49ers.com

49ers.com



In an earlier post, I covered the outside zone and the play-action variants that 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan uses in his playbook. Today we'll look at another variant to the play-action Shanahan uses that builds off the running game: the "split zone" and "yankee" concept and how he dresses up the formation for just such a play.

SPLIT ZONE


One variant of the zone running game is the "split zone," a play often run last season by the 49ers under former head coach Chip Kelly. The split zone, as the name implies, aims to "split" the defense in half to create a seam for the ball carrier on the backside of the play. To accomplish this, offenses use what's known as a "sift" block, similar to a wham or trap block.



The blocking remains the same for every other lineman regardless of whether the sift block is added to the inside - or outside - zone runs. The important distinction here is Kyle Shanahan has a variety of ways he runs this play. This particular play is out of a 12 personnel (1 running back, 2 tight ends, 2 wide receivers) package, with the tight ends acting as wing backs, akin to what you'd see out of Navy's triple option.



At the snap, the play-side tight end comes across the formation to kick out the backside unblocked end man on the line of scrimmage (EMLOS) while the back side tight end heads away from the play, taking a linebacker out of the box with him.



As the sift block hits the EMLOS, the left tackle/left guard double team on the defensive tackle flows toward the playside, opening a crease on the backside of the play.



Running back Devonta Freeman hits the open crease for a 10-yard gain.



Here it is out of a single wing formation:



YANKEE CONCEPT


The "Yankee" route combination is a common concept used by teams with speedy wide receivers. Last season, the Falcons employed this route combination with Julio Jones and had success running him deep on several routes, not least among which was this route concept. The "Yankee" concept is a two wide receiver deep crossing combo, with the underneath receiver running a deep over-the-middle route, and the other executing a deep post over the top. Shanahan employed this particular play out of a wing formation utilizing that split zone sift block to sell the run.



The play is most often run on play-action and with max protection due to the length of time needed for the routes to develop and is generally run against cover one or cover three defenses. The Raiders are in a cover three on this particular play while the Falcons show a tight formation with 12 personnel, featuring the wing player to the right of the offensive formation.



The middle of the defense follows the play-action and the flow of the offensive line. The linebackers are drawn in by the zone run fake and the sift block by the wing. The orbit motion (end around) draws another defender across the field.



As this play develops, the Raider secondary plays their responsibilities according to the routes; the deep middle of field safety thinks Jones is running a deep streak route and turns his hips out toward the sideline before Jones cuts to the post. The corner covering the crossing route follows him across the middle.



Jones gets behind the secondary after a bit of hesitation by the defender and completes the play with a 48-yard gain.



And here's the end zone view of the play:



The addition of Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, and Aldrick Robinson and others this week in free agency certainly suggests that Shanahan will look to use these same play designs from his Atlanta playbook in San Francisco. Hopefully this helps you identify certain concepts within the scheme.

All gifs and images courtesy of nfl.com.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference unless otherwise indicated.