Football Shotgun Formation

What is a Shotgun Formation in Football?

A shotgun formation in football is a formation in which the quarterback lines up about five yards behind the center. The shotgun formation can also include running backs to either side of the quarterback and wide receivers spread out across the field. While the alignment of the receivers, running back, and slot receivers can change, the quarterback will always be a few yards behind the center when taking the snap.

Shotgun Advantages

Shotgun is more like a family of formations than a single formation. Because of this, shotgun formations are a versatile tool in the passing game of an offense. All pass plays are game from shotgun: screens, crossing patterns, long routes, short routes, floods, pop passes. Anything is possible thanks to the flexibility of the receiver's alignment.

Another large advantage that shotgun offers is a further distance from the line of scrimmage. If the defensive linemen from the opposing team are constantly breaking through the offensive line and getting to the quarterback, the offense can shift to a shotgun formation and throw quick passes. Since the quarterback is already at the depth of a three step drop, he can simply take the snap and throw the ball immediately on short plays such as slants or curls.

Shotgun Disadvantages

Because shotgun offenses are primed for the passing, the run game can limited and is often predictable. The most common run plays out of an offensive formation like the one above are draw plays, where the quarterback pretends to be ready to throw the ball and then either runs it himself, or hands it off to the halfback. Sometimes, the offense will attempt other runs such as straight dives, jet sweeps, or sweep counters, but these occur far less often, and are typically easy for a defense to read.

What is a Shotgun Snap in Football?

A shotgun snap in football is a snap to the quarterback in the shotgun formation. The shotgun formation has the quarterback not standing directly behind the center. The quarterback lines up between five and seven yards behind the line of scrimmage and the ball is snapped to them from there.

Variations of Shotgun in Football

The shotgun can be run in different ways based on the positioning of both the quarterback and the tailbacks (running back and full back). It is a good idea to mix up the formation in order to keep the defense off guard and guessing.

Max Protect

Max protect offers the quarterback blocking protection by bringing two tailbacks into the backfield. The two backs line up on either side of the quarterback. The max protect is useful when facing a defense that has been beating the offensive line and getting to the quarterback.


The pistol is a tweaked version of the shotgun. It is not a traditional shotgun where the quarterback is lined up as the furthest back in the backfield. Instead, the quarterback lines up halfway between a normal shotgun and the line of scrimmage, with a tailback lined up another three yards behind.

Advantages of the Shotgun

The shotgun allows the ball to get to the quarterback already standing in the pocket. The quarterback does not have to perform a three or five step drop to throw the ball. That way the quarterback can release the ball quickly before the defensive secondary gets fully set.

Disadvantages of the Shotgun

It is harder to set up the running game while executing shotgun. When the running back receives the ball they do not get a running start they would in other formations. Without the running start they do not generate as much speed upon reaching the line of scrimmage and are easier to tackle.