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The Complete Guide to the Trap Play

Posted by AJ Forbes on

When you hear the word "trap", you either think of a contraption that surprises and holds something captive or you think of being surrounded by a group of people that mean to do you harm.

It’s uncomfortable, it’s painful, it’s something that nobody ever wants to be in. These are all the same feelings a Defensive Tackle feels when he thinks he’s made it through the line of scrimmage untouched, then a pulling Guard catches him under the chin.

This is the Trap play.

What is the Trap Play?

Trap is a quick-hitting, downhill run scheme that kicks out an interior Defensive Lineman and is especially effective against an aggressive pass rushing defensive lineman.

If an offense has a bruising, powerful Fullback, it can be just as successful as a Spread offense that has a smaller, more dynamic Tailback running Trap. 

Trap Play Diagram

What Are The Strengths of the Trap Play

The biggest strength of the trap play is that it's such a quick-hitting play.

Specifically, when running from under-center, the defense has a split second to identify whether the ball is with the Fullback, Quarterback, or Tailback before the Fullback is bursting into the secondary. This notion is enhanced when combined with an offense like the Wing-T which specializes in deception and layered handoffs. 

Another selling point for Trap is that it's very forgiving when it comes to Offensive Line personnel. All of the blocks are angle blocks, whether they be first or second level. This is advantageous for an offense with smaller Offensive Linemen because they aren’t being asked to take a player vertical off of the line of scrimmage. They can use the defender’s alignment against them. And if there’s a Defensive Tackle that can’t be blocked, just trap him. 

What Are The Weaknesses of the Trap Play?

A big weakness of Trap is that it’s difficult to run against a defense that commits to squeezing the interior gaps.

Whether it be a Bear front or an even front with Defensive Linemen in both A- and B-gaps, the success of Trap can be limited against a defensive front that squeezes gaps and limits the Offensive Line’s ability to climb to linebackers.

Trap Play vs 3-4 Odd Front

Trap Play vs 3-4 Defense

LT - Cut off the B-gap defender to prevent penetration

LG - Open pull and kick out the first down Defensive Lineman on or outside the right guard (the 4-technique in this case). Aim for the upfield shoulder to establish inside-out leverage

C - Combination block with the RG on the Nose Tackle to the backside Inside Linebacker. Tends to be more of a horizontal double team to widen the running lane

RG - Combination block with the Center on the Nose Tackle to the backside Inside Linebacker. 

RT - Release through the B-gap up to the playside Inside Linebacker. Target the far shoulder of the linebacker to create a 2nd-level running lane for the runner between the two Inside Linebackers

TE - Block the playside edge defender. Establish and maintain inside leverage

FB - Side step to the left to get off of the midline, receive the handoff, and then bend back toward the kickout trap block. Burst vertically through the 2nd-level running lane between the RG and RT

TB - Depart on a flat angle with eyes on the Quarterback to give the illusion that he’s about to receive a pitch or toss

QB - Reverse pivot to the right, then extend the ball with the right hand for the handoff. After the handoff, burst to the perimeter to attract the attention of defenders

X Receiver - Push for the near Safety

Z Receiver - Push for the near Safety

Trap Play vs 4-3 Even Front

Trap Play vs 4-3 Defense

LT - Take an initial step in the B-gap to ensure gap integrity, then hinge back out to the backside edge defender

LG - Open pull and kickout the first down Defensive Lineman on or outside the RG (the 3-tech in this case). Aim for the upfield shoulder to establish inside-out leverage

C - Back block on the Nose Tackle

RG - Clear the 3-tech on the line of scrimmage and climb for the left Outside Linebacker. Target the near shoulder of the linebacker

RT - Clear the 3-tech on the line of scrimmage and climb for the Middle Linebacker. Target the near shoulder of the linebacker and wash him toward the backside

TE - Release through the C-gap and climb to the right Outside Linebacker. Target the far shoulder to create a 2nd-level running lane

FB - Side step to the left to get off of the midline, receive the handoff, and then bend back toward the kickout trap block. Burst vertically through the 2nd-level running lane between the RT and Tight End

TB - Depart on a flat angle with eyes on the Quarterback to give the illusion that he’s about to receive a pitch or toss

QB - Reverse pivot to the right, then extend the ball with the right hand for the handoff. After the handoff, burst to the perimeter to attract the attention of defenders

X Receiver - Push for the near Safety

Z Receiver - Push for the near Safety

Trap Play Variations

Now let's take a look at some different versions of the trap play.

Variation 1: Gun Trey Same-Side Trap RPO

Shotgun Trap RPO

This variation is unique because it runs Trap from the Shotgun. The Tailback receives the handoff on the same side of the trap block, which allows the Quarterback to look at the RPO concept.

If the Nickel were to come down toward the box to run fit, the Quarterback has the option to pull the ball and throw to bubble or the slant.

The only disadvantage of this version is that the backside inside linebacker isn't getting blocked, so the play needs to hit quickly so that he doesn't have time to make the play.

Variation 2: Wing-T Trap

Wing-T Trap Play vs 4-3 Defense

Wing-T offenses that run Trap generally run it as a “sister play” to the Buck Sweep in the Buck series. The backfield action of Trap and the backfield action of Buck Sweep are the exact same; the only difference is who gets the ball. This puts pressure on the defense to play disciplined football to ensure that they don’t chase the sweep as the Trap runs right by them.

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