Breaking Down Why the Two-Tight End Offense Is the Best in the NFL

Discussion in 'Chicago Bears' started by BSBEARS, Aug 12, 2014.

  1. BSBEARS

    BSBEARS Pro-Bowler

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    The most dominant offense in the NFL isn't the spread, the read-option or the pistol. The best offense in today's NFL is the two-tight end attack.
    It's fast becoming a major part of every pro playbook. The set has revitalized the tight end position and made it as important as wide receiver or running back.
    The New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers have made the dual tight end look their de facto offense of choice. Each has been used to dominate their respective conferences in recent seasons.
    Just what makes the two-tight end set so appealing in the modern offense? The first reason is how it can defeat the modern defense of choice.
    The two-tight end set is a 3-4 beater. A great example comes from Week 2 of the 2012 season, with the Philadelphia Eagles taking on the Baltimore Ravens.
    The Eagles line up with both tight ends, Brent Celek and Clay Harbor, on the same side of the formation.

    [​IMG]
    The Eagles align both tight ends together on the same side.


    The Eagles will use both tight ends to nullify the pass rush on that side of the Ravens' 3-4 front. They'll also free Celek behind the linebacker level of the defense.
    Celek runs his in-breaking route over the middle. He first bumps the outside linebacker and draws him away from his pass rush. Harbor blocks down on the wide rushing defensive end.

    [​IMG]
    The Eagles' two tight ends outwit the Ravens' 3-4 look.


    With Celek now behind the underneath coverage, the Eagles use their wide receivers to split Baltimore's deep coverage. The wideouts are aligned together on the opposite side but run diverging routes at the snap.
    The inside receiver runs a crossing pattern towards the middle. This draws the uncovered cornerback on the opposite side away fromCelek.
    Meanwhile the outside receiver runs a vertical pattern. His route draws three defenders, including both safeties.


    [​IMG]
    The Eagles use their wide receivers to free a tight end over the middle.


    With all of that coverage taken deep and occupied, Celek is wide left wide open over the middle. He would complete the play for a 23-yard gain.

    [​IMG]
    The two-tight end look has split the 3-4 defense and Celek is wide open.


    His initial route has taken one outside linebacker away from the pass rush. Despite a blitz from one of the inside linebackers, the Eagles have enough blockers because Harbor stays in to help.

    [​IMG]
    The extra tight end is a vital help in the blocking scheme.


    The Eagles' two-tight end look has successfully split the 3-4 defense in two and created a big gain. With more teams using the 3-4 to confuse quarterbacks, the two-tight end offense is a great equalizer.
    As well as the two-tight end set counters the 3-4, it's also an excellent answer to the blitz. The Patriots showed one way the look defeats pressure during their Week 14 rout of the Houston Texans.
    In this play, the Patriots move their two tight ends off the line. They split Aaron Hernandez out as a wide receiver, while MichaelHoomanawanui lines up in the slot on the same side.


    [​IMG]
    The Patriots move both tight ends off the line to spread out the linebackers.


    The Texans are in their base, 1-gap 3-4 look and are preparing a blitz. The Patriots are anticipating pressure and are targeting inside linebacker Bradie James (53) in the slot.

    [​IMG]
    The two-tight end set targets the man coverage behind the blitz.


    Once the Texans bring their blitz, Hoomanawanui runs a vertical route straight past James. The linebacker is easily outmatched in one-on-one coverage.

    [​IMG]
    Most tight ends will defeat a linebacker in man coverage.


    James would give away a critical penalty that kept alive a scoring drive. Most tight ends will defeat a linebacker in single coverage and that's the main problem defenses have.
    They are challenged to cover tight ends running increasingly expansive patterns, from more daring alignments. Linebackers aren't fast enough to cover them and defensive backs aren't big enough.
    If they don't release into pass routes, tight ends stay in to block and reduce the threat of a blitz. That's one of the main problems presented by the two-tight end offense.
    It asks the defense the question, exactly what are those tight ends going to do once the ball is snapped?
    Here's another look at the Patriots in action, this time in Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans. It shows the problems defenses have identifying the positioning and intentions of two tight ends.
    This time the Patriots have lined up Hernandez in the backfield, as a H-back on one side. On the other side, Rob Gronkowski is aligned in the slot.


