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NFL Offenses need to Get Retro

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Posted 10-08-2022 at 09:56 AM by neugey

Following a lousy Thursday Night Football game, people are starting to wonder what's wrong with offenses in the NFL this season. Are NFL defenses truly that good?

To some extent, yes. The athleticism and range of defensive players in the NFL has never been better across the board. Quarterbacks are having a harder time than usual picking apart zone defenses. Zone coverage, especially the Tampa 2 style, has become much more effective than we've seen in a long time, possibly ever. It used to be that only a few teams had the talent to run Tampa 2 effectively on a regular basis. But now almost all NFL teams can run zone plays with ease and impressive range.

It took a long time, and it's been a slow evolution, but teams seem to have gradually gotten away from the West Coast concepts engineered by Bill Walsh. Remember in the 90's where the west coast offenses dominated and the best coaches to implement it were in very high demand? Things are quite different now. With the popularity and success of Sean McVay, along with the popularity of QB's that make "off-schedule" plays like Mahomes, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray do, NFL offenses have gotten into a more loose and matchup-oriented style, and have gotten away from the West Coast principles.

Now we see a lot of 3WR, 1 TE, 1 RB on nearly a full-time basis. The slot WR who used to be a part-time play now has a full-time role. Yes, on occasion for short distance plays teams still bring in an extra tight end, or a fullback or a two halfback set. But the real point is, teams don't seem to be good anymore at executing in those formations with 2 TE's or 2 RB's like they used to be. Those personnel grouping probably aren't practiced with any regularity anymore.

What is it about the West Coast personnel that is so essential? I believe it is when you have those extra RB's and TE's in the backfield or aside the tackles, the LB's and S's have a harder time reading what is going to happen with the play and where the play is going. Which player is blocking? Which one is releasing to the flat? If the TE and HB/FB both run a route over the middle, the MLB probably has to pick one to cover and leave the other one open. The defense has to honor the inside run, outside run, screen game, the shot passing play, among other things.

With the west coast de-emphasized, some of the cat and mouse from the pro game seems to be gone. When was the last time you've seen a well-executed HB draw? An actual sweep play? A flea-flicker play that is actually well-executed?

It seems like NFL offenses need to focus less on "finding mismatches" and relying on top-line QB/WR talent, and go back to the play designs that get reliable yardage. The first team to figure out that a return to the west coast fundamentals is in order should have quite a bit of success this year.
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