trap play

Trap Play Concept in Football (Complete Guide)

One such strategy that has gained popularity over the years is the trap play concept.

Here we look into understanding and implementing the trap play in football, exploring its origins, execution, variations, and its effectiveness in different game situations.

Let’s take a look.

What is the Trap Play Concept?

The trap play concept is a running play in football that aims to deceive the defense by creating a trap or a “hole” in the defensive line.

It involves using misdirection and quick blocking techniques to open up a running lane for the ball carrier.

Football 101: Trap

Origins of the Trap Play

The trap play concept has its roots in the Wing-T offense, which was popularized by coach Tubby Raymond at the University of Delaware in the 1950s.

The Wing-T offense relied heavily on misdirection and quick-hitting plays, with the trap play being one of its key components.

Over time, the trap play concept has evolved and found its way into various offensive systems, including the spread offense and pro-style offenses.

Its effectiveness lies in its ability to exploit aggressive defenses that overcommit to stopping the run.

Execution of the Trap Play

The trap play involves several key elements that need to be executed with precision for it to be successful:

  • Timing: The trap play relies on perfect timing between the offensive linemen and the ball carrier. The offensive linemen must execute their blocks at the right moment to create a seam for the runner.
  • Quickness: The offensive linemen must quickly release from their initial blocking assignments and move to trap or block the defenders in the designated trap area.
  • Misdirection: The trap play often incorporates misdirection, with the quarterback or another back initially faking a handoff in one direction before handing the ball off to the runner going in the opposite direction.
  • Blocking: The offensive linemen involved in the trap play must execute their blocks with precision. The trap blocker aims to seal off the defender, creating a running lane for the ball carrier.

Variations of the Trap Play

There are several variations of the trap play concept that teams can incorporate into their offensive strategies:

  • Power Trap: In this variation, the offensive linemen execute a double-team block on a defensive lineman before one of them releases to trap a linebacker or a defensive back.
  • Counter Trap: The counter trap play involves using misdirection to deceive the defense. The offensive linemen initially block as if it’s a different play, before executing the trap block on a defender.
  • Wham Trap: The wham trap play involves using a tight end or an H-back to execute the trap block instead of an offensive lineman. This adds an element of surprise and can catch the defense off guard.

Effectiveness of the Trap Play

The trap play concept can be highly effective when executed correctly. It capitalizes on the defense’s aggression and creates running lanes that lead to big gains. Here are some reasons why the trap play can be successful:

  • Misdirection: The misdirection element of the trap play can confuse defenders and create hesitation, allowing the offensive linemen to execute their blocks more effectively.
  • Quick-hitting: The trap play is designed to be a quick-hitting play, with the ball carrier hitting the hole before the defense can react. This makes it difficult for defenders to fill the gap and make a tackle.
  • Exploiting aggressive defenses: Defenses that are overly aggressive in pursuing the ball carrier can be vulnerable to trap plays. By trapping the over-pursuing defenders, the offense can create running lanes in the opposite direction.

Gun Rocket Offense: Running Trap Out of Shotgun

When to Use the Trap Play

The trap play can be effective in various game situations:

  • Short-yardage situations: The trap play can be a valuable tool in short-yardage situations, where the offense needs to gain a few yards to convert a first down or score a touchdown.
  • Against aggressive defenses: Defenses that are known for their aggressive pursuit of the ball can be susceptible to trap plays. By exploiting their aggression, the offense can create running lanes and gain significant yardage.
  • As a change of pace: Incorporating the trap play into an offensive game plan as a change of pace can catch the defense off guard and lead to big gains.

Case Study: The Denver Broncos’ Trap Play

An example of a team that has effectively utilized the trap play concept is the Denver Broncos during their Super Bowl-winning season in 2015.

Under the guidance of offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, the Broncos incorporated the trap play into their offensive scheme to great success.

The Broncos’ offensive line, led by center Matt Paradis and guard Louis Vasquez, executed the trap play with precision.

Running back C.J. Anderson benefited from the well-timed blocks and misdirection, consistently gaining significant yardage on trap plays throughout the season.

Statistics on the Trap Play’s Success

While statistics on the trap play’s success may vary depending on the team and offensive system, there are examples of teams that have found great success with this concept:

  • The 2015 Denver Broncos ranked second in the NFL in rushing yards per game, largely due to the effectiveness of their trap plays.
  • In college football, teams like the University of Wisconsin and the University of Georgia have consistently ranked among the top rushing offenses in the country, utilizing the trap play as a key component of their ground attack.

Common Mistakes in Executing the Trap Play

While the trap play can be highly effective, there are common mistakes that teams should avoid:

  • Poor timing: If the offensive linemen release too early or too late, it can disrupt the timing of the play and lead to a loss of yardage.
  • Ineffective blocking: The success of the trap play relies heavily on the offensive linemen executing their blocks effectively. If the trap blocker fails to seal off the defender, it can result in a tackle for loss.
  • Predictability: If the trap play becomes too predictable, defenses can adjust and effectively defend against it. It is important to incorporate the trap play strategically and mix it up with other running plays.

How to Defend Against the Trap Play

The Trap play in football is a run play designed to “trap” an aggressive defensive lineman by allowing them to penetrate the offensive line, then blocking them from the side to create a running lane.

Here’s how defenses can work to counter this play:

Recognize the Play

Understanding when a trap play is likely can be helpful.

This often comes with experience and film study.

The trap is often used when a defensive lineman is consistently beating his man and penetrating into the backfield.

Defensive Line Discipline

Defensive linemen need to recognize when they’re unblocked or easily beating their man.

If this is the case, it may be a trap play. Instead of immediately rushing upfield, they should “squeeze” down the line of scrimmage laterally, reducing the running lane.

