Defending the Power Read

Defending one of the Spread’s toughest plays.

The Power Read is one of the Spread’s hardest plays to defend because it stresses the techniques taught by most defensive coaches, and stretches the field horizontally (stretch) as well as vertically (Q-Power). Any time an offense can attack both planes of a defense it is going to stress the defense’s core principles. Unlike a basic QB power, where the RB blocks out on the defensive end and a guard pulls for the ILB, the Power Read plays on the flow read of the ILB.

The RB takes a stretch path and heads for the edge. This “flow” stresses the discipline of the ILB’s eyes. Most defensive coaches will teach the ILBs to read the guard while stepping to their gap. As the ILB sees the guard pull, his eyes go to the flow of the RB, which is horizontal and fast (Stretch!). This flow “tricks” the ILBs to think the play is heading to the edge, but the offense is reading elsewhere. Instead of reading the backside end like the Zone Read, the Power Read uses the front side DE as the read man and attacks his fit. The “inverted veer,” as some call the Power Read forces the D-line to play smart and stay sound and disciplined in their option fits. Below is a look at an 11p Power Read:

 

Playing it Like Power

To begin, if the defense is set in an Under Front versus a Trips Open formation the play side DE will crash down on the down block of the offensive Tackle and “wrong-shoulder” the pulling guard (natural gap-exchange or “heavy” technique), or tackle the QB if he chooses to pull the ball and the Guard bypasses the DE. With the Nose to the three-receiver side, the DE is allowed to close the “B” gap and take the “dive”. In this case, the “dive” player is the QB (inverted from the Zone Read).

The natural gap exchange that occurs post-snap, frees the Mike to attack the up-field shoulder of the RB who is flowing horizontal and fast to the outside. Against any Power play, the interior defensive lineman getting the block back should try and cross face. The Will crosses the face of the climbing tackle (a block in that most coaches would agree he has to win versus traditional Power). The aiming point for the Will is the inside shoulder of the pulling guard (“box” fit).

Against a traditional two-back Power a defense would ideally like a man on the inside and outside shoulder of the pulling guard. In the diagram below, the Will takes the inside, while the crashing DE is technically the outside shoulder player. The key to defending the Power Read is in the read-side DE. Unlike versus a traditional Power play, the DE cannot just careen down the line, spilling the Guard. Instead, the DE, with horizontal flow to him, can climb to the QB. This forces the read of the QB. The crashing DE gives the QB a “give” read because the DE works to the outside shoulder of the QB. In this particular play, the Mike should see the natural gap exchange and work upfield, tackling the RB.

.01 QB Give

Making the QB Carry

Like any read play, the defense has to decide who they want to carry the ball. If a DC decides the QB is the worst of the two evils, the defense can still hold the cover down integrity of the Under Front and force the QB to carry the ball by giving a “hold” call to the play side DE. The “hold” call creates the same fit for the play side DE as if there was a three-technique to his side. As the offensive Tackle blocks down, the DE will step vertically and hold his position. Looking to “receive” the RB on his stretch path.

The drawback to this call is the Mike becomes a fold player, and in the case of an RPO team, a conflicted one. Instead of the DE crashing down to the outside shoulder of the pulling Guard, the Mike will assume that role and fold into the box. Both the Mike and the Will box the pulling Guard. The play side DE will take the RB on his stretch path.

The DE forces the QB to pull the ball and insert behind his pulling Guard. Like Power, the Will climbs over the tackle and aims for the inside shoulder of the pulling Guard. The safety valve in all of this is the Down Safety reading cutback and making the Will right in the run fits. The stretch path by the RB can make the LBs over pursue if their eyes are not disciplined. The Power Read forces the defense to trust its training and believe that their counterparts will be there. Even in the case of a QB pulling the ball, if the LBs vacate too fast, there is a crease on the cutback. The DS has to fill that crease before pursuing the stretch path of the back. See the diagram below:

.02 QB Pull

Two-Back and 11p Power Read

When offenses add blockers to the Power Read play, it can be a dangerous combination for the defense. When extra gaps are created by added players, it can change the alignments of the front and LBs depending on how the DC has chosen to align. The first video in this article is of Baylor’s offense running a Power Read scheme from an 11p 2×2 Twin formation. The ball carrier essentially had two lead blockers, the TE and the RB. As with the Spread version, the play side DE is the key to defending the play.

