Overview

 

Introduction
The following table shows the Formations codes and names for each formation available, the number of each player type on the field in that formation, and the general effectiveness of the formation for different play calls.
Code Name QB OL RB WB TE WR Notes
A Pro Set (near) 1 5 2 - 1 2 balanced, good strongside
B Shotgun Ace 1 5 1 1 1 2 shotgun, two backs, one back up
C Shotgun Slot 1 5 1 - 1 3 shotgun, one back, three receivers
D Shotgun Spread 1 5 - 1 - 4 shotgun, four receivers
E Ace (one back) 1 5 1 1 1 2 weak inside run, balanced
G Goal Line 1 6 2 - 2 - run power, no receivers
H Slot (one back) 1 5 1 - 1 3 third receiver, one back
I I Formation 1 5 2 - 1 2 balanced, fullback leading
J Jumbo 1 5 2 - 2 1 run power, one wideout
K Pro Set (far) 1 5 2 - 1 2 balanced, good weakside
L Split 1 5 - 2 1 2 both backs up, weak running
O Open Set 1 5 2 - 1 2 balanced, weak inside (no fullback)
S Stretch 1 5 1 - - 4 run and shoot, silver stretch etc..
T Two TE Balanced 1 5 1 - 2 2 blanced, no weakside, one back
U Two TE Strong 1 5 1 - 2 2 unbalanced, both TE strongside (or backfield)
W Wishbone 1 5 3 - 1 1 multiple back, misdirection running, weak passing
Z Wing-Three 1 5 1 1 - 3 third receiver, one back up, no tight end
Special Teams
F Field Goal 1 5 - 2 2 - special teams, not including kicker
P Punt - 5 1 2 2 - special teams, not including punter

Key
Code
Position Notes
QB Quarterback  
OL Offensive Line (including auxiliary tackles)
RB Running Back (full back, half back, tail back)
WB Wing Back (up back, wing, h-back etc)
TE Tight End (positioned to block or release)
WR Wide Receivers  


Wing Backs
Running backs lined up in wing back positions are more effective as receivers than in their usual positions, but much less effective running or blocking (though they can block, and at a pinch run the ball if they go in motion). A wing back is likely to be a better receiver and a bigger threat after the catch than a tight end, although there are several defences in Gameplan that effectively key on the running backs, and fewer that specifically take out the tight end. Wings are less effective as blockers (than either tight ends or full backs), being largely restricted to outside running plays.

 

Wide Receivers
The wide receivers are normally split one each side of the line of scrimmage. The weakside receiver starts on the line and is sometimes known as the split end (he's the other end from the tight end). The strongside receiver starts a yard behind the line of scrimmage and is sometimes known as the flanker. It is the flanker who is most usually seen "in motion" and this extra freedom makes him more difficult to jam on the line of scrimmage. Usually a team has their most dangerous receiver as the flanker.

 

Fullback and Halfback
Teams normally have two starting running backs, the full back and the half back. The full back is usually the bigger and stronger, while the half back is smaller and faster. The fullback tends to take most responsibility for blocking, and bears the brunt of the inside power running plays. The halfback tends to run most of the outside running plays, where speed is at a premium, and is the back who has a better chance of breaking for a very long gain.

 

Strong Side
The side where the tight end lines up is known as the strong side (since the offence has the extra blocker on that side). The other side is known as the weak side. We assume the tight end is normally set at the right end on the line of scrimmage, from where he can block as a lineman or release to catch like a receiver. The strong side is the open side for the quarterback (in Gameplan quarterbacks are always considered as being right-handed).

 

One Back Offenses
In one back formations the single back may be either the full back or half back according to the play call (it is the play you call that determines who is in the formation, not the formation itself). If a play description calls for a lead blocker or misdirection from a running back then don't call the play from a one back formation (they'll run the play assuming there's a lead blocker even though he isn't there).

 

Basic Formations
The basic offensive formation in pro football is the one we call the pro set. This lines up with five offensive linemen, the quarterback, one tight-end, two wide-receivers and two running backs (the full back and the half back). The running backs are both set in the backfield, one directly behind the quarterback and one slightly offset to the strongside.

