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Inside the Playbook: The Devin Hester End-Around

Returning soon to an end zone near you...
Returning soon to an end zone near you...

Mike Tice made a splash in Chicago when he hinted at a secret "Devin Hester package" that would bring the ridiculous out on offense. Tice has also said that he was keeping it under wraps for the pre-season, but we've already seen a couple of nice plays that featured Hester's speed and open-field running ability. Last week's game against the Giants gave us a big clue as to one way Tice can bring out the best in Hester: the good ol' end-around. It's been tried before many times, but for at least this one play, it worked perfectly. Motion your way past the jump to see how Tice set up one of the first end-arounds I can remember seeing the Bears run that actually got yardage.

The end-around is a simple play. Swing around a wide receiver into the heart of the formation, fake a run inside, and have the receiver take the ball around the other edge for big yards. As Bears fans have seen over the years, however, this simple play can get blown up just as simply. Either the defense reads the play and cuts it off before the receiver gets into the open field, or a defensive linesman cuts down the receiver before he gets out the backfield. For the end-around to really work, the offense has to sell it well: they have to get the defense to think that it's not coming even when they see the receiver motioning into the backfield before the snap. Here's how the Bears did it.

The "set-up" play came at around 10:19 in the first quarter. The Bears came out in a pro set and lined up in an I formation. Before the ball was snapped, Hester (Y) motioned across the formation and settled in the slot, and a cornerback followed him there.


Jay Cutler, who had already started his cadence as Hester motioned his way past, waited for Hester to settle in. Jay snapped the ball, and handed off into a very conventional run play between the center and right guard. Doesn't matter that the play went for a loss, since the damage was done. The defense saw Hester move across the formation, and Tice noticed that all they did was follow him with a cornerback: no change in the formation or respect for the potential of the end-around. All they did was attack the hole the offensive line (attempted) to make.


That play didn't work at all, but perhaps that was for the best: the Giants thought they had this look figured out. Now, move to 4:59 in the same quarter. The Bears are looking to get a drive going after a slow start and offense, and come out in a similar formation to what we saw above. In the pre-season, it's not at all uncommon for teams to run the same couple of "vanilla" plays - no point in giving up the good stuff in the playbook when the game doesn't even matter, right? At least, that's what the Giants must have been thinking when Hester started motioning across the line - the strong safety and the weak-side linebacker start crashing the same gap between the center and right guard before the ball is even snapped!


Pre-snap motion by both teams

To add to the ruse, Jay Cutler even starts his cadence at the same time during the motion. This time, however, it's a one-count-and-go snap count. Jay fakes the hand-off to Forte (T) and instead flips the ball back to an already-speeding Hester. With a great sales job on the blocking by the front line and an equally impressive fake route turned into a run-block by Brandon Marshall (blue X), Hester was off to the races...


This play couldn't have worked better. Literally every Giant on the field attacked the decoy run play that happened between the center and right guard - everyone! It's almost funny to watch the entire Giants team change direction one by one as they realize they've been duped, but it's far more ridiculous what Hester does once he gets a head of steam. Hester weaves his way down the sideline for a twenty yard gain, and doesn't even get touched until he's gotten about seventeen of those yards thanks to Marshall's block.

The end-around is a good weapon to have in the arsenal, and it's a good weapon to have on film this early. When defensive planners from the Colts and Packers start to break down tape of these Bears, they are going to have to tell their players to keep an eye out for when Hester comes in motion. This will slow cornerback reads, make defensive ends think twice before heading straight upfield, and force linebackers to think twice before crashing into inside running lanes. While Tice certainly has a couple of other new looks up his sleeve, this classic has a potential to help the offense even if it's never used again.