Monday, March 23, 2015

Blitz the Formation Concept from the 4-3 Defense

Coach Jerry Gordon is the author of Coaching the Under Front Defense.

If you are interested in learning about the under front/defensive football, I highly recommend reading it. Coach Gordon has just launched a new website The book and ibook are available to order on the site. 

In the spirit of Coach Gordon’s new website, I thought I would feature a blitz the formation concept from the 4-3 defense. This blitz is from the 1996 Miami Hurricanes defensive playbook. 1996 was during the Butch Davis era at The U. 

Canes Check Blitz

The blitz is a 6 man pressure that adjusts based on the backfield set. The coverage is cover zero man. The blitz was designed for personnel groups using a TE.

Sam: run Shoot or Under
Mike: man on running back
Will: run Hard, Gap Crash, or Shoot
Will must communicate “Hard”, “Gap”, or “Shoot” to the DE

I backs:

Sam – Shoot

Shoot coaching points:
Sam - blitz primary run gap (C gap), come under block of RB

Will – Call “Gap” to DE, run Gap Crash

Gap Crash coaching points:
DE – Rip across face of OT, work up field in B Gap
Will – Cross over and attack flat off the OT’s hip

Against the pass the Sam turns the shoot blitz into an under blitz.

Under coaching points:
DT – Rip up field in gap
Sam – Blitz under DT in A gap

This concept provides a shoot blitz against the run to attack TE side run game. Against the pass the blitz converts to a pass rush blitz. The weak side crash blitz by the Will is good vs. split end side runs.

Far backs:

Sam – Run Under
Will – Call “Hard” to DE, run Hard

Hard coaching points:
DE – Jab step to OT, Loop behind Will, Alley & Contain rush
Will – Cross over and attack flat off the OT’s hip

Split Backs:

Sam – Under
Will – Call “Shoot” to DE, run Shoot

Shoot coaching points:
DE – Rip up field (C gap)
Will – Blitz primary run gap (B gap)

One Back:

Sam – Under
Will – Call “Shoot” to DE, run Shoot
Will widen alignment to the formation.

The complement to the Canes Check Blitz is the Eagle Check Blitz.

Eagle Check Blitz

DT away from call – Pinch vs. all looks

Sam: run Under or Contain Blitz
Sam must communicate “Contain” or “Razor” to the DE

Mike: man on running back

Will: run Hard, Gap Crash, or Shoot
Will must communicate “Hard”, “Gap”, or “Shoot” to the DE

I backs:

Sam – Call “Contain” to the DE, run Under
Will – Call “Gap” to DE, run Gap Crash

Far backs:

Sam – Call “Razor” to the DE, run Contain Blitz
Razor sends the DE to the B gap
Will – Call “Hard” to DE, run Hard

Split back:

Sam – Call “Contain” to DE, run Under
Will – Call “Shoot” to DE, run Shoot

One Back:

Sam – Call “Contain” to DE, run Under
Will – Call “Shoot” to DE, run Shoot
Will widen alignment to the formation.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

4-2-5 Overload Zone Blitz

This post is a follow up to the Simple Adjustable 4-2-5 Zone Blitz post. This blitz is designed to overload the pass protection to the field. The coverage is the same fire zone concept used in the Boss blitz from the previous post.

The Coverage:

Corners – Tight 1/3 Technique
FS – Spin down to the Seam
Mike – 3RH
Will – Seam
WS – Middle 1/3

The coverage does not need to be checked vs. a 3x1 formation. The Mike does need to widen his alignment. The Will can cheat his alignment closer to the box.

The Rush:

Call DE – Wide Ghost Alignment, Daylight rusher
DT – 4i, Daylight rusher
Nose – Zero, Wiper technique
Away DE – 5 Technique, Contain
SS – Show Alignment with blitz demeanor, Contain

Daylight Rush Technique:
Get off the ball on straight line track to the QB. If there is daylight, stay on your track. If the daylight is gone work a move to the inside to find new daylight.

If the OL inside (here the OG) blocks down there is daylight. Stay on your track.

If the guard sets wide there is daylight. Stay on your track.

If the guard sets on your track, work an inside pass rush move to find new daylight

Wiper Technique:

First step at 45 degrees. Attack edge of OL then work to opposite side of OL. Side to side action like a windshield wiper.

Attacking Protection:
When the offense is using a slide protection to the field.

This is the protection we are hoping to see. The width of the SS, DE, and DT force the offensive linemen to set deep and to block in open space. 

Here the OT sets to the SS and the OG sets to the DE. The wiper technique by the Nose is designed to create hesitation by the Center. The DT has daylight and stays on his track. The Center has a very difficult task to set late to a DT on a straight line run to the QB.

