Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tight Ends in the OSU Passing Game

 I initially had this as part of my in-game analysis but decided to separate it out as it has a more universal application.

 One quick word about the TEs and their use in the passing game. We are a 'zone blocking' or 'slide protection' passing team. That means that, rather than having a linemen responsible for a linemen, we slide left or right, and each linemen is responsible for their gap. The benefit of this is that it doesn't give a DLinemen a 2-way go on the center. The drawback is that you have to have your TE and/or RB in at least a check release, because someone needs to be responsible for the edge away from the slide. Occasionally, OSU will go slide protection on one side, and then man on the other to get a 5 receiver route. But most of the time, OSU likes to slide everyone and have the TE (and RB) responsible for the backside. Below is an example:

You'll see how the entire line slides right, and then Ballard and Hall are responsible for the left edge. Now, without getting into too much of a debate about the positives and negatives of doing so (for a fuller discussion that is well worth reading check out here: http://smartfootball.blogspot.com/2008/06/pass-protection-super-bowl-tom-brady.html), suffice it is to say that there are two different philosophies--one is that is that the passing game falls apart with pressure (see the Patriots in the Super Bowl) and it is better to first protect the passer. The other is to put 5 guys in the route, let the QB know he's going to get hit, and throw quickly. That is why most spread teams throw 'very short' quick routes. Note, that this doesn't have anything do with sophistication vs. lack thereof. Bill Walsh believed in the former, which is why they generally had check release patterns.

But the result for OSU is that the TE stays in to pass protect a good amount of the time. Generally, when the TE is in he on passig plays he pass protects. It's when we go 4 and 5 wide that we have 4 and 5 men pass patterns. I have advocated getting the TE more involved, espeically to threaten the deep seams quickly. But I think in OSU's defense they're working with the following factors:

1)  A young, inexperienced QB that is a much better passer when not pressured.
2)  A young, inexperienced QB that does not read progressions very well but instead locks on to particular receivers.
3)  A young, inexperienced OLine
4)  A starting TE, Ballard, who is not a big passing game threat.

As such, I think one can make a strong argument that this is the correct pass protection method for this team.  That is why, even with the 'fake Dave' playaction rollout play, you see us running it towards the 'twins' side so that we can throw the ball outside the hashes to our two best receivers, rather than using the TE coming across the middle on bootlegs.

All this being said, we see OSU use 'combo' protections to get 5 receivers into the route, so we know it can be done.  I would expect and hope that, as Pryor and Stoneburner get more experience, we can use the TE more vertically in the middle of the field and crossing on playaction...

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