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Rufio's Film Room: Wildcat Edition

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

With players like Joshua Cribbs on recent Browns teams, we've seen our fair share of "wildcat" plays since the fad began. But like most of our normal offensive plays during that same time period, they haven't worked very well or very consistently.

Last week, however, we saw a few big runs from the previously forgettable Marquis Gray. What happened? Without being in the huddle, I'd say it was a mix of two things:

  1. Actually optioning a defender instead of just hoping the other team would trip on itself and
  2. Using tempo.

The "tempo" here wasn't necessarily trying to rattle off plays as quick as humanly possible, like the "warp speed" offenses at Cal, Oregon, Ohio State, etc. Rather the Cleveland Browns present a series of changes to the defense with the snap quickly afterward. We changed formation, we changed personnel, and then we made a big change at quarterback by sending Jason Campbell in motion, and we snapped the ball quickly before the Chicago Bears could sort everything out.

The plays we ran here may look "gimmicky" and we certainly reap some benefit by trying to trip the defense up with tempo/timing. But I define a "gimmick" as something that will not work unless the defense screws up. Sound plays have ways for the offense to succeed regardless of what the defense does, and these plays are sound.

The two runs we ran from the wildcat are based off of normal, traditional blocking patterns. In fact, the linemen block exactly the same way whether we are running a traditional handoff or these read option plays with Marquis Gray at quarterback. The first play is blocked like "Power O," only with the "Inverted Veer" aka "Dash" option attached:

Power O Inverted Veer

images via Smart Football

The second play is "Inside Zone" with the "Slice" wrinkle of having a frontside player block the end man on the line of scrimmage against the grain. Only we used the read option version called "Bluff," where the backside blocker bluffs his normal block and arc blocks up to the second level, while the end man on the line is optioned:

Inside Zone with "slice" Read option with "bluff"

Images via Football Outsiders and Grantland.

One thing I forget to mention in the video is Joe Thomas' block on the "bluff" play. He goes to block his assignment, realizes there is a bigger threat, and immediately blocks the man closer to the point of attack (remember, Thomas doesn't know for sure who has the ball at this point). Not only is this great awareness and a great adjustment almost without thinking, but Thomas effectively blocks two guys. He does just enough to freeze the first linebacker before heading on to the second. Thomas does small things like this all the time and often times they aren't noticed, but these little things are what continue to make Thomas the best offensive lineman in all of football.