The Secret to Success: Analyzing The Colts Duo Run Concepts

The Colts have been a top rushing team in the NFL for two years now. In this new series, we will look at run concepts that have led to this success. First up, the beautiful concept of Duo.
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The Colts have been one of the better rushing teams in the NFL for the past two seasons. With one of the worst passing games in 2019, the Colts still managed to be the 7th ranked rushing offense. In 2020 with a new quarterback and lead running back, they still managed to rank 11th in the league in rushing after a slow start.

With this success in the ground game, I decided to make a series on analyzing common run concepts and breaking down how they led to success for the Colts' offense. For today's film room, we will be looking at a popular run concept called "Duo."

What is Duo?

The simplest way that I have seen duo described is that it is a power run without a puller. The basic premise of the run is to line up in a power formation and attack the defense downhill. The Colts' love to deploy 12 and 13 personnel when running duo but typically only one tight end is truly needed on this design.

The key aspect of duo is vertical displacement on the interior. Duo features double teams on the inside because the offense wants to move those interior defensive tackles out of key gaps. So, the way duo is typically drawn up is by having the C-G and the T-G on the other side double team the interior defensive linemen before climbing to the second level. This creates movement off the line and space for the running back to get positive yards.

For a more extensive look at duo, and inside zone, I highly recommend clicking this hyperlink to Geoff Schwartz's article on the subject.

How Do The Colts Run Duo?

The Colts are a unique team with their duo concepts, as they are diverse with how they attack with double teams. The Colts have some of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL in Mo Alie-Cox and Jack Doyle. Since they have these two assets, they make great use of them on these types of runs.

On this play below, the double teams on the interior are worked by Ryan Kelly-Mark Glowinski on one side and by Braden Smith-Jack Doyle on the other. Look at the vertical displacement (I will be using this term a lot in this piece) by the two combo blocks. Jonathan Taylor is given 4-5 yards of wiggle room to each direction as he gets the ball.

There are times when running duo where the offense isn't able to get a pair of double team blocks on the interior. The common cause of this would be if the defense is run blitzing or mugging a certain gap. The more players in the box, the less opportunities for double teams.

That happens on this play as the Steelers are mugging the A and C gaps with linebackers. This does cause one of the designed combo blocks to not come to fruition but Quenton Nelson and Will Holden still pave the way on the interior with their double team on the three technique. Their vertical displacement (along with Taylor looking off the linebacker) creates positive yards.

So, I have now shown two different ways that the Colts have used duo, one being with a TE involved and the other with only one double team on the interior. Now we get to a fun clip where it is just offensive linemen on the double teams and the result is dominant.

This play is the best way that duo could be drawn up, as the interior blocks get quick vertical displacement and then each block leads to climbing to the second level. With Kelly and Nelson being able to get to the second level after their initial blocks, they are able to spring Taylor to get an even bigger gain on the play.

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The last clip is just another one to emphasize how vital this rushing concept is in this offense. It may not be the one that leads to big plays but it is a great concept that acts as a drive starter to get positive runs.

Here the Colts' offensive line just bullies the Packers in the trenches and Taylor is able to coast yet again to another solid gain. These are the types of runs that allow an offensive line to dominate their opponent, and that fits the play style of this front. While this run isn't a staple, it is key to the team's  rushing success.

I could add more clips to this piece but I'll just drop this link to a film room YouTube video I made over at Cover 1 with my boss Erik Turner. This was a discussion in preparation for the Colts' game against the Bills in the playoffs but I recommend checking out from the 29:30 mark to the 1:00:00 for some really good analysis on duo and the Colts' run game.

Final Thoughts

The Colts' run game has wreaked havoc on the league the last two years and it should only get better with development from Jonathan Taylor, the return of Marlon Mack, and the run blocking upgrade of Eric Fisher at left tackle. While duo isn't a staple in the offense, it is a key cog in a well oiled machine.

If you guys liked this breakdown, tell me about it! I'd love to turn this into a running series on the site but I want see if it is a topic that you all want to read about. Send me/the Horseshoe Huddle account a message on Twitter or Facebook or wherever you are reading this if you want more of this type of content.

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