Primarily known for their wide zone run blocking scheme, the Shanahan coaching tree in recent years is leaning heavily into more man and gap scheme run designs. Specifically, the Packers have been running a lot of duo run concepts and incorporating those blocking schemes up front into their play-action passing game.
Leaning heavily into one concept or another can stifle creativity for a team with playoff hopes in a wide-open NFC North this season. One way they’ll get there is to continually evolve the concepts they’ve run frequently in the past. I covered duo and its play-action design recently for this website. So today, we’ll take a look at the new way the Packers are running the counter run scheme, a variant off of that design, and play action from Weeks 1 and 2.
In week one the Packers showcased a new formation we haven’t seen them line up in: “Pistol strong left or right Y off.”
The Packers called two plays out of this formation versus Chicago in Week 1: one run and one play action pass.
Pistol counter YF run concept
The running play was a counter run design that utilizes the tight end from the wing and the fullback or F from the offset position next to the quarterback. Instead of using traditional counter blocking with an offensive lineman pulling to the playside, the Packers utilize a kick-out block from the tight end and a lead block from the fullback.
This allows them to get to the edge quicker versus smaller linebackers and defensive backs. It also allows them to keep all five offensive linemen in to block the interior of the defense where they can get double team blocks at the point of attack and allows them to get to the second-level linebackers with easier angles where they can work more vertically to reach them. The goal is to create favorable blocking angles.
The Packers are lined up in a pistol strong left formation here with Ben Sims as the second tight end in a wing position between Musgrave and the left tackle. Offset to the quarterback’s left is Josiah Deguara, the designated fullback. Deguara is the kickout block at the snap since he leaves as the first puller. The second puller is Sims, the lead block, and A.J. Dillon’s path takes right up between his two blockers for a gain of seven.
Pistol counter play action corner post
Later in the game the Packers flipped the formation and called their corner post concept off the same counter run fake with the Y tight end and F fullback positions kicking out and lead blocking.
The defense follows the pullers and run action of the play fake, which opens a huge hole in the middle of the field but Love doesn’t get to the deep crossing route. He takes a shot to Samori Toure on the corner post route but sails the ball up the far hash when it should be flatter across to the near hash to allow Toure to run under it.
Pistol counter run 2
The Packers called the same run play from above in week two but the run went nowhere and did not yield a positive gain.
Running this play with a fast motion across from Sims flipped the responsibility of the pullers to Sims executing the kick-out block and Deguara executing the lead block. Sims did not adequately execute the kick-out block and this compressed the space that Dillon had to maneuver in even while Deguara flattened his defender. Dillon ended up running into the back of Deguara trying to avoid the traffic jam caused by Sims’s block.
Play action drift/strike
Later in the game, the Packers called their “drift/strike” concept out of this same formation.
The play itself drift/strike route (commonly called a bang-8 post) from tight end Luke Musgrave and a deeper out route by Romeo Doubs (bench route). The run action is the same counter fake.
The Falcons drop into the drift throwing window and Love might had an opportunity to hit Musgrave in the second window as he comes open but he moved onto his next progression, the bench deep out route to Doubs and threw a bullet on a line for the completion.
“Just run the offense” has become sort of a mantra for the Packers recently and the offense looks like it has a bit more stability and structure. It will be interesting to see how many layers LaFleur adds and builds on from week to week.