The toss isn’t a new concept, but it seems that it’s starting to make a bit of comeback as more and more teams have started using it again. The toss play isn’t one that is used often, but it’s great against a defense that is too focused on playing the inside run. Sometimes it's necessary to run just to loosen up the defense.
If you’re going to do it, do it right. A well-executed “crack toss” play usually results in a big play. For the play to work, you need a couple of receivers that aren’t afraid to get physical with guys in the box, a tackle that can move in space, and a back with a little speed.
We’ll take a look at few different variations of the play at the NFL level from the Oakland Raiders, Atlanta Falcons and Los Angeles Rams. Each of these teams have some of the youngest and brightest offensive coordinators in the league, and it’s interesting to see how they put their own twist on this old concept.
Each of these variations have a few things in common:
The play starts with the quarterback taking a reverse pivot and tossing the ball outside to the running back.
There are two “crack” blocks from perimeter players. A crack block is when a player lined up outside blocks a player in the box for an outside run. These blocks are usually big collisions because defenders don’t see these blocks coming at them at full speed until it’s too late.
At least one tackle pulls outside.
There isn’t much attention paid to interior defensive linemen. The theory is that the interior defensive line is too slow to make a play on the toss.
Oakland Raiders Crack Toss
The Raiders offense is in 11 personnel and are in a bunch formation on third-and-short. The Titans defense is in a man-to-man coverage, which will turn out to be advantageous for the offense. The slot receiver Seth Roberts (No. 10) has the most vital block, as he has to crack the defensive end. He makes an excellent block and stalemates a defender that outweighs him by at least 50 pounds.
Michael Crabtree (No. 15), the receiver outside of him, cracks the defensive back that is playing man-to-man on Roberts. Crabtree essentially blocks two defenders because the defensive back that is playing man-to-man on him follows him outside and takes himself out of the play.
This allows tight end Jared Cook (No. 87) and tackle Marshall Newhouse (No. 73) to pull outside in space and lead the way for Jared Richard, who converts the critical third down.
Atlanta Falcons Crack Toss
The Falcons ran the crack toss over and over in the first half of the Super Bowl to help build a 28-3 lead. We all know what happened to the lead, but that’s what we are focused on.
The Falcons start out in a tight right broken-I strong twins left formation, but the fullback motions out wide to the twins side. The New England Patriots corner follows the fullback outside, which makes it more difficult for him to make a play on the toss.
The slot receiver, Mohamed Sanu (No. 12), cracks the defensive end like in the Raiders example. The difference with this toss is that the outside receiver, Julio Jones (No. 11), is responsible for cracking the inside linebacker, which he does exceptionally.
This allows the tackle to pull around and leaves him one-on-one with a defensive back. The tackle throws a cut block that is just good enough for the running back to cut the play back and use his athletic ability to make a play in the open field.
Los Angeles Rams Crack Toss
When a team is in shotgun, defenses will overplay the side away from the running backs alignment, because that’s where the ball is run a majority of the time. Defense linemen will step toward the opposite side of the back’s alignment, but when the ball is tossed toward the side of the back’s alignment, they’ll be out of position to defend the toss.
Remember when I said the theory behind not paying much attention to interior defensive linemen is that they shouldn’t be able to make a play on the toss anyway? That doesn’t apply to Aaron Donald (No. 99). Donald is in a 4i technique and the Redskins try to block reach him with a guard. This is a hard block on a normal defender, but an impossible one against Donald.
Donald steps in the opposite direction of the running back, but is still able to redirect and almost intercepts the toss.
This toss is similar to the Falcons’ crack toss because the outside receiver, Terelle Pryor (No. 11), has to crack the inside linebacker, but instead of going directly at him, he pushes vertically and then takes an angle to crack him. This freezes the defensive back in place and allows for an easier block for the pulling tackle.
The superb blocking on this play clears a lane outside for the running back to finish for a touchdown.
Follow Ted Nguyen on Twitter at @raidersanalysis
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