The spread offense is growing in popularity with coaches, players and fans because it’s a dynamic offense with big play opportunities. It’s designed to create a mismatch with the defense either in the run game or pass game. Despite what some people think, the spread is not a finesse offense that is designed to air it out on every play. In fact, it’s a run first offense with an emphasis of downhill running and physical offensive line play that dominates the point of attack. The pass game is built off a successful run game with the implementation of RPO’s and a variety of horizontal and vertical route concepts.
The spread offense is becoming more common throughout all levels of football. Whether you watch football on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, teams are running some sort of version of the spread offense.
Here are a few more reasons why everyone is moving towards the spread offense, and why you should be running it too.
Create an Advantage in the Run Game
The purpose of running the spread offense is to pull defenders outside of the tackle box to gain advantage in the run game. The offense can automatically create running lanes just by the way they line up pre-snap. If the offense lines up in a spread set with two receivers on the left and two receivers on the right, then it forces the defense to use four defenders to match them in coverage, with a middle safety over the top. With a total of five defenders in coverage, it leaves a six man box to support the run—four linemen and two linebackers.
When a defense is in a 6 man box, the advantage goes to the offense when running schemes like zone read. This play is a staple in the spread offense. In this run scheme, the five offensive linemen block three defensive linemen and work to the two linebackers. The QB will read the end man on the line of scrimmage (EMOL) and determine to either give the ball to the running back, or keep it for himself based on what the EMOL does.
In the example below, the play is Zone Read to the left. In this play, the backside Tackle and guard will double team the 3 technique before one of them comes off to block the backside linebacker. The center and play side Guard will double team the 2i until one of them comes off to get to the play side linebacker. The play side tackle will base the play side defensive end. The QB will read the EMOL. If the EMOL sits on the line of scrimmage (LOS) and squeezes down to the Center, then the QB will rip the ball out of the backs belly and run. If the EMOL gets up field or keeps contain, then the QB will give the ball to the RB for inside zone.
In this play, the offense has a number advantage at the initial point of attack. The line is able to get 2 hats on 1 with the double teams on the two defensive tackles. The goal of the double teams is to put the DT’s in the lap of the linebackers behind them. Zone Read is a big play that can gash a defense if the O-Line can win at the point of attack and the QB makes the right read.
Stretch The Field
The spread offense is popular among coaches because of the ability to stretch the defense horizontally and vertically. DC’s are fit to be tied when they have to game plan for an offense that uses their athletes on the perimeter and will take shots downfield.
Stretching the field horizontally means forcing the defense to play sideline to sideline on every single play. This can be done by alignment before the ball is snapped as well as plays that attack the perimeter. Defending the perimeter is tough for any defense because it requires pursuing the football from the big guys inside, and tackling in space from the little guys on the outside. This is the opposite of what these players want to do on the field. That’s why stretching the field horizontally is effective because the offense is exposing the defenses weaknesses.
The spread offense is great for stretching the defense vertically as well. The deep ball threat does a few things for the offense. First, it can soften up the coverage and keep the secondary on their heels. This will open the doors for short routes in the quick passing game. Second, having a vertical threat opens up the running lanes for the running back. Coverage guys are now completely eliminated from the box and are no longer run supporters. Linebackers are more cautious to defending the pass, which means the OL will be more efficient at getting to the second level. Lastly, stretching the defense vertically can lead to explosive plays. Big plays and quick scores are two things that will dismantle a defense.
Share the Rock
The most exciting part about the spread offense is how everyone has an opportunity to touch the football at any given time. The goal is to get athletes the ball in space and let them use their athletic abilities to make plays. This is not only fun to watch as a coach or spectator in the stands, it’s fun for the athletes who play in this offense. The overall attitude and effort improves when everyone contributes and has an impact on each play.
Having a one dimensional offense where everyone in the stadium knows whose getting the ball is not a formula for success. This is why the spread offense presents a big challenge for defenses. The football could touch the hands of six different players on any given play. With this many options on the field, it keeps the defense honest and makes them defend against all eleven players.
Tell us what you think about the spread offense and why you love it. Drop your comments below!