given Toussaint a chance to bounce the play outside to the left flat where there’s a ton of room, a block by his wide receiver on the cornerback, and only a middle linebacker chasing Toussaint from behind.
Theory 2: The Left Guard Fails To Identify the Appropriate Linebacker Assignment
Watch the play unfold and the left guard works through the line of scrimmage and attacks the linebacker inside the right hash, allowing the linebacker in the middle to run free and occupy the lane this play is designed for Toussaint to attack. Was the linebacker inside the hash the “Mike” or was it the linebacker that makes the tackle? Did the guard attack the wrong defender? If he took on the linebacker just left of the hash, the fullback takes on the blitz from the outside linebacker, and the Toussaint has a lane inside for a bigger gain.
Theory 3: The Quarterback Fails To Identify The OLB Blitz
When the safety creeps to linebacker depth, this should be a pre snap indication that there’s a potential blitz from that side. Considering the alignment of the outside linebacker and the depth of the safety, it’s conceivable that the quarterback should have read the blitz and made one of any number of changes:
- Shift the tight end to the opposite tackle and run the play so the tight end and fullback can account for the two linebackers.
- Change the direction of the direction of the run to the strong side away from the blitz.
- Change the play to a pass.
In theory, all three of these options have a better outcome than what actually happens.
So what do you think?
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