 

Basic Variations
The Pro Set Near (A) offers great variety to the offence. With the tight end to block and two running backs in the backfield, they can use lead runs (where the fullback leads the halfback through the hole), or misdirection plays (where one back fakes the run in one direction and the other carries the ball in another). The alignment of the running backs allows good running straight ahead or strongside, particularly lead running to the strongside. Weakside running is less effective. Passing is fairly good, with two wide receivers plus the tight end, and the two running backs in the backfield able to release or block. The Pro Set Far (K) formation is similar, but instead of one running back offsetting to the strongside he is offset to the weakside. Straight ahead running is unaffected, but weakside running is improved at the expense of the strongside. The Open Set (O) formation is the third combination, where both backs are offset, one weakside and one strongside. Lead-running and running up the middle are poor, but running is otherwise good to both strong and weak sides. In the I Formation (I) both running backs are set directly behind the quarterback, with the fullback in front and the halfback 2-3 yards deeper than in a pro set. The running game is strong, especially up the middle, at the expense of the passing game (the running backs take longer to release into the flat or upfield and cannot pass-block as easily, being directly behind the quarterback at the snap).

 

Two Tight Ends
Another common set is the Two Tight End Balanced (M) formation, where one running back is removed and a second tight end sets up on the weakside of the line of scrimmage. This effectively removes the strongside/weakside differentiation. The blocking is now equally strong to either side, at the expense of the ability to use plays which require two running backs (misdirection or lead runs).
A variation is the Two Tight End Unbalanced/Strong (U) formation, where the second tight end lines up on the strongside. Here there are two extra blockers to the strongside, but rushing to the weakside will probably be very poor (unless the defence over commits to the strongside). An alternative for extra blocking power is the Jumbo (J) formation, in which the second tight end is brought in at the expense of a wide receiver. With two tight ends it has all the benefits of a balanced line of scrimmage but there are still two running backs available for misdirection and lead running. However there is only one wide receiver, so the passing game, particularly deep, is fairly weak. The ultimate running formation is the Goal Line (G) formation, in which an extra offensive lineman replaces the only wide receiver from the Jumbo formation. This adds yet another blocker at the further expense of the passing game.

 

Three Receivers
A formation with an extra receiver can be achieved by removing a running back and bringing in a wide receiver, to produce the Slot (H) formation. Passing to the wide receivers is significantly improved, but passing to the running back will be poor. The role of the tight end is unchanged, but the running game is restricted as there is only one running back in the backfield. An alternative is the Ace (One-Back) (E) formation, where a running back (sometimes referred to as an H-back) sets up close to the line of scrimmage outside the tight-end as a wing back. This permits him faster release into the flat or over the middle, but he is much less effective as a runner or blocker.

 

Four Receivers
To produce a formation with four wide receivers it is necessary either to play without a tight end, or without any running backs in the backfield. In the Stretch (S) formation the tight end is removed and there are four wide receivers. There is now no strongside to the offensive line, and the running game will be poor. There is no run blocking other than the offensive line, and successful running is dependent upon the passing game keeping the defence out of specialist run defences. The passing game is particularly good, but with no tight-end and only one running-back is almost entirely restricted to the wide receivers. The Wing-Three (Z) formation is an alternative with only three wide receivers, but with the second running back moved to become a wing back (the same as in the Ace). The running game is almost as weak as with the Stretch, but with a running back and a wing back available the passing game is available to both running backs and wide receivers. The Split (L) formation is a variation of the Ace formation, with both running backs lining up as wings (near the line of scrimmage). The variation in the passing game is optimised, with two wing backs, two wide receivers and the tight end, but with no-one in the backfield the running game is nonexistent.