Here the OT sets to the SS and the OG sets the DT. The End has daylight and will stay on this track. The DT does not have daylight and will work a move to the inside. The End should get a straight line run to the QB.

Here the OT sets to the DE and the OG sets to the DT. The SS should have the straight line run to the QB. Both the DE and DT have a blocker on their track. Both will work an inside move to find new daylight.

Here the Center is aggressively sliding and ignoring the Nose on the wiper. The Nose will stay on his initial path. This will take him as far from the OG as possible. This block is very difficult for the guard.

When the RB is aligned to the field the Nose will change his technique from wiper to a normal slant to the away A gap. We are expecting the slide of the OL is going to the boundary in this situation. The OT has the DE man to man, the OG has the DT, and the Center has the Nose. The OG and OT to the right are sliding. We want the Nose to slant instead of wiper to create space for the DT and DE to the blitz. Both the daylight rushers have a blocker on their track. Both will work a move to the inside to find new daylight. We expect our DL to win these 1 on 1 matchups in open space. 

Change Up:

Our changeup is to switch the job of the DE to contain and allow the SS to be a daylight rusher. The SS will align with inside foot back. His 1st step is with his inside foot up the field. His 2nd step is with is outside foot up the field. The SS should plant on the 2nd step and get on his track. 

When we call this blitz we allow the SS to call the rush at the LOS. The SS will tell the DE who has contain with a "You" or "Me" call.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Game Planning Coverages

I received an e-mail from a reader asking about coverage philosophy and game planning. So here goes.

Our base coverage concept is a match-up zone quarters. In every game, we plan to run multiple coverages that fall into one of three categories.

Zone – Depth, Vision, & Break coverages. In zone coverage our defenders will drop to the deepest part of a zone with vision on the QB and break on the throw.

Man – Tight aggressive one on one coverage.

Match-Up Zone – Combination of Zone & Man. Based on the pattern run by the offense, we are going to play either zone principles or man principles. Match-Up zone calls allow us to aggressively deny selected routes while playing depth, vision, and break vs. other routes.

When we are game planning coverage our priority list is:
  1. Run Support/Run Adjustments
  2. Action Passes
  3. Quick game/Easy throws
  4. DBP Route Combinations
  5. Specials/Trick Plays

First and foremost, every game plan starts with how to stop the run. How and where our DB’s will fit vs. the run is our first consideration when planning coverage calls. In recent seasons, we have added run adjustments to our stopping the run planning. When I say run adjustments, I’m talking about bubble, WR screen, and pop pass that are built into running plays. We always want to know how our coverage will account for those phases of the offense’s run game.

Next in our thought process is how to handle action passes. Our action pass plan will be tied to our coverage calls to defend the run. Action passes are threats of explosive plays for the offense. We want to have the best plan possible to eliminate explosives.

Third is how will we defend quick game and the easiest throws. Our goal on all quick game is eliminating yards after catch. In zone coverages, we expect our defenders to break on the throw and make sound tackles. In short yardage situations, we have to be able to play a denial coverage (man or match-up) to prevent completions. However, good vision and break from zone coverage can lead to incompletions vs. quick game too. We have been successful with defenders jarring the ball loose on quick game by making a good break and hitting the receiver before the completion of the catch.

Fourth on the list is drop back pass (DBP). We prioritize the offense’s vertical passing plays first among DBP. If the ball is completed over a DB’s head, the other ten defenders don’t get to play. If the ball is thrown underneath, all 11 defenders get to run, rally, and tackle. Every DBP coverage decision we make is evaluated based on how it matches up vertically. Our plan for DBP is built around placing mental demands on the offense. We want the QB to have to identify the coverage post-snap. By disguising and changing up the coverage, we are going to limit the offense’s ability to make a clean pre-snap read. Also by changing up the coverage, we are going to place physical demands on the offense. Take for example a 4 verticals route concept. Against a zone coverage like cover 3, the QB is going to try to throw the ball over the top of the underneath droppers but before the deep defenders. Against quarters, the offense is trying to bend a vertical into the open middle of field attempting to beat a safety 1 on 1. Against, a Cover 1 concept the QB will have to make a man beater throw into a tight window. All three situations are different for the offense. Creating mental demand (What coverage is it?) and physical demand (Making the right kind of throw) while facing a pass rush is our plan to defend DBP.

Lastly, we want to be ready for the trick plays the offense may throw at us.
In game planning, we want to force the offense to react to the coverages we are calling. By changing up the coverage call, we are being proactive. If we are spending all our time reacting to the offense’s calls in game, we have failed in the game planning phase.

How do we actually make this happen in our game plan and execution?

We start our planning with self-scout. What do we run? What tendencies will our opponent see when they break down our film? In the simplest form the offense wants to know:

  • What is our base coverage?
  • What are our complimentary coverages?
  • When do we call them?

