Greg Roman’s Gameplan: Drive Starters



If you haven’t read part one of this series find it here.

Base Offense-Drive Starters

Developing a game-plan is a difficult task, many things are factored into the final product. The coaches have to know the injury report, the type of defense they will be playing, the tendencies of said defense and MANY other factors. Offensive coordinators usually start of with picking offensive plays that Brian Billick liked to term Open Field Base Offensive plays. These are plays for 1st and second down that do not occur in the Red Zone, Backed Up or 2 Minute scenarios.

Open Field Base Offensive plays usually account for the majority of the offensive plays a team will run during a game. According to Billick:

First down requires about 45% of your total calls in the open field. Second down involve about 35%, while third and fourth downs collectively take up the remaining 20%. Our base package encompasses all first and second downs.”

For this Game-plan series the Base Offense will be defined by 1st and 2nd down plays of 7 yards or more (1st/2nd-7+ yards). Furthermore I broke down the 1st and second down plays (Base Offense) into two articles because of how many plays were run. So the total amount of plays run by the Bills in the week 3 match-up that can be considered Base Offense plays were 35 (Drive Starters+1st Down+2nd Down-7+). The Bills ran a total of 63 offensive plays versus the Fins. The team may only run 50-65 plays in any given game, but the coaches must be prepared. Therefore coordinators’ playbooks from week to week could carry 70-100+ plays.

Drive Starters

The first category of plays within the Base Offense that must be established are the Drive Starters. Since a majority of the plays run in a game are in the base offense category, a coach has to be very selective in his first down calls to start drives. These plays lay the foundation for the game-plan.

Greg Roman had a good idea on how balanced he wanted to be going into the Fins game. So in the confines of One Bills Drive he scripted certain plays to open drives with. He may have scripted 6 run plays and 4 pass plays within the Drive Starter category. In actuality, Roman ran the ball three times, passed once and ran two “special” plays against Miami. The “special” plays were both reverses to Percy Harvin.

Most of the Base Offense is practiced on Wednesday. So the Drive Starter plays will be practiced on Wednesday. Here is a run down of what a typical Wednesday for a coach and player may look like:


Just an example of a Wednesday practice schedule.

So at 9:00 A.M., the team met and the coaches presented the scouting reports on the Dolphins. Then the game-plan was introduced. Specifically, they went over the Base Offense plays and protections that were going to be implemented later in practice. Most of the Base Offense plays are concepts that have been practiced and repped since the off-season, but the coaches will run the concept out of a different formation or look.

At 10:30 A.M., each position met with their position coaches and again went over the plays. The different formations that are going to be run and maybe even defensive tendencies that were picked up on film.

Later in the day, the team met again to walk through the plays that are going were be practiced at 2:00 P.M. Coaches have to be very detailed in their practice plan because the team has a limited amount of time to practice.

Once practice began at 2:00, the team repped all of their Base Offense plays. Included in that practice time were the plays that the Bills wanted to run as their Drive Starters. As I have mentioned, many of the Base Offense categories may overlap, so the Bills probably practiced other Base Offense categories (I.E. 2nd and 7+).

Greg Roman ran seven opening Drive Starters in that first Dolphins game. Keep in mind, these are only the open field base offense play-calls. The open field for the sake of this article is from the Bills 10 yard line to the Fins 20 yard line, and did not take place in the Red Zone, 2 minute drill or Backed Up scenario. These calls were practiced on Wednesday. So lets look at the calls and see how well they were executed.

Drive Starter #1

On the following play the Bills start their 2nd drive with Roman’s patented Pin and Pull scheme.

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  • For all the Eric Wood haters, watch him perform a fantastic reach block allowing Richie to climb to the second level LB.
  • Woods cracks down on the force player. Mccoy receives the hand off.
  • Clay PINS the DE.
  • Glenn PULLS and he and Felton lead the play wide.
  • Felton lines up the alley LB.

Result: 9 yard gain.

Drive Starter #2

Roman dials up a reverse to Harvin to start the Bills’ third drive.

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  • Glenn leaves the DE and climbs to the second level.
  • Hogan holds his block on the wide side of the field.
  • Clay, aligned in the off tight end position to the boundary leads the reverse.
  • But I want to highlight Woods’ block. He comes from the bottom of the screen all the way across to block the rotating safety. He takes it a little too far and gets an unnecessary roughness penalty, but that effort doesn’t go unnoticed.

Result: 9 yard gain.

Drive Starter #3

On the first play of their fourth drive the Bills run a rare toss to Karlos Williams. Pay close attention to Incognito, Glenn and Felton.

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  • Richie executes a solid reach block on the DT.
  • Clay motions and latches onto the DE.
  • Glenn then pulls and leads the play with Felton.
  • Woods again picks up a pursuing LB, Woods is an animal.
  • Felton has a DB in his sights and eliminates him.
  • Glenn, with his head on a swivel wipes out the safety and two other players to spring Karlos.

Result: 18 yard gain.

Drive Starter #4

The Bills are at their 20 yard line to start their 7th drive. Roman again runs a special play-call.

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  • Bills are in 11 personnel. They motion Harvin from the slot to the strength of the formation.
  • Harvin receives the handoff.
  • Clay arc blocks to the safety dropping down due the motion.
  • Robert Woods again takes care of the DB, allowing Harvin to get the edge.

Result: 7 yard gain.

Drive Starter #5

The only pass by the Bills to start a drive came on the 8th drive of the game. Roman tries to run a play-action pass to Charles Clay.

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  • Tyrod fakes the run to Karlos Williams.
  • Richie sells the run to the right but then peels back to block the backside rush player.
  • Glenn blocks down on the DT, again to sell the run.
  • The pressure by the DE and DT don’t give TT time to hit any of the receivers.
  • He pulls it down and gets to the sideline

Result: 3 yard gain.

Drive Starter #6

On the 2nd to last drive of the game, Roman is protecting the lead and decides to run a counter run play to Karlos Williams.

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  • RG Urbik pulls and leads to the left.
  • FB Felton also is the lead blocker on the counter play.
  • Glenn immediately  heads to the second level to block the ILB.
  • The Dolphins do a great job on this play of getting off of blocks and getting downhill.

Results: 3 yard gain.

Drive Starter #7

Victory Formation


So in the first meeting between the Bills and the Dolphins Greg Roman was pretty successful on Drive Starters. He ran 6 plays for 49 yards. The average of over 8 yards a play to start drives set the offense up well. But what was even more impressive about the Drive Starters in that first game, was the diversity in the calls. Roman wanted to be run heavy, but he also wanted to slow down the aggressiveness of the Fins’ defense. He did that by mixing in two special play-reverses to Harvin to slow down the pursuit of standout defensive ends Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon. The coordinator also mixed in a play-action pass to keep the defense off balanced.

The Drive Starter plays that were scripted were executed very well by the players. But the next portion of creating a game-plan is actually scripting the Opening Sequence. The Opening Sequence are a set of plays that the Bills will run to start the game. These are plays that may show several formations to get an idea on how the Fins’ defense plans to match-up versus the Bills’ personnel.

Stay tuned for the next portion of this series, Greg Roman’s Game-Plan: Opening Sequence.