 

Shotgun Formations
The various shotgun formations are variations on the other passing formations, in which the quarterback lines up four to seven yards deep in the backfield instead of immediately behind the centre ("under centre" in football parlance). Rather than handing the ball directly to the quarterback on the snap, the centre must pitch it and the quarterback must catch it. This longer snap increases the chance of a fumbled exchange, but the quarterback gains extra time to read the defence, dodge the pass rush and find an open receiver. In the Shotgun Ace (B) formation there are two wide receivers, one tight end, one wing back and one running back (who stands alongside the quarterback in the backfield). The passing game is balanced, but not particularly strong deep, and the running game will be relatively poor (the running back is likely to be stationary when he takes any handoff) even though the tight end is available as an blocker. The most common shotgun formation is the Shotgun Slot (C) formation, where the wing-back is replaced by a third wide receiver. This offers the greatest threat from the passing game whilst still retaining some semblance of a running game. The most extreme shotgun formation is the Shotgun Spread (D) formation in which the tight end is replaced by a fourth wide receiver and the lone running back moves up to the line of scrimmage as a wing back. The running game is nonexistent, and it is usually only used in desperation.

 

Wishbone
The Wishbone (W) formation is rarely used in pro football, but it still the staple of many college teams. There is only one receiver and only one tight end, but there are three running backs set in the backfield, one directly behind the quarterback and one offset slightly to each side. It is particularly strong for misdirection and option running, but is very weak in the passing game. Wishbone teams normally run most of the time and throw only a few passes per game. The success of the wishbone is primarily due to the lower quality of collegiate football and the willingness of collegiate coaches to allow the quarterbacks to run with the ball. In the pros, the extra speed of defensive players prevents teams consistently running misdirection plays.

 

 

Lead Running
These plays involve one back leading the other (who is the ball carrier) through the hole, usually with the fullback leading and the halfback carrying. These plays are slower to develop than those without a lead blocker, so the defence has a better chance of breaking up the play, but the extra blocker means there is also a higher chance of the ball carrier escaping for a long gain.

 

Misdirection
Misdirection plays are those where the offence tries to mislead the defence by "showing" one point of attack and then hitting a different one. Typically it involves the quarterback faking a handoff to one back going in one direction and then handing off to the other back in a different direction. The principal intention of misdirection is to draw the linebackers out of position. Results are likely to be unpredictable. If the defence buys the fake then the ball carrier may well attack a weakly defended area of the defence. If the defence does not fall for the misdirection then the offence has simply removed one or more blockers from the point of attack.

 

Traps and Draws
These are "strategy" plays designed to lure defensive players out of position, usually by encouraging them to cross the line of scrimmage into the backfield. On a draw the offence behaves as if it were a passing play, encouraging the defence to rush the quarterback. As the defenders charge into the backfield the offensive linemen guide them away from the point of attack and the quarterbacks gives a delayed handoff to a running back. On a trap the defensive lineman nearest to the hole through which the play is to go is left unblocked. As he advances into the gap created he is hit by an offensive lineman pulling from the other side of the formation.

 

Fullback Plays
Rush Through Centre (RC) is primarily a short yardage play, with the offensive line looking to overpower the defence and the fullback powering through the line of scrimmage. It is the play most likely to gain a couple of yards, but not likely to get much more.
Rush Off Tackle (RT) is the basic running play for many teams, with the fullback powering behind the strongside tackle. With the extra blocking of the tight end the play is likely to get yardage consistently.
Left Tackle (LT) is also an off tackle run, but it is run to the weakside without the extra blocking of the tight end. Yardage is not likely to be as good as the strongside run, but may exploit a defence which is overcompensating to the strongside.
The Fullback Sweep (FW) is the only outside fullback run, with the halfback and strongside of the line faking a run, while the quarterback hands off to the fullback running around the weakside.
The Delay (DE) is a form of draw play run by the fullback, with the whole of the offence showing pass. The offensive linemen drop into pass protection, the wide receivers step into their routes, and the quarterback drops back to pass before handing the ball off to the fullback to charge up the middle.

