One of the best ways to stress a defense is through the use of motion. When you watch almost any defense practice or hear any defensive coordinator talk, you become aware of the fact that one of the most crucial elements of defense is to be lined up soundly against any formation. One of the best ways to stress a defense out is to align in one formation and then use motion to change the formation and how the defense needs to adjust to it. Using motion to gain an advantage over the defense is something that all offenses should do.
Using Motion to Gain an Advantage
There are two main ways defenses adjust to motion, there are those that adjust to every formation and motion, and those that stay static to almost any change in formation. There are various strengths to each type of defense and the defense tends to align to the system that fits their players and coaches best. The key element for the offense is to know how to exploit the defense that you are playing against.
Defenses that tend to remain static are very popular in the lower levels of the game, especially with teams that have an abundance of talent. These teams align in their base set and rely on their ability to know what their assignment is and execute that assignment in order to make up for any schematic advantages that the offense might gain from motions or exotic formations. There is something to be said for giving players their assignments and letting them play fast.
(See Also) Utilizing Motion in Your Offense
As an offensive play caller the major advantage you have against a team that remains solid against motion is that you know the look you get when you line up will remain very similar until the snap of the ball. One way to use this to your advantage is to change the strength of the formation. Whether you go from a balanced set to a strong set or a strong set to a balanced set, by having the defense align, then changing your strength, you give your team the advantage of a possible overload.
The other extreme of defenses are the ones that adjust to every formation and shift to stay sound. These defenses can be difficult to go against because it seems that they have a way to adjust to every formation that the offense comes out in. The downside of these formations is that they force the defensive players to make adjustments which can cause them to be thinking before the snap of the ball. If the defender is thinking, he is normally not playing very fast.
The best way to combat defenses that are constantly shifting and changing to keep their advantage is to break their rules and force them to adapt to exotic formations. Simple shifts and motions can cause major problems for these defenses because it forces them to adapt their rules. One great motion against these teams is to align a possible receiver in the backfield so they look like a running back before motioning them out wider than the most outside receiver. Many times the Cornerback will bump out to cover this receiver leaving your original receiver covered by a Safety or Linebacker.
Motions can be a great tool to gain an advantage for your offense. The key is to understand the defense that you are going against and where they fall on the spectrum of adjusting to motions. Once you understand this, you can take advantage of their tendency to either overreact or under-react to give you team an advantage.