Brian Baldinger of the NFL Network does a great job of explaining why these 4 concepts could work for Kliff Kingsbury and his K-Raid in the NFL. Here are my takeaways on the 4 plays as well.
Formation: Trips LEFT to short side of field, with TE also to that side, tight to the line, but one step back. Shotgun with QB and RB in pistol (RB directly behind QB).
Play call, READ OPTION RIGHT.
Key: QB is reading the DE (edge). If the DE tries to play both the RB and the QB, the QB will keep the ball and run wide to the right.
Why the play is clever: Kingsbury knows that if the DE bites, his QB has one man to beat to the pylon. If that QB is Kyler Murray, as they say, fuggettaboutit.
How NFL DCs will counter: with 4 receivers to the short side of the field, the defense will switch into a zone and keep their alignment balanced. The 4 receivers are so bunched that DCs will think the 4 WRs could be zoned by 3 players (2 under and 1 deep).
KK’s counter to the DC’s counter---check into an RPO (run-pass option), same read option to the RIGHT but drag 2-3 of the receivers over the middle behind the linebackers in the zone. One of the WRs is bound to be wide open.
Formation: 2 TEs (tight to formation), 2 WR on opposite sides. Shotgun with QB behind center and RB lined up over the G to the QB’s LEFT. Right side (short side) WR motions toward wide side but then reverse motions back---this is to check if the defense is playing man or zone---in this case no DB or LB chases, so they know it’s a zone.
Play call: X FAKE SLANT FADE LEFT.
Key and why it’s clever: the X WR wants to sell the slant and make the CB play inside leverage so that when the X WR stops and turns for the fade he has almost 1/3 of the end zone worth of room.
How NFL DCs will counter: have the CB play the X WR straight up and have the FS sit on the slant so that the CB can sit on the fade or jump the out pass.
KK’s counter to the DC’s counter: When he and the QB sees that the FS is shading toward the X WR, that’s when the door is open to run the RIGHT SIDE TE on a quick POST, literally to the goal post..
Formation: DOUBLE TWINS IN BUNCH FORMATION (WRs on l.o.s. 2 yards wide of tackles with slot WRs tucked in on the outside legs of the tackles. Wide flanker (out of picture to start) MOTIONS NEXT TO QB’s LEFT.
Play call: FAKE READ OPTION RIGHT, SHOVEL PASS SLOT WR JET SWEEP LEFT.
Key and why it’s clever: Classic misdirection QB sleight of hand counter play. The fake is so good the defense can’t adjust in time.
NFL DC’s counter: to tell his edge players to keep contain and turn the plays inside---the DE to the playside gets trapped inside and gives up contain and with it, a TD.
KK’s counter to DC’s counter: knowing that next time the edge players will try to keep contain, then cut the jet sweep inside as BA did with Larry Fitzgerald in the Wild Card OT win versus the Packers.
Formation: TWINS (TE tight to line LEFT with slot WR to his outside shoulder behind line---and X RIGHT, with slot WR motioning to LEFT). Shotgun, RB to LEFT of QB. QB waits for slot WR to get to a stop all the way wide to the LEFT (creating a 4 receiver side to the left---just like the Play 2 only it’s now to the wide side of the field instead of the short side). Seeing as in Play 2 they loaded one side of the field to create a one-on-one matchup for the X WR, the defense is going to think they are doing the same thing.
Play call: Fake QB DRAW RIGHT, Throwback screen to RB LEFT with 3 receivers setting the blocks.
Key and why it’s clever: the defense gets so worried about the QB threatening to run that it flows toward the ball, leaving them too far way from the back side or at perfect angles to be blocked by the 3 receivers.
NFL DC’s counter: zone it like this opponent did, but the LB to the side of the RB got influenced toward the fake QB draw, while the RB was slipping out wide to the left. Thus, the DC has to make sure that his linebackers stay home and react quickly that lengthy a pass to blow up the play.
KK’s counter to DC’s counter: tell the QB to run the ball next time...there’s one LB to beat and if the X WR can block the CB, it’s a TD. This throwback screen is actually a counter to the read option call in Play 1.
* Overloading the short side to creating equal numbers to the wide side of the field---with fast runners and big WRs, this means favorable isolation matchups.
* Note----overloading any side of a zone is a good thing to do to stretch and break the zones.
* Note---the adjustment KK will have to make in the NFL is the hash marks are not nearly as wide. But the basic concepts of these plays should still work.
* Misdirection---get the LBs to bite and then counter and/or go opposite.
* Create as much clear space for end zone throws as possible.
* Use QB as a nifty ballhandler. Don’t keep him stationary for too long. Shift the pocket from time to time.
* Notice KK using TEs more than one might originally think---flexed---and tight---and off-set (H-back style).
* Use motion to load one side or balance one side---but, n both cases---to see if the defense is playing man or zone.
* Note---in all 4 plays the defense is playing zone. That is no coincidence because when DCs know Kingsbury is playing a numbers game on the defense and employing all kinds of misdirection, the DC would prefer to keep a balanced formation. Just think of what adding and accurate thrower and swift running QB like Kyler Murray means to that equation. Again---the Cardinals are going to see more zones than ever before. Teams won’t want to risk vacating parts of the field.
* Plus, the spread forces defenses to line up wider away from the box than they would like. That’s why the widening of the box makes for more exploitable numbers in the running game.
Thanks to Brian Baldinger for his excellent video.
By the way---these concepts are by no means exotic---as Mike Leach has been saying all along, Air Raid concepts are more and more prevalent in the NFL today. The key is acquiring the right players with the right skills to make these concepts work.