A quarterback keeper in football is a play in which the quarterback does not pass or handoff the ball. Instead, this play is designed to have the quarterback rush with the ball himself.
On most occasions, the quarterback keeper is a play that is going to be used in short-yardage situations. Generally, the quarterback keeper is going to have the quarterback rush into the middle of the formation.
Instead of trying to get a large gain, the quarterback will be trying to pick up the necessary yards for the first down or touchdown.
One way of doing this is to have the quarterback rush into the pile and churn with his legs. If the offensive line pushes the defensive line back this will result in a gain of yards.
On some occasions, the quarterback may also try to reach the ball over the top of the pile to gain the necessary yardage.
This will involve the quarterback jumping up into the air and reaching the ball out before pulling it back in. Due to forward progress, the ball will be marked down at the furthest point it got to.
Doing this tactic can be dangerous because it allows the opposing team a chance to swat the ball away. For this reason, this strategy is most commonly used around the goal line as opposed to out in the open field.
If the ball breaks the plane of the end zone a touchdown will be called even if the ball is swatted out of the quarterback’s hands afterwards.
Why It Works
On the majority of offensive plays, the quarterback is going to throw the ball or hand it off to his running back. Opposing teams often don’t see the quarterback keeper coming which can make this play more effective.
Additionally, the quarterback keeper play allows a rushing play to have one extra blocker.
On most rushing plays the quarterback is going to hand the ball off to the running back and then stand in the backfield. Since the quarterback is not blocking on the play this puts the offense at a disadvantage.
The offense will have ten players involved in the play while the defense will have eleven. On the other hand, a quarterback keeper is going to get all eleven offensive players involved.
Since the quarterback is the rusher in this play he will now be included. This gives him ten blockers in front of him. This is an advantage for the offense which usually has two fewer blockers than defenders.
When Are Quarterback Keepers Used
Now that you understand how quarterback keepers work you may be wondering when these plays are used.
Short Yardage Situaitons
Short yardage situations such as third and one and goal-line situations are the most common examples of when a quarterback keeper will be used.
These plays are incredibly effective when a team only has to gain a few yards. This is especially true if a team has a bigger heavier quarterback. Having a larger quarterback often makes these short-yardage runs more successful.
Some teams even bring in the backup quarterback for quarterback keeper situations.
Another reason that a team may be a quarterback keeper play is that their quarterback is one of their best athletes.
Mobile quarterbacks are becoming more and more popular in the NFL. These quarterbacks are such talented runners that an offense will use quarterback keepers throughout the entire game.
The advantage of having an extra blocker on these rushes often means that a quarterback yards per carry will be even better than their running backs.