The Rocket Toss is the sweep play, or edge attacking play in the flexbone option offense. It is designed to get out to the edge quickly, and to out flank a defense when the box is either over loaded, or when the defense is blitzing. Loading the box and blitzing eliminates inside-out help and linebacker pursuit for the defense, therefore leaving less defenders on the edge to defend the outside run. This play has quite a reputation as Paul Johnson’s favorite short yardage and goal-line play as well.
Be sure to read up on the previous articles on the flexbone option offense, as each play in the series complements each other.
Play 1: Rocket toss is a favorite of Paul Johnson’s down on the goal-line. A diagram of the blocking on this play is below.
The playside guard and tackle of the offensive line will open up playside run straight down the line/towards the sideline. Their goal is to actually run around the first defender to their outside. It will often look like they are trying to pull and log that defender, but in reality, they’re trying to get around them to the second level. However, because of the path they take, they also pseudo-block that first outside defender as well. If they manage to get around that defender, they block the first defender that shows.
By rule, the entire playside of the defensive line goes unblocked. The backside of the offensive line pretty much steps playside and block whatever shows. However, you’ll often see them bypass most backside linemen and head straight to level two for linebackers or downfield to pick off DB’s. Sometimes that first defender widens out with them though, forcing the linemen to block them.
Against a 1-high safety look, the playside A-back and split end arc block just like inside veer. The A-back arc releases and blocks either the OLB or safety. Whichever shows first. The split end blocks the CB.
Against a 2-high safety look, they almost always switch block. This is so the split end can crack the safety, and this puts the A-back on the CB. They can also decide whether or not to arc or switch block based on who is the force defender (arc if safety is force, switch of CB is force). The backside receiver simply cuts off the nearest DB.
The B-back blocks the first defender outside the backside tackle (any chase defender). He goes backside so he doesn’t become a risk for hitting the ball as it is tossed. The backside A-back runs a long tail motion, longer than the regular motion. If I recall correctly (I cannot remember where I heard or read this), the offense will often snap this ball on the second hut or go, with the first hut/go placing the A-back where he’d be for a regular inside veer, and the second hut/go places him in the right spot to receive the toss. It would essentially be a quick “hut HUT!” or “go GO!” The QB reverses out and tosses the ball out ahead of the A-back. The A-back should generally be behind the playside tackle when the ball is snapped (receiving the ball just outside the playside tackle), and the QB is practically tossing the ball out into the alley almost as if it was a swing pass.
Long story short, practically the entire defensive line except for the widest man in the box and a DT or nose guard goes unblocked. There are three crucial blocks that need to be achieved for this play to go: The block by the playside A-back, playside split end, and the playside tackle. In most cases, Johnson will even say, as long as these three blocks are successful, the play will work.
Play 2: Here the offense is using a pin and pull scheme with the playside guard and tackle.
Play 3: Here the offense is using an unbalanced formation (tackle over). This is seen very often in short yardage and goal-line situations, and outside of the standard flexbone formation, you’ll see rocket toss ran out of this formation more than any other set. The extra tackle who comes over to the strongside follows the same rule as the playside tackle, so there isn’t anything much different going on. Defenses often have to be conscious of not overloading their secondary to the tackle over side, because there is a TE in the left tackle position who is eligible.
Also note the effectiveness of the cut blocks on this play by the playside A-back, right tackle, and right guard. The three defenders they block are all in front of the end zone. The aggressive utilization of the cut blocks forces all three of these defenders backwards and creates a massive bulge in the defense for the ball carrier to score through without hardly being touched.
Play 4: Here is rocket toss from a tight formation. Watch the block made by the playside A-back. This again shows the effectiveness of the cut block and why teams like Georgia Tech utilize them so much. It allows their little scrawny A-backs to avoid having to drive block any potential larger defenders, while still being able to drive them back. Had the A-back tried to stand up and drive that defensive back, any potential stalemate would have happened in front of the end zone, forcing the ball carrier to make a move. Instead, the ballcarrier has an open path straight into the corner for the score.
Plays 5 and 6: These are two of Georgia Tech’s three opening plays against Florida State this season. They are running rocket toss from their tight formation. When they use the tight formation, they are trying to get a good crack block by the split end to seal down a defensive end, linebacker, or some other defender that the offense simply cannot reach with the playside A-back or a lineman. They almost always use switch blocking out of this formation. The split end cracks, the playside A-back leads for the cornerback. These gifs were taken from the video, “Georgia Tech vs. FSU 2015: Every Offensive Play.” by Alex C @apcarrick.
This concludes the introduction to the Rocket Toss. The next article will cover the primary pass play in the flexbone option offense, the Veer Pass.