The Huddle, Issue #12: Endzone Offense

Posted: December 1, 2008 03:45 PM

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Endzone Offense

Tuesday, December 1st, 2008


(Note: the following issue of The Huddle is a reproduction of an article originally published on

We asked a group of very successful endzone cutters to describe their habits. Be it pretty, ugly, efficient, patterned or random; a goal is a goal, and only scoring matters. Here is what The Huddle has to say. Hopefully something here helps you catch more goals, and win more games.

If you have any questions or comments feel free to contact us at

Issue #12: Comments/Discussion Thread


  • Cater to Your Team's Particular Skills
    ArticleBlock Cook

    • Goal line cutting (especially in the elite division) is a difficult technique to master. The fact is, the closer you get to the endzone, the more effective a defensive player can be because you are shortening the field and removing the threat of a deep cut. In general, the offense always has the advantage, but close to the endzone, your advantage as a cutter is lessened.

      All organized teams usually have a specific endzone offense that they default to when they get within ten yards or less of the goal line. The cutting that I will discuss involves one main cutter engaging the handlers and working with and cutting for them to score the goal. As the main cutter, I have to trust that my teammates (other cutters in the endzone) will occupy their defender, keeping them honest and not allowing them to poach.

      As the main cutter, I need to know one crucial thing: who are the handlers that I will be cutting for? Playing with teammates throughout the season, you start to learn things about them that help you in these situations. After I survey the field and identify who I will be cutting for, I then want to identify how my defender is playing me. Some defenders like to know where the disc is at all times and position themselves accordingly, while others focus entirely on the cutter and shutting him down. Either way the defender is playing me, I rely on the timing of my cuts to get open and score goals.

      If my defender is trying to monitor disc location and me at the same time, I will watch his eyes and take advantage of that split second where he loses sight of me. This can lead to goals on the open side as a split second of my defender losing sight of me can turn into a two-yard separation. If the handlers are in a position to get me the disc it is an easy goal. If the handlers are not in a position to get me the disc, even though I was open, I find more often than not, the defender has recognized that I took advantage of his mistake, and then his focus shifts to me entirely and less on disc location.

      If my defender's focus is entirely on me and not disc location, most of the goals that I score are on the break side. This is where knowing your thrower and their tendencies and abilities comes into play. Initially, I want to position myself closer to the open sideline, which allows for more space to the break side. Then, I usually set up my cut with a jab step to the open side. This gets my defender both on his heels and moving in the opposite direction I intend to cut. After the jab step, I then cut to the break side but only after I have identified who has the disc and what throw to the break side they excel at. If I have timed my cut right, an adequate break mark throw is all that is necessary to score the goal. Because my defender is already on the open side, and I have set up my cut with a jab step, I should have a couple steps to allow the thrower some error and still catch the goal.

      In my opinion, constant cutting in the endzone usually will lead to bad things: fatigue, high stall counts if you are not open, cutting off throwing lanes to other teammates, and eventually, turnovers. For the most part, I find that timing my cuts properly in the endzone has been the most effective way for me to score goals.
    • MAX COOK
  • Cater to Your Team's Particular Skills
    ArticleBlock Handler

    • When you transition from open field cutting to goal-line cutting, two major things change: (1) you are no longer a deep threat, and (2) a throw that gains only a few yards can be very advantageous. Both of these factors change how the defense will play you. For instance, many defenders will get closer to you, get physical, and perhaps force you away from the thrower with their body position.

      There are ways to exploit these defensive adjustments as a cutter. Here are a couple of general approaches that I use to help my team score goals in endzone O:

      1. Spacing
      Spacing in both the vertical and horizontal directions of the field are key as you set up your endzone cuts. Initiating cuts with a good amount of vertical separation from the thrower allows you to use forward momentum to put your defender on his heels. This is often necessary when defenders are aggressively fronting near the endzone. If you can get your defender backpedaling, you can take advantage of the small buffer he is giving you and possibly beat him to the open side with a good jab step or hip fake - giving your team the easiest possible throw for a score. In terms of horizontal spacing, setting up your cut slightly on the open side gives you and the thrower the most options - open side, IO break, around break. If you read the defender and see that he is very afraid of getting beat to the open side, you can exploit his positioning by cutting back towards the break side for an easy "up-the-gut" throw. Or you can remain stationary and let your thrower put an easy space throw to the break side if that is one of his strengths. If your defender is overplaying the break throw, you can still go to the open side from that position.

