Seahawks Insider

Offseason rewind: Inside zone running play

Post by Eric Williams on Feb. 2, 2010 at 11:04 am with 34 Comments »
February 2, 2010 11:16 am

This week I thought it would be good to take a look at some of the things the Seahawks did well offensively in 2009. Now, with the offense finishing the year ranked 21st overall, you probably would say not much.

However, I do think there’s a few things new head coach Pete Carroll can take away from the film during his evaluation of the offense. And he can begin to use these things as building blocks for bread-and-butter plays as he revamps the offense for next season.

One of those things is the inside zone running play. While the Seahawks struggled overall to consistently get the zone blocking scheme going, specifically the outside zone running plays, Seattle regularly began to hit the inside zone running plays late in the season.

Part of the reason for that is the type of running backs the Seahawks have. Justin Forsett is a guy who cannot consistently threaten the edge of a defense because he does not have elite speed, like Tennessee’s Chris Johnson. So it’s hard for him to force defenses to commit to getting to the edge of a defense in order for the offense to get the stretch it needs to create cutback lanes.

And Seattle ran the inside zone play well out of multiple formations, which you can check out here, here and here.

Secondly, the Seahawks consistently struggled to get the cut blocks on the backside of the play in order to create those running lanes on the backside.

Seahawks offensive guard Rob Sims talks about the team’s struggles on the outside zone rushing plays here.

[wpaudio url="" text="MP3: Sims on inside zone"]

“I think at the end of year we kind of realized, ‘Yeah we can do wide zone, but it’s going to take a little longer than we thought,’” Sims said. “And we realized that maybe this inside zone thing ain’t too bad.”

However, both Forsett and Julius Jones were successful running the inside zone plays, and that play became a staple of the team’s offense during the last three games when they had a productive running game, with Seattle averaging 128 yards a contest during that stretch.

Another reason for Seattle’s increased production in the running game was the Max Unger and Chris Spencer switching positions. Spencer had trouble getting to the point of attack while handling snapping duties with his off hand, and the switch to Unger allowed the Seahawks to get a quicker, cleaner start at the snap.

The running game has been an important staple for USC, with backs like Reggie Bush and LenDale White having success in a similar scheme for the Trojans. Check out this link to get a better understanding in the differences between the inside and outside zone running play.

Leave a comment Comments → 34
  1. Dukeshire says:

    This is a good feature Eric. I think the inside running really highlights Forsett’s ability. Even in comparison to JJ, he was so more adept at finding holes and hitting them with authority. He is a far better zone runner than Jones. His ability to feel where the holes will develop is maybe his greatest strength. This isn’t to say the Jones doesn’t run hard, because he does, but he didn’t have the same vision or feel for the scheme as Forsett does.

  2. The running game has been an important staple for USC, with backs like Reggie Bush and LenDale White having success in a similar scheme for the Trojans.

    In a game of pure hypotheticals, who would you rather have on the roster? A backfield tandem of Reggie Bush and LenDale White (who both may soon be available), or C.J. Spiller and LeGarrett Blount?

    I am a 100% supporter of Forsett, I love how that guy plays the game. But I’ve come to realize that just because he is the best RB currently on our roster, it doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t be replaced or demoted if there are better options out there.

    Which also happens to be the exact sentiment I have towards Burleson, but only because he is a free agent. I’ll be ok if they cut him loose (I think) as long as they bring in somebody to replace him who would be an upgrade.

  3. Dukeshire says:

    This is not a case for not improving the talent in the backfield.

  4. Drop JJ, pick up a RB in a later round. Like Duke said, lets stay focused on the task at hand, OL and DL. Forsett will work out for the time being.

  5. Great clips, thanks for putting up this type of content, Eric.

    Notable that these guys were beginning to zone block well in the last couple of games, but were still sloppy. Notable also that Carlson was kept in to block on these running plays. That has to stop in order to get him going in the passing game. It was a part of why our pass offense sucked. Also notable that Ben Obamanu was really giving it up blocking on those running plays. He’s a player.

    In the first clip, Warren Moon says “Forsett does a great job of making something out of nothing.” Nonsense. On that play, our O line dominated, and Locklear and Carlson (yes Carlson!) absolutely cleared a path for Forsett with key blocks. Any RB would have had a big play. The only guy Forsett had to beat was as backup Titan’s CB who was faked out of his shoes both plays.

    Third play was all about Chris Spencer (at RG) getting to the LB, grabbing him with a quick hold, and getting away with it to spring Forsett. But let’s face it, we need to do a little better than that next year.

    Let’s hope Alex Gibbs can whip these guys into shape.

  6. Dukeshire says:

    TruBlu – Not sure I’m saying that exactly. If Spiller is there at 14, they’d be very hard pressed to pass him up. But yes, OL and DT need talent upgrades, badly.

