The Midline is one of the most troublesome plays in football to defend. By reading a down defender (normally in the B Gap) the offense gains an extra blocker so they can have a double team at the point of attack while also releasing blockers up to the linebacker level.
Adding Wrinkles and Tags to the Midline
Football is, at it’s heart, a numbers game. Offensively the goal is to have more of your players at the point of attack than the defense. On the Midline the Quarterback will be reading a down defender which puts the offense at a numbers advantage. The effect is that the defense must have four or more players defending the Midline. While this is a huge advantage, in order for the Midline to truly be an effective play the offense must be able to run the play against four defenders and make the defense bring a 5th man in. This will then open up the attack to the outside.
The basic Midline Concept is very simple. The Quarterback will read the first player past the Guard to the playside. The play will start with the backside Wing going in Rocket Motion to force the defense to account for the run threat to the D Gap. The backside tackle will scoop up to the next level. This scoop block means he will step to his gap and take the first defender that is either in his gap or crosses his face. The Guards and Center will work to double (or triple) the first player inside of the Read Key to the Linebacker. If a Guard can not get to the double he will climb to the Linebacker.
The playside tackle will block out on the C gap player and the playside wing will fold in to block the most dangerous man. The Fullback will run directly through the ball where the Quarterback will mesh with him and read the B gap defender who is unblocked. The Quarterback will hand the ball off to the Fullback unless the Read Key can tackle him for less than three yards. If the Read Key attacks the Fullback then the Quarterback will keep the ball and replace him by running through the B gap and getting upfield immediately.
While the Midline itself is a great play in order to keep a defense off balance it’s important to implement tags to deal with the defensive game plan. The most simple tag is the Midline “Twirl” tag. On this motion instead of the backside wing going in motion the Playside wing will take a three step motion. On his third step he will plant his foot and lead through the B gap. This is a simple way of punishing defenses that are rolling a Safety or Linebackers to the motion.
The “Truck” tag is for short yardage situations or times when the defense is not respecting the outside motion. On this tag the back side wing will go in motion but instead of threatening the defense with an outside run he will turn up and lead the Quarterback through the playside B Gap.
The “Follow” tag is an excellent adjustment to guarantee the ball will be in the hands of the Quarterback or as a way to break the tendency of running towards the empty A gap. On the Follow tag the Quarterback will call the play to the A Gap defender. This tag tells the Quarterback that he will have an automatic pull. The Fullback will run at the A Gap defender’s outside shoulder and guarantee that the defender tackles him. The Quarterback will run the ball through the B gap.
The final tag is the most expensive tag to add but also may lead to the most success. The “Triple” tag turns the Midline into a triple option play by leaving the playside C Gap player unblocked and having the Quarterback read him. The playside tackle will now either arc to the alley or force player (normally an overhang linebacker or a rolled down Safety). The timing of the play tends to do work best with twirl motion so the pitch man does not get too far ahead of the Quarterback. Once the playside wing goes in twirl motion he will go and block the Cornerback so the playside receiver can release to the Safety.
The Midline concept is a great way to get a double team at the point of attack. Do to it’s quick hitting, downhill nature it rarely results in a loss of yards and always has the potential to break for a long play.
(See Also) Option vs. 3-3-5 Stack Defense