Most teams will set the 3 tech. to the TE’s side. In option rules, this would make the DE the QB player. Since the Power Read is inverted, the rule is changed to the DE’s first threat, or the RB because of his path. The DE’s initial step should be vertical and he should “feel” the offensive Tackle step down. His eyes should go directly down to the mesh. Seeing the fast and horizontal flow of the slot, the DE will climb to the outside shoulder of the QB. This action will force him to pull the ball and insert behind his pulling Guard.

The defense should have both LBs boxing the Guard for plus-one in the run fit. If the DE doesn’t climb, the QB will hand the ball off to the RB with numbers. The TE will take the first outside threat (in the video, the OLB) and the RB will take the next threat (the scraping Mike or inserting safety). The key is in the climb of the DE. He has to build a wall. As with any motion, the fit for the play should come from where the players are at the snap of the ball. In this particular play, the Jet Power Read is ran from a 21p Pro look when the ball is snapped. The fits should reflect that. The diagram below illustrates the fit:

(11P) Jet Pwr Read

Here is another look at the Jet Power Read ran by Baylor. The DE’s hesitation allows the QB to give the ball to the Jet Stretch. The runner now has numbers on the edge with devastating effect:

Don’t Forget the Play-Action

One of the toughest plays to defend is the Power Read pass. Because of the flow and the pulling Guard, it sucks the LBs up to the line of scrimmage and puts pressure on the safeties to be right (and defend a shallow cross or a slant-go). Here is RGIII talking about an old Briles bread and butter play-action pass, the “Power Flip Pass.” This is the complement to the Power Read run play.

 

The key to defending the play-action is in the safeties and their eyes (understand, this is an obvious statement). Against teams that run the Power Read, the Cover Safety is the player that has to absorb the vertical of the #3 WR. If the #3 WR stays flat, the Will has a chance to make a play on the ball thrown over the middle. Knowing that the Will has to climb over the play side Tackle, he can be patient in pursuing the pulling Guard and stay high as long as he can. Sitting in that middle hole muddies the view for the QB. If too hesitant, the Will can get pinned on the run play. It really is a catch-22 and a great offensive play. This is a patient play for the offense, and it is the defense that has to stay patient as well. The pass distribution should look like the below diagram. As with the run play, the DS is the key and can help “rob” the route by the #3 WR. See below:

.03 PAP

Conclusion

Like anything, the defense has to have a plan on who should carry the ball. When Baylor played Mizzou in 2011 the Power Read was a major play for the Tigers, especially out of Empty. The goal was to keep the ball out of an eventual 1,000-yard rusher in Henry Josey and force the QB, James Franklin, to keep the ball on read plays. Most teams don’t want their QB to keep getting smashed up the middle. Though Josey ended up having a big game (132 yards), Baylor was able to contain Mizzou’s Read game and eventually put the game out of reach by the 4th Quarter (35-17 with 8:22 remaining). Much like defending option teams, a defense needs to change the reads periodically to keep the offense guessing while forcing the lesser runner to carry the ball.

As stated earlier, the key players in defending the Power Read are the play side DE (and how the defense chooses to use him) and the backside safety and his role in defending against the cutback and the vertical shoot of the #3 WR against the play-action. The Will has to be patient until the ball is handed off or pulled by the QB too. Defenses must utilize a “hold” call to change the fit and confuse the QB. The Power Read and Zone Read need to be treated much like a traditional flexbone option. The flexbone and 10p Spread are essentially the same formations, just one is spread out across the field. The reads, and how a defense defends them are very similar. It is important to note, that the Power fits do not change, just the techniques of a few players. This is why it is important for a defensive coach to teach how personnel groupings and change the fits for their players.

 

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