Pro Set Formation (Coaching Guide With Images)

By Coach Martin | Football Offense


The Pro Set formation was a very popular offensive alignment that many teams in the NFL used for years.

The fact that it was so popular in the NFL is where it got its name -- "Pro Set" formation.

While not as popular as it once was, some professional teams still make use of it in certain situations.

It's a formation that's also used at lower levels of football because it provides the offense with so many play calling options.

As we'll soon see, the formation features what would be a "big" alignment.

There are two tight ends as well as two backs in the backfield (a tailback and a fullback), with the quarterback under center. That leaves only one wide receiver on the field.

While this might make you think the Pro Set is a run-only offense, it's simply not the case. 

Let's take a closer look below at what the Pro Set formation is all about.

How the Pro Set Formation Works

The Pro Set formation is all about balance.

With two tight ends and two running backs on the field at all times, it's tough for the defense to key in on one side of the field.

Coaches have the ability to move the wide receiver to either side of the field, depending on what play they call.

There are also many different things that coaches can do to create variation of the alignment that sets up major mismatches.

Offenses can opt to swap the tight ends out for additional wide receivers while running backs can flank out wide as receivers as well. 

In addition, the QB can send any of the skilled position players in a pre-snap motion to change up the alignment on the fly.

The best way to understand the Pro Set formation is to take a look at some example plays.

Pro Set Formation Plays

1. 22 Dive


This basic play is a run that's meant to quickly hit the center of the defense.

It includes double teams on some down defensive linemen, as well as the fullback serving as the lead blocker for the tailback.

Coaches will often line up a wide receiver near one of the sidelines to draw defenders further outside and draw the safety's eyes toward the receiver at the snap of the ball.

This causes a little hesitation from the safety, which prevents him from creeping up toward the line of scrimmage before the play to help out against the run.

2. Weak Sweep


Coaches can get very creative out of the Pro Set, and this play illustrates just that. It's still a running play, only it adds an element of misdirection.

What's more, the fullback will only act as a decoy on the play, while the tailback will run to the outside with no lead blockers at all.

The key to this play is getting most of the defense to bite on the quarterback opening to his right.

At the snap, the quarterback will open to his right and make it look like he's going to hand it off to the fullback.

After a short fake, though, he'll toss the ball out to the tailback and let him run with it in the open field.

This play is great to get a skilled tailback one-on-one with a cornerback.

If he can make one move and shed the defender, the tailback could see a lot of running daylight.

3. Quick Outs


Quick Outs is one of the most common passing plays out of the Pro Set formation. 

It seeks to take advantage of skilled tight ends and the speedy wide receiver, as well as the quickness of the play in general to keep the defense off guard.

While the play is typically used when the offense needs to gain a few yards, the receiver can potentially gain significant yardage if he can break a tackle.

At the snap, both tight ends will run Quick Outs about five yards downfield.

The wide receiver lined up tighter to the formation here, will run a Flat route to the right sideline.

The quarterback will look to the tight ends first, but then use the wide receiver as his safety valve if they aren't open.

4. Out and Up


Out and Up seeks to take advantage of the defense trying to cheat up on short-yardage plays.

Offenses can run it with either only one wide receiver running a route, or a receiver and the tight end on the other side running the same route.

The former is an all-or-nothing-type play (since the play is dead if the only route runner isn't open), while the latter is more commonly used.

When coaches call the dual Out and Up routes, it puts a ton of pressure on the safety, who must choose which route runner to help with and which one to leave one-on-one with another defender.

All other players on this play will stay in to block.

This will be key, as it's a longer-developing deep pass, so the quarterback may need some extra blocking help.



The Pro Set has long been one of the most commonly-used offensive formations in football.

While it isn't used as much in the "big" style today, there are a lot of different variations of it still present in the NFL.

One of the biggest benefits of the formation is the balance that it brings to the offense.

You can run or pass out of it equally as well, plus there's physical balance on each side of the field.

All coaches should learn the Pro Set formation, as it's a great offensive alignment to use no matter what level of the game you're coaching.

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