 

Halfback Running Inside
The Lead Dive (RI) is a variation of the Rush Through Centre play, with the halfback carrying the ball behind the lead block of the fullback. Yardage is likely to be better than for fullback dive, but there is more chance of the play breaking down.
The Lead Run (RL) is an off-tackle play, with the fullback leading the halfback. The extra blocker increases the chance of breaking a big gain, but also increases the chance of the play breaking down.
The Option Veer (RO) is also an off tackle run, with the halfback having the option of cutting inside or outside the tackle. The halfback reads the play as he approaches the line of scrimmage, and tries to pick the best hole available. This play gives the halfback a good chance of finding a hole and getting decent yardage if the defence is expecting the run, but isn't likely to get much extra yardage if the defence is playing pass as the linebackers get time to readjust.
Run Counter (RN) is a misdirection play with the strongside of the line and the fullback faking an off-tackle run while the halfback carries the ball to the weakside. Blocking at the point of attack is light, but if the defence buys the fake the half back can find himself in open field.

 

Halfback Running Outside
The Power Sweep (PW) is the basic outside running play. At the snap of the ball both guards pull to the right and lead the halfback around the strongside of the offensive line. The halfback cannot afford to overrun his blockers, so must wait for the offensive linemen to seal off the defence to the inside before turning upfield. If the offensive linemen fail then the halfback will simply end up running laterally until he runs out of field. If the halfback does turn the corner then a long run is very likely with only the secondary left to beat.
Run Weakside (RW) is a sweep to the weakside with the fullback leading the halfback around the left corner. Without the extra blocking of the tight end the play will not go far against a solid run defence, but the halfback may otherwise be sprung for a long gain.
The Toss Sweep (TW) is the fastest developing sweep play, with the quarterback pitching the ball out to the halfback. The halfback does not have to wait for any blockers to get in front of him and simply uses his speed to try and get outside as quickly as possible.
The Sweep (SW) is a variation with the fullback leading the halfback around the corner. The extra blocker slows down the development of the play and increases the scope for confusion, but provides an extra chance of breaking the halfback open for a long gain.
The Counter Gap (CW) looks and starts like a sweep, with offensive linemen pulling from the weakside of the formation. The intention is to get the defence to over-pursue the play, while the halfback cuts back inside. The pulling linemen also turn inside to trap any defensive players who are at the point of the cutback. The play can only work when the defence buys the threat to the outside, or the offensive blocking is powerful enough to move the defence at will.

 

Halfback Draws and Traps
The Trap (TR) play is designed to take advantage of an aggressive defensive line, with the offensive line encouraging a defender into an apparent hole, then trap blocking the isolated player as the halfback carries through the hole. If the defence does not pursue across the line of scrimmage then the halfback will find himself with nowhere to go.
On a Draw (DR) play the offensive line set up to pass block and guide their immediate opponents away to the outside while the ball is handed off to the half back up the middle.
The Draw-Trap (DT) play is a draw play with a trap block. There is no lead blocker. It is less vulnerable to blitzes, stunts, stacks and the flex than the draw play because the first defensive player penetrating the line of scrimmage should be trap blocked but has even less impact on "passive" run defences.
The Draw-Sweep (DW) play is a draw to the outside, reliant mainly on the halfback's speed in getting to the corner. If the defence bites on the draw and the halfback gets outside he should get decent yardage - if they don't, or he doesn't, he won't go far.

 

Gadget Running
Gadget runs are designed to take the defence by surprise, using misdirection and an unexpected ball carrier.
On an End Around (EV) the quarterback fakes a handoff to a running back running strongside and hands off direct to a wide receiver crossing the field to the weakside.
On a Reverse (RV) play the quarterback hands the ball off to a back running strongside who then hands the ball off to a wide receiver looping to the weakside. The misdirection, faking a strongside run and sending the ball to the weakside makes the reverse more likely to fool the defence but is more risky because of the extra handoff.
A third option is the Double Reverse (DV), which is the reverse play with a second handoff, the wide receiver running to the weakside handing the ball off to a second wide receiver running to the strongside. This is the riskiest play of all, but if the defence is caught pursuing the play to the weakside the extra blockers to the strongside (from the initial misdirection) may lead to a large gain.
Reverses tend to produce high yardage, but are also likely to produce a lot of fumbles, some on the exchanges and some when wide receivers get tackled by linemen or linebackers. They are most effective against run defences, ineffective against pass defences (when most of the players you are trying to confuse are dropping back into coverage with time to watch and recover), and very risky against blitzes (when there are linebackers and safeties in the backfield to add to the general mayhem).

