Welcome to the latest edition of X’s and O’s with the Bros by X’s and O’s editor @rodofdisaster. This feature represents a basic attempt to look deeper into the game of football, learn something about the X’s and O’s that make it go, and better appreciate the games within the game. It’s called “X’s and O’s with the Bros” because you don’t have to be a player, coach, or rocket surgeon to get something out of taking a closer look at a football play, so please enjoy the post and the discussion in the comments.
This week Rod focuses on Shurmurball staple, fullback Alex Smith.
Situation: 3rd Quarter; 5:25 left
Score: Browns 13, Steelers 14
Down & Distance: 1st & Goal from Steelers’ 15
The Browns come out in 12-personnel (1 back, 2 TE) and Alex Smith is lined up as a fullback in the “I-strong right, twins left alignment.” The Steelers are in base 3-4 personnel and lined up man-to-man with seven in the box. The alignment is favorable for a run play. Note Harrison looking to blitz off of the opposite edge.
In the first photo we see Weeden pivoting to the strong side and there are several other things to note:
1. Thomas and Greco are double teaming the defensive end
2. Mack is blocking down on the nose and Lauvao is pulling to his left.
3. Harrison (arrow) still looks aggressive.
And here we see the play develop to the weakside:
1. Lauvao has come across and blocked Harrison
2. Greco has flattened the defensive end and Thomas is looking to a LB to block
3. Mack is getting the better of the nose tackle
Finally, the arrow shows Alex Smith sizing up Lawrence Timmons who’s stepped up into the outside gap.
Here we see that Alex Smith has pushed Timmons to the outside. The second arrow shows Joe Thomas on the strongside ILB. A hole has developed and it’s Trent Richardson one on one with Ryan Clark.
Clark conveniently flails to take himself out of the play leaving Richardson with a wide open path to the end zone. He scores to give the Browns the lead for good.
This play isn’t really anything extraordinary, but solid execution like this against the Steelers is nothing anyone should take for granted in these parts. And if the tide really is turning here in Cleveland it seems just as well to have an “X’s and O’s” post devoted to the man whose claim to fame is a play where his coach didn’t even know he’d lined up at fullback or that he’d never taken a handoff in his life: Alex Smith.
Over the last several games Smith has been lining up at the fullback position more and more as the coaching staff has kept Owen Marecic off the field. There isn’t any room in the NFL for a fullback who can’t block or catch consistently. Smith’s blocks haven’t been pretty but they have been effective.
For example, here’s a play in the earlier part of the third quarter where Smith ends up getting a good block on the weakside ILB, keeping him on the that half of the field.
And here’s a play later in the game as the Browns are trying to run clock in the four minute offense. Interestingly, it’s the same blocking scheme with Lauvao pulling and Smith leading to the weakside. This play resulted in another decent gain to keep the chains moving and the clock running.
In last week’s game we saw a big gain on an off-tackle toss play and the arrow highlights Smith who had lined up in an H-back position getting a nice block on the end man on the line of scrimmage.
Smith tends to block high and extends his arms a bit more than I’d like but he’s done a very effective job giving the Browns an effective lead blocker from a couple of different formations. As well as the offensive line has played this year, the big gains still don’t happen without skill players (TE, FB, WR) blocking effectively.
The Browns managed to execute a nice block for the go-ahead score and another to help preserve the lead which is why an effective blocker at tight end is invaluable and also why Evan Moore could never get more playing time. Well done, Alex Smith.
The complete “Xs and Os with the Bros” archive is available here.