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Hazard's Huddle: Getting To Know Jay Gruden By Formation/Personnel Use

An All-22 film breakdown of formations/personnel Jay Gruden likes to use

Patrick McDermott

Jay Gruden is the new Head Coach of the Washington Redskins. Letting that sink in, it's time to get to know him. Instead of doing a game-by-game analysis of the Cincinnati Bengals season, I've decided to do this experiment differently. It's a long off-season, therefore I have time to break down Jay Gruden's offense down to its simplest form. The first thing I'm going to breakdown is his use of formations and personnel. After that, I can break down the plays he runs from these formations/personnel, and then break down his tendencies on play calls in certain situations.

In his introductory presser, Jay Gruden said he has "never found a play he doesn't like that works." Watching his offense, you can tell he's not blowing smoke.

-Jailbreak Screens

-TE Screens

-WR Screens

-RB Screens

-Bootleg Passes


-Shifts & Motions

-Tons of Formations

-Power Runs

-Zone Runs

-Read Option


-3, 5 and 7 Step Drops

One of the basic ideas of a successful offense is: Run a good, handful of plays but run each one from multiple formations. Personnel groupings alone can give you advantages in this league, and Jay Gruden likes to move guys around to get the match-ups he wants. When Jay has the weapons he wants, it's hard to call a defense just based on the personnel that comes onto the field. Let's take a look at what Jay Gruden does with personnel and formations.

(Editor's Note: I thought I'd have to review 3 or 4 games to fully display how he uses formations/personnel. I only needed one. I reviewed the Bengals vs. Steelers from Week 2. Gruden didn't have a FB active for this game.)

"Falcon" (12 Personnel: 1 RB, 2 TEs, 2 WRs)

This was Jay Gruden's favorite personnel grouping from this game. The following, are the different ways he used it.


Here, we have Andy Dalton under center with a single-back behind him with two TEs on one side near the line of scrimmage.


Nearly the same formation as above except Dalton is now in Shotgun and one of the TEs have been flexed into the slot.


Here, the TEs are both back near the line of scrimmage, Dalton is back under center except this time they brought one WR over for TWINS and made them TIGHT to the line of scrimmage. This gives a run look.


Same personnel that gave that run look now gives an all-out pass look. Dalton is back in Shotgun and 2 WRs split to one side and 2 TEs split to the other side for a SPREAD look. Its unconventional to have two TEs to one side but when you have the weapons you can make it work. In addition, who covers those TEs can alert the QB to the coverage.


Here, Jay brings a WR back over to the TE side and puts them in a TRIPS TIGHT BUNCH formation.


Jay also uses the same personnel for an EMPTY look. Running Back is spread out wide and Gruden isn't afraid of using him as a pass target. We didn't have much of that in '13.


Gruden puts 2 TEs back in-line and has TWINS lined up on the other side with Dalton back under center.


Here, Gruden keeps the TWINS to one side but moves one of the TEs into the backfield in an H-Back role.


Now Gruden puts a WR back on each side of the formation with Dalton under center. The H-back is lined up in the backfield but this time outside the OT.


Here's nearly the same formation as the previous one except now Dalton is in Shotgun.


I already showed you a TE FLEXED in the slot on the same side as the other TE. This time, the TE is in the slot on the opposite side.


Here's another SPREAD look. This time, instead of the TEs on one side, they are in the slot on each side.


This is the same as the previous SPREAD look except they've been brought in TIGHT. TEs still in the slots.


Here's two in-line TEs with TWINS to the left and Dalton under center.


Same formation as the previous one except now Dalton is in Shotgun and Gruden FLEXED the TE on the WEAK side out to a single receiver.

Now with all of those looks, how do you confidently send out a defense when you don't know which formation to expect? You don't.

"Tiger" (11 Personnel: 1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs)

This was Jay Gruden's second favorite personnel grouping in this game. You'll notice some of the same formations as "Falcon," but with a change in personnel, it changes how you defend it.


This is your basic 11 personnel look. 2 WRs to one side, in-line TE and WR on the other. Dalton is in Shotgun.


Same formation as the previous one except Gruden brought the WR from the TE side TIGHT to the formation.


Another look Gruden used off the original formation was to STACK the WRs on the on their side.