    [​IMG]
    The Patriots move their tight ends all around the formation.


    The Titans have shifted over one of their linebackers towards Hernandez. By placing one tight end in the backfield, the Patriots have successfully forced the Titans to shift to the strength of the formation.
    The Patriots then bring Gronkowski across in motion, to the same side as Hernandez. That splits the linebacker out even further into a pass mode.


    [​IMG]
    The Patriots motion one tight end across to spread out one side of the defense.


    It also occupies the safety on that side. He now has to account for three receivers on his side, the two tight ends and the wideout.
    The Patriots now have the Titans in a serious bind. Their two-tight end look is presenting an obvious run strength on one side.
    However, in the event of a pass on that side, the Titans know at least one of the Patriots' tight ends will be covered by a linebacker. That's an obvious mismatch.
    In reality the Patriots have used the positioning and movement of their tight ends to force a shift from the Titans. Their real intention is to free Gronkowski on an underneath route going the other way.


    [​IMG]
    Gronkowski will creep behind the linebackers.


    With a fake handoff and Hernandez staying in to block, the Titans guess run and flow towards the ball. Meanwhile Gronkowski releases free behind the linebackers for an easy 28-yard gain.

    [​IMG]
    With one tight end acting as a decoy, the other releases for a big gain.


    This is a classic example of how the two-tight end set can be used to manipulate the look and strength of a defense. Hernandez was merely the decoy on this play and it is common for one tight end to act as the foil for the other.
    Using this deception to spread a defense and split its coverage, is something more and more two-tight end offenses are doing. An play from the 49ers' titanic struggle with the Patriots in Week 15, provides a great example.
    The 49ers used their two tight ends to create a four-wide receiver, spread look. They aligned Delanie Walker and Vernon Davis in each slot.

    [​IMG]
    The 49ers use the two-tight end set to form a spread look.


    Davis is the danger man and the 49ers want the Patriots to shift their coverage towards him. They are challenging New England's 2-man scheme.
    The Niners know the Patriots will use man coverage underneath and hope both deep safeties will go towards Davis. That's exactly what happens as Davis runs a vertical route straight up the seam.

    [​IMG]
    One tight end draws the attentions of two safeties.


    The 49ers know they have man coverage on the other side. Walker and flanker Randy Moss are also running vertical routes. Now the deep safety on that side is out of position to cover those verticals.


    [​IMG]
    The 49ers' two-tight end set has freed a vertical route for an outside receiver.


    The threat posed by the 49ers' use of the two-tight end set helps them beat three defenders with two receivers. The result was a 24-yard touchdown pass to Moss.
    This is just one more way the two-tight end offense outfoxes a defense and adds greater dimensions to the passing game.
    Proponents of the two-tight end attack are moving their tight ends all over the formation. They are creating individual mismatches and splitting coverage schemes in two.
    More teams around the NFL are taking notice of how dangerous the multiple tight end set can be. The NFL draft saw several teams usehigh picks on tight ends, despite already being stocked at the position.
    The most notable example came in the first round. The Cincinnati Bengals used the 21st overall pick to add Tyler Eifert to the dynamic talents of Jermaine Gresham.

    Tyler Eifert gives the Bengals a dangerous two-tight end set.

    That's a combination that should worry AFC North defenses. It already has BenJarvus Green-Ellis making Gronkowski-Hernandez comparisons.
    However, the Bengals weren't the only ones loading up at tight end. The Kansas City Chiefs selected Travis Kelce in the third round, despite Tony Moeaki being on the roster.
    The Chiefs also signed Anthony Fasano in free agency. They now have the potential to run a plethora of plays from a two-tight end look.
    New head coach Andy Reid is one of the best two-tight end play-callers in the league. He now has the weapons to match his ideas.

    The Washington Redskins raised a few eyebrows when they selected Jordan Reed in the third round. Yet the wide receiver in a tight end's body will be a great pick, alongside Fred Davis and Logan Paulsen.

    Jordan Reed will prove to be a smart pick by the Redskins.

    The 49ers lost Delanie Walker in free agency, but have no plans to abandon the two-tight end attack. They proved that by moving up in the second round to select Vance McDonald.

