It has been five years since the Jaguars reached for Cal defensive tackle Tyson Alualu at 10th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. Since then, Alualu has performed somewhat steadily in his rotational DT position but has failed to validate his high draft selection.
This season, however, Alualu has transformed into a multi-dimensional threat.
It's not often that you see a defensive lineman lined up behind your franchise quarterback, much less running routes and breaking tackles on his way to first downs. But over time, Alualu has turned into a significant component of the Jaguars' short-yardage backfield.
It's definitely not an orthodox way of doing things, but it's something the Jaguars have practiced ever since offensive coordinator Greg Olson cut the fullback position out of his offensive roster. In short-yardage situations, big Tyson Alualu enters the game at FB.
Most of the time, Tyson simply uses his size to pave the way for his halfback. Sometimes, more is asked of Tyson.
Alualu has been targeted three times in the passing game this season -- less than wide receiver Allen Robinson but more than Justin Blackmon. Alualu has totaled two receptions out of the backfield, his most recent arriving in the first quarter of a 42-39 loss to Tennessee on Sunday.
On third and one from his own 34-yard line, Alualu trotted out onto the field with his offense. The formation and personnel screamed run, but the Jaguars had something else up their sleeve.
The play above is a beautiful interpretation of spider 2 Y banana, an extension of the West Coast short-yardage offense. To appreciate the components of the Jaguars' banana, here's a more conventional rendition:
Green Right Strong Slot Spider 2 Y Banana
The fullback takes center stage in the banana -- he's the quarterback's first read. If a linebacker comes down to cover the flat, usually the QB can hit the Y receiver over top.
"Spider 2" refers to the protection scheme within the formation. SPider is a nod towards "slide protection," meaning the offensive line will slide away from the action in the play at the snap. In the example above, the offensive line would block to the left in order to let the play unfold to the right.
"Y banana" is simply the Y receiver's route. As you can see in the example above, the Y receiver (a tight end) runs a route that resembles the shape of a -- yeah, you guessed it.
The "alert" above the X receiver is pointing out the QB's ability to make a pre-snap adjustment based on the appearance of the defense. If a QB chooses, he can make the X receiver the primary read
Now that we have the basics sorted out, here's the set-up that the Jaguars ran on Sunday:
I call this the "Fa'apaleleali'iiviiga Spider 2 Y Banana" -- partly because Fa'apaleleali'iiviiga is Tyson Alualu's newborn son's middle name, but mostly because I enjoy imagining quarterback Blake Bortles stumbling over the wordage as he tries to communicate the play call to the rest of his huddle.
Play-action sets the play in motion. After faking the exchange, running back T.J. Yeldon hits his hole to free the fullback. Defensive tackle/fullback Tyson Alualu is Bortles' first read on the play. If a linebacker picks that route up, Bortles moves to his second read -- tight end Clay Harbor in the Y position. If all else fails, in-line tight end Marcedes Lewis may be open on his crossing route.
The Jaguars' third and one situation on Sunday, however, was a little more fun. There was some improvisation involved.
At the snap, Bortles fakes the hand-off to Yeldon and Yeldon hits his mark. The Titans defensive end, however, has picked up Bortles' primary read -- Tyson Alualu in the flat. As Blake shifts his attention to his Y receiver, he finds that read covered up by two Titan defenders.
In an effort to extend the play, Blake does what he does best -- he rolls out. As Bortles breaks for the first down marker, the Titans DE leaves Alualu to pursue the QB. Alualu, being the savvy offensive threat that he is, turns up field to extend his route.
As Blake pulls Titans towards him like a big, handsome magnet, Alualu finds some open real estate and sits there.
Blake flips the ball to his defensive tackle, who makes a pretty damn athletic catch.
After securing the ball, Alualu turns and accelerates. He steals some more yards to pad his stats before a Titan goes low to force the 300-pound offensive weapon out of bounds. Gain of 16.
Here's the play in full-speed, courtesy of Mike Backherms:
The Jaguars would go on to lose in a shootout to their AFC South rivals on Sunday, but would also go a long way in establishing their argument that big can, in fact, be beautiful.