  7. TruBlu –
    Dukeshire wrote: “This is “not” a case for “not” improving the talent in the backfield.”

    Double negative can also be read positive: This may be a case for improving the talent in the backfield. Ergo, CJ Spiller at 14 may still be needed to get both an outside zone running scheme as well as the inside zone running scheme Hawks were getting to work late in the season, since Hawks haven’t addressed offensive needs much for some time in the draft.

    Alex Gibbs isn’t known for taking OL early. Maybe 2nd round? Looks kinda like the OL was starting to work their ZBing scheme some in the last few games, but still didn’t see any cut-blocks. But gettin better.

    One thing Holmgren has said is that if he was given the chance to be a GM again, one of the things he would do differently (learned from TR?) was to go D-player in the early draft and bring in vet free agents on the offense. Holmgren had some problems drafting WRs, TEs, even OL-guys in the 1st rounds. That almost stopped with TR (‘cept for Spencer in ’05 – ostensibly to replace Tobeck). Yet, hiring skill players from other teams increases their costs enormously over their rookie contracts, and in the case of RBs, they’re just about to start the downturn of their careers by their 2nd contract. Maybe getting rookie RBs is the better way to go?

  8. HawkyHann says:

    OL,DL, and Safety. Focus people. Dont need a RB. Too many other priorities.

  9. earther says:

    Not to change the subject but if you’re talking about offensive weapons that worked consistently all season long I would say it was Forsett running the ball out of those three wide sets on passing downs. That guy is very good in the open field opportunities that those plays produce.

    Well, maybe I am changing the subject. Sorry.

  10. Dukeshire says:

    Agreed. As well as those bubble screens they would run with him.

  11. HawkyHann says:
    February 2, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    OL,DL, and Safety. Focus people. Dont need a RB. Too many other priorities.

    I will be PISSED if they have someone like Spiller available at 14 and draft a guy that they could get in the 2nd round. We did that WAY too often under Ruskell and sometimes under Holmgren. i.e. Tapp. Drafted way early and everyone was like “he would have been available at their next pick”

    You can NOT draft stricktly for need. You will end up reaching for guys, instead of getting guys who are actually better players.

    We need to have an accurate idea of how guys will fit into “our” system!!!! not just that they were great in college or the did x,y, or z at the combine or pro day. and then draft accordingly!!!

  12. Hopefully we just trade down so we don’t have to worry about pickin’ the BPA and focus on needs.

  13. Tapp was actually supposed to go earlier in the draft and he, unexpectedly, lasted until the end of the 2nd round in ’06. Sure, he hasn’t turned into a 10 sack per year guy that we all want, but we didn’t “reach” (according to the “experts”) to select him.

  14. williambryan says:

    Eric, of the three examples you linked to, only the last one is an example of the success of the inside zone play. The first two videos show how good Forsett is, as he had to make people miss, and run through them to make those plays successful.

  15. Williambryan: I’ll have to respectfully disagree with you on that. I believe the offensive line has it blocked well at the point of attack on all three plays. On two of the three plays the running back isn’t touched until he reaches the second level, which is ideal. On the other play, Forsett shows great vision in cutting it all the way to the backside, where he’s met by the backside corner and makes him miss. Any running back worth his salt should be able to make that guy miss under those circumstances. If not, they have no business being in the league.

  16. Dukeshire says:

    There is something else to consider when when watching those clips: Warren Moon is truly awful, lol. He doesn’t know the players without a roster, stumbles over what he tries to say and generally seem lost. Thank god I don’t have to rely on radio for the games.

  17. JazBadAzz says:

    C.J. spillar would have been in the endzone on those plays, I’ve been thinking long and hard about taking him early but when you watch poor blocking teams with dynamic running backs it makes a world of difference!

    Check out the steelers, jags, panthers, and even look at atlanta after Turner went down, they were not the same team. I like Forsett but he’s just to damn slow to play more than 40% of the game and make teams pay. Ray Rice, MJD, Sporles, or even Slaton(w/o the fumbles) are the same breed as forsett but the speed seperates the sheep from the goats.

  18. elcidvicious says:

    Obviously the O and D lines are a priority in the draft. That said, I can’t believe how many folks are satisfied with a running back that couldn’t make the roster as the third-stringer in Indy. Personally, I’m an advocate of the “best athlete available” philosophy in the draft. Clearly by the end of the draft we will have needed to have upgraded both lines. But I won’t be upset with our early picks as long as the Hawks draft a consensus stud — regardless of position. The early picks will be on the team for at least four or five years, and we need to take the long view.

  19. I wouldn’t say I’m satisfied with RB; I think J-Force needs another, quality back to share carries with. I just don’t think a team with as bad of OL or DL can be focusing too much on other positions.

