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Frank Reich’s offense: The 2018 Indianapolis Colts | Balance on the ground

NFL: Indianapolis Colts-Training Camp Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past few days I have given you a more intricate look at what I expect the 2018 Frank Reich led Indianapolis Colts offense to look like. I have arrived at this conclusion based on his history as a player and a coach. I will say, that while this is an educated theory (I subjected myself to all 16 San Diego Chargers contests of the 2014 season for this series, you’re welcome) it is at best a theory. We don’t know, beyond a shadow of a doubt what his offense is going to look like, but I feel I can get pretty close considering his influences and what the man himself has said.

This is part 2 of a 2 part series on my expectations for the 2018 Indianapolis Colts offense, this is the final installment (for now) on Frank Reich’s offense. I hope you have enjoyed reading about the Colts new head coach as much as I have enjoyed researching and writing this piece.


The Basics:

  • No identity in Man or Zone blocking scheme, they will use both equally.
  • A stable of backs will be used. Even if there were a “workhorse” back on the roster, Reich rotated backs when given first round running back Melvin Gordon during his time with the Chargers.
  • I expect to see Jack Doyle lined up as an H-back from time to time.
  • Rushing from the shotgun will happen early and often.
  • If he keeps any tendency from his time with the Chargers, if it’s a snap under center, there is a very, very strong possibility it will be a run call. See also: Predictable
  • Multiple backs will be on the field often.

Once again, just like the passing offense is concerned, I cannot be positive I’m correct but I feel strongly given his past work, I’m also not going to spend a ton of time going over the ground game. The zone concepts are all fairly straight forward and largely covered with a single explanation and the man concepts are all run at every single youth football game in the world, again, straight forward. Instead I’ll take a look at one play that I feel will be the run concept that opens up a lot of possibilities for the Frank Reich led Colts.

Split Zone

Split Zone in action:

This looks like a two tight end set and it is, but if you look closely that’s actually an extra tackle lined up next to the left tackle and the man in motion is your second tight end. On this play both linebackers flow hard to fill gaps, they leave a hole open on the other side of the play. Had the extra tackle not had his lunch stolen from him by #99 this play probably picks up a few more yards.

As it stands this play is effective and works through misdirection and a runners ability to digest what he sees in front of him. I once had a friend who coached running backs for a small local college tell me his philosophy was “run where they ain’t.” More or less, run where they ain’t is the heart of the zone run, the split zone is another version.

Bonus Run The RPO:

I know I said I was only breaking down one running play but I wanted to look at the RPO when the QB reads run. The cool thing about this play isn’t the massive hole that opens in the middle of the field. It’s what the pass option does to number 52.

At the snap of the ball the right side (your left) of the line all take zone steps to their right. That tells us this is going to be a zone running play to the right side of the line... except the left guard and tackle drop into a shallow pass set.

So the backside linebacker, in this case number 52, sees what’s in front of him, the LG and LT pass blocking the receiver running a route and bails into coverage which leaves the middle of the field wide open. If Kyle Van Noy wasn’t as good as he is this is a bigger gain than it ended up being, either way it moved the chains.

This isn’t a basic run scheme. This play blends the zone run with a quick pass concept that makes defenders make choices that ultimately determine what the offense does. In short there is no way a defense can win.

Final Thoughts

Frank Reich has been influenced by some of the greatest offensive minds in football history. He’s had an interesting, unusual career as a backup and it seems fitting he was the Colts backup choice as head coach. Looking into Reich’s past leads me to feelings of cautious optimism for the direction of the offense. I’m optimistic because we’re all finally going to see Andrew Luck play in a modern NFL offense. I am skeptical because Reich’s only experience as a play caller was nothing short of bad.

Ultimately I have to believe that coaches, like players, improve with time and experience. Reich is going to be using a good system to win football games in 2018, the question is, has he learned enough to overcome his past failure to capture some of the success he found in Philadelphia?

The one thing I’m sure of, football is back and this is going to be an exciting year no matter what happens.

Frank Reich’s offense: An introduction

Frank Reich’s offense: The Maryland years

Frank Reich’s offense: The NFL years

Frank Reich’s offense: The assistant coaching years, part 1

Frank Reich’s offense: The assistant coaching years, part 2

Frank Reich’s offense: The 2018 Indianapolis Colts, part 1