      2. Explosive and decisive cuts
      Explosive and decisive cuts near the endzone will force your defender to commit to one direction, turn his hips, and possibly overpursue, all of which will allow you to change direction and gain separation for an easy score. In contrast to an open field cut where you may set the cut up by getting up to full speed in the opposite direction, effective endzone cuts only need one hard jab step, a shoulder fake, and a quick and decisive change of direction to create separation. Many times you won't even have the time or the space to set up a longer cut.

      Miscommunication due to indecisive endzone cutting is a common cause of redzone turnovers. As a cutter, you need to work hard to create separation for a throw that your thrower is comfortable with, commit 100% to this cut, and let the thrower do the rest. Be decisive and you will help cut down on many unnecessary turnovers.

      3. Give-and-go and upline cuts
      The deep space is almost useless in endzone O (except for a hammer look), so attacking the endzone from behind the disc or with a give-and-go is an effective way to score. However, this needs to be part of a larger team strategy to avoid clogging and confusion.

      It doesn't need to be a secret that you are going to try to beat your defender for the score in endzone O. In fact, indicating to the thrower and your teammates that you are in a good position to score either verbally or with a raised hand will allow them to give you the space and time you need to make a goal-scoring cut. Once you have this space, you can use the tactics discussed above to help you score the goal. Finally, quickness is one of the most advantageous physical traits in endzone offense. Often times getting that single step of separation is all you and the thrower will need to score. Train to improve the quickness of your first step and you will be a much bigger threat by the endzone.
  • Cater to Your Team's Particular Skills
    ArticleBlock Kelly

    • When thinking about cutting in the endzone, the first thing to consider is if you even should cut. You have to assess where the space is and the convenience of your angle to that space. You need to know who your thrower is and what they are comfortable with (if you cut to where you intend to cut, will the thrower have the throw to hit you accurately enough for it to be a score?). You need to know how you fair with your match-up compared to others' match-ups. And of course you need to be aware of how many people are up field and where and how they are set up, which is likely a function of the kind of play just completed to get you within 5 yards of the endzone.

      If after this split second assessment you decide that you should in fact cut, your next job is to make it as easy as possible for both you and the thrower. If a handler has possession of the disc, this probably makes your job easier as a cutter because there are more options of places you can go and still be a viable target. Number 1 easy cut: breakside, looking for a leading around break or an inside break in the gut. Number 2 easy cut: from the front of the stack, a few hard steps to the open side with a quick cut back to the center of the field for a short throw right up the middle (this one requires a well spread out stack so that the second person in the stack doesn't find his/her defender tempted to poach).

      If a non-handler has the disc, you as a cutter will probably have to work a little bit harder to make sure that the target you are providing is as standard as it can be. This means beating your defender to the open side outright. Run straight at your defender and erase their buffer as quickly as possible, make one juke/stutter step, and sprint right past them on their inside shoulder while they are on their heels. Getting rid of the buffer quickly is really the key because the longer they are able to keep the buffer, the less room you have until the end of your cutting lane and the less likely it will be that you will be open or in the endzone once you are finished with your cut.

      In my experience, the overall best thing a team can do when it comes to cutter set up in the redzone/endzone is get in a nice spread out, straight stack down the middle of the field. From here, you have the most options for different people to get open from various places in the stack and the person with the disc can make the call of what s/he wants to see. And even if you want to make it quick and painless to score, sometimes the best thing to do is still to dump it, either because it puts the disc in better hands, because it can be easier to cut from movement than stagnation, or because high stall counts can force poor decisions and a reset helps maintain all-around composure.
  • Cater to Your Team's Particular Skills
    ArticleBlock Kurshan

    • The field shrinks when you reach the endzone.