  20. JazBadAzz says:

    Lefty24: you hit it right on the nail with C.J. Spiller and LeGarrett combo. Just as long as we can get him in the 4th rd and addressed the O-line and D line already. Not having that thrid round pick sucks!

    1st- Russel Okung
    1st- C.J. Spiller
    2nd- Dan Williams or Bruce Campbell BPA.
    4th- Lagarrett Blount
    5th- Trade w/ Branch and next yr 2nd for Brandon Marshall
    6th and 7th- special team players that can contribute.

    Pete likes to score alot so expect some big moves on offense this off season for some eletric players.

  21. fresfan says:

    This blog is a pleasure to read now days. Gone is the “He sucks” “fire whomever” and in its place reasoned viewpoints supporting a position. I was and maybe still am for drafting OL & DL players but have to admit that a player like CJ Spiller would be hard to pass up even though I am a Ryan Mathews fan.

  22. Yeah, Pete likes to score points with talented offensive playmakers. And he’s a defensive guy (like Mora/Ruskell). The 1-up Mr. Happy seems to have on them, however, is that he seems to understand that actually scoring points is important for any defense, especilly a small/fast one. Ruskell drove our offense into the ground trying to build a good D and by ignoring O for so long it actually hurt his D because it was always in a crappy position to be successful even though it got the best FA signings and draft picks; thanks to all the 3-and-outs the O “provided” and playing from behind. The best thing any D can have is a lead so they can be more aggressive.

    One thing people overlook with the Saints, is that their defense isn’t that good on paper… but since they were playing with double digit leads so often it put them in a much better position to be successful and get turnovers. I highly doubt the Saints defense would have been so supposedly good if they would have been playing with our offense. Then again, you can say some of the opposing yardage against them was garbage time stuff that didn’t really matter. But I firmly believe that their defense was greatly helped by their offense being so prolific and a lot of turnovers came because of it.

  23. williambryan says:

    Maybe I could have phrased my post better. By Success I was infering that the plays went for 10+ yards because of the talent of Forsett. The blocking on those plays could have given any back a chance to get at least 3-5 yards, so in that respect they were blocked well, but to me what stood out was Forsett’s ability. I don’t want to say Jones wouldn’t have made those plays, but fans and TV broadcasters (John Lynch, mainly) weren’t calling for Forsett to be the feature back for no reason.

  24. JF ranked 19th in DYAR and 4th in DVOA. Keep JF for interior zone runs, but look at SF. For whatever reason they ran 73% of their runs to the interior (they man-block) and their OL ranked dead last in run-blocking (per Football Outsiders). Defenses clogged SFs interior gaps and F.Gore ended up ranking 20th in both DYAR and DVOA. Did Gore’s injuries slow him from getting to the edge? If SEA doesn’t land CJ Spiller at 14, it will be because SF takes him at 13. Solari will improve SF’s OL like we hope Gibbs will improve ours.

  25. I agree with the philosophy of using the draft to get running backs.

    In fact, given the average number of years most backs are productive, I’d go even farther and say we should almost never sign a running back to his second, or even worse his third NFL contract. It’s a young man’s position.

    If the Seahawks organization can absorb the lessons Alex Gibbs has to teach — how many years will be with us before he goes somewhere else or retires? — there’s no reason we can’t be successful using running backs taken in the third round or later. Not saying we should never take one higher than that! Just that we shouldn’t *need* to. Stick with best player available.

  26. I think we all can agree that a good OL can make a mediocre RB look better than he is.

    And I think we all can agree that a good RB can make a mediocre OL look better than it is.

    But in the grand scheme of things, I believe the OL is more important than the RB. I know there are other important factors in the run game like the blocking ability of FB, TE, and WR (you actually don’t see too many long runs if you don’t have a WR making a key downfield block). Having a deep threat in the passing game is very important too, so defenses can’t totally stack the box; making it much more difficult for the RB AND OL to get a good running game going.

  27. Fourty_five_circa_84 says:

    JazBadAzz says:
    February 2, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    Lefty24: you hit it right on the nail with C.J. Spiller and LeGarrett combo. Just as long as we can get him in the 4th rd and addressed the O-line and D line already. Not having that thrid round pick sucks!

    1st- Russel Okung
    1st- C.J. Spiller
    2nd- Dan Williams or Bruce Campbell BPA.
    4th- Lagarrett Blount
    5th- Trade w/ Branch and next yr 2nd for Brandon Marshall
    6th and 7th- special team players that can contribute.

    Pete likes to score alot so expect some big moves on offense this off season for some eletric players.

    Not bad, but we need to address the safety position. Also I am not sure Denver would go for that deal. Branch’s salary will be a huge deterrent to any trade made.