Linebacker Reads

Linebackers have a key role in stopping the trap.

They need to read the offensive linemen, particularly the guards.

If a guard pulls to block a defensive tackle or end, it could signal a trap play.

The linebacker needs to quickly fill the gap left by the pulling guard.

Strong Safety Support

In many defensive schemes, the strong safety may be called upon to provide run support.

They need to quickly recognize a run play, avoid being blocked, and help to plug up the running lane.

Maintain Gap Integrity

As with all run plays, maintaining gap integrity is key.

Every defender has a gap that they’re responsible for.

They need to hold their ground and maintain control of their assigned gap.


Proper tackling technique is critical.

It’s important to stop the running back at or behind the line of scrimmage, not letting them break tackles for additional yardage.

Is the Trap Play Used in the West Coast Offense, Air Coryell, Air Raid, and Spread Offense?

The trap play can be incorporated into virtually any offensive scheme, including the West Coast Offense, Air Coryell, Air Raid, and Spread Offense.

However, it’s used differently depending on the philosophy and structure of the given system.

Trap Play in the West Coast Offense

Traditionally, the West Coast Offense places a strong emphasis on the short passing game, using it to essentially serve as an extension of the run game.

That said, it still incorporates a range of running plays, including the trap, especially when the defense starts to overcommit to stopping the pass.

Trap Play in Air Coryell

The Air Coryell system, known for its vertical passing approach, utilizes running plays like the trap to balance the offensive attack and take advantage of defenses that are primarily focused on preventing the deep pass.

Trap Play in Air Raid

The Air Raid offense is heavily pass-oriented and typically employs a limited number of running plays.

While it’s less likely to feature a trap play compared to other systems, some variations could include it, especially if a particular game situation or defensive alignment calls for it.

Trap Play in the Spread Offense

The Spread Offense aims to space out the defense across the field, often using a mix of pass and run plays.

The trap play can be a part of the spread offense and can be particularly effective if the defense is spread thin and focusing too heavily on defending against the pass.


FAQs – Trap Play

1. How can I incorporate the trap play into my team’s offensive strategy?

To incorporate the trap play into your team’s offensive strategy, you should first assess your personnel and determine if they have the necessary skills to execute the play effectively.

Work with your offensive line coach to teach the proper blocking techniques and timing required for the trap play.

Practice the play extensively to ensure that all players understand their assignments and execute them with precision.

2. Can the trap play be effective in youth football?

Yes, the trap play can be effective in youth football.

However, it is important to consider the age and skill level of the players.

Younger players may struggle with the timing and execution of the trap play, so it is crucial to simplify the play and focus on the fundamentals.

Work on teaching proper blocking techniques and emphasize the importance of misdirection and quickness.

3. Are there any specific formations that work best for the trap play?

The trap play can be executed from various formations, including the I-formation, single-back formation, or shotgun formation.

The choice of formation depends on your offensive system and the strengths of your personnel.

It is important to analyze the defense and identify potential weaknesses that can be exploited with the trap play.

4. Can the trap play be effective against a 3-4 defense?

Yes, the trap play can be effective against a 3-4 defense.

The key is to identify the gaps in the defensive line and execute the trap block on the appropriate defender.

By using misdirection and quickness, the offense can create running lanes and gain significant yardage against a 3-4 defense.

5. How can I disguise the trap play to make it more effective?

Disguising the trap play is crucial to catch the defense off guard.

One way to do this is by incorporating play-action passes that look similar to the trap play.

By faking the trap play and having the quarterback execute a pass, the defense will be hesitant and more susceptible to the trap play.

It is important to work on the timing and execution of these play-action passes to maintain their effectiveness.

6. Can the trap play be effective in the red zone?

Yes, the trap play can be effective in the red zone. In fact, it can be particularly effective in short-yardage situations where the defense is expecting a run.

By executing the trap play with precision and creating running lanes, the offense can score touchdowns or gain crucial first downs in the red zone.

7. How can I adjust the trap play if the defense is anticipating it?

If the defense is anticipating the trap play, you can make adjustments to keep them off balance.

One adjustment is to incorporate counters off the trap play, where the offensive linemen initially execute their blocks as if it’s a trap play, but then release to block defenders in a different direction.

This can catch the defense off guard and create running lanes in unexpected areas.

8. Can the trap play be effective against a blitzing defense?

Yes, the trap play can be effective against a blitzing defense.

By using misdirection and quickness, the offense can exploit the gaps left by the blitzing defenders and create running lanes for the ball carrier.

It is important to identify the blitzing defenders and execute the trap block on the appropriate defender to maximize the effectiveness of the play.

9. How can I teach my offensive linemen the proper timing for the trap play?

Teaching proper timing for the trap play requires repetition and practice.

Use drills that focus on the footwork and timing of the offensive linemen.

Emphasize the importance of quickness and releasing from initial blocking assignments at the right moment.

Film study can also be beneficial in helping offensive linemen understand the timing and execution of the trap play.

10. Can the trap play be effective in a pass-heavy offense?

While the trap play is primarily a running play, it can still be effective in a pass-heavy offense.

By incorporating misdirection and quickness, the offense can keep the defense off balance and create running lanes for the ball carrier.

The trap play can also be used as a change of pace to catch the defense off guard and open up passing opportunities.


The trap play concept in football is a valuable tool for offenses looking to exploit aggressive defenses and create running lanes for their ball carriers.

By incorporating misdirection, quickness, and precise blocking techniques, teams can effectively execute the trap play and gain significant yardage.

However, it is important to avoid common mistakes and use the trap play strategically to maintain its effectiveness.

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