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NFL Draft

TDN Scouting: Why Do Teams Use Pre-Snap Motion, Wide OL Splits?

  • The Draft Network
  • August 12, 2020
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It seems like the 2020 NFL Draft just happened, but we move fast here at The Draft Network.

Currently going through summer evaluations for the 2021 NFL Draft class, our scouting team of Kyle Crabbs, Joe Marino, Jordan Reid, and Drae Harris are meeting up every day to discuss prospects, traits, and concepts. New to TDN is a daily scouting roundtable where we go through and identify the most important points of conversation from that day’s meeting.

The latest discussion was about the pros and cons of wide offensive line splits, as well as the benefits of running pre-snap motion.

Why do teams use extra-wide line splits?

A staple in the Air Raid system, wide line splits are commonly used by spread teams like USC, Washington State, and many other high-octane, quick-strike passing offenses. Although rarely used in the NFL, it has its advantages, particularly for teams that love to throw the football early and often.

“It makes the path to the QB longer and naturally creates some bigger throwing windows,” Marino stated in regards to the advantages these splits create. "One thing I picked up at the (East-West) Shrine Game two years ago listening to the Vikings assistant line coach at the time, he talked a lot about how in pass protection, all you need sometimes is to take them where they want to go, but just a little bit wider than how they want to get there. If you can get a little piece to widen the path, you’ll have enough time to get that throw off and that’s what these (wide splits) help create.”

Reid had a bit of an opposite reaction, citing that he doesn’t overly love wide splits from a coaching perspective.

“You’re just making bigger pathways for defensive linemen to get through,” Reid pointed out. “As a coach I hated it, but as a player, you’re going to like it, especially if you’re throwing the ball 60 plus times a game. When these teams start running stunts and twists and you have to pass guys off, though, it just becomes a nightmare.”

Crabbs also shared this sentiment, stating “I get why some run-oriented teams will have an individual split gap that you cheat out of, but for these wide-open Air Raid-style offenses, to put each offensive island effectively on an island, it scares me.”

Why do teams use pre-snap motion?

A tactic that is being more frequently used at both the collegiate and professional levels, using pre-snap motion is an easy way to confuse the defense and get a better understanding of what they’re trying to do on that side of the football. Reid did a good job explaining why this worked so well for LSU and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire in 2019.

“Nowadays, you see these running backs come into the game and split outside, which is what Edwards-Helaire did a lot of the time, so it just messes with your personnel, especially if you’re lined up in man coverage. Your MIKE (linebacker) has to line up on the perimeter and now you can do whatever the heck you want (from an offensive standpoint).”

“Motion allows for pre-snap tells. You have the linebacker walk out there and now you know that the defense is in man coverage. Then if you want to shift and condense back in you can, but now you have that understanding of what’s going on,” Crabbs stated. “(As a coach), you want to do anything you can do to give your quarterback as much information pre-snap as possible, and motion helps a lot with that.”

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