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Step Three: Julius Jones Becomes Paramount

Seattle is well on its way to a successful stretch left. In a perfect world, Chris Spencer and John Owens are dominant enough to contain or stagger their respective linebackers enough that neither is able to get back into the play. In the real world, one or both is likely to bounce off their block and get back into the play. This is where Julius Jones becomes paramount.

Jones must first pick a lane. "One cut and go" is for real. A zone blocking rusher loses if he is too choosy. Picking the right hole is a key to success. In the first example, Jones takes the conservative path inside.


This path protects Owens and relies on Spencer. Owens must only pick the right outside linebacker for Jones to run behind Owens block and into the second level. Spencer, however is in a very difficult situation. He is pulling from the right to engage a defender on the left that is moving left. His chances of blocking that linebacker squarely are small, so he must be able to angle-block, reach block or pancake block the linebacker. Alternately, a truly elite rusher could cutback horizontally and behind Spencer, but Jones is not that back.

Jones is in ‘go' mode and must rush and is mostly likely to rush outside and away from the right inside linebacker. His second gear will determine if he can power through the second level or if he gets trapped in the hole and swarmed by the two right linebackers, the right defensive end and the left outside linebacker. The narrowness of this hole limits its big play potential, but the directness and shortness of Jones cut ensures positive yardage.


Alternately, Jones can choose to go outside. This is the money play, with the added risk of the play being blown up. The major advantage of Jones rushing outside is that it moves him away from the opponent's inside linebackers and defensive line. It matches him against two blocked defenders. Nate Burleson must dominate the corner and John Owens must seal or at least sufficiently slow the right outside linebacker.

This is the run I am looking for, but it has its own set of weaknesses, not least of which is exposing Jones in the open field to Adrian Wilson. If Wilson is in the box and reads the play correctly, he should be able to track Jones to the outside and hit him in the open field. Jones can attempt to avoid Wilson by cutting outside and towards the corner, but Burleson must be game with his tackle.

If we take Wilson out of the box and out of the equation, we can explore the more fundamental matchups. Jones is now into his hole and much ‘go'. We assume Seattle' line has moved out the nose tackle and sealed the right defensive end. The next most likely position of failure is Owens blocking the right outside linebacker. If Owens fails, Jones will be tackled, slowed, swarmed or forced to bounce the play even further outside. If Owens succeeds, Jones is enabled to explode into the third level with speed enough to evade the right inside linebacker and only defensive backs to beat. Jones could bounce outside further and still succeed, but that forces Seattle to win one more matchup and decreases the likelihood of a successful rush.