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Chalk Talk: Walsh's New Role

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Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Headed into the opener, many were wondering how senior quarterback J.W. Walsh would be used. While only used sparingly against Central Michigan (three rushes for nine yards), his play gave fans a glimpse of what is to come. In the first Chalk Talk of the season, we will look at two of the plays that Walsh was used in, along with a new segment at the end.

Walshing Machine

First, let's look at the play Walsh scored on in the second quarter:

wham read diagram

This run by Walsh earned the Cowboys their first touchdown of the season; Walsh ran a wham read out of the full house to walk into the end zone untouched. While this play is nothing new, as OSU first unveiled this in their opener two years ago, it is still one of the Cowboys’ most effective plays.


Here, the term "wham" is referring to the blocking scheme, something that we covered heavily last year. The play-side end is left unblocked by the line and picked up by a fullback or tight end (or in this case, a Cowboy Back) coming from the other side. If it is a basic wham play, that back blocks the end. If it is a read, the back passes the end and gets upfield to block a flowing linebacker in anticipation for a quarterback keep.

Because OSU used this play in the full house, there are two Cowboy backs instead of one; they both execute the same block with one taking the linebacker and one taking the safety, both in anticipation of a quarterback keep.

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In this particular play, the end crashes hard on Carson, leaving Walsh unaccounted for. Sometimes it's just that easy.

Walshing Machine pt. 2

The "wildcat" concept, originating from single wing philosophies of the early 20th century, was first brought into popular football culture by the Miami Dolphins. While they weren’t the first to use it, they were the ones who sparked the wildcat craze with their 38-13 upset over the New England Patriots in 2008.

There are certain members of the Cowboy faithful who have wanted to see the use of a traditional wildcat package. The Cowboys seemed to have done just that with Walsh.

The wildcat package is based upon a simple jet motion, with endless possibilities of where the ball could go. The most basic play is the jet sweep, where a motioning player receives a handoff and takes it on an outside run play. This sets up for other counter plays where the player under center can fake it to the motion man and do a number of things afterward.

jetpwr

Here, the Cowboys showed Walsh in a basic wildcat formation. Once the receiver (Z) comes across in jet motion, Walsh fakes to him and follows his blockers on what is a basic power play.

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The jet power is known as one of the main counter plays to the jet sweep, and it helps if the main ballcarrier is a talented runner. Don’t be surprised if we see more from this package as the season goes on.

Diagram-a-Play: Understand the Game

This is a new segment that I'm trying out where we diagram what was (to me) the most intriguing offensive play of the game. Sometimes it will be a big play, other times it may not be. It's not about the result, but more about the actual play. We will dissect it to understand its varied intricacies, hopefully leading to more offensively educated fans.

Interestingly enough, today's most interesting play came on what was a two yard loss. Take a look at this play and think about what you're seeing.

yflatgif

For those who just see a two yard loss, look closer. What's going on everywhere else?

If you pay attention, this is actually a very complex play. It appears as if this was an inside zone read with a Y flat, a Z fade, and an out-fade combo on the twins side. This concept is used by a number of teams, most notably Arizona; in fact, I wrote a short piece on this a couple of years ago back in my independent days.

Here's a diagram of the same play:

y flat triple

If you have the advantage in the box, which is if you have as many or more blockers in between the tackles than the defense has bodies, then you commit to the run part of the play. Here, the run of choice is a variation of the triple option; the only difference is that instead of having a "pitch man", this play has the fullback run a flat route. Let’s go through the possibilities: if the unblocked end stays, the quarterback hands the ball off. If he crashes, the QB keeps it and now reads the linebacker. If the linebacker covers the flat route, the QB runs into the open void; but if the linebacker crashes on the QB, he throws the ball to the open fullback. And that’s just one half of this play. The lone receiver here is running a fade and the two receivers on the left side are running a fade-out combination. If the defense commits too many players to the box, it’s the quarterback’s job to ignore the run call and throw to one of the three receivers, all in single man coverage.

Now go back and refer to the gif above. Notice how both the strong safety and weak-side linebacker creep to the line of scimmage, taking away the offense's advantage in the box (now it's 9 to 6 in favor of the defense). Guess who this leaves with the advantage? Each of the three receivers, and James Washington in particular, are left in man-to-man coverage. Instead of taking advantage and throwing it to one of his receivers, quarterback Mason Rudolph decides to run the football. Not only did he make an ill-advised decision, but he didn't even read the run correctly. The end clearly crashes hard, yet Rudolph still hands the ball off to Carson, leading to a loss of yardage. Love the play, but not so much the execution.

Well, that's the season's first Chalk Talk. Thoughts? Opinions? Be sure to comment below!