Falcons: Breaking down Arthur Smith’s offense

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New Falcons head coach Arthur Smith was with the Titans for the better part of a decade; however, his system is unique. Working under former Titans offensive coordinator and now Packers head coach Matt LaFleur has profoundly affected Smith’s own scheme.

With Tennessee, Smith deployed primarily a run-based offense supplemented by play-action. Most of the time, the Titans chose to run out of 1-1 or 1-2 (RB-TE) personnel, which the latter would only allow for two receivers on the field. According to sharpefootballstats, 36% of the Titans run plays came out of 1-2 personnel, and 31% came out of 1-1 personnel.

As noted before, the entire offense was predicated on establishing the run with Derrick Henry, which sets up Ryan Tannehill in the play-action passing game. To accomplish this, Smith deploys multiple plays — both run and pass — within the same formation with the same pre-snap motion. Of the Titan’s total pass plays, 49% came out of 1-1 personnel, and 30% came out of 1-2 personnel. The Titans’ offense was extremely balanced, 40% of all plays came out of 1-1 personnel, and 33% came out of 1-2 personnel. That is three-quarters of a playbook out of just two formations.

But, everything in this offense begins and ends with the run game. They use a multi-dimensional scheme to run the football, mostly deploying gap and zone runs. The zone scheme makes up most of the run calls — split zone and inside zone, to be specific. Gap runs are included, but with a big back like Henry, they actually ran more outside zone than one would expect. Smith occasionally loves to call the classic duo, but the play below is an example of a split zone run.

As you can see, the creativity by Smith to use eye candy post-snap creates passing lanes or, in this case, running lanes. He gets the linebackers and safety to flare out with the tight end in motion, which opens up a huge lane for Henry to run through. Again this is all to set up the play-action. 

Arthur Smith loves to get his tight ends involved by attacking the middle of the field. However, this example is another beloved concept by Smith. AJ Brown is running a curl but crossers, curls, digs, and other routes over the middle of the field are key components of this offense. Establishing the run before this play selection forces the linebackers to key on the running back and vacate their zone behind them. Thus allowing Brown to settle between them and the safeties over the top for an easy first down. The stress this type of offense puts on opposing linebackers is enormous.

These two concepts that I highlighted work in unison. One can’t work without the other, but Smith’s offense isn’t that simple. The last concept that I will mention is his use of bunch sets and tight splits. These are an effective use of space that causes traffic and confusion. The Packers’ plays below utilize these bunch sets with tight splits and show how they can create easy completions.

This from Matt LaFleur is exactly what Smith will implement in Atlanta. All of these together will immediately improve the Falcons offense and create a system that an average quarterback can run, i.e., whoever replaces Matt Ryan.



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