There were not many bright spots in the Jets’ season ending defeat to the Buffalo Bills last week, but one of the few was running back Chris Ivory reaching 1,000 yards rushing for the first time in his career. He did so on a 58 yard run at the beginning of the second quarter, which you can watch here.
Ivory was able to break a long run on a play known as “split zone,” which is a staple of Chan Gailey’s shotgun rushing attack. As the name suggests, it is a zone blocking concept. Offensive linemen are not assigned a man to block, but instead are all responsible for a gap. In this case, they are all zone stepping to their playside gap:
Each offensive linemen is stepping to their right and has to hit the first blue jersey they see. However, at this point, no one is accounting for the backside end, number 55. This is where the “split” part of split zone comes in. Quincy Enunwa, the tight end, will come back against the gain of the play and kick out the backside defender:
This serves the purpose of giving Enunwa a leverage block on a bigger defender and also creates some misdirection for the defense. Ivory now has the responsibility of being a smart runner. In any zone scheme, the running back is expected to make one cut and hit the first hole he sees.
On this play, that is an easy task for Ivory. The Bills have walked linebackers into both A-gaps. Center Nick Mangold is able to zone step to his right and wash the right A-gap defender out of the play. However, the real impressive block here is made by left guard James Carpenter. After zone-stepping to his right, he is able to seal the left A-gap defender and create a lane for Ivory.
Left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson (60) also does a good job of sealing his block, and Enunwa influences that backside end enough to keep him out of the play. Finally, receiver Eric Decker (circled above) shows great hustle to both draw the corner inside and cut off the safety in the middle of the field. The result is nothing but green grass for Ivory.
The split zone was an extremely effective run play for the Jets this year out of the shotgun with Enunwa at the H-back or wing position. It was a large factor in Ivory’s best statistical season of his career. As the Jets look to build in their second year under Todd Bowles, look for this play to remain one of the base run actions for their offense.