Looking at offensive formations is a fascinating way to learn how your system works. From personnel location and variation to defensive alignment, formations provide insight into what an offense or defense is trying to accomplish.
Take this formation for example:
This formation had 39 different names, but overall the plays run from it were the same: ISO, Power, Counter series, and of course, the obligatory RPOs with each play. For some reason Brown was the most common offensive response, which is intriguing to me because my team calls this Brown simply because it was another color to use.
What I found really interesting was the difference in how the defense treats it. Some treated this formation as a 3×1 formation, while others similar to a 2 back pro formation.
What I learned was by treating it as a Trips formation, this gives the secondary better positioning on 3 receiver pass concepts, but the front is aligned to defend the run. Hence the offense’s use of RPOs. It is a conflicting formation for the defense and RPOs put those players in deeper conflict.
The other formation that brought the greatest variety was this formation:
Due to limited exposure to a formation like this, most defenses created special names for this or treated it as a special situation formation.
Defenses usually make sure the players know how to line up to an offense’s favorite formations as the first thing they do. An offensive coach can use this by finding the formation that brings the most conflict to the defense. Which formation creates favorable matchups, and which formation causes the greatest alignment problems?
Terminology gives the defense the answer to how to lineup. I believe that’s why they package so many formations as 3×1 formations or 2×2 formations. After formation they identify the strength and can quickly align.
Offensively, terminology can be overload. We use a lot of ways to skin a cat, when we may only need a couple.
The key is making terminology easily understood by the players applying it. If the players can never get aligned the way you think, it may have something to do with the language your trying to speak.