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The Complete Guide to the Toss Play

Posted by AJ Forbes on

Walter Payton. Barry Sanders. Marcus Allen. 

All three men have at least two things in common: They are some of the greatest runners that football has ever seen AND they made a living off of Toss and ran it all the way to the Hall of Fame. 

What is the Toss Play?

The toss play is exactly what it sounds like. The quarterback will take the ball and toss it to the running back who is trying to get to the edge of the defense.

The Toss Play

Toss (or toss sweep as it is sometimes called) is arguably the most widespread outside run in football. It capitalizes on fast Tailbacks that are able to get to the edge of a defense quickly and an athletic Offensive Line that can block in space. 

What are the Strengths of the Toss Play?

One of the biggest strengths of the toss play is how simple it is to teach and install. As a result, coaches can spend more time teaching other skills and plays.

Toss is one of the quickest and most efficient methods of getting the ball to the perimeter.

Strengths of the Toss Play 

There is beauty in simplicity and there aren’t many plays that are simpler than tossing the ball to a Tailback and letting him run. Because of this, Toss is easy to teach and install, making it an attractive scheme for every level of football. It’s also a scheme that is easy to execute with the right personnel.

Due to these factors, Toss is a play that consistently gains yardage and keeps the offense ahead of the chains. 

 

What are the Weaknesses of the Toss Play?

The biggest weakness of the toss play is that without a fast player at running back who can get to the edge quickly, the play will usually not be as effective.

Weaknesses of the Toss Play

The key statement when looking at the strength of “easy to execute with the right personnel” is “the right personnel”. Toss is a play that is designed to attack the edge of a defense; therefore, if a team doesn’t have a fast Tailback capable of getting to the perimeter and an Offensive Line that can run, then Toss isn’t going to be an effective play. 

Even with the right personnel, Toss is susceptible to immediate edge pressure. If the defense decides to run any variance of an overload edge blitz or even a corner blitz, the play can end before it begins. 

Toss Play vs 3-4 Odd Front

Now let’s look at how toss is usually blocked from the I Formation against a 3-4 Defense.

Toss Play vs 3-4 Defense

LT - Reach B-gap defender

LG - Combination block with the Center on the Nose Tackle to the backside Inside Linebacker. Work for a reach on the Nose Tackle to establish outside leverage

C - Combination block with the LG on the Nose Tackle to the playside Inside Linebacker. As the LG reaches the Nose Tackle, climb and reach the backside Inside Linebacker

RG - Combination block with the RT on the 4-tech to the playside Inside Linebacker. Work for a reach to establish outside leverage on the 4-tech

RT - Combination block with the RG on the 4-tech to the playside Inside Linebacker. As the RG reaches the 4-tech, climb and reach the playside Inside Linebacker

TE - Reach the end man on the line of scrimmage (the Outside Linebacker in this case). Establish the edge for the Tailback

FB - Take a flat angle out of the backfield at the snap with eyes on the nearest unblocked defender (most likely the Cornerback or Safety). Take the defender where his momentum wants him to go

TB - Take a flat angle out of the backfield and catch the toss. After receiving the toss, follow the Fullback and read his block to determine where to take the ball

QB - Reverse pivot and toss the ball to the Tailback as he reaches the RG, then boot opposite

X Receiver - Push for the backside Safety

Z Receiver - Responsible for “most dangerous man”. Block the Cornerback unless the near Safety comes downhill to fill the alley. In this case, crack the Safety and the Fullback will block the Cornerback

Toss Play vs 4-3 Even Front

Next we’ll look at the blocking rules for the toss play against a standard 4-3 defense.

Toss Play vs 4-3 Defense

LT - Reach the B-gap defender

LG - Reach the backside Nose Tackle

C - Combination reach block with the Center on the Defensive Tackle over the RG to the middle Inside Linebacker. Work for a first-level reach, or climb for a reach on the linebacker if the RG takes the Defensive Tackle

RG - Combination reach block with the RG on the Defensive Tackle to the middle Inside Linebacker. Work for a first-level reach, or climb for a second-level reach on the linebacker if the Center reaches the Defensive Tackle

RT - Combination reach block with the Tight End on the Defensive End to the playside Outside Linebacker. Work for a first-level reach, or climb for a second-level reach on the linebacker if the Tight End reaches the Defensive End

TE - Combination reach block with the RT on the Defensive End to the playside Outside Linebacker. Work for a first-level reach, or climb for a second-level reach on the linebacker if the Right Tackle reaches the Defensive End

FB - Take a flat angle out of the backfield at the snap with eyes on the nearest unblocked defender (most likely the Cornerback or Safety). Take the defender where his momentum wants him to go

TB - Take a flat angle out of the backfield and catch the toss. After receiving the toss, follow the Fullback and read his block to determine where to take the ball

QB -  Reverse pivot and toss the ball to the Tailback as he reaches the RG, then boot opposite

X Receiver - Push for the backside Safety

Z Receiver - Responsible for “most dangerous man”. Block the Cornerback unless the near Safety comes downhill to fill the alley. In this case, crack the Safety and the Fullback will block the Cornerback

Toss Play Variations

Now we’ll talk about a couple of different versions of the toss play and how it fits into different schemes.

Variation 1: Flexbone Toss

Flexbone Toss - Rocket Toss

Sometimes known as “Rocket Toss”, the Toss out of the Flexbone is one of the easiest ways to get the ball to the perimeter as quickly as possible. Rather than starting behind the Quarterback, the backside Wingback goes into motion, and the ball is snapped when he reaches the midline. 

The blocking rules are the same as the standard Toss, except that the Fullback doesn’t act as a lead blocker. 

The fullback is a constant run threat in the flexbone offense, so the defense naturally pays attention to him on every play. When the quarterback opens up toward the fullback away from the toss, it’s usually enough to hold the defense for a half-second longer so that the running back can get the toss on the edge and get a head start on the defenders across from him.

Variation 2: Single Back Toss G Pull

Single Back Toss Play G Pull

This is a great way to run Toss from a Single back set. Rather than having a Fullback act as a lead blocker, this variation pulls the playside Guard around the Tight End and uses him as the lead blocker. 

The playside Tackle blocks down on the Defensive Tackle over the Guard, while the Tight End has a 1-on-1 reach block on the end man on the line of scrimmage. 

Whether the offensive line is blocking a zone scheme or a man scheme, the common denominator is that they’re trying to get the ball into the hands of one of their best athletes on the edge quicker than the defense can respond.

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