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The Pin and Pull Run Play: The Complete Guide

Posted by AJ Forbes on

The best running football teams have the ability to get the ball in the hands of their best players between the tackles or outside.

While some coaches prefer the outside zone play, many others love the angles and numbers that the Pin and Pull scheme gives you.

Today we're going to cover this very popular run play.

What is the Pin and Pull Play?

Pin and Pull is a play that creates favorable down block angles, while also getting blockers out in space on the perimeter as lead blockers for an outside run.

Pin and Pull Diagram

What are the Strengths of the Pin and Pull Play?

The biggest strength of the Pin and Pull is that it gives offenses the ability to get lead blockers in space.

When it comes to the running game, a lot of the theory behind many concepts involves getting players to the point of attack. Pin and Pull is the pinnacle of getting extra blockers to the point of attack when it comes to perimeter runs.

An underrated aspect of the Pin and Pull concept is its versatility. It also allows Offensive Linemen to take advantage of their pre-snap alignments with their down blocks, which sets up the ability for their teammates to pull. Depending on the defensive front, anyone can down block or pull if an offensive staff commits to teaching Pin and Pull as a foundational play. In addition to the flexibility within the blocking scheme, the Tailback has the ability to take the ball anywhere from the C-gap to the sideline in correspondence to the Guards’ blocks. 

What are the Weaknesses of the Pin and Pull Play?

The biggest weakness of Pin and Pull is that it can only be run successfully with specific kinds of personnel.

The offense needs to have two Guards at minimum who are able to pull and run. Without quality pullers, there is no Pin and Pull.

Additionally, this play is run at its best when the Tailback carrying the ball is more of a speed back. Tried-and-true power backs can have relative success running Pin and Pull; however, Tailbacks that can stress the defense horizontally and get vertical within one cut are best suited for this concept.

Pin and Pull vs Buck Sweep: What's the Difference?

If you ask any coach over the age of probably 65, any kind of perimeter run with down blocks and pullers is considered a “Buck Sweep”.

However, most of the time when you see this concept run in today’s age of football, it’s typically “Pin and Pull”.

The primary difference is that by the original definition of the Buck Sweep, there needs to be a simultaneous inside run threat (e.g. a Fullback dive) that forces the defense to choose between pursuing outside or coming downhill inside. The Pin and Pull, conversely, is a true perimeter run.

Play vs 3-4 Odd Front

Pin and Pull vs 3-4 Defense

Left Tackle - Step inside to ensure B-gap integrity, then hinge back out to the Defensive End

Left Guard - Open pull and read the kickout block of the RG. If the RG performs the kickout, insert off his hip and get vertical through the line of scrimmage for the playside Inside Linebacker. If the RG performs a log block, wrap around and get vertical for the Linebacker

Center - Reach the Nose Tackle

Right Guard - Open pull and kick out the playside edge defender with an upfield shoulder aiming point
Right Tackle - Combination block with the Tight End on the Defensive End to backside Inside Linebacker

Tight End - Combination block with the RT on the Defensive End to backside Inside Linebacker. Attempt to feed the Defensive end over to the RT and climb for the Inside Linebacker with a near-shoulder aiming point

Tailback - Take a flat departure angle with arms forming a bubble to receive the handoff. Follow the path of the LG and read his block to determine where to take the ball

Quarterback - Extend the ball for the Tailback after receiving the snap and hand the ball off to him as he reaches your playside hip

Slot Receiver - Reach the Nickel 

X Receiver - Climb for the near Safety

Z Receiver - Climb for the near Safety

Play vs 4-3 Even Front

Pin and Pull vs 4-3 Defense

LT - Climb through the B-gap bubble and look for the left Outside Linebacker to start pursuing over the top

LG - Open pull and read the kickout block of the RG. If the RG performs the kickout, insert off his hip and get vertical through the line of scrimmage for the right Outside Linebacker. If the RG performs a log block, wrap around and get vertical for the Linebacker

C - Back block on the Nose Tackle

RG - Open pull and kick out the playside edge defender with an upfield shoulder aiming point

RT - Down block on the 3-tech

TE - Climb through the C-gap bubble for the Middle Linebacker. Target the near shoulder to prevent him from pursuing the ball over the top

TB - Take a flat departure angle with arms forming a bubble to receive the handoff. Follow the path of the LG and read his block to determine where to take the ball

QB - Extend the ball for the Tailback after receiving the snap and hand the ball off to him as he reaches your playside hip. If there is some type of tag that tells the QB to read the backside edge defender as a give-keep read, execute that in the same way as you would on a Zone Read play

Slot - Attempt to reach the near Outside Linebacker

X Receiver - Climb for the near Safety

Z Receiver - Climb for the near Safety

Variations

Variation 1: Pin and Pull Toss

Pin and Pull Toss vs 4-2-5 Nickel

In this variation, the single receiver goes in motion toward the core of the formation to bring the Cornerback in. The RG is responsible for performing the kickout block on the Cornerback and creating a lane for the LG and Tailback to run through. Instead of a handoff, the Quarterback–who is under-center–reverse pivots and tosses the ball to the Tailback to get the ball out on the perimeter faster. 

Variation 2: TE-Wing Pin and Pull Toss

TE Wing Pin and Pull Toss

This variation is similar to the one above in the sense that the exchange is a toss; however, there’s a different blocking surface. Adding a Tight End and a Wing creates a 4-man surface that the defense has to account for, and also creates advantageous blocking angles. The RG will still most likely kickout the Cornerback while the RG inserts for first color.

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