How did the 2018 spring game compare to the regular season? (cont.)
The Spring game also simplified the backfield formations, using only 2 simple single back alignments; hybrid shotgun and single deep ‘ace’ under center. They used under center plays a fair bit more during the Spring (22% of plays) than in the regular reason (15% of plays).
They had live tackle on the QBs, which I think contributed to those antsy QBs running quite a bit on called pass plays. The QBs (Devon Modster, Austin Burton, Jackson Gibbs) took off running on 8 of 33 called pass plays (25% of the time!). Matt Lynch was the only Spring QB without a carry on a called pass play. In the regular season, Speight and DTR only ran the ball on 32 of 468 called pass plays (7% of the time). This is one illustration of the improvement in the pass protection line play and QB poise from Spring to the regular season.
The Spring run game, in general, was a shadow of what it would become throughout the year. The single most surprising thing about the Spring game scheme was the fact that they had not yet installed the Inside Zone Read. The foundation of the Spring shotgun run game was actually the Outside Zone Read. The offense in real games used the IZR for more than 50% of their run play calls and run yards, but they seem to have almost completely deferred working on it until the Summer. I would have never thought this could be the case if I hadn’t gone back and logged it. Add the rationale for this approach to the list of questions I would love to hear Chip Kelly answer. Did Chip plan to look more OZR based, and things changed over the summer and early season… or was this a deliberate install sequencing plan? The only successful IZR plays (two out of the four they ran) were QB keeps, so the offensive line wasn’t able to block this underdeveloped play effectively for the running backs.
The OZR in Spring fit the regular season profile of highest risk (lowest success rate) and highest reward (best YPP) run play but was much less productive (just like every other run play). The Spring OZR run blocking employed both traditional zone blocking and sweep principles we would later become much more familiar with. Obviously, the Spring had nothing exotic like Tackle-Over (unbalanced line) going on.
The runs from under center were a sight to behold because the linebackers knew that 90% of the under center playbook was run plays. Every time the offense lined up under center, all three linebackers swarmed right at the running back and arrived together in the backfield as he was receiving the hand-off. The 1.7 YPP and 38% success rate for Spring Non-Mesh running just tells us that that the linebackers knew the playbook limitations at that time. This was definitely one of the most amusing things from my re-watch. This is one area where we should expect more interesting variation from the 2019 Spring game since they won’t be struggling through the most basic installs anymore.