    The two-tight end offense is gaining in popularity and for good reason. It has expanded the ways offenses can dictate defensive alignments, coverages and pressures.
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  2. BSBEARS

    BSBEARS Pro-Bowler

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    Much discussion on the 2 TE set now so thought I would share this. The Bears face several 3-4 defenses this year and a 2 TE set will be nice to have in the playbook. This is another reason during the draft I really was hoping for a TE. After the first preseason game it appears we may have some decent depth at the TE position allowing us to play some 2 TE sets.

    This article does a nice job explaining some of the benefits on a 3-4 base defense but it causes similar mismatches in the 4-3 defense. Its one more thing opponents need to plan for and with our WR's and Forte this is a headache for defenses. Once M. Wilson gets back from injury we could exploit many defenses shifting between 3 WR and 2 TE sets. I look forward to seeing Trestman set up the defenses with his genius on the offensive side, the playbook just became a lot larger. Glad to hear the Bears were playing 2 TE sets opening practice today
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  3. billatter

    billatter Veteran

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    Interesting stuff.

    I wonder if the NFL Ds will go the same route as the CFL to handle this. Up here slotbacks function much the same as the article describes for TEs and NFL sized OLBs would not be able to cover them. So CFL teams have trended to using lighter, faster OLBs, often former DBs, to cover the slotbacks. They use speed and deception, rather than size, to blitz and respond to the run. Our MLBs are often NFL size or close to it, but these days the OLBs are 190-220 lbs. often with 4.3-4.5 speed and good cover skills.

    One benefit in doing this -- they're interchangeable with DBs so we see plays like safeties bitzing and one OLB dropping into deep coverage, replacing the safety.

    This vid shows one of the OLBs (#11) for Montreal dropping deep, playing safety and making the interception while the safety blitzed and laid a lick on the QB.
    View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iyy2o1A6OOY
    This defensive play worked like a charm as usually one slotback is tasked with changing his route on a safety blitz to take advantage of what should be man coverage deep over the middle. So it's a nasty surprise when the OLB was sitting 35-40 yards deep waiting to scoop up the INT.
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  4. Bearsinhouston

    Bearsinhouston Position Coach

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    Interesting...
  5. JustAnotherBearsFan99

    JustAnotherBearsFan99 Coordinator SuperFan DBS Writer

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    Lethal weapon for sure. Thanks for posting this.
    Good receiving TE's are now extremely valuable to teams.
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  6. jackiejokeman

    jackiejokeman Pro-Bowler

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    I almost won a FFL SUPERBOWL in 2011 with a two TE set.

    Grontkowski and Witten.

    The first to do it when everyone else was thinking RB/WR in the FF league.

    Goddamn you Eli Manning ! That was the downfall.

    Oh well.

    The TWO TE set is the future ... for now.

    Bennett and we needed a second, Miller.

    Lets get it going.
  7. Bearstuff

    Bearstuff Yes, in the woods. Staff Member SuperFan

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    That article is over a year old (maybe two - Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez??), but I get the concept. The NFL is a copycat league, so I'm sure everyone will flirt with it a little, but I'd venture to say with diminishing results, particularly over time. Truth is that defenses have already began to adjust. Billater provided the example of how it could be done, and with the better athletes in the NFL it doesn't necessarily require a shift in personnel philosophy.

    Don't think I'm saying it can't work. It can. I'm just saying that like most NFL fads it has a useful lifespan. Remember the wildcat?

    We have a great schematic coach. I trust him to exploit mismatches in a variety of ways. I'm sure we'll line up double TE's some, but I'd be disappointed if we relied upon it heavily. Sprinkling things in is always better than leaning on a crutch.
  8. Bearstuff

    Bearstuff Yes, in the woods. Staff Member SuperFan

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    PS - everyone is hyped about Miller. Heck, I'm optimistic about what he could do too......IF HE REMAINS HEALTHY. He hasn't yet done that in the NFL, so I hope for a pleasant surprise. Until then, we shouldn't go gaga over a fad.
  9. BSBEARS

    BSBEARS Pro-Bowler

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    I realize it is an older article but the concepts still work. Not sure putting smaller speedier LB will work in NFL. People will run at them and let the defense dictate the offesive play. JMHO. Trestman coming from the CFL has seen what they are doing there and still implementing it so.... that tells us something.
  10. billatter

    billatter Veteran

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    The 49ers formation in the article is the NFL equivalent to what Edmonton was running in the video. The only difference, an extra receiver and the waggle. The patsies don't have a LB on Davis, which if they had, would've left the safeties free to concentrate on the most dangerous vertical (Moss). That is how it would've been defended here. It isn't rocket science to cover these formations.