      Your defender no longer has to worry about your deep cuts, and so can front you by a larger margin. The pressure builds- a turnover here in the "red zone" seems particularly disheartening. All of a sudden, everyone is cutting at once, forgetting about rules and technique, just anxious to get the disc and finish the point.

      However, it is precisely here in the red zone that it becomes all the more important to remember your team's strategies and offense. Does your team like to cut from the back of the stack in the endzone? Don't cut off other cutters by flaring out laterally from the front. Does your team look to score from a handler cutting up the line? Don't make a cut from the stack that leaves you hanging out in the front corner.

      It's important that teams have a clear idea of how they want to score in the endzone. For some teams, patient resetting by the handlers will allow star cutters the time they need to set up their cuts. For other teams, the aim might be to get the disc into the hands of their star handler in the middle of the field, and then rely on them to break the mark to whoever is there. Whichever the case, it's important for the cutters to know their responsibility, the cutting patterns they should be running, and most importantly, how they should be clearing!

      One way of establishing an effective cutting system in the endzone is by having it be position-based: for example, perhaps whoever is at the back of the stack has the priority and responsibility to cut. Everyone else knows not to cut off the cuts coming from the back of the stack. Another way to maintain order in what might otherwise be chaos is to have a player-based system: have a designated scorer whose role is to make cuts in the endzone. This latter technique has several advantages, one being that you can figure out which of your cutters is best at getting open in tight spots (or has the best ability to grab errant throws), and give them priority in the endzone. Another advantage is that you can separate the roles of your cutters such that the designated endzone scorer is not your go-to yardage cutter, and might have fresher legs than the other cutters on the field.

      Whenever people are cutting in smaller spaces, errors are harder to correct for, since the disc is in the air for less time, and there are more defenders in the area. So it's important that your cutting technique leave you as much ability to correct for throwing error as possible.

      For example, to hit a receiver cutting laterally across the front of the endzone (i.e. when the path of the disc will be roughly perpendicular to the path of the cutter), the thrower needs to place the disc at exactly the right spot- too far in front of them, and the disc will be out of reach, too far behind and the defender will snatch it up. For a receiver coming from the back of the stack, or for a handler cutting up the line to receive a short away pass, the path of the disc is more similar to the path of the cutter, and so that cutter can make small adjustments of their trajectory to compensate for a disc thrown a bit more towards one side or the other. So, once you know that you're the cutter whose role it is to make the cut, it's important to set yourself up in a good position, so that you can make a cut that maximizes your ability to complete the play.

      Lastly, a good endzone offense probably either swings the disc back and forth to allow cutters to time their cuts off of a swing, or works on getting the disc into the middle of the field and then trying to keep it there. Try to avoid having the disc stuck on the sideline for too long, as then the usable space for your cutters is even smaller...unless your endzone strategy is to score off of hammers to the opposite corner.
  • Cater to Your Team's Particular Skills
    ArticleBlock Matzuka

    • From an elementary basketball analogy (sorry readership to those that know a lot about basketball), if everyone is doing their job, the point guard is keeping the ball alive and getting it into the post when available for the forwards and center to finish off. Much like this, in open field, the handlers are keeping the disc alive and looking to get it to the cutters whenever available. To this end, the cutters are the primary workhorses during this phase of the offense by getting the big gains and opening up the downfield. Once the disc is within the red zone, it is then time for the handlers to earn their keep.

      Back to the beginning, as a cutter, I am getting into my position in the endzone structure my team uses (vertical or horizontal) as quickly as possible to get my legs/breath back. I am assuming of course that we don't have a fastbreak opportunity or offensive advantage in running the disc quickly. Now, most teams I have played with like to use some sort of endzone play to score as it seems, and can be, effective. However, this is likely to correlate to something pretty or conventional. Pretty usually entails a dump-swing followed by some options from cutters followed by another dump-swing and repeated. Now, I am tired so my cut is unlikely to be at 100% which makes it more difficult to get open, let alone, there is a not-too-small probability that if I do get open, there will be a poach. This leads to me becoming more tired, and the endzone offense taking longer to score, which is contrary to my initial hope and team goal of an efficient endzone offense.

