How to Utilize a Tight-end in Your Offense

There are a variety of different ways an offense can use a Tight End. A Tight End is a great way to force the defense to align how you want them to, separate run and pass strengths and seal the edge for an outside run.

How to Utilize a Tight-end in Your Offense

Alignment Conflicts for the Defense 

One of the toughest parts of calling an offense is knowing where the defense is going to align. The alignment of the defense, especially the defensive linemen, can be the difference between a play that gains 8 yards and a play that loses 2 yards. When the offense adds a tight end into the formation it forces the defense to declare strength to the side of the Tight End. This gives the play caller a much better feel of where the defenders will line up and allows him to make a play call that will be successful against that alignment.

By using the Tight End to force the defense to declare the strength the offense can set themselves up to be successful passing the ball. One way teams will do this is by separating the run and pass strength. One of the toughest formations to defend is referred to as Trio. This formation has the Tight End into the boundary (short side of the field) and three receivers to the field. This stresses defense because it forces them to use more defenders to stop the run the boundary side while also saving defenders to cover the three receivers on the field side. As a play caller it makes it easy to count numbers and either throw to the three receiver side or run to the Tight End side.

Outside Schemes 

The last way to use a Tight End is to seal the edge and guarantee that the ball carrier will get to the outside of the defense. Many times this is seen in an Outside Zone scheme. In this blocking scheme the Tight End will step to make sure the Playside Tackle is able to make his block before working up the linebacker. By adding the extra blocker the offense guarantees that they will win the block at the edge of the line.

One way teams have changed this concept is by reading the edge defender and then having the Tight End go around the read key to the linebacker or Safety. By doing this they have the Quarterback essentially blocking the Defensive End which allows the Tight End to get to the edge player quickly. This can be a good fix when the edge player (either Safety or Linebacker) is coming downhill too quickly for the Tight End to make the block on the Defensive End and still be able to get off to block the edge player.

(See Also) Utilizing the Outside Zone Blocking Scheme

Final Thoughts

The Tight End is a crucial position in football. While many teams are moving away from it and using spread sets there has been a swing back towards putting an extra blocker in the box to force the defense to honor the run. Ironically this has the effect of opening up the passing game especially if you have an elite receiver who can defeat a corner in one on one coverage.

Passing Plays that Utilize a TE

Smash Concept

Flood Passing Concept (High- Low)


TE Corner Route

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