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27 Jun 2011

Formation Analysis: 6OL Sets

by Aaron Schatz

Today, we continue our series presenting various 2010 stats from the multitude of Football Outsiders spreadsheets. We've done some individual stats; now it's time to go into the wide variety of team splits that we have, various situations and strategies.

First up: Six-Offensive Linemen Sets. We're used to seeing six offensive linemen in short-yardage and goal-line situations, but over the last couple years we've seen more and more use of six-offensive linemen sets mixed in with other formations in standard situations. In 2009, the most frequent teams using 6OL sets were Cincinnati (with a total of 86 plays), Baltimore, New England, and the New York Jets.

This year's top team running 6OL sets (and occasionally 7OL sets) was Oakland, normally with Khalif Barnes as the sixth lineman. The Raiders were one of three teams that used six linemen more than 100 times. Oakland also was the best team in a 6OL formation, averaging 6.2 yards per play. The Raiders had five different plays of 40 or more yards from 6OL sets: three pass plays, a 57-yard Darren McFadden touchdown run, and a 71-yard touchdown run by Jacoby Ford on an end around. In addition, Barnes himself caught two passes as a tackle eligible, including a touchdown against Kansas City in Week 9.

The New York Giants were second in 6OL sets, primarily using William Beatty after tight end Kevin Boss went down with an injury early in the season. The Saints were third, primarily with Zach Strief lining up as the sixth lineman.

Interestingly, the Patriots hardly used any 6OL sets last year, after using the formation more than 50 times the year before. I guess once they had Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and Alge Crumpler, there was no reason to bring out a sixth lineman. They did use Dan Connolly as a fullback at the goal line, but we did not count that as a 6OL set.

The Lions were the only team that we did not track using a 6OL set at any time during the season.

Many teams still only use six linemen in short-yardage situations, which we also call "power" situations. For example, Chicago used six linemen 11 times, all in power situations. So in our table, we've also listed how many plays a team used six linemen in a non-power situation, and how many yards per play they had in non-power situations. We also list how many times a team ran a pass play (pass or scramble) from a 6OL set.

Team 6OL Plays
6OL Yd/Play
6OL as Pct
of Total Plays
6OL Plays
6OL Yd/Play
Pass Plays
Pass Pct
OAK 124 6.2 12.1% 98 6.8 53 43%
NYG 115 4.9 11.3% 97 5.6 31 27%
NO 105 3.8 10.0% 80 4.3 46 44%
ATL 78 4.1 7.2% 52 4.8 16 21%
CIN 69 3.0 6.6% 44 3.8 17 25%
NYJ 67 5.2 6.2% 48 5.4 28 42%
BAL 49 3.0 4.9% 38 3.1 14 29%
TB 23 4.9 2.4% 6 11.3 5 22%
SF 20 -0.2 2.1% 12 0.0 8 40%
SD 21 0.4 2.1% 5 2.6 3 14%
PIT 19 3.9 1.9% 14 4.5 1 5%
KC 20 2.5 1.9% 11 3.5 7 35%
DEN 19 2.4 1.9% 8 5.3 4 21%
MIA 19 4.0 1.8% 13 4.4 7 37%
CLE 11 2.2 1.2% 1 18.0 4 36%
CHI 11 2.2 1.2% 0 0.0 2 18%
Team 6OL Plays
6OL Yd/Play
6OL as Pct
of Total Plays
6OL Plays
6OL Yd/Play
Pass Plays
Pass Pct
JAC 11 5.2 1.1% 8 6.2 3 27%
SEA 8 0.8 0.8% 0 0.0 2 25%
WAS 8 1.1 0.8% 3 2.7 2 25%
CAR 6 3.0 0.6% 2 8.0 2 33%
STL 6 0.3 0.6% 1 0.0 2 33%
ARI 5 1.4 0.5% 3 2.7 0 0%
DAL 5 0.6 0.5% 0 0.0 1 20%
TEN 4 2.5 0.4% 3 3.7 1 25%
GB 4 0.0 0.4% 0 0.0 1 25%
HOU 4 1.3 0.4% 0 0.0 0 0%
NE 3 2.0 0.3% 1 1.0 0 0%
MIN 3 2.0 0.3% 0 0.0 0 0%
PHI 3 1.3 0.3% 1 0.0 2 67%
IND 3 -0.7 0.3% 2 -1.0 2 67%
BUF 1 3.0 0.1% 1 3.0 0 0%
DET 0 0.0 0.0% 0 0.0 0 0%

