Five Features of a Kubiak Offense

Kubiak Schaub

Give credit where credit is due.

John Harbaugh has taken an impressive first step to reconstructing his moribund offense in Baltimore. In hiring former Houston head coach Gary Kubiak to run the show, he has installed one of the best play-designers in the NFL. Kubiak understands how to attack every layer of a defense in the running game and the passing game.

Kubiak’s roots are from the West Coast offense. However, he does not run a pure West Coast style the way of Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, and Steve Young. His Denver and Houston offenses incorporated the vertical passing game. And not every pass play is based purely on timing and throwing to a spot. Kubiak takes his shots, and he’ll take advantage of Joe Flacco’s big arm. Still, the change in philosophy should force Flacco to anticipate his throws more often, and that will improve his timing with his receivers.

Along with implementing a multidimensional West Coast approach, Kubiak will work with offensive line coach Juan Castillo to resurrect the zone-blocking scheme. Getting the zone-blocking scheme up to par will play a crucial part in not only improving the running game, but also adding much-needed bite to the play-action passing attack.

What are some of the other features of Kubiak’s offense?

Here are five tendencies to watch out for:

1. Hard Run-action. When it comes to well-executed run-action, the entire offense sells the run fake. The line will slide to the play side and the back will continue the action of stepping forward. Houston was one of the best at not only presenting an authentic play-fake, but also carrying out the rehearsal of a running play to fool defenses.

2. Keeping the QB on the Move. Once the run-action and play-fake is in full effect, next comes the QB’s movement to the open (back) side. Kubiak runs an assortment of waggles and bootlegs to get his QBs throwing on the run. He will also move the pocket — something we see Sean Payton do quite often in New Orleans with Drew Brees. Look for Flacco to get more chances to make plays outside of the pocket.

3. Multiplicity. The Texans were one of the toughest offenses for defensive coordinators to prepare for because they showed a variance of formations. They would run with two tight ends, two backs, no backs, and anything in-between.

4. Pre-snap Movement. In addition to using multiple formations from series to series, Kubiak’s offenses also feature “move” players. Receivers will move from the X or the Z position to the slot to create mismatches, or tight ends will flex to the outside. Overall, you’ll also see plenty of movement from the H-back and tight ends to keep defenses guessing. To that end, look for fullback Kyle Juszcyk to get a boost in his role as a flex player who can line up all over the field, similar to former Houston Texan James Casey.

5. Return of the Crossing Route. The tight ends will also play a significant role as over-the-middle targets in Kubiak’s offense. Whether it was Shannon Sharpe, Owen Daniels, or Joel Dreessen, Kubiak used his tight ends heavily on crossers and created matchup nightmares against linebackers. Moreover, the receivers also play a key role in clearing the middle and attracting coverage to open up space for deeper routes to develop.

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About Dev Panchwagh

Dev Panchwagh
Dev Panchwagh is a versatile analyst who breaks down the Xs and Os of the game and has been a columnist/analyst for since the summer of 2004. In his regular season column Battle Plans, Dev highlights the Ravens' keys to success against each upcoming opponent. Dev started modestly as a sports...more

17 Raves on “Five Features of a Kubiak Offense

  1. JerryB on said:

    Great article and great insight into Kubiak’s approach to offense. Maybe the most qualified OC in the Ravens’ young history, although Kirk Firenze did a great job in 1996-1997. They still need to get bigger and better on the OL and need another TE and playmaker at WR. Harbaugh gets credit for the selection, but coming as late in the process as it did, there is little doubt that Ozzie and Bisciotti….interceded!

  2. Fcowher on said:

    Great analysis, but an even greater move by the Ravens. It seems with the possible exception of letting a veteran go a year too early that the Ravens front office rarely makes a poor move. They always do what they think is best for the team.

  3. Chad on said:

    Anyone that thinks Ozzie or Steve intevened with this hire is naive. It is in Harbs contract to hire his assistants. PERIOD! That man cannot please anyone. His team misses the playoffs one year and abandon ship. WTH! He makes a great hire and, well Ozzie stepped in. Geat real. Harbs is the best coach this team has ever seen and people should be eating their words now but instead listen to the likes of Mike Preston. C’Mon Man.

  4. James on said:

    Look at the picture of Harbaugh at the press conference. No way that he was responsible for the Kubiak hire. He looks like my Yorkshire terrier after he has been corrected for tearing up the newspaper. Ozzie and or Steve orchestrated this hire and apparently Kubiak has been given significant control over all offensive operations, including assistants. This is a good thing . Maybe now we will see some imagination in our offense and offensive play calling.

    • Kurt on said:

      James: I want to note here that Cam Cameron has rejuvenated the offense at LSU since arriving. This is the SEC – not Division II football. So, no. Cam Cameron is not an idiot who can’t design offenses or call plays. Jim Caldwell was just hired to coach the Detroit Lions. He is not lacking cerebrally and was endorsed by Peyton Mannning for the job.
      So, either the Ravens have incredibly bad luck in that these guys simply forget what they know when they walk in the door, or we have other limitations as a team that prevent us as from fully benefitting from what an offensive mind has to offer.
      The good news is that this question will be answered in 2014 once and for all.

  5. Dirt1 on said:

    Great article. I really enjoy your work. If the Ravens incorporate what you have written above, they should be tough to beat next year.

  6. poppaballou on said:

    What difference does it make as to who did the hiring??? The fact is; He was hired. If i own a team, yes i will have say so whenever i want, and so will you, so with that said, Good Move. Ravens Nation.

  7. Kurt on said:

    I am intrigued by the fact that Kubiak and staff were able to get solid production from Schaub – who definiitely has limitations. But they also had Arian Foster and Andre Johnson.
    In the end, the offense is going to reflect what Joe Flacco can do well. There is no way that we as fans wll be able to call Kubiak and staff “idiots” 3/4 of the way through the season if we don’t see a more creative offense. No, at that point we’ll need to look elsewhere for where the blame lies. I am hopeful that day never comes. We could not have made a better move than bringing in Kubiak. I look forward to seeing how the passing game evolves.
    It doesn’t need to be a top ranked passing offense and never has been.

  8. thuan on said:

    Great article Dev. The offense looked stale last year. We need to catch up to other teams offenses with more movement everywhere if we can. I’m sure Harbs, Ozzie and Steve probably all talked about how Kubiak would combined his philosophy with the Ravens to come up with the decision. If anyone made the final call it was probably Ozzie.

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