Justin Forsett was a journeyman runningback before 2014 playing with the Seahawks, Colts, Texans, and Jaguars. After the starting two runningbacks were suspended or injured, Forsett became the starter and never relinquished his role totaling 1,266 yards on 235 carries. In this breakdown you will see how Justin Forsett fits into Kubiak’s zone-blocking scheme utilizing his patience and vision to find cutback lanes.
Forsett – 24 rushes, 129 yards, 5.4 ypc, 2 receptions on 2 targets for 17 yards and 1 TD, 1.9 YCo/att, 1 missed tackle
The inside zone run is a staple of the zone-blocking scheme that Gary Kubiak runs for the Ravens. To start the play, the offensive lineman pre-snap determines if he is covered or uncovered. Covered means there is a defensive lineman driectly in front of him. If there is a defensive lineman in front of him, he blocks his man forcing him off of the line of scrimmage. If the offensive lineman is not covered, he blocks his man to the playside zone as a double-team with his team-mate. Once the runningback takes the ball, the defenders will read the run and react to the positioning of the runningback to the seal the gaps. Depending on which defender is present alongside the original defensive lineman, one disengages to reach the second level to block the closest linebacker in the path or safety that is in the box on run support. Let’s take a look at some inside zone runs in Plays 1 and 2.
Situation: 1st and 10 at BAL 21
Description: Q1 – (10:44) J.Forsett left tackle to BLT 31 for 10 yards (D.Hightower; J.Collins).
Running Play: Singleback Inside Zone
Forsett takes the handoff and immediately reads LT74 Hurst and the double-team block by LG72 Osemele and C53 Zuttah. Hurst does a good job sealing LB95 Jones out of the play, while the double-team effectively moves DE96 Siliga from penetrating into the backfield.
Forsett does a good job of following his blockers up the field and then cutting around them once the lane is sealed. In order for this play to be even more effective, RG64 Urschel has to do a better job of engaging LB54 Hightower in space. Once Urschel hits the gap to block Hightower, he stops moving his feet and lunges forward. This is a terrible approach to engage Hightower who is obviously much quicker in space and easily gets by him to tackle Forsett from behind.
Situation: 1st and 10 at BAL 25
Description: Q2 – (9:26) J.Forsett left tackle to BLT 37 for 12 yards (D.McCourty; P.Chung).
In this play, Forsett cuts inside to pull LB91 Collins up the field so he can explode outside for a large gain.
As a variation, the Ravens ran the inside zone in combination with a fake wide receiver end around a couple times against the Patriots seen in Play 3:
Situation: 2nd and 4 at BAL 49
Description: Q1 – (8:49) J.Forsett up the middle to NE 44 for 7 yards (K.Arrington).
Running Play: Singleback Inside Zone Fake WR End Around
This play is very similar to Play 1. Forsett takes the snap and reads the double-team of LG72 Osemele and C53 Zuttah and LB54 Hightower crashing through the A-gap between C53 Zuttah and RG64 Urschel.
Forsett cuts right to pull Hightower away from the gap allowing Urschel and RT73 Yanda to pass blocking assignments and then Forsett cuts back left into the gap created by the LG and C.
The reason I showed this play is to illustrate the teamwork and complexity of the zone-blocking scheme. Based on the defenders reaction to Forsett’s cutting, the offensive lineman trade blocking assignments. Watch how in the beginning of the play RG64 Urschel has the inside shoulder and RT73 Yanda has the outside shoulder of DT75 Wilfork.
Once Forsett cuts back inside, Urschel and Yanda swap assignments to make sure LB54 Hightower is covered. This is completely due to Forsett’s cutting back-and-forth.
If Forsett didn’t cut right and then cut back left to set up this block, Urschel would have released to block Hightower while Yanda would have stayed on Wilfork who would have been able to penetrate due to better leverage. It is these minute differences that allow this play to go for 7 yards as opposed 3-4 yards.
Another staple of the zone-blocking scheme is the outside zone run. The outside zone is very similar to the inside zone run concept in terms of covered versus uncovered blocking with the difference that the runningback takes his first step or two outside to reach the edge and the offensive lineman have to seal the backside run defenders from making a play. The Ravens run it in Play 4.
Situation: 1st and 10 at BAL 31
Description: Q1 – (10:08) J.Forsett left tackle pushed ob at BLT 43 for 12 yards (D.Hightower).
Running Play: I-Formation Outside Zone FB Lead
Forsett takes the pitch and moves laterally across the formation. On ce he reaches the end of the formation, he sees SS23 Chung holding the edge to make sure Forsett doesn’t break outside. Forsett notices the FB44 Juszczyk is disengaging from his block and returning to the correct path to lead block for him. Forsett stutters and allows Juszczyk to engage Chung nullifying him from the play.
Forsett cuts around Juszczyk and Chung and sees that LB54 Hightower is now in pursuit. Forsett wisely bounces outside bounces outside WR11 Aiken who is making a terrific downfield block on CB39 Browner.
Forsett demonstrated his patience to set up the initial block with FB Juszczyk. Then he showed his agility to get around the defenders and bounce outside for a large gain on the play.
Finally in Play 5, the Ravens run a power toss sweep to utilize Forsett’s speed and patience around the edge.
Situation: 2nd and 10 at BAL 25
Description: Q1 – (:36) J.Forsett right end to BLT 44 for 19 yards (D.McCourty). BLT-S.Smith was injured during the play.
Running Play: Power Toss Sweep
Play 4 is a power toss sweep where Forsett takes the handoff and immediately runs laterally to the right setting up his blocks. The two blocks circled are the most important blocks in this play. If RG64 Urschel lost his battle and WR14 Brown allowed his man in this play would have been a loss instead of a large gain. Forsett reads these two blocks and continues outside.
After Forsett escapes to the edge his goal is to watch RT73 Yanda and TE81 Daniels who pulled to power block up the right sideline. They both get inside leverage allowing Forsett to explode up the field for a 19 yard gain.
In this play, Forsett showed his vision and patience to allow his blocks to form and not cut prematurely up the field.
For fun let’s take a look at Forsett’s receiving touchdown.
Situation: 1st and 10 at NE 16
Description: Q3 – (10:29) J.Flacco pass short right to J.Forsett for 16 yards, TOUCHDOWN. J.Tucker extra point is GOOD, Center-P.Scales, Holder-S.Koch.
Offensive Formation: Singleback Jumbo Left
Offense Personnel: 22 or 13 (if you count FB44 Juszczyk as a TE on this play)
WR11 Aiken lines up wide right runs a shallow cross. LB91 Collins attempts to jam Aiken as he runs across the middle, which frees Forsett for the touchdown. Belichick is known for using his linebackers to jam underneath crossing routes, so Ravens’ OC Kubiak takes advantage of this knowledg by moving all of the defense’s secondary members out of the play. Just a good play-call as Forsett runs into the endzone untouched for a 16 yard score.
Overall, Forsett is a great fit for Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking scheme. The offensive lineman double-team defensive lineman and swap blocking assignments to get to the second level linebackers. The main requirements of a runningback in the zone-blocking scheme are patience, vision and one-cut ability to find the hole and set up blockers downfield. Forsett demonstrates all of those traits and should do whatever it takes to stay in a system that utilizes this if Gary Kubiak leaves this off-season to pursue a head coaching position elsewhere.