- Football tactics for an offensive unit begin with choosing a football formation that plays to the strengths of the team’s offensive personnel
- Offensive football formations involve deciding how many players will be used in two groups: running backs and receivers
- The defensive football formations used by a team’s opponent also play a role in which football formation the offense uses
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Factors in Choosing a Formation
A team’s offensive coordinators need to identify their players’ strengths when they decide on a formation. For example, if a team has an outstanding running back, the coaches will probably use a formation that is run-oriented. If a team has a quarterback with a great arm and it has one or more skilled receivers, it may use a pass-friendly formation. Ideally, a team will have both a good running game and a good passing game and will be able to use a balanced formation that is flexible for both running and passing.
The Pro-Set Formation
A popular running formation is the pro-set, or split-back, formation. In this formation, a tight end is lined up at one end of the offensive line, and a wide receiver lines up several yard to the side of each end of the line. Joining the quarterback in the offensive backfield are two running backs. They are about 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage and lined up behind the offensive guards. This is a popular formation because an offense can easily pass instead of running, and the defense cannot be sure what type of play is coming because of the formation’s symmetrical nature. The alignment of the running backs makes it easy for them to run out to the side for a swing pass.
The I Formation
An offensive football formation that is more obviously run-oriented is the I formation. This formation is identical to the split-back except that the running backs are lined up directly behind the quarterback. The running back closest to the line of scrimmage is called the fullback, and the other back is called the tailback. This formation is well suited to a team with an outstanding tailback. His position about 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage allows him a good view of the initial movements of the offensive and defensive lines. He can pick a hole in the line and be up to full speed by the time he reaches it. A drawback of the formation is that it is not a strong passing formation.
Other Offensive Football Formations
Other formations include the offset I formation, which differs from the I formation in that the fullback plays off to the side of the quarterback. This gives the fullback some interesting options. He can get to his blocking assignment more quickly or he can swing out for a pass, perhaps after going in motion. A shotgun formation is an effective passing formation. The quarterback sets up about 7 yards behind the line, which allows him to throw more quickly and gives him more time to view the defense. The tight end is replaced by a third wide receiver. Other formations are often used to address special defensive football formations. If a defense puts many men toward the middle of the line of scrimmage to strengthen the pass rush, the offense may set up in an empty-backfield formation, which spreads out as many as five wide receivers, forcing the defense to bring some defenders away from the middle of the line. The defense may also bring men up near the center when the offensive is near the goal line. The offense can react by using a formation with two tight ends instead of one to provide additional blocking strength.