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December 1, 2011 • Football

Using Your Quarterback In The Running Game: Zone Read

The gun zone read is something Nielson uses at Duluth. He says his squad runs zone read off both the inside and outside zone action of the shotgun.

Over the past couple of years, he admits, defenses have become more adept at defending this series, so he has created variations off the base zone-read concept to provide more ways to attack the defense with the ball in the QB’s hands.

In Nielson’s base zone-read concept, the QB is typically reading the pursuit path and technique of the end defender on the line of scrimmage to determine if he should keep the ball or give it to the running back. Nielson also says teams are become more advanced in how they defend his running game.

“Defensive teams now are utilizing a variety of techniques to confuse the QB by running chase-and-twist schemes, fold schemes or scrape schemes where they will account for the QB with different personnel,” Nielson says. “As a result, we have added to our base zone-read scheme by adjusting our backside blocking and reading different defenders. These variations have helped us make the QB a more complex running threat in this series.”

Nielson Diagram 1DIAGRAM 1: Base Read Vs. Odd Front. Against an odd front, the QB reads the end defender (in this case the defensive tackle) to determine his course of action (keep or hand off).Nielson Diagram 2DIAGRAM 2: Base Read Vs. Event Front. Against an even front, the QB spies the defensive end to determine if he should keep the ball or give it to the running back next to him.

Nielson also incorporates a zone read “lock” adjustment for the QB to read the outside linebacker position or an overhang defender when the DE is being base-blocked by the offensive tackle.

When this read progression results in a keep read by the QB, he may run a tighter or inside course and cut off the OT’s base block. Utilize this variation against teams that run a twist or chase scheme with a down lineman and an outside LB. Nielson normally runs this read adjustment off his outside-zone action.

Nielson Diagram 3DIAGRAM 3: Lock Read Vs. Odd Front. Against an odd front when the Will LB is set to the outside of the line, the QB reads the Will to determine if he is going to keep the ball or hand it off.Nielson Diagram 4DIAGRAM 4: Lock Read Vs. Even Front. In an even front, the Will is situated farther off the line of scrimmage but the QB still reads him to determine his course of action.

When defenses are scraping the inside LB over the top to play the QB in your zone read, try the “fan” blocking adjustment, suggests Nielson. In this adjustment, you fan-block with the backside guard and tackle while simulating a front-size zone-blocking scheme.

This variation becomes a predetermined QB running play, as it results in a zone iso-type play with the QB normally following the running back through the A-gap seam. Run this concept off inside-zone action, as it puts the back on a better path to lead block on the inside LB if necessary.

Nielson Diagram 5DIAGRAM 5: Fan Read Vs. Odd Front. The QB reads the Mike LB. As mentioned, the QB typically ends up running through the A-gap with a lead block from the RB.Nielson Diagram 6DIAGRAM 6: Fan Read Vs. Even Front. The read for the QB in this situation is the Will LB. Again, the QB most likely ends up keeping the ball and running through the A-gap with a lead block from the RB.

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