 

Quarterback Running
There are a variety of running plays available to quarterbacks, although quarterback running is usually limited, except when forced to run under pressure. Teams usually try not to risk their quarterback on running plays, partly because of his importance as a passer and also because of his lighter padding.
The Option Run (OR) is primarily a short yardage play, with the quarterback carrying the ball off tackle with the option to pitch out to the half back or keep it himself. The pitchout is the usual result, as the objective is to force the outside defender to give up the running back and cover the quarterback.
The Triple Option (OT) is primarily a college running play, and not recommended against pro defences (who are quicker). The QB has the option to pitch out to the half back (OR) against an aggressive defence, hand off to the fullback up the middle (OT) against normal run defences and keep the ball (QR) if the defence is soft.
The Quarterback Scramble (QR) is not normally used as a designed play, usually occurring as the quarterback tries to avoid a sack. The quarterback rolls to the strongside, looking to get as much yardage (and perhaps out of bounds) before the defence closes in on him.
The Quarterback Keeper (QK) is a misdirection play, with the quarterback faking a handoff to a running back on a strongside run, and rolling out to the weakside.
The Quarterback Sneak (QS) is also a short yardage play, in which at the snap of the ball the quarterback simply follows behind the offensive line surge. The play is likely to get a yard, maybe two, but no more.
The Quarterback Draw (QD) is a delay/draw run by the quarterback. The added advantage over the other draw plays is that the quarterback drops behind his running backs (an important key for many defensive players), making the pass fake more convincing. Yardage is likely to be variable, and it is not a play that should be repeated regularly (unless you want your quarterback carried home in a box).

 

 

Pass Patterns
There are essentially only three basic types of passing patterns. On an "in" pattern the receiver stops and turns on his inside shoulder, facing towards the quarterback to wait for the ball. On an "out" pattern the receiver stops and turns toward the sideline. On "streak" patterns the receiver doesn't stop and turn, but runs downfield and catches the ball whilst running.
Inside patterns tend to produce the highest number of completions, but the receiver is catching the ball in front of the strength of the defence, so his chances of running after the catch are poor and of getting hit after the catch are high. If the pass is miss-thrown then there is a good chance of an interception.
Out patterns tend to be the safest patterns, as the receiver is usually between the defender and the ball. Completions are more difficult, particularly if the defence is expecting the pass, but against one-on-one coverage then there is a good chance of getting out of bounds or adding yardage after the catch.
Streaks are the most difficult patterns to complete, but are likely to produce significantly more yardage, especially after the catch. If the defence is expecting the run then streaks are fairly safe, but if there are safeties lurking in the deep and looking for the ball, then the chance of an interception is high.

 

Pass Receivers
There are three groups of pass receivers on a football team. Wide receivers are the specialists, whose primary responsibility is the passing game. Tight ends are receiver/linemen hybrids, expected to be able to catch like receivers and block like offensive linemen. The third group is the running backs, whose primary responsibility is running the ball, but who are also expected to participate in the passing game.
Avoid calling passing plays in formations where the player concerned is not present. If you call a pass to a wide receiver or tight end when there are none on the field then the QB has no chance of completing the pass. He may still manage to dump the ball off to someone else, but most likely he'll get buried by the defence while wondering where his receiver is.

 

Wide Receivers
Wide receivers are the fastest players on the offence and are the main deep threat, although they will also catch short passes. They tend to line up near the sidelines, away from the congestion of the line of scrimmage. There are three groups of wide receiver patterns, quick patterns (timing patterns thrown off a three-step quarterback drop) within five yards of the line of scrimmage, short patterns (five to ten yards deep, thrown off a five-step drop) and deep patterns (ten to thirty yards deep, thrown off a seven-step drop).

