In Part One I discussed the importance of establishing an offensive philosophy based on personnel and your individual talents. Now we’ll take a look at utilizing those weapons and attitudes through formations in All-Pro Football 2K8. While having an Earl Campbell style running back may be the first step in a power running game, putting him in the right formations and emphasizing him as a weapon is the next step.
When creating a playbook I like to subscribe to the less-is-more theory. While some players never like to give the same look twice, there isn’t anybody studying your game film here. While having 70 formations may give you a lot of options in theory, in practice it just makes it hard to navigate through the playbook in the allotted time and most of those formations go to waste. You're better off with 15 good formations that you can use almost every play, rather than 60 formations with only a couple of plays out of each.
Every formation should have a purpose. My favorite package is "Ace Double Tights"; I use the basic balanced set (Ace Big) and I’ll go to Ace Pairs and I’ll go to both trips sets (Trips and TE Trips). My “Ace Big” formation is my favorite and what I use to operate my offense. “Pairs” with both TE on one side of the line and the WRs on the other is something I like to use for outside runs as it utilizes the second TE as an extra blocker on the edge.
The trips formations I use, acts as zone busters against the pass -- I like to use a lot of “flood” patterns in the pass, they work great for me in goal line/short yardage situations. This does not mean I only run out of “Pairs” or pass out of “Trips," but that is what I prefer to do with them. I’m not going to go to trips to burn the clock late as I have much better rushing formations and I’m not going to turn to “Pairs” down by 14 with 5 minutes left as the passing plays out of it are mostly short or play action. They all have their purpose.
Since every formation should have a purpose, you should avoid repeating formation styles. What I mean by this is formations such as “I,” “Strong I” and “Weak I” all give you the same looks. It's best to go with one and perfect that formation, so the play-action, counters and draws are more effective. Likewise, you don’t need “Bunch” out of Ace, Shotgun, and “Empty”, just pick one “Bunch” (Or Trips, straight, or any other look) and stick with it, don’t clog your playbook.
The next step in making a playbook is deciding how to best utilize your selected weapons. Just as it's pointless to have an elite QB in a 40-carry-a-game power running offense, it's just as silly to have a small scat back in the I formation or to have a fullback and run out of ace.
This does not mean spread teams should only have 4 and 5 WR sets. Every team should have a power running formation and a passing formation somewhere. Just stay true to your philosophy. If you are a power running team, have a pair of 4 WR sets somewhere, and if you’re a spread team have your double tight I formation set -- just keep it down to one or two. You never know when you’ll need it.
Formations create “pressure points” on a defense. Using my balanced “Ace Big” the most immediate threat is the run followed by the quick passing game. The mid-range and deep passing isn’t a huge risk as my tight ends aren’t as athletic as my wide receivers -- obviously. My Trips formations put a ton of pressure on the defense to the trips side as it gives extra blockers for the run and extra receivers for the pass.
Use this to your advantage. Going trips to the right puts the defenses focus to the right, so putting a gold WR on the left may leave him in man coverage. Likewise, going 4 wideouts puts the defense in nickel or dime, leaving less LBs and opening up the running game (If you have a good line).
With this in mind, don’t turn to I Jokes if you have Marino and Rice. The defense is going to focus on Rice. Likewise, going Shotgun Quads with Earl Campbell on your team doesn’t make a ton of sense, Earl needs a lead blocker and speed isn’t his specialty. Sure there are less LBs on the field, but the defense is going to catch on if you're only spreading the field to run.
A lot of this seems like common sense, but sometimes the simple obvious things are overlooked. As a general rule of thumb don’t have multiple formations that leave legends off the field. Don’t repeat the same packages multiple times; it just clogs up the playbook. If you’re a power running team, you don’t need a bunch of 4 WR sets and if you’re running the spread, you don’t need to go into I-formation a whole lot. Remember to use your legends to apply pressure on the defense, and to use them in situations they can be effective.