Using motion and shifts can be an effective tool for offensive coordinators to
confuse opposing defenses. Motion and shifts on offense can be simple and easy to
implement. The types of motions and shifts an offense utilizes will be greatly affected by
their tempo and offensive style but almost every offensive scheme can utilize motion
and shifts in one way or another. Many defensive coaches despise playing against
offenses that motion and shift every play or very often. Here are the Top Four reasons
why offensive coordinators should implement pre-snap movement into their gameplans.
Motion and Shifts Can Provide Number Advantages
No matter the level of football, motion and shifts will be used from pee-wee all the
way up to the pros in the NFL. There is a reason that this is consistently used, because
it helps offenses gain an advantage by confusing opposing defenses. A motion and/or
shift can change the strength of the offensive’s formation and in many ways can change
how a defense will need to align. Defenses can react a few different ways to these pre-
snap movements and offensive coaches have to be locked into how defenses are
adjusting and take advantage of any opportunities that may be presented by confused
defensive players. If a defensive player is supposed to adjust to a strength change and
they fail to do so, the offense automatically creates an advantage for themselves out of
a sheer number standpoint.
Motion and Shifts Provide Better Blocking and Route Angles
Another advantage of using motion and shifts in an offense is the ability to give
your players a better angle on blocks. A lot of offensives today utilize either an H-Back
or J-Back that motions and shifts very regularly. This player generally is a flexible player
that can play a multitude of different positions with different responsibilities. When an H-
Back motions or shifts, the offensive play-caller is generally using this to try and give
their player an advantage through an angle whether for a block or to leak out on a pass.
Motion and shifts provide a great tool for offensive coaches to put their players in an
advantageous position to block their assignment or create an easier route on a play-
action or pass play.
Motion and Shifts Encourage Defensive Players to Have “Bad Eyes”
Defensive coaches are always telling their players to have “good eyes” whether it
be on their man or a high-safety reading a quarterback’s throwing direction. There are
many aspects of a football game where trained eyes are essential. Motion and shifts
from an opposing offense can confuse defensive players by creating pre-snap action
that calls for attention from the defenders. Many times a motion and/or shift is really just
a decoy to trick defenders into thinking the action is important to their own individual
assignment. If offensive coaches can “trick” defenders into overcompensating for a
motion or shift, they can gain an advantage and potentially take advantage of a big play
opportunity. This is especially relevant in the secondary as defensive back’s that have
bad eyes generally will give up big plays.
Motion and Shifts Can “Slow Down” A Defense
Lastly, one huge advantage that offensives can gain by utilizing motion and shifts
is the idea of slowing down opposing defenses. Offenses that utilize motion and shifts
consistently can provide a headache for opposing defensive coaches by causing them
to be less aggressive with play calls and more focused on simply getting lined up
correctly. When defensive coaches have to worry about just simply getting their
defenses lined up it can slow down a game plan and ultimately cause defenses to
remain stale. When offensive coaches play against an aggressive defense, it can be
advantageous to implement motion and shifts in order to slow them down. Not only will
this potentially slow down coaches but motion and shifts can cause players to second-
guess things and ultimately slow down their pursuit and play because of over-thinking.
Motion and shifts can provide many advantages for offensive coaches. No matter
what type of offense a team is running, they can implement motion and shifts to help
give them an advantage that might not otherwise be there for them. If you want to learn
more about using motion and shifts, check out Mike Rowe’s Using Motion and Shifts.