 

Quick Patterns
Quick In (QI) is a quick timing pattern, in which the receiver takes a few steps to the inside, catches a quick pass from the quarterback, and tries to make his yardage after the catch. It is a pattern in which the receiver takes advantage of the "cushion" offered by his defender.
Quick Out (QO) is a similar timing pattern to the Quick In, with the receiver turning outside and trying to run after the catch.
For the Sideline Pass (QL) the ball is thrown over the shoulder of the receiver on a timing pattern. If the receiver is in man coverage, then the chance of completion is good, but against zone coverage the defender will be facing the quarterback and watching the ball, so the chance of completing the pass is poor and the chance of an interception high.

 

Short Patterns
Short In (SI) is a short pattern to a receiver running a cross or hitch pattern five to ten yards deep across the middle of the field. The chances of completion are good, even against pass defences, but there is little prospect of the receiver making yardage after the catch and the receiver has a good chance of taking a big hit for his troubles.
Short Out (SO) is also five to ten yards deep, but the receiver turns towards the sideline. Yardage is likely to be good against run defences or blitzes when the receiver will be in single coverage, but against pass defences the completion chance will be poor.
The Slant (SL) pattern is also a short pattern, with the receiver slanting across the field and taking the reception on the run. If the centre of the field is vacant then there is a good prospect of a long run after the catch. If there are defensive backs lurking in the middle of the field then the chances of the pass being broken up, intercepted, or the receiver being nailed after the catch are high.
The Seam Pass (SM) is similar to a short in pattern, but looks to expose zone defences. The wide receiver "sits" in the seams of a zone defence and completion percentage against zones ought to be good. Poor against bump and run and linebacker drops, where the receiver is likely to be flattened.

 

Deep Patterns
The deep patterns are the speciality of the wide receivers, ten to thirty yards downfield away from the linebackers and congestion of the line of scrimmage.
Down & In (DI) is a hook or comeback pattern run ten to twenty yards deep, with the receiver turning back towards the quarterback. The yardage is the least of any deep pattern, but the chance of completion is higher, particularly against pass defences.
Down & Out (DO) is slightly deeper and likely to gain more yardage against run defences or blitzes. Against pass defences the chance of completion is very poor.
Down & Long (DL) is the long bomb. The receiver streaks down field and looks to catch the ball on the run. The chance of completion is poor, especially if the defence is playing for the pass, but if the pass is caught, yardage is likely to be very high.
The Stop & Go (DS) is also a deep pattern, where the receiver breaks in or out before turning upfield again, hoping that the defender has bought the first move. If completed, the yardage is likely to be good, but if the play is used too frequently the defender will take it away. The most likely result of a Stop & Go is that your quarterback gets knocked over while he's waiting for the receiver to get open.

 

Option Passes
For the Option Pass (OP) the quarterback rolls out to the strongside with the option to keep the ball or pass to a receiver downfield, according to how he reads the defence. Against man-to-man pass defence the quarterback is likely to keep the ball and his mobility and pass protection are likely to be critical to his success in getting yardage. Against a run defence or blitz the pass is likely and the chance of completion is good. If the defence doesn't commit or drops back into zone coverage then the quarterback is likely to struggle, with no receivers open and no rushing lanes available.

 

Tight Ends
The tight end lines up on the line of scrimmage and has to cope with pass catching in traffic. He tends to bear the brunt of short passing in the middle of the field, where the receiver is likely to take a savage hit after catching the ball.
The Look In (LI) pattern is the basic pattern for a tight end, short over the middle "underneath" the pass coverage. The chance of completion is good and this is the safest pattern over the middle. The yardage after the catch is likely to be relatively poor.
Look Out (LO) is a pattern to the tight end turning towards the sideline. Five to ten yards deep, the chance of completion is high, but again the chance of yardage after the catch is relatively small.
Look Long (LL) is a streak pattern to the tight end running downfield. This pattern is the most likely for a tight end to make significant yardage as he catches the ball whilst moving, but is more risky if the defence is expecting the pass.