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 27 Jun 2011

22 comments, Last at 12 Apr 2013, 7:44am by onymous


by trill :: Mon, 06/27/2011 - 12:06pm

Someone needs to forward this to Raheem Morris, stat. 11yds/play, even in a small sample size, is worth looking into. What was the variability in that data set?

Unconventional personnel packages like this are really useful for catching the defense napping on standard downs. Also something I might roll out on 3rd and 3 or 3rd and 4; having 6OL still leaves four eligible receivers that can be any combo of backs, WR's and TE's. You can use personnel to turn a borderline-passing down into a situation where the defense has to respect the straight-ahead run threat as well as the 3-step passing game.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 06/27/2011 - 12:28pm

I have a couple of questions about the Raiders use of 6OL packages:

1- Did they use them at a steady rate throughout the season or were they splurging the package in some games and hardly using it in others?

2- Did they use if more as the season went on? (as it was clearly effective)

3- Does this mean that we are going to see more 60L packages next year for the Raiders especially but also for the league as a whole (OK more of a discussion point than a question)?

4- Is getting that kind of production out of funky alignments sustainable next season for the Raiders?

by ChicagoRaider :: Mon, 06/27/2011 - 2:41pm

Well, RaiderJoe's comments will be more insightful, but here I go.

The 6OL set use was throughout the season. (As for more later in the season, I leave that to someone else) First, at the beginning of the season, the Raiders had real problems protecting the QB. But even beyond that, the Raiders were a much more run-oriented team that most of the other teams. It had two running backs, and a fullback, who could catch out of the backfield. And as always, they have speed outside.

The 6OL sets really beat up the other team if they are working. And it isn't like the Raiders are going to become a pass-first team this year. Field position battles (Lechler, Janikowski, and a defense that serves up a lot of defeats)are part of the Raider plan too, so deep passing is nice, but not necessary.

Other teams may be more effective against some 6OL sets just because they will probably take Marcel Reese more seriously. Marcel really torched some teams last season.

by bill (not verified) :: Mon, 06/27/2011 - 6:34pm

Sir -


I only got to see three Raiders' games this year. Can you elaborate about how Marcel was successful? I have long speculated regarding his presumed ability to outmatch LBs and SSs, combined with, again, presumably, his ability to run "real" routes, at least compared to most FBs.

Enjoy any additional observations of yours.


by ChicagoRaider :: Tue, 06/28/2011 - 8:21am

Marcel Reese was a wide receiver in college. He was often treated by opposing offenses as a fullback with hands of stone. I seem to recall that once in a 6OL set that they had him go from his fullback spot to slot on 4th and 1. Campbell managed to hit him on a slant. Defenders were all over him, but he still made the catch.

Here is a 2010 highlight reel. Remember: he is playing fullback. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5hrVb1Lp6w

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Tue, 06/28/2011 - 3:40pm

The referenced catch is at 3:45 of the linked video. Almost all of the Reese catches are thrown by Jason Campbell, who true to form stares down Reese on that play and almost lets the linebacker make a play on the ball.

The one Gronkowski pass to Reese is a defensive breakdown, he's almost uncovered against the Texans. Gronkowski vs. Texans secondary, the stoppable force vs. the movable object.