      Lets look at this mathematically speaking (extremely simplified but hopefully understandable). Assume:

      Probability of completed dump or swing = 95%
      Probability of completed upfield throw = 90%

      Let's also assume that these events are independent of one another, and an upfield throw equates to a score.

      Now, our "pretty" offense dumps and swings, and that option isn't on so we dump-swing again and then get an upfield option, the probability of this endzone offense scoring is:
      (.95)*(.95)*(.95)*(.95)*(.9) = .733 probability of scoring.

      If our endzone doesn't score on that dump-swing, and has to go again, that makes probability of scoring equal to .666.

      So, our pretty offense can quickly lead to a turn with our tired cutters, which will make our cutters even more tired once we get the disc back due to their previous defensive responsibilities.

      Back to the original topic, I have gone to my position quickly to rest and watch the offense. Instead of sticking to our pretty offense where I might make a power cut on my turn to cut, I am going to rest and wait. I will let the handlers earn their keep as I said before by letting them move the disc quickly and get the defense shifting around. Then, once I see a thrower I know well, and have a connection with, get the disc with his defender tailing or out of position, I will look to make my move. I will look to see where my defender's momentum and the thrower's defender's momentum is going, consider what my thrower is willing to throw and what he prefers to throw, and try to match all of these conditions.

      By this I mean, find the space in the endzone, opposite my defender's momentum, that opens up the throw my handler prefers to use (no matter how ridiculous or unconventional).

      Personally, my favorite endzone is a vert stack that is stacked 1/3 of the width away from open side sideline, leaving 2/3 of the width of the field breakside, and letting the handler throw a scoob, high release, or low release into that space for any cutter to run onto.

      Back to our (extremely simplified) mathematical analysis, if you choose the throw the handler prefers (which should increase probability of success) then this can lead to a higher probability of scoring in a more efficient manner, which is what the cutter wanted from the beginning.

      So, this isn't pretty, but can get the job done in a more efficient manner with an equal to higher percentage of scoring. Assume:

      Probability of getting disc to middle of field = 95%
      Probability of unconventional throw into endzone = 85%
      (.95)*(.85) = .8075 probability of scoring.

      In conclusion, as a cutter, I want an offense that is extremely efficient so I don't have to risk a turnover and more running, let alone, I want to score in as little effort as possible for my sake and my teams. Letting the disc get to the middle and then giving the handler room and time to break the mark makes it easy on me as a cutter, and is a throw we practice time and time again.

  • Cater to Your Team's Particular Skills
    ArticleBlock Roth

    • I'm usually thinking, "Get open on the open side."

      When fatigue sets in, throws and finesse are the first thing to go and open side throws are generally easier. Cutters can push through fatigue with desire and brute strength. So, to get open on the open side, I usually start facing the thrower, juke hard toward the defender (they are on their heels), take a few steps really hard to the break side (this usually lures the off-balance defender to commit to the break side), then explode past them to the open side (this may require some stepping past/running through limbs of your defender). Try to add angle to the final cut so you're not cutting directly at the sideline—give your thrower a bigger window with an angle at the front or back cone.
  • Cater to Your Team's Particular Skills
    ArticleBlock Sullivan

    • Really, long points are earned at practice and at the track, well before the specific moment arrives on a Sunday afternoon.

      It's hard for me to think about being a successful endzone cutter as a personal achievement. More than any other position on the field, having the disc near the goal line requires a full team effort to create a good scoring chance. Stack discipline and spacing are crucial to avoiding clogged lanes and disruptive picks. In such a condensed space, it is rare to find an open, easy throw. Still, when your team needs a score on the next one, there are a couple things the cutter can do to take some of the pressure off of the thrower.

      Just like in any other position on the field, the easiest place for a thrower to put the disc is into space. Forcing your teammate to gun a disc into a tight spot is the last thing you want when fatigue is affecting throwing mechanics and decision-making. Especially when fatigue may also be affecting your ability to snag an imperfect throw. Part of this means knowing which throws your teammate is comfortable with. Maybe this thrower really prefers their backhand to their flick, even if it means going around a mark. Or maybe they are much more confident throwing inside-out than outside-in. You should know this about this about your teammates; your defender might not.