  28. “same breed as forsett but the speed seperates the sheep from the goats.“ JazBadAzz

    Priest Holmes clocked a 4.75 in the 40 at his Pro Day, Justin Forsett posted 4.62. You would consider them of the same breed – Holmes being all of 5-9 210, Forsett 5-8 190. Both began their careers in the same manor, neither being the feature back. After injury Baltimore chose to draft in 2000 a larger 6-0 240, faster 4.58 40, Jamal Lewis. Becoming a FA in his fourth year, Holmes landed in KC with Dick Vermeil and the luv fest fireworks began. As a feature back Priest Holmes was Football Outsiders #1 back 2001-2003 and #4 overall in 2004.

    Forsett’s 40 time differs 4.54, a low 4.44 and high 4.62 at NFL DRAFT SCOUT. Shaun Alexander clocked a pedestrian 4.58. But scouts tend to reference the 20 yard shuttle for a more accurate measure of a prospects speed or burst needed to hit the opening. Left out is the field vision. Never more frustrating then to watch linemen have the RB run up their backside rather than cut to the open field. Chris Johnson is what I consider a patient runner allowing the block with the elite speed to take advantage of. Jamaal Charles with that same illusiveness will also lower his shoulder and plow on through. How I wish Ruskidiot had drafted him (Man Crush patter patter). LOL. Guess many of you see C.J. Spillar in that light. Watching highlights will showcase his speed but mostly off tackle. How he holds up under the pounding of NFL talent is questionable but those same nay sayers are wishing they had drafted Chris Johnson. However, CJ runs a 4.24, C.J. a 4.37 same as JC but Charles is 6-0 205, C.J. 5-11 195. I’ve heard C.J. Spillar was limited in the weight room because of track and is now expected to bulk up for the NFL.

    Should the Hawks draft Spillar? What I failed to mention above is Priest Holmes KC o-line at that time was considered by most as the best in the NFL. Shaun Alexander, if you ask 12TH Men, shared the same in his hay day. But it is Forsett that one must CONSIDER ! And he has proven to be somewhat successful behind this make shift C_hawk offensive line. Could Spillar share the same success? This year Larry Johnson failed miserably in KC behind the same o-line that Jamaal Charles flourished. But C.J. Spillar draws comparisons to Reggie Bush over at the Saint’s who has been bettered by undrafted Pierre Thomas.

    NFL All-time Rushing Leaders (yards):
    Name: ……………….. Yards:…………..40 yard dash time:
    1. Emmitt Smith – 17,403 ……………4.7
    2. Walter Payton – 16,726 ……………4.6
    3. Barry Sanders – 15,269 …………….4.3
    4. Eric Dickerson – 13,259…………….4.5
    5. Tony Dorsett – 12,739 ……………….4.5
    6. Jerome Bettis – 12,353………………4.5
    7. Jim Brown – 12,312………………….4.4
    8. Marcus Allen – 12,243……………….4.6
    9. Franco Harris – 12,120………………4.7
    10. Thurman Thomas – 12,074………4.3

  29. Does anybody see any Barry Sanders in CJ Spiller?

  30. Tarcat88 says:

    I love the way Forsett runs, but too many times he was caught from behind after breaking into the open. He is a good back but we need a home run threat. The last great back we had we drafted early.

  31. williambryan says:

    Then I think we could all agree that when you get a very good line (including one of the best left sides to ever play) and a great running back, they can lead a team to a super bowl. (and win with a fairly called game)

  32. “The last great back we had we drafted early. ” Tarcat88

    I sure hope you’re talking about Curt Warner! Shaun Alexander’s legacy will forever leave the Hawks as that ‘soft’ team up in Egypt.
    Spillar wears Warners #28. If half the back he’ll be worth it. Knox coveted Warner so that he traded the Hawks 1-9, 2nd & 3rd round with Houston moving up to 1-3. He also sought to upgrade the o-line but of coarse that, as I recall, never did happen. Knox arrived in ’83 and didn’t draft OL until ’89.
    I knew that Chuck Knox would have drafted Bret Favre had it not been for owner Ken Bering but has anyone heard of this proposal before?
    “This we heard: San Francisco had tried to peddle Young earlier this month—first for a pair of first-round draft choices and then for a high first-round selection, in particular that of the Seattle Seahawks, who own the second pick in this Sunday’s draft.”–&hl=en&resnum=8&ei=AnhqS6jyG5HYrgOlzIy4AQ&sa=X&oi=blended&ct=res&cd=8&ved=0CP___________wEQ____________ATAI&source=m&rd=1&

    If true, wow was Bering stupid. How does one with his intellegence build such wealth? First Dan McGwire over Favre then Mirer over Young. Seattle should have ran him off.

  33. Tarcat88 says:

    I agree that Warner was the best back we have ever had, but don’t forget what Alexander did for us either. His last two years should not erase the previous five. Have we ever had a league MVP besides him? During his prime he was awesome. I’m not forgetting the O-line was pretty beastly too, but he made it fun to watch during a five year span.

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