Breaking down the pieces of a modern NFL offense


Michael Pallas   Aug 4th, 2019

We are well aware that we are in a brand new age of the National Football League. In this pass-heavy league, it is very crucial that everyone is on the same page. However, what makes up a good NFL offense in today’s game? Let’s break it down.

Many Americans love the game of gridiron football. Every year, as a country, we sit down on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays to watch the game we love, and when it’s all said and done, we will have watched 267 games.


The game has evolved in every generation. From the invention of the game where the forward pass was actually illegal to today where it is the norm to see more passes than runs in a typical game.

It the high scoring NFL where defense sometimes seems optional, the offense is the king, and so is the quarterback. So, what are the pieces to a great NFL offense in the 21st century?



You can’t be successful in today’s NFL with guys like Trent Dilfer anymore. (Sorry Trent, but it’s true.)

A quarterback needs to be mobile — both inside and sometimes outside the pocket. He also needs to be accurate and have good arm strength. Arm strength isn’t just about how far one can throw the football, though. It’s also about getting the ball quickly to a receiver in tight spaces so the receiver can gain yards after the catch. (I will bring this up again later.)

An all-around tailback

The term running back is obsolete in the game today. We need a more generic term so that we don’t pigeonhole players. A good tailback can protect his quarterback as the last line of defense. Also, in terms of offensive versatility, gone are the days of a running back who we should expect a lot of carries from. It’s no longer about just carries, but, rather, touches (carries + catches).

A solid group of receivers

Despite the fans always clamoring for the likes of players like Julio Jones or Odell Beckham, Jr., a true no. 1 receiver is no longer an important component of an NFL offense. In the days of players like Cris Carter, Jerry Rice, and Michael Irvin, they were necessary to keep the defense honest against the running game. Having players like them could prevent teams from stacking the box.


In today’s pass-centric offense, between the tailbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends, you should have a group that can attack all levels of the defense rather than having just one special player who can do that. In fact, we have even gotten to the point where tight ends and slot receivers are equally as important as the guys who patrol the outside.

A run-centric offensive line

You may think this is counter-intuitive to a pass-based offensive system. However, in today’s NFL, it’s much better to have an above-average to a great run-blocking offensive line that is also an average to above-average pass blocking one.

In order to be successful on offense, teams still need to have a good running game. However, since they are running the ball with less frequency, in order to maintain a successful running game, the offense must be successful in the running game at a higher frequency than they used to be. That means the point of emphasis for the offensive line should be in the running game.

Offensive linemen still need to be sound in the passing game, but the best offenses aren’t ones that have their quarterbacks sitting in the pocket and scanning the field.

As I wrote before, the best way to protect the quarterback is to design an offense that gets the ball out quickly. While offensive linemen still have to be sound fundamentally, with the rules in place that protect quarterbacks, and with offenses that have quarterbacks who get rid of the ball quickly, they don’t have to sustain the blocks as often for long periods as in the past.

Questions and comments?

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