From the Far Hash: A Preseason Primer on the Veer and Inverted Veer
This is part two of a two-part series on the option football currently becoming popular in today’s NFL. The first installment was on the zone read option. This second installment is on the veer and inverted veer.
Option football looks like it will be featured in NFL games for at least this season and probably a few more into the future. Not all option football is the same and not all teams run the same option packages. Previously, I wrote about the zone read option. Now, we will cover a fundamentally different form of option football that we will see in the NFL, which is the veer, and its near-relative, the inverted veer.
In my last article about the zone read, some of you probably wondered why I didn’t mention Cam Newton. Isn’t he also a running quarterback? Doesn’t he also run the zone read? As a matter of fact, he is not zone read quarterback. He in an inverted veer quarterback. He had tremendous success as one during the 2010 season while playing for Auburn en route to the Heisman Trophy and National Championship (and that pains me tremendously as an Alabama fan). Cam also runs the inverted veer for the Carolina Panthers. While the Panthers do not play the Packers this season, Colin Kaepernick did run some inverted veer during the 2013 NFC Championship game against the Falcons. So, it’s reasonable that the Packers can expect some inverted veer during their season opener against the 49ers. Robert Griffin III has a veer package that he runs sometimes in addition to his more favored zone read. We might see glimpses of that when Washington comes to Lambeau on September 15.
So, what’s an inverted veer? Well, before we can answer that, we have to understand the traditional veer concept first.
If you remember from my previous article about the zone read, that concept optioned the back side defensive end. The veer is also an option concept, but it options the play side defensive end instead (or outside linebacker, depending on the defensive front seven). Like the zone read, it leaves the defensive end unblocked, freeing up additional blockers. The goal remains the same: move the ball through the space where the defensive end is not located. This effectively makes a very skilled defender inconsequential to the outcome of the play without ever even attempting to block him. See Figure 1 below.
[Figure 1; click to enlarge]
While running the veer, the back side guard usually pulls play side to generate one more play side blocker. The play side tackle leaves the defensive end unblocked while he advances to the next level to block a pursuing linebacker. Overall, the blocking scheme is man-to-man, which is different than the zone blocking in the zone read. This is one reason why the veer is more common in high school and college than the zone read; man-to-man blocking is easier to teach young players than zone blocking.
Just as in the zone read, the quarterback must read the defensive end and option him into choosing a path to defend. At the snap of the ball on a veer play call, the running back dives to the middle of the offensive line while the quarterback tucks the ball into his gut. It is the quarterback’s decision whether he will let the running back keep the ball for an inside dive or if he will remove it and keep it himself. During the play, if the play side defensive end stays home in his normal lane, his responsibility is to crash and defend the inside hand off to the running back. If he does that, because he is unblocked, the running back will most likely be tackled for a loss or a short gain. Therefore, the quarterback should keep the ball and sprint around the edge away from the defensive end. Presumably, the quarterback will be faster and will have a better angle than the defensive end, allowing for a yardage gain. See Figure 2 below.
[Figure 2; click to enlarge]
Another aspect of the veer, which we won’t cover in depth because it hasn’t appeared in the NFL recently, is the quarterback pitch. Sometimes, a second running back trails the quarterback and gives the quarterback the option to pitch him the ball. If this happens, the offense is called “the triple option” because the quarterback can give the ball to the dive back (described below), keep it himself (described above), or pitch it to a trailing running back (not covered here).
If the defensive end grows tired of the quarterback sprinting around his outside edge, the natural tendency is to jump the outside lane he thinks the quarterback will take on an outside run. If that happens, then the quarterback will allow the running back to keep the ball and follow the play side tackle and back side pulling guard into the hole. The defensive end’s own eagerness effectively took himself outside of the play without even having a blocker on him. Sometimes, the pulling guard can block the defensive end. The overall concept of the play is for the running back to run in the space vacated by the defensive end. See Figure 3 below.
[Figure 3; click to enlarge]
When running the traditional veer, the running back runs the ball through the interior and the quarterback runs the ball to the edge. Usually, the running back is a large, strong individual, whereas the quarterback may be leaner and less intimidating. The running back is more likely to survive being smashed by the likes of Vince Wilfork or Patrick Willis than a quarterback would.
However, a major trend in football, including both college and the NFL, is for very large, strong, and athletic quarterbacks. It’s not unusual to have quarterbacks the size of Jerry Kramer taking snaps. A quarterback measuring 6’5” and weighing 230-250 lbs. seems to be commonplace these days. With this development, the veer concept has also evolved. Since the quarterbacks are so large and strong, they are better able to withstand running through the interior of the offensive line. This is where the inverted veer comes into play. When running the inverted veer, the running back runs the ball to the edge and the quarterback runs the ball through the interior. Another advantage of the inverted veer is it allows multi-talented, but smaller, running backs to remain on the field and still be involved in the perimeter running game; also, the threat of using a skilled pass-catching running back remains in play, giving defenses one more thing to worry about.
The inverted veer has the same ball placement reads as the traditional veer, but the ball carrier is “inverted” because the quarterback now runs inside and the running back runs outside.
If the defensive end stays home to crash and defend the quarterback’s inside run, then the quarterback will hand the ball off to the running back to attack the outside edge. Smaller, quicker running backs can usually hit the edge better than a defensive end leaning to the interior. See Figure 4 below.
[Figure 4; click to enlarge]
If the defensive end plays his option to guard against the running back taking the outside edge, then the quarterback will keep the ball himself and follow the play side tackle and back side guard through the space vacated by the defensive end. See Figure 5 below.
[Figure 5; click to enlarge]
These are the most basic tenets of the veer and inverted veer, which you will undoubtedly see Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, and Robert Griffin III run during the 2013 season. The television announcers will probably get confused and make the wrong play-by-play call by calling a veer a read option, and vice versa. But, you now know better. You can easily tell the different option concepts apart from each other. First, see if the quarterback is optioning the play side or back side defensive end. Then, see if the quarterback is running inside or outside.
In summary for both of my option articles, if the back side defensive end is being optioned, that’s the zone read option. If the play side defensive end is being optioned, but quarterback runs outside, that’s the veer. If the play side defensive end is being optioned, but the quarterback runs inside, that’s the inverted veer. Now, when watching the games, you can impress all of your friends and house guests and speak intelligently about all three option concepts. Happy watching!
Featured photo by Keith Allison (Creative Commons).