Being able to answer these questions for ourselves influences our game plan.

Next, we create our opponent scouting report. The coverage scouting report focuses on what route combinations they have run. How will we defend those routes in our base coverage? We want to look specifically at what has our opponent called against other quarters teams (scouting report). What have they called against us in the past (previous seasons)? What has worked against us in quarters coverage in other games this season (self-scout)? Those are the concepts we need to rep in practice all week. The down and distances when we expect to see those concepts are based on the combination of their tendencies and our self-scout. Our opponent has tendencies on when they like to call certain route concepts. They are also planning for us based on our tendencies. We can anticipate their “quarters beater” route concepts based on their scouting report (What). We can predict they will call those “quarters beaters” in situations they think we will be in quarters from our self-scout (When).  Once we answer what and when, we can build a game plan.

The scouting report also influences our COP calls. C.O.P. is an acronym for change of pace.

For example:
Against quarters, offenses like to get a bender vertical or a post into the open middle of the field. If the scouting report shows that is a concept our opponent likes against quarters, we are going to plan some middle of the field closed COP calls (Cover 3 or Cover 1). In the first quarter we will make some COP calls in quarters coverage tendency situations. Proactively making those calls early, can get a team to abandon the bender/post plan. We don’t want to be reacting to them completing a post and then start making some cover 3/cover 1 calls.

Example 2:
A team on 1st down likes to throw hitch to #1 against quarters to get on schedule. We might mix in some pressed cover 1 in those situations as a COP. In those same situation we will call some press/bail technique quarters. If the offense isn’t sure the hitch will be there, often they will go away from the call. Another COP in this situation is cover 2 concept to deny the hitch. We can show the off alignment inviting the hitch only to have a corner squatting in the flat. We may only want the squat corner to the boundary so our COP might be a quarter-quarter-half concept. In other situations we want to close the middle of the field and get a squat corner. In that case our COP is a rolled cover 3 with the corner to the roll squatting in the flat. Throughout the game we will mix up quarters with COP calls.

Some offense’s like to run route combinations that are difficult for pattern match coverages. Being able to call a zone coverage in those situations can be very beneficial. The offense is expecting the defense to match-up but instead the defenders are playing depth-vision-break technique and forcing the ball to be thrown short. If you are not pattern matching, the routes designed to manipulate pattern match don’t affect your coverage. It doesn’t take many COP calls to get an offense to mark calls off the call sheet. No offensive coordinator likes wasted plays.

One question is what to do in medium and short yardage situations. We are going to start by planning to play our base quarters match-up zone. Our base alignment does not have the corners pressed. To complement our base look we will play 5 underneath zone coverage to overload the underneath zones. Typically it is a cover 2 concept with the corners aligned off the LOS.  

We can also press our corners in quarters or play press man. Our aggressive coverages force precision throws.  We will also show press and bail to a zone. Depending on the situation we may only press the boundary corner. 

This is where the game within the game happens. If we get into short yardage we may play press man the first time. The offense is going to come back with press man beater concept the next short yardage situation. We will come back with bail to our base coverage. We may call our base coverage on short yardage. After practicing our base coverage against their short yardage routes we expect to make the play. If the offense converts, we have a good idea of what short yardage route concept the offense will come back with later in the game. We can help ourselves win the game within a game by using our tendencies and self-scout to our advantage.  If our self-scout shows that our short yardage plan has been press man or bail quarters, we will plan to change up our COP calls.

Running multiple coverages is a simple concept. The issue is how do we get each coverage practiced. Our answer is limitation. When practicing we don’t call every coverage in every situation. By planning to use COP calls in specific situations we can limit the practice time for those coverages. We also try to find situations where COP calls overlap. For example the team may have 1st down tendencies that overlap with 2nd and medium situations. Being able to streamline COP calls for multiple situations can improve practice efficiency.

Overall we are game planning to mix up our zone, man, and match-up zone coverages. If the offense is locked into what coverage we are running, they have the advantage. If we have done a good job planning, we will be locked in to how the offense is going to try to attack the stress areas of our base coverage. We will spend the week being ready to defend the offense in our base coverage. If the plan is good we will have also mitigated the stresses of our base coverage by preparing COP calls. Proactive COP calls should dissuade the offense from calling routes that we want to take away.  Once we have forced the offense into their 2nd or 3rd plan we will have to make in game adjustments.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Buddy Ryan 4-3 and 46 Defensive Resources

Here are some links to Buddy Ryan playbooks from:

1985 Chicago Bears

1990 Philadelphia Eagles

1993 Houston Oilers

1994 Arizona Cardinals

Cover 1 (Man Free) versus Mesh Route

This post is in response to questions about Cover 1 asked in the comments of the Cover 1 (Man Free) Technique post. 

#1. How do the SS and WS react when both #2’s go underneath immediately?