      A much larger part of this skill is setting up your cuts with some kind of fake. Running directly toward your defender with a straight cut from the back of the stack toward the front cone rarely allows you to create any real separation. Instead, you need to find a way to put your defender on their heels and then cut away from them into space.

      When I'm preparing to cut, in my mind I like to split the endzone into quadrants: open side-front, open side-back, break side-front, break side-back. At any given time, only two of the four quadrants are going to be available to me as a cutter. My position in the stack and the position of the disc on the field dictate which two. When the disc is within a few yards of either sideline, I want to completely ignore the far side; any cut there requires a throw either over the stack or across the long face of the goal, both extraordinarily risky given the current circumstances. When the disc is in the middle of the field, most goals are going to be thrown to the front half of the endzone, rather than with tougher bendy, floaty passes to the back corners. Knowing where to cut and where it is easy for your teammate to throw is another huge step in creating a good scoring chance.

      Now, two specific cuts that can help you score in one throw. The key to both is being confident, aware that the offense has the advantage of knowing when he or she will cut while the defender has to react.

      Starting from the back of the stack with the disc is near the sideline, everyone on the field knows that ideally you want to get to the front cone. Your defender should have planted himself or herself directly in your way to that objective. If you have a mismatch and your quickness allows you to get to that spot before your defender, more power to you. If not, force them in toward the cone, then plant and cut toward the back cone. Maybe your thrower has the bendy around throw to the back. Or, you can clear out toward that back cone and allow the next person in the stack take a much shallower approach to the front of endzone for a "gut cut."

      Alternatively, when the disc is in the middle of the field and you are at the front of the stack, my favorite cut is basically equivalent to a buttonhook play in football. Take five or six hard steps straight to the open side, plant and take two steps back toward the stack. Your thrower now has a straight throw on the force side while your defender is caught backpedaling.
  • Cater to Your Team's Particular Skills
    ArticleBlock WigginsB

    • The following is a couple of thoughts from a handler/team perspective, which isn't exactly what we asked our authors to write about (but we thought it appropriate to add in here). I first wrote this article in 2004, in response to this comment on

      >>scoring in the endzone is easy. just break the mark.

      Yes, this will probably work most of the time. I think that the intrinsic difficulty in End Zone O is the pressure on the offense to score; the idea that "most of the time" isn't good enough. If you throw a huck out the back, you don't sit there and mope, but for some reason there is a dissapointment in coming away from the goalline without a point. We notice end zone turnovers more: this is why End Zone O seems difficult.

      We also demand more of our EZO; a 60% scoring rate is not acceptable in high-level play. We need to continue to find ways to score 9/10 goals, not just find ways to score.

      About the "Just Break the Mark" strategy:

      If I am on D, I WANT you to have to break a mark to score. If I didn't think my team's mark could stop you, I wouldn't be playing a forcing strategy. I would be zoning, or playing a straight-up mark, or something where I didn't have to trust my teammate. But I am forcing for a reason- I think my team's mark will get a block, or create a bad throw, enough of the time that my team will score more.

      Let's go ahead and make a break-mark score a neutral play- anytime the offense scores without having to break a mark it is shifting the percentages in the O's favor, and anytime the D forces a particularly difficult break mark, or a difficult throw, or (of course) a turnover, they have won the percentages.

      You have to think about the endzone in terms of percentage, because in such a short distance, good plays can go unrewarded, and bad plays often work. If your opponent comes out of a goalline timeout, and all they can get is a stall-9 backline layout- you don't want to change how you defended to stop that play. Will that work the other 5 times per game you are in a goalline situation? No, and it probably won't work more than twice. The defense 'won' that play. If you play a team that makes that play 6 out of 6 in a game, you can either adjust your defense to defending a new style of offense that is doing the hardest thing possible, or you can shake their hands and get ready to beat them next time, when those plays inevitably don't work.