Man, it's good to see even clips of football again.

by Jimmy :: Tue, 06/28/2011 - 7:02am

Cheers for that.

by tonic889 (not verified) :: Tue, 06/28/2011 - 11:23am

I suspect the 2010 Raiders use of 6 OL can be attributed to new OC Hue Jackson. Jackson was QB coach for 2008 Ravens, who I'm guessing led the league in 6 OL for that season.

by Dean :: Mon, 06/27/2011 - 2:19pm

In addition to the yardage, I'd like to see how many of these resulted in a first down or touchdown.

by LionFanInAZ (not verified) :: Mon, 06/27/2011 - 2:34pm

I see mixed results from this analysis. It looks like teams with good running games (OAK, NYG, NYJ, TB) do well in this set, teams that don't perform poorly. And it looks like a very bad idea to pass out of the 6OL set.

I would have been interested to see how many TDs teams got out of this formation, for example power situations vs non-power situations vs regular sets.

by Jeff M. (not verified) :: Mon, 06/27/2011 - 6:41pm

Do you have any data on how the Seahawks' 3- and 4-OL sets worked out?

by Vince Verhei :: Tue, 06/28/2011 - 12:14am

Well played, sir.

by tuluse :: Mon, 06/27/2011 - 7:01pm

It looks like in non-power situations the league average for 6OL sets is about 5 yards per play, whereas the league average for all plays is 5.3.

It looks like it's getting dragged down by a couple teams just not using it well, San Francisco, Baltimore, and Cincinnati, I'm looking at you.

by JimmyOz (not verified) :: Tue, 06/28/2011 - 2:47am

yeah, but not all yards per play are created equally...

on the usage though, only 7 (83%) teams used it with regularity, with the top 2 (35%) gaining the most yards. I think its that only 7 committed to it and the most successful* used it the most. Which makes me think of the wildcat usage and success* rates for some reason...

* high yards per play = success. 8yds on 3rd & 10 > 4yds on 3rd & 4.

by nuclearbdgr :: Mon, 06/27/2011 - 8:20pm

The Packers under Mike Sherman did the 6OL look a lot (with Kevin Barry coming in as the 6th lineman in the U-71 package). Helped Ahman Green with his big year, also opened up the occasional deep pass from Favre to Walker. Hasn't been used much in the last five years by the Pack - although BJ Raji in the backfield at the goal-line is sort of the same ilk.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 06/27/2011 - 11:13pm

Maybe the Packers didn't during last season, but they used their elephant package for two TDs in the playoffs. It included TJ Lang as the 6th OL, blocking TE Tom Crabtree, and FBs Quinn Johnson and John Kuhn along with Raji in the backfield.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 07/04/2011 - 4:08pm

The Packers have liked to spread the defense out with 4 and 5 WRs lately, and the two strategies are kind of opposites.

by Intropy :: Wed, 07/06/2011 - 3:18pm

Only if the want someone in the offensive backfield. I propose a 6OL 5-wide formation in which every snap is a fumble.

by ChicagoRaider :: Tue, 06/28/2011 - 4:26pm

Sorry to post this here. Mismoused. This is in response to Anonymouse above, but I can't relocate this.

You are absolutely right about all that. But blown coverages were not only against the Texans. The Seahawks seemed to have a pretty strong blind spot for Reese. And other teams had one here and there. I think he drew more blown coverages than all other Raider pass-catchers together.

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Wed, 06/29/2011 - 2:02pm

Ah, I see that the video is not in chronological order, and the Tampa Bay reception would have been only his seventh catch in the NFL. So not covering a fullback well is pretty excusable, actually.

That was Seattle's second time playing the Raiders, though.

And thanks for the correction below, Theo. It's hard to keep track of fullback names for teams you don't follow closely!

by Theo :: Wed, 06/29/2011 - 1:13am

The guy's name is Reece.

by onymous (not verified) :: Fri, 04/12/2013 - 7:44am

Hmm… I read blogs on a similar topic, but i never visited your blog. I added it to favorites and i’ll be your constant reader. Bao