The Scouting Academy Shows Us Blocking Tight Ends Are Not Totally Extinct!
By FirstDown PlayBook on Nov 26, 2020

By Will Cinelli, The Scouting Academy

On most Thursdays FirstDown PlayBook brings you a special treat here on the Coaches Community website. We feature a breakdown of personnel and technique provided by our friends over at The Scouting Academy who are our go to experts in this field

The tight end position has evolved in recent years. Many of the men who play this position are just slot receivers who go by a different name.

However, there is still a role in the modern NFL for a tight end who can block and catch. Minnesota’s Irv Smith Jr. illustrates how an effective blocker at the TE position can take a team’s run game to the next level. The Vikings here are utilizing a Power run scheme to the strong side of the formation, Smith’s side. This is absolutely the look Minnesota wants to run this play into, as they have a numbers advantage. They have 7 blockers that should take care of all of Detroit’s box defenders.

But numbers will only take you so far. The players still have to execute their technique to win the rep. Let’s examine Smith here. His assignment on the front side of the Power scheme is to work back to the backside LB, #58. But what really makes this play effective is the little extra work he does here. He takes just the right track, tight to the right tackle. The old teaching point we used to coach was to work through the near hip of the down defender.

So Smith is working through the hip of the 3-technique, #97. If the defender works the B-gap, away from Smith, he’ll let it go and work to the LB. But because #97 tries to cross the tackle’s face, now Smith can get a nice piece of the defender.

A good shot to the ribs that #97 does not see coming and therefore cannot brace himself against. That produces tremendous movement and now there’s a substantial hole right where Minnesota is trying to fit this run behind the pulling LG.

What’s important to note here, though, is that even as he gives the 3-technique a punch on the way by, Smith doesn’t take his eyes off his LB. He gets skinny and avoids contact with #59, who is filling downhill. He gets a nice fit on #58 at the second level.

Because of the numbers advantage, plus the scheme that takes the weak-side DE out of the play with backfield action, Minnesota actually has two down-blockers for #58, so the LG is able to get there a second later to provide backup for Smith.

Just a great scheme to run into this look, but what ultimately makes schemes work is players executing their assignment at a high level to maximize the results. And that’s what Smith gives the Vikings on this play.

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