I see your triple TE set, and raise you a Wishbone

Way back in August, MDC graced us with his breakdown of his dream Houston Offense, the Three TE set. Last week against Tampa Bay, I witnessed a small dose of what I believe is the true unstoppable Texans formation, the wishbone triple option. Bone offenses were popular in the 70's and 80's back in the days before airing it out was the name of the game. In those times, running the rock and grinding it out the hard way was the only way to play, and defending this physical play style often meant stacking the box and just out-muscling the enemy. As a counter to 8-man fronts, various wishbone formations were invented as a way to continue running the ball against stacked defenses. Instead of relying on muscle, however, they got their effectiveness from unpredictability.

This set consists of 5 offensive lineman, one split wide receiver, one tight end (or another wide out if you feel like it), a quarterback, full back directly behind him, and two half backs off center on each side still further behind him. The Wishbone formation relies on versatility and an offense's ability to take defenders out of a play without actually blocking them. Deception is the name of the game, and Houston, as we all know, is more than capable of deceiving the crap out of anyone.


Take the jump to see just a small sample of the possibilities in a Wishbone offense.

Below you see a basic Bone Triple Option. And before you ask, yes, I am using the likely starting personnel for the remainder of the season. I did this because Leinart is a lefty, and he rolls out in a different direction than Schaub, which means the offensive line's assignments on boots are completely reversed. Trust me, it matters.


So, as you can see Andre is the single wide out. Casey is the lead blocker. Tate is the weak side back, while Foster is on the strong side. From here you can do many things, starting with basic weak and strong side runs similar to single back sets. The advantage, however, is that you don't need a counter to hit the away side of a block. You can go to either side immediately and the defenders will have no idea which back to aim for.


This is a weak side run. Johnson will block his corner back, while Casey handles the Defensive End and/or Weak Side Linebacker. Brown or smith ideally will release and advance to the second level, or maybe even Brisiel could get pulled to block in the second level. It could really go either way, but for simplicity's sake, I'm just going to assume someone will be assigned to spring Tate into the second level where his only job will be to shake a one on one matchup against the safety.


This is a strong side run. Johnson will run across to provide a second level block down field if possible/necessary. Casey handles the Defensive End and/or Strong Side Linebacker, and Foster is left with beating his man on the outside. Simple stuff. You can really run a limitless amount of runs from this formation. With Casey as a lead blocker, and two feature backs on either side, Defenses really won't have a clue which direction to cheat on. Not only that, they will have no choice but to leave a safety deep on Andre, which almost always means a one on one battle with the remaining safety if opposing line backers are picked up. Hell, you could even just give it to Casey on FB dives if you really wanted to. Deception + Execution + versatility = potency.


Let's see what options open up in the play action passing game once Defenses commit to stopping runs on both side of the field (how foolish of them).


This is a simple play. It gives the same look as the weak/strong runs up above, and ideally after enough variation in the run game from this set the defense will have no idea what to do and will probably just stack the box and hope for the best. That is when you start warming up Leinart's arm with some short bootleg passes and scare their secondary back into coverage. On this play, Johnson will run a quick slant to pull their CB1 and safety off the weak side of the field. The line and OD will run a fake strong stretch and foster will be the bate. Tate will run a swing to the now vacant weak side, and after Leinart rolls out it is a matter of simply dumping it off to Tate on the edge. If Andre successfully pulls his men on the slant, Tate should have plenty of room to run and cut back into mid field if necessary. Will it go for six? Probably not. Will it scare the crap out of their linebackers? Definitely. 


So, how do we exploit that fear? I'm glad you asked.


Ahhhh, the deep post. Is there anything more beautiful than watching Andre make defensive backs look like idiots on 35 yard play action bombs down field? Ya, I don't think so either. This is another strong side fake. The difference, however, is that the bone formation turns this play into a deadly QB option that is nearly impossible to stop behind the line without sniffing it out pre-snap (which is incredibly difficult against the Bone).


For starters, Andre will run his route and probably draw double coverage (If the defense is even trying they will keep their safety on him, but you never know). The line will suck the linebackers in on the strong run, and Casey/Foster will go that direction as normal. OD, however, will release and run a shallow cross to the weak side. If the O-Line and Andre do their jobs, he should only have a single defender following him (whether that is a DB or LB is dependent on the defensive formation), which makes him a good check down if Andre can't shake is coverage on the post. The whole point of the play is to get Andre in position for a long ball, but if the defense does not bite on the run and drops into a zone coverage, Andre and OD are screwed. The beauty of the Bone, however, is that Tate is still left in the backfield to be a lead blocker for Leinart on a keeper if he doesn't have a good read after his roll out. At best, this play goes for a lot of yards. At worst, Leinart runs behind Tate and picks up a few and keeps the chains moving. Seems like a win-win to me.


This is but a small sample of the possibilities in a wishbone offense. When perfected and fully diversified, it is nigh unstoppable. In fact, in 1971 The University of Oklahoma ran for an average of 470 yards a game out of the Bone. Considering Houston has one of the few running back tandems that could handle a true Wishbone offense, I am excited at the prospect of watching Kubes bust this out in future games. We've got the line, we've got the receiver, and we certainly have the runners. If it works like it did against Tampa in the few plays we employed it, we may yet see it again this season. One can only hope.


So, there you go BRB. Triple TE or Bone Option. What is your dream Houston offense? Vote Below.




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