A naked bootleg is a variation of the bootleg play which involves the quarterback rolling out of the pocket with no blockers. A bootleg play involves the quarterback running towards the sideline after receiving the snap, generally, these plays will start with a fake handoff in the opposite direction.
A bootleg play is usually going to involve a misdirection of offensive players to one side of the field while the quarterback runs the opposite way.
The play will start with a fake handoff that has offensive players executing blocks as if the running back got the ball. The quarterback will then run towards the opposite sideline that the running back is heading to.
As the quarterback gets to the flat he will then throw the ball to a receiver downfield or run the ball himself.
To learn about other plays like the naked bootleg see our guide to off tackle runs in football.
Naked Bootleg Vs Bootleg
The key difference between a bootleg vs a naked bootleg is the protection provided to the quarterback when he leaves the pocket.
On a naked bootleg, the quarterback is going to have no pass protection.
On rushing plays, it is fairly common to leave the defensive end unblocked on the side of the formation the ball is not going to. On a bootleg, the quarterback is often going to have to avoid this unblocked defensive end.
This means once the ball is snapped the quarterback is going to have to beat this defensive end with the fake handoff. If not the quarterback is only going to be a few yards away from the defensive end with no blockers in between them.
This is one of the risks that come with a naked bootleg.
On a regular bootleg play, an offensive guard will usually pull from the formation in order to help the quarterback. As the rest of the offensive line continues to block for the running back one offensive lineman will slip out and make his way to the flat with the quarterback.
This way if the defensive end does not buy the fake then the quarterback will have some level of protection.
The guard will look to come across the formation and block the defensive end from the inside.
Gaining yards on a naked bootleg
Now that you understand the core concept of what a naked bootleg is you may be wondering how this play is going to help your team.
The key to this play is eliminating all the pressure on the quarterback. The misdirection of the offense is meant to create a time and space for the quarterback.
One of the most common ways to gain yards on these plays is on the ground. When the defense buys the fake they will all start moving towards the side of the field the running back is headed to.
The quarterback will get himself as close to the opposite sideline as he can in order to take advantage of this defensive shift.
This sort of misdirection can allow even the most immobile of quarterbacks to gain some yards on the ground. A great example of this was 39-year-old Peyton Manning scoring a rushing touchdown using a naked bootleg.
The other way of gaining yards on a naked bootleg is by throwing the ball. In these scenarios, a blocker is usually able to cut through the crowd and run a crossing route towards the quarterback’s side of the field.
The receiver on these routes will often block for a second or two only to release across the field. This change of direction paired with the play-action often allows this player to get wide open.
In most cases, the receivers on these plays are going to be tight ends due to them being more likely blockers on rushing plays.