Here, Gruden brings one of the WRs from the 2 WR side into an H-Back role in the box.


This is just like you saw in the "Falcon" breakdown, they run BUNCHES on both sides, but different personnel.


This is very close to the original formation except this time the TE is in-line on the 2 WR side. Three eligible pass catchers on one side.


Same look as the last one except the TE isnt in-line anymore so you can do different things with him.


Same look again except this time the TE isn't in-line OR in the backfield. Now he's in the slot creating TRIPS on one side.


Gruden takes that same TRIPS and puts them in a TIGHT BUNCH look.


Here's another TRIPS look except this time they moved the 3rd WR to the TRIPS side and FLEXED the TE as the single guy on the other side.


Here's a different look. TE is in the backfield now. 2 WRs to one side and 1 WR to the other.


As a variation of the previous look, Gruden STACKED the WRs on the TWINS side.

One again, it's hard to call a defense when you face an offense that moves all it's pieces around.

(02 Personnel: 0 RB, 2 TE, 3WRs)

Jay Gruden also used some EMPTY sets (shocking, I know).


Here's a SPREAD look with an in-line TE.


Here's that same look except the in-line TE is FLEXED into space.


Gruden took that same look, but brought that WR and both TEs into a TRIPS TIGHT BUNCH.


Here's two in-line TEs on one side, TWINS on the other side and a WR in the backfield. Yes, they handed the ball of here.

"Hawk" (13 Personnel: 1 RB, 3 TEs, 1 WR)

As much as Jay Gruden likes to spread it out, he can also work with 3 TE sets.


Here, we have 2 TEs to one side and 1 TE to the other side.


Here's a small variation of the previous look. This time, 1 of the TEs is off the line of scrimmage.


On this one, Gruden puts all 3 TEs on one side. Not only that, but Dalton is in Shotgun. That is not typical from a 3 TE set.


Here, there are 3 TEs to one side again but 1 is FLEXED out like a WR.

"Rhino" (22 Personnel: 2 RBs, 2 TEs, 1 WR)

Even with no FB active, Gruden was still able to run a 2 RB set.


A few times during the game, Gruden would bring in DT Domata Peko as a FB. He has two TEs to one side. Of course, there are also plenty of variations that you could branch off this as well.

So by my count, that's 36 different looks and variations WITHOUT the use of "Zebra" (20 personnel), "Eagle" (21 personnel), and "Bear" (23 personnel) (because they didnt have a FB). Granted, upon review, the Bengals FB only played 93 snaps this year so it might not have made a huge difference.

*Quick Hitters*

- Gone are the days of the #1 rushing attack in the NFL.

-But, gone are also the days of only 2 man routes. Gruden likes 3, 4 and 5 man routes.

-72% of Andy Dalton's passes came from Shotgun. RG3 THRIVED on this at Baylor.

-I like to call Gruden's offense "Screen and Seam" because he hits screens all over the place then hits the seams that those open

-Gruden uses both zone and power running schemes but it doesn't look like he attacks a defense with it. It looks like just a change up from his spread attack. Would his rushing offense improve with a better running back in Alfred Morris?

-Chris Thompson could have a bigger role in Gruden's offense if he can stay healthy. Think Gio Bernard.

-Darrel Young seems to suffer the most from this scheme change. Will Gruden use a FB more when provided a good one? On Hard Knocks, John Conner, a more complete and better FB, was cut in favor of FB/TE Orson Charles because of his versatility to play TE too.

-Gruden clearly likes two pass catching TEs. Jordan Reed hasn't been able to stay healthy. Fred Davis's contract is up. Jay Gruden has the kind of personality to convince Fred Davis he doesn't need a change of scenery. Will Sean McVay give him a ringing endorsement though? If the rumors (sleeping/late to meetings, drinking on nights before games, etc.) are true, you have to wonder which weighs more. Although, it would be nice to not waste a draft pick or Free Agent contract on a TE.

-I don't know how impressive this offense looks without a legit #1 WR. I love Pierre Garcon but I like him more as a Z WR, catching passes underneath and getting YAC. You need a legitimate X WR who can draw and dictate coverage which makes it easier to take advantage of other mis-matches. Where do we find him?