I-Formation Strong Side Passing Attack

5-Step Sprint Drop Provides Added Quarterback Protection

quarterback throws pass
Eli Manning throws a second half pass against the Washington Redskins. Robb Carr/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

The sprint drop back is a complimentary alternative to a team’s traditional five-step passing game. The sprint drop back allows the quarterback to set up much quicker than the traditional rollout while still benefiting from added pass protection.

Sprint Strong Provides Options

The 5-step sprint drop back creates four potential passing options for the quarterback. The head coach can ‘tag’ the play (tell the quarterback who is to get the ball) based on what the offensive coaches have seen previously throughout the game from the defense.

The scheme also provides six-man blocking protection, which gives the quarterback some added protection.


The slot receiver lines up to the strong side. He runs a 12-to-14 yard hook, or comeback, pattern. He then plants, turns, and looks for the ball.

X-Post Drag

The split end runs eight yards down field, cuts as if running a deep post pattern, and at 12-yards breaks off into a drag route across the field. This provides the quarterback with a target to the middle of the field.


The tight end will block for a count of one, at which point he will release to a short three-yard out route toward the sideline. This route serves as sort of a safety route for the quarterback, as it gives him someone on a short route to dump the ball to if he is being pressured.

Tailback Hook

The running back will run directly through the line of scrimmage. He will run three-to-five yards behind the linebackers, and hook back toward the quarterback, looking for a potential pass.

Blocking Assignments

Proper blocking is crucial for the success of the 5-step sprint drop. Each player has an individual responsibility. The fullback is responsible for the defender coming off the strong side end of the line. The strong side tackle is responsible for man-on-man blocking if a defender is directly over him.

Otherwise he slide protects toward the guard. All of the other offensive linemen are slide protecting toward the weak side.

Quarterback 5-Step Sprint Drop Back

The quarterback's first step opens the hips slightly less than the traditional five-step drop does, as the quarterback wants to end on the fifth step aligned between the strong side guard and tackle. 'Sprint' doesn't actually mean a quicker set-up.  It is used to differentiate the play call from the straight drop back. 

Coaching Points

  • The Z-Comeback works best if the defense is in a 3-deep zone. The 3-deep zone positions three defensive backs deep to each cover a third of the field. It is intended to make it more difficult for strong passing teams to convert on big plays down the field. As the defense is positioned deep, there may be some openings toward the middle of the field.
  • Teach the tailback and quarterback to recognize the inside blitz, as the quarterback should be able to get the ball quickly to the tailback with plenty of running room down field.
  • The tight end out route is a great first down pass play, especially if the defense is dropping into deep coverage quickly. Teach the quarterback to look for the tight end, and to get the ball off quickly.