    Putting an LB on Davis leaves the RB uncovered if he squeezes out to pick up a dump pass, but in theory if you're rushing five, the RB should be otherwise occupied. A weak pass rush would lead to a first down and more by the RB. That that's the chance taken when the LBs leave the middle open to cover the deep routes. Like any play, it requires everyone to do their job.
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  11. riczaj01

    riczaj01 DaBears Ditka DBS Writer

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    See Shea Mac, oh wanna put a smaller faster guy on the Bigger stronger TE, not only are we just going to play basketball pitch/catch but we're going to block your LB w/the TE and let the RB run right by him.

    They'll need to get taller, more physical CB's to handle the new NFL TE's.
  12. billatter

    billatter Veteran

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    That happens here too. In the last Winnipeg - Toronto game, Winnipeg went with three light LBs and a very sophisticated coverage involving all eight, so Toronto just ran the ball down their throats. The key to that was the manhandling the Toronto O-Line delivered. If Winnipeg's D-Line had offered more resistance, their light LBs wouldn't have been so exposed.

    Trestman had the best coverage OLB in the league in Chip Cox working for him (#11 in the video), so he's very familiar with all of the Xs and Os associated with these formations.
  13. billatter

    billatter Veteran

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    And then the Chris Williams type WR will blow right by these new CBs. How about TE sized OLBs? Same athleticism as the TEs they're defending, just giving up a bit of weight in the run game.
  14. Bearstuff

    Bearstuff Yes, in the woods. Staff Member SuperFan

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    A few things:
    1)Older article indicates that NFL defenses have had longer to see and adjust to such formations.
    2)As I said, the athleticism of NFL players likely means you don't have to sacrifice size in order to get the speed necessary to defend the scheme.
    3)Trestman hasn't necessarily "implemented" anything, one mention of Zach Miller lining up in a dual TE set doesn't mean we are shifting our entire offensive philosophy, it simply means we ran a couple of plays in training camp. No need to project.
    4)It's a fad. I mentioned the wildcat, but I can also mention dual TE's to run behind, 4 wideouts, 2RB sets, fullbacks, flankers, and even T formations. Everything rises and falls in the NFL.
    5)It's not the scheme that makes things successful, it is the successful marriage of scheme, personnel, mismatches and an element of surprise (lack of prep on defensive side).

    Look, I'm not poo poo'ing the scheme, I'm just not going to get worked up about a fad that has already peaked in my opinion. There is still success to be had via the scheme, but to a lesser degree than it garnered last year, or even more so 2 years ago. If defenses are planning to see it, then you've removed one of the essential elements towards unfettered success.
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  15. riczaj01

    riczaj01 DaBears Ditka DBS Writer

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    If you are running 2 TE sets, then you don't have a small fast WR on the field also, at least not one that is going to be covered by the same CB as the 2 TE's.
  16. JustAnotherBearsFan99

    JustAnotherBearsFan99 Coordinator SuperFan DBS Writer

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    I don't think this is a fad, but I could be wrong. I see it as just one more option/weapon to attack defenses with. I agree that the wildcat was a fad, but my gut feeling is that this is different.....it will be a useful weapon in future years. But I could be wrong.
  17. riczaj01

    riczaj01 DaBears Ditka DBS Writer

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    it's not the wildcat b/c the ball is still going through the qb, not a rb(wildcat). Depending on where the O's resources are this is a legit option that D's will be forced to try plan against, and that will be harder then normal b/c not every team is going to have 2 TE's worthy of throwing to.
  18. billatter

    billatter Veteran

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    Bottom line, all I'm trying to point out is:

    a) there's nothing new in these formations

    b) the defensive responses are already well established

    c) Trestman already knows A and B very well.
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  19. Henry Burris

    Henry Burris Head Coach

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    I thought this was common knowledge.
  20. Bearsinhouston

    Bearsinhouston Position Coach

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