What Is the I Formation in Football? (Full Explanation)

I formation in football: Designed to overpower the defense at the line, the I-Formation Offense is a great way to play smash-mouth football. It has been a successful formation at all levels of football for more than 60 years and will continue to be used for much longer. So what is the I formation in football? Keep reading this post to find your answer.

What is an I formation in football?

The I-formation in football is an offensive setup where the quarterback lines up behind the center and two other running backs line up behind him. The remaining players, including offensive linemen and blocking tight ends, are often all blockers.

This offensive is set up for running. On either side of the ball, though, it is also possible to have a receiver split from the formation. Additional variations of the I form are double tight ends or small modifications to the halfbacks’ alignment.


The teams used running plays out of the football I formation. However, we can execute short-passing plays outside of the I. And to throw off their opponent, many teams execute play-action pass plays from the I-formation.

In recent seasons, the NFL hasn’t seen nearly as many plays with an I-formation. But they continue to appear in high school and college playbooks.

I-Formation Roles

A traditional structure that emphasizes strong run plays is the I formation. It’s a pretty direct offense with a minimal attempt at deception. The halfback is the workhorse of this offense. His deeper position enables him to spot defense holes before the ball is snapped and then take advantage of them after receiving it.

In order to help the halfback get additional yards, the fullback frequently engages strong linebackers while blocking for the halfback. This lead block will frequently occur on a play known as an iso, or isolation play.

These plays concentrate on protecting every defensive lineman and every linebacker except one. The offensive team aims to “isolate” this last linebacker. And it is the fullback’s duty to confront this defender in the hole.

Other short-run moves like traps or even the occasional direct handoff to the fullback benefit significantly from the I-formation as well.

I Formation Advantages

The I formation in football can be a formidable formation for some short-passing games because of the variety it offers. In this traditional and uncomplicated offensive configuration, the majority of the offense’s attention in order to set them up for success is the full-back and the half-back.

In this formation, straightforward slant or hitch plays can be quite effective, especially if the defender has stacked the box to prepare for a run play. These pass plays give a defense the required shift to have them respect the run while preventing them from overcommitting in expectation. Additionally, this is a fantastic setup for play-action runs.


Power running is a fantastic use of the football I formation. The effectiveness of the I-formation comes from its unbalanced emphasis on rushing because there is minimal potential for diversion. Both running backs are prepared to immediately catch the ball and make a strong dash for as many yards as they can as they are lined up behind the quarterback.

I Formation Disadvantages

Predictability and a lack of varied play design or deception are the key drawbacks of the I-formation. The offensive design is fantastic for power running and short throw plays. However, deep passes are practically impossible because the running backs are positioned so far backfield.

Because of how uneven the formation is, the defense knows exactly where to concentrate its counterattack efforts. The NFL uses the I-formation less frequently because of this. Because it calls for more unconventional plays and variety than high school football and the majority of the NCAA.

I-formation passage is likewise very constrained. The I-formation does not lend itself well to long passes. Even short passes are only effective when the run game is established.

The 52 defense does a good job of limiting the advantages of the I-formation. This is valid for all formations that simultaneously pack the box with seven or eight players. Running backs struggle to gain more than one or two yards each play due to the crowding, which makes converting first downs challenging.

I-Formation Variations

There are several versions of the I-formation in football. And we determine most of them by the number and placement of wide receivers and tight ends. There are three well-known variations: I Form Tight, I Form Close, and I Form Pro.


I Form Tight used two tight ends, one on each side of the offensive line. Two wide receivers and a tight end are lined up close to the offensive line in the I Form Close formation. They are lined up on the I Form Pro, one a few yards from the offensive line on each side.

Sum up

As you can see, the I-Formation is a versatile offensive that virtually any football club used at any level. This is due to how easy it is to comprehend and apply. 

Besides, it doesn’t call for any absurd roles or tasks or complicated personnel arrangements. Teams that can play smash-mouth running the football occasionally and with a solid balance of running and passing plays will do very well with an I-Formation.

With this article, I hope you learned more about I Formation in football. Keep checking FootballTerms for updates on further American Football rules.

Thanks for reading!

Related Articles

Back to top button