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Todd Gurley and the Outside Zone H-Back Trap vs Cardinals

After tearing his ACL last November versus the Auburn Tigers, Todd Gurley entered the 2015 NFL Draft and was selected tenth overall by the St. Louis Rams. Gurley, finally fully recovered, carried the ball six times in the previous week versus the Steelers. This past Sunday Gurley received the bulk of the Rams’ workload rushing for 146 yards on 19 attempts. He also caught two passes from the backfield for 15 yards. Gurley had four-20+ yard gains on the day, which ties him for first along with Adrian Peterson of the Vikings.

While watching the Rams run the ball with Gurley, I noticed a general theme of zone blocking where they tended to use the outside zone as a staple of their offense. The play featured above is called the Outside Zone H-Back Trap.

The play design features an offensive line that zone-blocks to the left. Instead of a typical outside zone where the backside tackle or man-on-end that protects the backside of the play, the Rams use a H-Back in the backfield to trap-block any defender who attempts to work his way from behind. From the running back’s perspective, the ball carrier takes the handoff and reads the left tackle and the left guard as he flows underneath them and finally makes one-cut up between an opening between the defenders. Typically it’s between the playside tackle and the playside guard.

In this play, in particular, wide receiver #11 Tavon Austin runs a wide receiver end around used as misdirection. Gurley takes the handoff and reads the left side of the formation seeing gaps between defenders start to appear.


Due to the flow of the play, a hole appears between center #61 Tim Barnes and the backside guard #76 Rodger Saffold. Gurley cuts up this hole and explodes into the second level. Gurley shakes off one defender and is able to escape a defender in the secondary for a large gain on the play.

This play would not have happened if it weren’t for the combination “Jack”-block between the center and the left guard as the center #61 Tim Barnes is able to work his way into the secondary opening up the big hole. Great execution by the Rams offensive line. Gurley does an excellent job of being patient to give his offensive lineman the time to set up their blockers.

Just like the previous play, the Rams run the same Outside Zone H-Back Trap from Offset-I Slot Right. The main difference is that Gurley runs to the edge outside the left tackle instead o taking a gap between blockers. With just over a minute left and on 3rd and 12 the Rams need a first down to seal the victory over the Cardinals. Gurley doesn’t just get the first down, he rushes for 30 yards and slides on the ground forgoing the touchdown.

Disappointing many fantasy owners, but this is the correct move as it guarantees the Rams the victory as Nick Foles kneeled the ball to end the game right after this play ended.

One of the other plays the Rams like to mix with the outside zone h-back trap is the two-back outside zone. This is a play very commonly run by the Washington Redskins with Alfred Morris and Darrel Young in the backfield.

After the snap, the offensive line starts zone blocking to the right and Gurley reads the right edge of the offensive line. The weakside A-gap between the center and the left guard opens and Gurley explodes up the hole into the second level past the defensive line. Linebacker #57 Alex Okafor attempts to bring him down, but Gurley slips the tackle for a 12 yard gain on the play showing speed and elusiveness.

For the Rams versus the Cardinals, it was a case of feast-or-famine. Sometimes the center or another interior offensive lineman would let a defender into the backfield immediately after the snap causing a negative play. Other times Gurley was able to showcase his power, speed, and vision between the offensive line making his way up the field.

Follow Samuel Gold on Twitter: @SamuelRGold.

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Samuel Gold

Sam founded NFL Breakdowns after working his way through the journalist farm system and is enjoying life in the big league. Growing up outside of Washington, D.C., Sam didn’t choose the Redskins, the Redskins chose him. Out of a love for the game and an insatiable curiosity to determine why his beloved team was underperforming, Sam turned to studying film in NFL Breakdowns.