Miami Dolphins running back Reggie Bush, a lightning rod for criticism, has had a plethora of detractors since he entered the NFL. Critics have said in the past that he’s the epitome of a “satellite player” thus an antithesis of a traditional running back, but the 2011 season has been different from years past.
Bush has run hard, stayed healthy, carried the ball more and shown that he can battle it out in between the tackles, a weakness of his in the past. A combination of the three culminated into a career-best performance on Sunday against the Bills, a 203-yard rushing effort which is a first for a Dolphin since 2002.
There were several big runs during the game by Bush, most notably a 76-yard scamper for a touchdown in the Orchard Park snow. The big run was the longest of his career and season for the Dolphins. During the touchdown, Bush ran through the ‘alley’ — a running lane for the running back to run through — created in the backside A gap by blockers on the strong side iso lead run concept.
After breaking the huddle, the Dolphins came out in an I formation from 21 personnel with Twins Right (two receivers to the strong side), which features two backs, a single tight end and 8 gaps – in between and outside each offensive end as well as one for the fullback — for the defense to defend because of the personnel grouping. Because of this, the Bills defense had to walk down an extra defender into the box, the weak safety, to counter the gaps presented by the offense. The reason this is done is to have equal ‘hats’ — defenders — at the point of attack against the offensive ‘hats’ — blockers.
Along with the safety walked down into the box, the Bills went to a 40 front with their line overshifted and the weak side linebacker on the line of scrimmage. What this front does is leave the side away from the tight end uncovered because the defensive tackle, who is in a 3 technique (outside shoulder of guard), is to the right.
The nose tackle on this play is in a 1 technique (outside shoulder of center) to the weak side (the left). Meanwhile, in this front, the weak side linebacker is on the line of scrimmage in a 9 technique, which is along the outside shoulder of the tight end who is pictured on the left, as opposed to being off the line.
After the snap is where the great execution by the Dolphins offensive line and skill players took place. The run concept of choice here is ‘strong iso lead’, which is an old school running play that is run to the strong side (the right) of the formation from I-formation by the running back, who is escorted by the fullback.
To the left of the formation, the weak side, tight end Anthony Fasano (80) and left tackle John Jerry (74) are expected to administer a man block known as a ‘kick out’ block on the weak side linebacker (WILL) and defensive end. This is done by attacking the inside shoulder of the defender and driving him away from the run.
While the tight end and tackle execute their man blocks, the right guard (68) and center (51) are to combo — combination — block the Bills nose tackle, who is aligned in a 1 technique across the outside shoulder of the center. Because the nose tackle crashed hard down the line of scrimmage and across the center’s face, the left guard took a step to the strong side and helped block the nose tackle before releasing to the second level to block the middle linebacker (MIKE). This block would prove to be crucial in creating an alley for Bush to run through, as will be seen later.
The final two offensive linemen to the right (72 and 71) are expected to execute man blocks by again attacking the inside shoulder of the defenders, like the tight end and left tackle did, and driving them out away from the run. Another key block on this play comes from the fullback, Charles Clay (31), who shoots through the A gap — area between the center and right guard — to widen the linebacker by attacking the outside shoulder.
Last, the running back’s job on this play is to be patient in his reads. He must let the blocks develop and then identify the running lane created.
The Dolphins blockers do a great job of latching onto defenders and most importantly, sustaining blocks as they drive the defenders back in efforts to create a running lane for Bush (22).
Once center Mike Pouncey (51) has control and leverage of the nose tackle, left guard Richie Incognito (68) peels off the combo block and gets to the second level to create an alley for Bush and spring him to daylight.
As the image details above, the run was designed to run to the strength of the formation, in the direction of the strong side, where the execution of the combo block by the right guard and center as well as the lead block played a significant role in making this a successful run play.
Once the holes are created by the blockers, he ends up bringing it back to the weak side, hitting the weak side A gap (between 68 and 51 where the alley is) and is able to outrun the angle taken by the strong safety, who was late filling the alley.
Bush’s successful first season in a Dolphins uniform has made many doubters quiet down and fans forget about past running back talents such as Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. While Bush’s success has been a surprise to many, it hasn’t to him, as he explained to the Washington Post, “I don’t think any of the questions bother me. It was more the lack of opportunity that bothered me. I know what I can do when given the right opportunity.” Bush and his blockers go into Foxboro to face the New England Patriots in Week 16. This run concept, as well as many others, will be key to defeating the arch rival Pats.