What the heck exactly is "Split Backs Formation"?
First, I need to give a massive credit to Mike "Da Best" Reiss for giving me an inspiration to write this piece.
2. With two solid pass-catching running backs in Shane Vereen and fourth-round draft choice James White, one consideration for the Patriots is putting them on the field together. We know this much: The two-running back package is part of the team’s deep playbook as evidenced by one play in last year’s AFC divisional round playoff win over the Colts. It was the only time all season the Patriots used the two-RB grouping – with Vereen and Brandon Bolden – and it produced a 25-yard catch-and-run reception over the middle by receiver Julian Edelman. The Patriots like to manipulate matchups with various personnel groupings and that play against the Colts provided a snapshot of how a two-RB package (with 2 WRs and 1 TE) can put stress on a defense. The Colts matched in their base defense, the Patriots sent both RBs into pass routes (Bolden to the left flat, Vereen up the right sideline), and there seemed to be just enough confusion between the linebackers and defensive backs on how to handle it that it opened things up for Edelman underneath.
Here is the play:
You see BOTH Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden sandwiching Brady in the back field. And BOTH running flat route. Yes, Mike Pettine, it is totally OK for an offence to have two pass catching RBs in the back field.
Or to line up in the "Split Back Formation."
In American football, the pro set or split backs formation is a formation that was commonly used as a "base" set by professional and amateur teams. The "pro set" formation featured a backfield that deployed two running backs aligned side-by-side instead of one in front of the other as in traditional I-formation sets. It was an outgrowth of the original, three running back T-formation, with the third back (one of the halfbacks) in the T becoming a permanent flanker, now referred to as a wide receiver.
This formation is particularly popular because teams can both run and pass the football out of it with an equal amount of success. This is important because it keeps defenses guessing on what type of play the offense will run. Because the backs are opposite each other, it takes the defense longer to read the gap the offense will run the ball to.
Once the run has been established, it can be a very dangerous formation. Because of the real threat of a team running out of the pro-set, defenses must respect the play fake and play run. This pulls the safety to the line and opens up the middle of the field deep. Also, with both backs in position to "pick up" an outside blitz, the pro-set gives a quarterback an abundance of time to find an open receiver.
Teams use this formation because it’s difficult for the defense to gauge whether the offense is running or passing. With split backs, the backfield is balanced and not aligned toward one side or the other, making it more difficult for the defense to anticipate what the play will be. This formation may be a better passing formation because the backs can swing out of the backfield to either side as receivers.
In other words, defense will have hard time to predict:
1) Whether it's pass or run (two RBs can contribute as runners, receivers and QB's personal protector).
2) Which side the play is going (there is no strong side).
3) Which RB is getting the ball
4) Either RB can split wide and all of the sudden it transforms into a 3 WR 1RB 1TE set.
That's a lot of "unpredictability" out there folks.
In addition, as you can see on the video, if two RBs run flat routes, that can make the "between the hash" part of the field awfully thin. And this is where guys like Edelman and Amendola do their bread and butter.
In Vereen and White, we would have two Mr. Dependables. Guys who can be trusted to run precise routes, catch football and protect Brady if necessarily. Switching one of them to Roy Finch, you will have better explosiveness in exchange of some decline in pass protection department.
After all, the split back set is not something that uncommon in college football / NFL
But has this ever been done by two VERY capable 3rd down backs and a QB who is simply the best in short - intermediate passing? Will we see something revolutionary once again? Time will tell.