Michigan Football: The Tight End — Back and Here To Stay
Once upon a time, there was a terminology in football called the end. This player was aptly named, playing on the end of the line beside the tackle. Then when passing yardage was a must the end split out, giving rise to the term split end. Football morphed to the point where teams had one split end, one tight end, and a flanker. The identification was simple: the split end was called the X, the tight end was called the Y, and any flanker was called the Z. When the team was in a must pass situation, both ends would split out.
The Z was part of the pro style game. In college, the Z might be a third back, a wingback that was used near the end of scrimmage line to either crack back on a block or run a pattern, or later on as a slot, a player that evolved more into the spread game.The Y was usually a player not as big as a tackle, but more agile and capable of catching a pass. The primary role of the traditional Y tight end was blocking and scoring in the red zone.
In today’s football, some teams use a tight end rarely; those teams are live or die spread teams. But even spread teams need a tight end. Some teams have reverted back to the long-ago common use of two tight ends. Recently Stanford made plenty of noise using three tight ends. But, the definition of tight end has changed. Some tight ends are the traditional Z types, while others are the versatile slightly split out tight end (the Joker) that can cause mismatch nightmares. The Joker is a hybrid, changing between splitting and moving in to the traditional Z role. Finally, the often used H-back describes another type of tight end, one that can play the Z role, go in motion, or stop and simulate a fullback in the backfield.Now on to the H-back (or hybrid back) option for using tight ends, and option that appears to be growing within the various spheres of football. Start with this premise: anytime an offense can confuse or gain an advantage against the defense, the opportunity will be commenced. The H-back demands a versatile and smart player that can get the job done in many arenas.
The H-back is expected to be the second tight end for the primary purpose of cutting down the effect of the new rush ends that have and are wreaking havoc on offenses. The tight end is closer to the rush end than any running back assigned to block anyone that gets into the backfield.
The H-back can go in motion to present a power formation to the opposite side of the original set. And the H-back can serve as a blocking fullback. The results of all the movement and possibilities can be a change of formation forcing the defense to react and change alignment; and perhaps cause a momentary doubt or confusion for the defensive unit.
H-backs importantly can create mismatches. Motion a tight end and the coverage may be tipped. If the mismatch is desirable, the quarterback will audible to the chosen match-up.Jon Gruden has been credited with providing a lexical term for a specific type of hybrid back he refers to as the Joker tight end. The Joker tight end is one that can run multiple pass patterns the same as wide receivers, instead of simple releases to sit in a zone or head to the sideline. The prototype Joker was Kellen Winslow. If the defense chooses to use a linebacker against the Joker, he becomes a passing target due to a mismatch in speed. If the defense goes to nickel or dime, then the offense, including the Joker, attempts to play bullyboy football.
The primary rewards of using H-backs and Jokers are gaining mismatches and forcing a defense to tip the coverage. Once an offense gains even the smallest advantage that can be exploited, the defense has a problem.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff
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