Gilbert-Mattox Quick Study | The Box Count

I wanted to begin delving into some things fans may come to expect from the newly installed Gilbert-Mattox offense. Previously, I’ve written about the offensive line in my “Big Ugly Post’ (X). That served to illustrate some of the blocking schemes and techniques fans may see from a Matt Mattox coached offensive line. Now, I’d like to turn attention to broader concepts.

There’s no better place to start than the ‘box count’. In the Gilbert-Mattox offense, the box count serves as a guide to execution. Given that much of the offense is built around run-pass option (RPO) concepts, the box count serves the purpose of helping the quarterback make the ‘read’ decision whether to hand off or throw the ball, pre-snap. This is supposed to happen at break-neck pace, as tempo serves mainly to afford the offense simplicity. If the quarterback is given an RPO call, his primary responsibility is to identify the ‘conflict defender’ to the side of coverage he is reading. The conflict defender is typically a linebacker, safety, or corner. Depending on the route concept, screen or quick pass, the quarterback may immediately pull the ball and throw outside or read an extra defender, in many cases, the safety or corner over the top and to a side. So, if it’s an RPO, it’s typically arranged in the following formula. If it’s an inside run, receivers on both sides execute a screen or quick pass route concept. If the run is to the perimeter, the receiver(s) to the run-side execute blocks, while the receiver(s) to the back side execute a screen or quick pass concept.., SIMPLE! What’s important to note is that, when faced with apparent man coverage, most RPO’s simply become screen or quick pass concepts to the outside, without a run-pass read, as the box is assumed to be ‘loaded’ if there is man coverage outside. That is mostly it.

So, without further ado, below are some examples of how the box count factored into the play call and the quarterback’s decision to hand off or pass, typically from the construct of the run-pass option (RPO), a HUGE aspect of the Gilbert offense. I’ll keep things simple with only a couple of examples.

Below is an example of what Gilbert and Mattox hope to see with a good deal of frequency next season, a 5-man box. With 5 in the box, that oftentimes means a 2-high safety alignment and in this case there would be 3 defenders devoted to the ‘twins’ receivers on each side. I suspect, if Texas gets plenty of looks like this next season, it won’t have very much difficulty moving the football. However, in order to warrant alignments such as the one below, Texas must execute at a better rate throwing to the outside, more on that when I begin discussing pass game concepts.

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Note the difference in the box counts from the first example and the next one. There are 6 defenders in the box in this sequence and though this example is a little bit more complicated than the previous, the general principles still apply. Unless a called quarterback run is the play call below, the defense has 6 defenders outnumbering 5 blockers for the offense. With the call being an inside run, both the ‘trips’ receivers side and the single receiver side both run route concepts. However, part of the quarterback’s pre-snap process is to choose the best match-up and that often involves leverage. They run a ‘bubble’ screen concept to the field trips side with both outside receivers blocking the corner and nickel, thus yielding space for YAC (yards after catch). With the first main threats blocked, the slot receiver running the bubble has room to make a play against the safety to his side. The defense has been divided and conquered in this example.

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Gilbert-Mattox can deploy similar concepts as the examples above from a multitude of personnel and formations. Oftentimes, the defense is left with few great choices defending this offense because it’s primary intent is to run the ball. This often forces defenses to place 6 defenders in the box, which can lead to difficult stresses to overcome in coverage. One major way to combat this is to play more man coverage, but that becomes difficult over the course of a game against an uptempo offense. Eventually, a big play is given up and all the defense’s hard work is all for not. In the future I’ll dive into some of the concepts with more detail, as reads can vary along with the concepts themselves. What should stand out for now regarding the RPO plays this offense will run is that they are guided by the box count.