      Offensively, you want to score. That means making most of your plays easy, and making up for your mistakes with talent or practice. A method of doing this is to find ways to move the disc a short distance WITHOUT having to break a full mark. Here are 4 ideas.

      1. Establish Doubt in the Downfield Defender
      If you could get a downfield defender to bite on a break mark throw, the result would be a very easy score on the countering live-side cut. One way to do this is to scare a defender by making the break throw look easier than normal. Many offenses have "spread" endzone formations, where most of the players are around the outside of the endzone, drawing their defenders away to create a large open space behind one featured offensive player, who is less than 10 yards away from the thrower and centrally located in the field.

      With so much space behind the reciever, the defender gets anxious about a short hammer or high release. Thrower fakes some such throw, and the defender bites. Results? easy, live side goal. Without breaking a mark.

      2. Make Break Mark Cuts to the Open Side
      Sounds weird, I know. Here's how it works. Disc on the goalline, cutter goes hard to the cone. Defender is there, but can't stay right on the cutter as they turn to the dead side. If the thrower waits to break with a throw into space, they have to beat both the cutter and the mark. But, if they can throw it to the cutter before they are on the live side, there is a window that is a live side throw, but a break mark cut, with the defender out of position. This inside lane allows a score without having to break a mark. If the defender can shut it down, they have likely over-pursued the cut, and the cutter can simply go back to the cone, where they will likely be open. Offense wins, without needing to go right at the strength of the D.

      Incidentally, this is usually why "Moses" plays (splitting the stack and running a cutter up the middle) usually work- the inside lane is tough to mark without giving up a break, and tough to cover if you are more worried about the live-side cone cut.

      3. Get Away From a Mark
      a) Throw into space on the dump.
      Moving the disc quickly can get you away from the mark, opening up break side throws without a defender. A simple one: throw a leading throw for your dump into the dead side. The dump runs onto it, and catches it with about 3/4 of a second before the mark gets there. Throw into space on the dead side. Goal. No mark.

      If the mark did get there, they likely have had to overrun the play, and the inside out lane should be open as they fly by. Goal (although this has the added requirement that cutters have the patience to wait for the throw to space to cut.

      b) Throw the dump to a cutter moving into space.
      Picture it like this: Thrower outside the endzone, forced forehand, with a straight stack. Dump is 2 yards behind, 5 yards wide in the live side. Once the disc gets checked in, simply run the dump to the dead side, flat behind the thrower. Any easy throw to the dump will result in an open second to the deadside. This is exactly like the thrower had taken two steps back away from the mark, and thrown the easy backhand.


      Now your team has scored it's first 4 goals of the game, without breaking a mark, and without anyone having to really work hard to get open. At some point, you are going to need a reciever to get open, or a thrower to make a throw- or you likely will not score the other 11 goals you need. But making 3 or 4 plays easy on you might up your percentages, both on those plays, and on plays where the D has to adjust to stop something tricky you have already done, and weakens their own ability to stop 'normal' offensive plays.

      Endzone Offense SHOULD be easy, and that is exactly why it seems so difficult.
  • Cater to Your Team's Particular Skills
    ArticleBlock Winkelmann

    • Goal line cutting starts with decisiveness and ends in glory—either for your or your teammates.

      When your team moves into its red zone offense, begin by moving quickly into position. Your speed getting into position will determine whether they are going to stay with you or leave you and poach the lane. When you sprint to your attack point, your defender will instinctively feel like you are a threat and attempt to stay with you. If you jog into position, a good defender will take this opportunity to evaluate the field and put himself or herself in a position to make a play.

      After reaching your attack point, take a jab step, give a head fake, do something unpredictable to keep your defender's attention while you evaluate the field and decide the best plan of attack. Make a decision, and execute it.

      By making your cut hard, you are clearing space for your teammates and attracting the attention of not only your defender, but likely other defenders around you, making it easier for the rest of the offense to get open. If you get looked off, clear hard back into the stack to again create space for your teammates. If your defender stays in the lane, take advantage and either go to the break side of the field or attack the middle of the field and get the disc in a powerful position.


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