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Bill Belichick delivers a classic football lesson

08.24.13 at 2:20 pm ET
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Bill Belichick goes into great detail to explain his offensive sets. (AP)

Bill Belichick goes into great detail to explain his offensive sets. (AP)

As the Patriots’ offense has evolved this summer with a brand new set of receivers for Tom Brady to work with, the coaching staff has done some experimenting.

They have alternated sets between two running backs and one tight end (21) and one back and two tight ends (12) – “12″ versus “21″ in football lingo – when there are two receivers on the field.

Of course, this was all prompted by the fact that their top two tight ends from 2012′s offensive juggernaut are gone, at least to start the season. They have loaded up on running backs, with LeGarrette Blount and Leon Washington joining Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen.

With Rob Gronkowski likely out for the start for the season, Jake Ballard, Michael Hoomanawanui, Zach Sudfeld, Daniel Fells and Evan Landi are getting turns at tight end for the preseason.

So, at the end of his conference call on Friday, Bill Belichick went into great detail as to the difference between the “12″ and “21″ sets used by the Patriots this preseason.

“Just fundamentally, when you have one back in the backfield and you have four on-the-line receivers, that gives you an ability to get into the defense potentially with four people. Or even if it’s three of them, sometimes the defense isn’t sure which three of them it is. One tight end could be in it and the other guy could be in protection, that type of thing. I think you’re able to attack the defense from the line of scrimmage a little bit quicker and with a little less predictability, depending on who those players are, of course. That’s certainly a factor.

“But as far as your running gaps, I mean, you can put more width at the formation by having a guy on the line, whether it’s four on one side and two on the other side of the center or three and three. You just have a wider front, which there are some advantages to that. By having them in the backfield, you can create that same four-man surface or three-man surface after the snap so the defense doesn’t know where the four-man surface or three-man surface is. The fullback has to – he can build that from the backfield. And then there are also, let’s say, a greater variety of blocking schemes with the fullback in the backfield because he can block different guys and come from different angles. He’s not always behind the quarterback. He could be offset one way or the other and create different blocking schemes and angles that it’s harder to get from the line of scrimmage.

“Also, depending on who your tight end is, it can be a little bit easier to pass protect seven men because two of them are in the backfield instead of us having one in the backfield. And then when you start running guys up the middle in the gaps and things like that. I think fundamentally it’s a little easier to pick them up when you a have a guy in the backfield that can step up and block him from the fullback position as opposed to a tight end in the line of scrimmage who probably isn’t going to be able to loop back in and get him, so the line is probably all going to have to gap down or not gap down if the guy drops out and all that. It just creates a different – it creates some advantages, I think, and it also creates some things you have to deal with. You just have to decide how you want to deal with them. Obviously when you have a guy in the backfield, it’s harder to get those two receivers vertically into the defense in the passing game.

“They’re usually running shorter routes to the flat or checking over the ball or those kind of things, short crossing routes – versus having that fourth receiver on the line of scrimmage who can run some downfield routes, again depending on who the individual person is. The skill definitely changes what you can do with that guy. So, I mean, I think those are the things that come into play. Some teams are very settled in one type of offense or another, so all of their plays and their rules or their adjustments come from that particular set. And other teams use multiple looks to, say, run the same plays or the same concepts to try to give the defense a different look. It’s harder for them to zero in on what they’re doing. But they’re able to do similar things from different personnel groups or different formations. That’s a long answer to a really short question, but I hopefully that helps a little bit.”

Class dismissed.

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