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How Does 15 Equal 11 For The Jets

by Dennis Agapito on July 1, 2012

We all know football is 11-on-11, unless you’re the Giants trying to stop a Super Bowl winning drive then it’s 11-on-12, but when is it 10-on-11?  The game is never literally 10-on-11 there are 11 players on the offense but when they run the ball what does the quarterback really do?

The quarterback hands the ball off and watches maybe runs a fake bootleg to make it appear he has the ball but in general he is out of the play.  So you end up with 10-on-11, 10 blockers on offense versus 11 defenders.  When the offense passes the quarterback drops back to throw, he is a player on the field and depending upon the defense someone might be assigned for containment, but unless he’s prone to run like a Michael Vick type there is no one player responsible to cover the quarterback.

If the offense is passing and they have 5 receivers out on routes 5 linemen blocking the defense, who are rushing 5, how many players do you have to cover the receivers?  Easy math 6, yes 6 against 5 the defense has an extra man to cover because the quarterback is not truly apart of the play since he is just throwing the ball.  Now you can’t ignore the quarterback as a player but they usually allow the defense to scheme a free defender since one is not specifically designated to cover him.

This free defender is what the wildcat formation eliminated when it was first introduced.  Taking the quarterback off the field and replacing him with a running back, who could also throw, took away the defenses free man ability since all 11 offensive players needed to be accounted for.  The Wildcat has lost some prominence as coaches learned to better defend it. 

Now enter Tim Tebow, with Mark Sanchez not on the field, since Tebow is a threat to run, pass or run out of a passing play, much like Vick, he needs to be accounted for, thus true 11-on-11 football.  Tebow offers up dimensions different than just the wildcat.  Coaches may say wildcat but with Tebow in the game the offense can run a number of plays like standard runs, drop-back passes, read option or wildcat. 

The difference between Tebow and many other quarterbacks is the opposing defense needs to account for him at all times.  Defenses cannot over commit on a play given the variety of things Tebow could do.  The secondary will have to stick close to their receivers since Tebow could easily fake an option run and then drop back to pass.  If the corners bite up on the run receivers will be left open for big receptions but staying back leaves less run support which could lead to nice ground gains.  

Basically with Tebow on the field it becomes 11-on-11 football with defenses no longer on the “power-play” losing their one-man-free advantage. 

So for the Jets #15 does equal 11 let’s just hope it leads to 6.

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