The wonderful, beautiful Shotgun Formation. The pros and cons explained here.

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The NFL uses three basic types of formations for the QB. Shotgun, pistol and under center. We focus on shotgun in this first post of the series.

This shotgun will most likely be Denver’s primary setup offensively.  The QB will line up 5-7 yards behind the Center who snaps the ball to him.

It has its pros and cons.

It’s primarily a passing formation, so from the con standpoint, many running backs and fullbacks feel the QB is in the way. Plus, they’re getting the ball from a standstill instead of moving forward to get it, which gives them mojo when they hit the line. Hence, the formations are used more for a pass heavy offense. Running plays are a bit limited from the shotgun. We’ll cover this more when we do under center and in RB/FB series.

This leads to why is it called the shotgun? Since it’s considered a passing formation, teams regularly use more than two receivers. This means they are spread out across the field, stretching out a defense. There is an array of choices, like a shotgun can spread pellets.

A con is since the ball is traveling through the air before reaching the QB, there’s a higher risk of error. The other drawback is if the Offensive Coordinator isn’t creative, defenses will game plan and set up for a passing game. This can stunt the options.

The pros are numerous. First, it allows the QB more time to read the defense because his eyes are down field from the snap. Second, it gives the Offensive Line more time to create a pocket. Third, if he hangs back, rushers are father away giving the QB more time to adjust.

Fourth, he isn’t holding the ball as long for receivers to get in position. This can lead to less sacks. If the QB is under C, he has to drop back before he can make a pass, so at times he’s holding the ball longer.

Fifth, while the RB may feel inhibited with the run game, he’s in a better spot for passes out of the backfield. Not to mention, having a RB and FB beside him, gives the QB “Max Protection” assuming they don’t drift out for pass routes.

Finally, good OCs/RBs/ QBs (especially if he can scramble) can use the shotgun against its opponents by using the run creatively. Also, a QB can act like he’s taking the snap under Center, but drop back at the last second or the reverse. For this to work though, the QB actually needs to run some from under C.

For example, in 2016, Gary Kubiak ordered 58 % of Bronco pass attempts from the shotgun. Looking at C.J. Anderson and Booker (the top two backs in carries), roughly 14% of their carries came from the shotgun, so an OC has to work on showing better balance between both sets.

In a pass happy offense, the choices of where the X, Y, Z, TEs, RB and FB line up is a long list. Especially with Mike McCoy who made up his own formation to help Timmy Tebow. Remember the Shotgun Bronco Heavy? In a presser, the TEs mentioned how creative McCoy was. Maybe a hint we see one lining up next to Lynch a few times?

Throughout the post there are 3 graphics and here is the summary of the formations.

  1. A generic 3WR set with a TE and RB.
  2. A 3WR set with a TE/RB and 3 receivers on the left side of the offense.
  3. A 2WR 2 RB set with a TE.
  4. A 5WR set with 4WR on the left side of the offense, which is aka an Empty set.
  5. A version of the Shotgun Bronco Heavy with 2RB and 3TE.
  6. An empty set with 3WR 2TE, with one TE in the slot.
  7. An empty set with 3WR  & 2 TE with the two TEs in wing positions.
  8. An empty bunch set with 4WR & a TE.
  9. An empty 5WR set.
  10. An empty 5 WR set with a trio on the left that is closer together and a pair on the right that are stacked which is called a “Queens” concept.
  11. A 3WR set with a TE/RB with 4 guys on the right hand side of the formation.
  12. A similar concept as #11 but the guys are positioned differently with 4 guys on the left of the formation.
  13. A spread set with Queens on the right and a RB.
  14. A spread set with a TE in the backfield.
  15. A non-traditional set with a TE/Tackle spread out on each side of the formation with a WR stacked behind them. It’s referred to as the “Emory & Henry” formation.

General terms

  • 3WR – 3 wide receivers
  • 2TE – 2 tight ends
  • 3TE – 3 tight ends
  • 4WR – 4 wide receivers
  • 5WR – 5 wide receivers
  • 4 wide- 4 eligible receivers with a RB/TE in the backfield
  • 5 wide – 5 eligible receivers
  • Twins- two WR on one side of the ball.
  • Trips – three WR on one side of the ball.
  • Quads – four WR on one side of the ball
  • Queens – A pair of stacked receivers
  • Kings – A trio of stacked receivers

As you can see, these are 15 simple examples; however, there are essentially endless versions that can be diagramed with teams creating new looks each and every week. Always bringing new tools to the chess match. Don’t you just love football?!

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