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Football 101: The West Coast Offense

Tight Ends

By Mark Lawrence

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Tight Ends in the WCO

Another important position in the West Coast offense is the tight end position. The ideal size for a tight end in this offense is about six foot four and one half inches, weighing about 245 pounds. The requirements for playing tight end depend primarily on the system a team deploys. Accordingly, a West Coast offense team must find the athlete who best fits the team's approach to the offense.

Some teams want a tight end who has girth, ballast and strength. For these teams, the tight end is one of the primary keys to their offensive system because he has the size and physical tools to secure the point of attack. If the tight end is able to block a defensive lineman who is positioned on the edge of the offense, then a team automatically has an increased likelihood of having a running game with just that single feature.

In many of the defensive alignments of the 1990s, defensive linemen were lining up adjacent to or across from the tight end, whereas years ago they probably were not. If the tight end can block those defensive linemen, then this entire offense has a focal point from which to work.

This type of tight end can be a dominating factor. He is bigger and stronger, though less quick and agile, than the other type of tight end. Teams tend to fashion their passing game with him in the vicinity of the linebackers.

Accordingly, he must have both the ability to absorb a ball as he is being hit and soft hands. On virtually every pass thrown to him, he is going to be hit almost simultaneously with the catch.

This type of tight end also does not need to possess great speed; a 5.0 time on the 40-yard dash will get the job done. The major shortcoming attendant to his lack of extraordinary speed is the fact that he is not going to be able to clear defenders on certain pass patterns to help other receivers. All in all, that limitation is not that significant compared to all the blocking capabilities he provides.

The other extreme would be a Brent Jones type tight end, who can be a major factor all over the field. This type of tight end is a dream come true for the West Coast offense. He should have the ability and the foot speed to go anywhere on the field: quickly across the field, to the outside, down the field, etc.

In the process, he will be able to either bring defenders with him or find openings in the defenses. This kind of tight end needs the body control, the great hands and a lot of the skills of wide receiver, although more girth (size) than a wide receiver because many of the passes he catches will be in the vicinity of linebackers and even defensive linemen. The quicker and faster type of tight end will utilize an all-technique (rather than bulk) approach when blocking. It is essential that he learns and develops those blocking techniques that he can use with a reasonable level of effectiveness against defensive linemen and linebackers. Unlike the stranger, bigger type of tight end, he will not be able to use amass-against mass approach to blocking.

Also, this type of tight end is considered the great all-around type. This type of tight end is so gifted (athletically) that he can do all of the things both of the other types of tight ends would normally be expected to do.

A multi-talented, all around tight end who is both a great blocker and a great receiver gives his team multiple offensive options.

Offensive Linemen in the WCO

The next tool in the West Coast offense has to be the offensive lineman. Like most offenses offensive linemen make the WCO great. The offensive tackle should be the tallest on the offensive line, especially in the West Coast offense because so many of the passing plays are across the middle. The ideal size for an offensive tackle has to be at least six foot, six inches, and 310 pounds. The National Football League (NFL) has a number of highly skilled offensive tackles who weigh 330 pounds or so. In reality, these athletes play well in spite of weighing 330 pounds, not because of it. The only apparent benefit of weighing that much is to attract the attention of the television crew. While most of them might enhance their playing skills and performance if they lost a substantial amount of weight, the fact is they play pretty well at their current weight.

The one absolute essential trait for offensive linemen in the West Coast offense is natural body girth. In addition to girth, offensive tackles in this offense must be very strong and a have a high level of agility. Agility by the linemen in this offense is needed because of the quick three and five step passing game. An offensive tackle should also have strong, long arms to facilitate those blocking tasks involving tasks involving leverage. From a blocking perceptive, however, the timing of the block itself is the critical factor. In addition, the offensive tackle must have intuitive sense of feeling or knowing where to intersect defenders.

Offensive Tackles

In this offense the offensive tackle must be able to adapt to a situation where a linebacker blitzes from the outside and the defender he was expecting to block drops back into pass coverage. This happens often within the offense, again because of the short controlled passing game. As a result, the offensive tackle must be sharp enough to quickly identify the scenario and be able to move and adjust to the circumstances as needed. He must also be extremely well versed and prepared in the skills and the techniques required to handle a variety of situations.

The nature of the position of the offensive tackle also requires that athletes who play this position possess a level of inner confidence and natural self control that enables them to deal with frustration and, on some occasions in a football sense, disaster. Regardless of the circumstances, the offensive tackle in this offense must be able to regain his focus and function at a high level of performance within 30-40 seconds or less. In reality, some athletes appear to have a better disposition to deal with potentially disruptive elements than others.

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