We can have discussions that will go on and on with this position being listed last as we build our roster and this decision is solely based on past experiences and schemes most employed. The “power forward” basketball type athlete that is now emerging in this spot is very intriguing. Big, agile, strong, and possessing field awareness utilizing court presence with the understanding of running away from man and sitting in zone have made these athletes a hot commodity.
I have been known to use more of a “spread” set running a “loose wing-T” with three backs and two wides, our version of spread with two backs and three wides and single back with four wides. In the Canadian Football League I believe utilizing a tight end is an effort in futility as you need to exploit the additional width (a CFL field is 65 yards yard as compared to an American field which is 53 yards) using two back/four wides or single back/five wides (again, the CFL utilizes 12 men while the U.S. game plays with 11). Even in U.S. football, I have been a proponent in short yardage to go four wides with a single back in motion. If a LB runs with the back and removes himself from the box, the QB sneaks. If the LB stays in the box, we turn and deliver to the back in open space. Placing 22 or 24 men in a five yard box simply has not proven beneficial in our experience.
That being said, the essence of coaching is providing your players with an opportunity to experience success in a scheme that fits the available player’s skill sets. As a coordinator and a head coach only one time in my career (with the Orlando Rage of the XFL) did we possess the players at the tight end position that truly made an impact on the scheme. When Coach Joe Gibbs returned to the Washington Redskins in 2004, a premium was placed on the tight end position and we were activated in the Pro Personnel department to find as many tight ends or over-sized fullbacks as we could to fill the desired “H-back” position along with many two tight end sets.
The development to these highly skilled athletes are causing match-up advantages for the offense and create personnel grouping and formation recognition nightmares for defensive coordinators. They are important cogs in the run game, play-action, and are vital to most red zone schemes. Use these tools to find a game changer at the position of:
RUN BLOCK INLINE Strength upper and lower body, base, balance, stays on feet, initial contact, works through the belt buckle up into the numbers, drive and sustain, leverage, production vs willingness, drive off the line of scrimmage (LOS) or position, secure the point of attack (POA), wall off type, type of blocks (drive, down, double, angle, cut, butt-n-cut, seal), stick and stay, push and pester, knee bend/sink hips, finish, proper footwork, arm length
SUSTAIN/FINISH Base, balance, body control, play strength, inline, on the move, vs DL, vs LB, effort, determination, toughness
BALANCE Ability to retain body control in the execution of various techniques required of the position as a blocker and receiver, regain body control temporarily lost, lower body strength and base to stay on feet
DOWNFIELD BLOCK Effort, angle, adjust on the run, stay on feet, balance, cut block without lunging, zero in on a moving target and strike
HANDS Type: soft, stiff, snatch, pluck, extend and make finger tip catch, body catcher, double catch, adjust to the flight of the ball and frame the throw, ability to make the tough catch, secure the ball upon contact, catch in traffic
INITIAL QUICKNESS Movement off the ball, first step out of stance, burst into pass routes, coming out of breaks
RELEASE Escape hold-up at LOS, stance (2 or 3 point), techniques, foot quickness, agility, hip and leg drive, fake and go, head and shoulders, comes off hard every play, doesn’t get knocked off route, speed release, swim
ROUTES Type of cuts; sharp, rounded, body control, gathers feet to cut, stride coming out of cuts smoothly with a burst to separate, change of pace within pattern stem, fake and cut ability, read coverage and adjust, fluid not stiff mechanical movements
SEPARATION Acceleration,burst and body movement to create space from defender and get open, change of direction (COD) without wasted movement, horizontal, vertical
AWARENESS Understanding to locate open area, knowledge of coverages and defenders, cognizant of first down marker, boundary, clock management
RECEIVE SHORT Ability to find open windows in zone coverage and settle in the biggest area, catch in a crowd, run through the catch, separate vs man to man, read coverage, awareness, cutting ability, adjust to the ball, feel for the underneath passing game
RECEIVE DEEP Speed to go long, vertical threat, close cushion, burst to separate, adjust to deep ball and frame throw, make over the shoulder catch, battle for a jump ball, leaping ability, timing, concentration, accelerate to the ball
REACT/ADJUST See and realign to the ball in flight, body control and flexibility to make the difficult catch, cradles low throw, throws behind and over-head, or any off target throw, squares shoulders and frames the throw
REACT IN A CROWD Courage, concentration, take a hit and maintain security of the ball, competes for the ball in traffic, between the hashes, use of body to shield off defender, provides a good target
RUN AFTER CATCH Athletic, determined runner, fight for yards after catch (YAC’s), open field instincts, acceleration, stop and start quickness, change of pace, weaver or darter, able to turn a short reception into a big gain, breaks tackles
SIZE Height and weight according to chart and level of play
MENTAL Football intelligence, ability to acquire and maintain knowledge, ability to thing and react during competition, normal reps, ability to assimilate strategy and to adopt prescribed solutions to different game situations
BLOCKING On the LOS, second level to wall off, base, leverage, balance, sustain, finish, play strength, aggressive, effectiveness, desire
QUICKNESS Ability to initiate body movement in a desired direction in a single thrust, able to move hands, arms, torso and feet in unison and rapid succession
HANDS Ability to adjust, extend and catch with hands, dependable, consistent, natural vs body catcher, makes the routine catch routinely, can make the tough catch