 

Running Backs
Running backs tend to have similar pass catching responsibilities to the tight end, although their position at the snap, behind the line of scrimmage, means that it takes more time for them to get open for a reception. Running backs often set up close to the line of scrimmage (on the wing of the formation, hence the name "wing back") to make them more effective as pass receivers. Running backs are also used as blockers in the backfield, so teams should be aware that sending running backs into pass patterns reduces the number of potential pass blockers.
The Flare In (FI) is similar to the Look In, with the running back going short over the middle, hooking back towards the quarterback. The chance of completion is good, particularly if the defence is playing for the pass and not keying on the running backs.
Flare Out (FO) is a short pattern to a running back outside into the flat. Not unlike a running play, the pass is most effective if the defence has dropped off into pass coverage. If the defence is playing for the run, then the likelihood is that the running back will be covered and unlikely to make much yardage.
Flare Long (FL) is a swing pass, to a running back slanting inside around five yards deep, streaking down the field. If completed yardage is likely to be good, but if the linebackers have dropped off deep, then the play is likely to be broken up.

 

Screen Passes
The Screen (SC) is thrown from a fake pass, with the quarterback and linemen setting up as if for a deep pass, but allowing the pass rushers to penetrate before the ball is dumped off to a running back who has slipped into the flat. The blockers re-group and roll out to block for the running back. Very poor against run defences, when the defence doesn't penetrate, the play is most effective against a blitz when the defence may be caught on the wrong side of the ball, or against zones where the blockers may overpower isolated defenders.
The Option Screen (OS) is a more complicated option play where the QB has the choice of throwing deep to a receiver downfield (the OS play) or dumping off to a back in the flat with a screen of blockers (the DC play). No other dumpoffs are available, as there's no time to look for secondary receivers.
The Dumpoff Screen (DC) may be used as a play in its own right, when it's an ordinary screen pass with a downfield fake. There are fewer blockers than for a regular screen pass and success will depend more on the threat of the wide receivers than the ability of your running backs.

 

Play Action
Play action passes are actually variations on regular patterns, with the offensive line and backfield faking as if on a running play and the quarterback faking a handoff before throwing to a wide receiver, These patterns are most effective if the defence is expecting a rushing play, when the secondary are likely to buy the run fake and there will be no pass rush. Against a zone defence the secondary are unlikely to buy the fake, and against a blitz the run fake is superfluous.
Play Action Long (PL) is the longest play action pattern, thrown to a receiver streaking downfield. The chances of completion are poor, but if the pass is caught yardage will be very high.
Play Action In (PI) is a play action pattern to a receiver running a short crossing pattern. Not particularly explosive against run defences, the play is most useful when the defence is expecting the run but a completion is more important than yardage.
Play Action Out (PO) is a quick play action pass, faking a handoff to a running back on a quick hitting play up the middle, setting up a quick out pass to a wide receiver.
Play Action Slant (PS) is a short play action pattern, to a receiver running an inside slant pattern.
Play Action Option (PA) is the option pass run off a play action fake. Against a run defence results will be good, against a pass defence or blitz the play is likely to be disrupted.

 

Dumpoff Patterns
Dumpoff patterns are those to secondary receivers, thrown when the primary receiver is covered and the quarterback has time to find an alternative. You should not call dumpoff patterns as primary passes. Calling a dumpoff pass is like telling your quarterback to drop back, lock for a receiver downfield and then even if he's open ignore him and look for someone else.
Dumpoff Deep (DP) is a dumpoff to a wide receiver, fifteen to twenty yards deep over the middle.
Dumpoff Short (SP) is a dumpoff to a wide receiver short near to sideline.
Dumpoff Tight End (LP) is the most common dumpoff pattern, to a tight end "sitting" underneath the coverage in the middle of the field.
Dumpoff Back (FP) is a dumpoff pattern to a running back in the flat.