What Is Wide Zone?

The wide zone (as it is commonly referred to), or mid zone, run is a play where the offense tries to stretch the defense laterally and hopes to find creases that the running back can take advantage of. As opposed to the “duo” gap-based scheme the Bucs have previously relied heavily on, wide zone places a heavy premium on running back vision and gives him multiple options to choose from. Here is a picture of the play concept:

The entire play hinges on the play-side offensive tackle. His job is to get inside leverage on his block of the end man on the line (EMOL). The running back in a wide zone scheme has three progressive reads he can choose from to make the run successful.


The initial read is to take the run through the “B” gap between the tackle and the guard. He would make this choice if that “B” gap is cleared by a) the play-side tackle getting a good inside leveraged block on the EMOL’s inside shoulder and b) the play side guard and center getting outside leverage on the nose tackle. As the play develops the play side guard would move up from the double team on the nose tackle to the weakside linebacker.


If that “B” gap is not cleared well, either by the EMOL being able to keep inside leverage on the tackle OR the nose tackle being able to widen the running back can move to his second read which is either the play side or backside “A” gap. He would take this path if the backside guard and tackle won their double team on the three-technique and the backside guard is moving up to the second level to engage the middle linebacker.

Watch this video:

The running back may choose not to take that read for a couple of reasons. One the three-technique could do a good job of flowing to the play side and not giving that lane as an obvious option. This would most likely mean that the backside guard was not able to work up to the middle linebacker.

The other reason is that the middle linebacker could have jumped the play and worked into that “A” gap quickly. If this happens the running back could look to what’s behind door number three. That door features the running back cutting the ball back behind the backside tackle into the “C” gap.

All of this is happening while the entire offensive line is flowing laterally to the play side. This running scheme places premiums on several things. As I mentioned earlier the running back has to have good vision to be able to quickly diagnose the defense and identify the best course to take. He also has to have patience to let the play develop so he does not take action too quickly. It also requires runners who have great acceleration as it is a run scheme that places a premium on a single decision and cut followed by a burst of speed.

From an offensive line perspective, players who are successful in this scheme have to be able to move well. With the lateral flow the scheme requires lineman must have sound footwork and good communication to be able to identify where double teams are needed and when to move to the second level. Speaking of the second level, players have to have the requisite speed/acceleration to get to the linebackers and box safeties.


Center Ryan Jensen performed well and has proven he can adapt to any system. Right tackle Tristan Wirfs had good agility drills but did not blow the doors off in that area. The same is true of right guard Shaq Mason.

Backup center Robert Hainsey did well in agility metrics and could move to left guard and possibly fit well into this scheme. Luke Goedeke did not perform at the NFL combine so there is no data for him on this, but I think he could do fine in this scheme. The same is true of guard and reserve lineman Nick Leverett.

Mostly, I think this is yet another nail in the coffin of Donovan Smith’s time in Tampa Bay.

Wide Zone In Action

That was a lot of words to describe a visual. So, let’s just take a look at the wide zone concept in action.

I found a clip I think most Bucs fans should enjoy because it comes at the expense of the New Orleans Saints. In the Seahawks’ Week 5 matchup against the Saints, they were able to rip off this 69-yard touchdown on second-and-1 in the fourth quarter.

Watch as left tackle Charles Cross aims for the inside shoulder of the defensive end. Then left guard Damien Lewis starts a double team on the three-technique lined up to the play side before quickly moving to get the play side linebacker. Because that linebacker is able to get to the line quickly, rookie running back Kenneth Walker’s first read to the “B” gap is a no-go.

Meanwhile, right guard Phil Haynes also works quickly off of his double-team to the middle linebacker shooting into the backside “A” gap. This takes away Walker’s second read.

That leaves Walker moving back across the flow of the play to bend his run behind the backside defensive tackle. The gap there is huge due largely to the play side flow the offensive line was able to help create and tight end Will Dissly and receiver Tyler Lockett being able to seal the backside of the play.

Key Difference Between Wide Zone and Outside Zone

You will often hear of this offense referred to as outside zone. While the two systems are similar (and I am sure you will see some outside zone run under Dave Canales), there is a key difference between wide zone and outside zone. That difference is in how the play side tackle executes his block on the EMOL and where the running back starts his read.

In an OZ scheme the play-side tackle is actually trying to reach block the EMOL and get outside leverage on his defender. If he is able to do this the running back would follow his initial read to stretch the run to the outside of that block. His second option would be to “bang” the run inside of the tackle, and his third read would be to “bend” the run behind the play side tackle.

Bucs RB Rachaad White Can Thrive In This System

Canales heaped a ton of praise on Bucs RB Rachaad White during his introductory press conference. And it stands to reason why. White was made for this type of running system. It is the same system he thrived in during college at Arizona State.

Last year the Bucs’ run game was abhorrent. Canales will attempt to improve those results with a proven-successful wide zone scheme that caters to a lot of the Bucs current personnel.

Repost: pewterreport.com/bucs-new-scheme-wide-zone/