Both safeties make a cut call. The LB’s have a fiddle on the running back. The RB releases to the Mike so the Mike takes him in man coverage. The hole dropping linebacker (here the Will) cuts any route crossing his face. In this case there are two crossing routes. 

The Will cuts the first route he sees. In this example he cuts the crosser coming from the right (red). Both the SS and WS are going to start working to the Hole. A hole dropper’s rule is to cut any route crossing their face. The WS will see the uncovered crosser from the left (blue) crossing his face and will cut the route. The SS will see the LB covering the crosser (red) and will continue to the hole.

If the Will cuts the blue crosser the SS and WS will switch reactions.

#2. What will it look like if the #2 runs a crosser, #2 runs a dig, and the back releases to the Dig? Can a LB cut a crosser from his own side?

Yes, a LB can cut a crosser from his own side. 

Here the fiddle LB to the RB (Mike) takes him in man to man cover. The LB away from the back (Will) become the hole player and cuts the crosser. The WS makes a cut call and works to the hole. The SS makes and “In” call and squeezes the dig to the WS in the hole.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Cover 1 (Man Free) versus Action Passes

This is part three of a series about Cover 1 (Man Free) coverage in the 4-2-5 defense. The topic this time is defending action passes. Our goal is to keep the action pass rules as simple as possible.

Against one back boot from a 2x2 formation:

The Mike and Will are playing Fiddle (2 on 1) technique vs. the running back. On the action the LB’s play run. The LB to the side of the action (here the Will) plays man coverage on the RB once pass is identified. If the RB is running a throwback route the Will must handle the route. The LB away from the action (here the Mike) must open up and cover the crosser. It is critical the Mike plants on this right foot and opens over his left shoulder. If the Mike open’s up over his right shoulder, the crosser will easily run by him. The Mike’s landmark is the hash (college field) at 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. As the Mike gets to the hash, he will find and cover the crosser. We teach the aiming point to get the LB to take an angle that cuts off the crosser. 

The WS will likely make a “cut” call in this situation. He will be late reacting to the pass. Once he identifies the play is a boot, he will work to get back on top of the crossing route. The WS can expect help from a LB. If the crossing route settles before getting to the opposite hash the WS will have the route defended.

The FS will squeeze from the middle of the field to a landmark halfway between the hash and the numbers (college field). This landmark is roughly the high school hash mark.

All other man coverage players remain in man coverage.

Against one back boot from a 3x1 formation:

The LB may not have a crossing route to cover. His reaction and aiming point remain the same (Hash at 10).

Against one back sprint out:

The LB to the RB will go man cover the blocking running back and become an extra pass rusher. The LB away from the sprint will take an angle to the hash at 10. As he works to the hash he should find the crosser.

Against two back boot:

When the backs split on the boot action the outside funnel players (here the WS and Mike) have the RB's man to man. The Mike must be aware of throwback. The middle player in the funnel (here the Will) must cover the crosser by getting to this hash at 10 aiming point. The SS will make a "cut" call end up trailing the crossing route.

When both backs release to the same side, the outside of the funnel (here the WS) and the middle of the funnel (here the Will) have them man to man. The Mike will work to the hash. Against a corner route by #2 the SS will work to lean the corner route vertical to the FS. The free safety should be able to provide more corner route help by working to his new landmark halfway between the numbers and hash.


Friday, March 6, 2015

7 Man Overload Blitz from the Bear Front Part 2

I have received some questions about the 7 man overload blitz from the bear front. One of those questions is how to handle empty formations. When answering this question it is helpful to look at how we align in the bear front from a 4-2-5 personnel.

The Will linebacker is on the line of scrimmage filling the role of a contain rusher. The DE is reduced down to play the away side 3 technique. We bump the SS into the box to fill the role of the 2nd linebacker. If the offense chooses to align or motion to empty the SS adjusts from the box to handle the 5th receiver.

Our Mike will make a check alerting the Nose to rush the A gap. With no back in the backfield to spy, the Nose is free to rush the passer. The 3 techniques keep their read out responsibility.

Against a TE, the contain rusher will align in a 9 technique playing outside. The 9 technique is leveraging all blocks outside in.

The man coverage player is aligned inside and will fit in the C gap. Once the TE blocks the man coverage player can play the run.

We can play the safety in press technique on the TE by game plan. 

Against an H-Back the FS or WS will handle the hip player, while the Nose is still spying the running back. This allows the man coverage safety to mirror the hip player’s blocking. 

When the hip player blocks the man coverage player will be there to provide an extra defender.

Another question that is bound to pop up is how to handle the option. The contain players have pitch and are expected to slow play. The goal is to create indecision and force a late pitch. Contain players must balance slow playing with not being out leveraged by the pitch back. The Nose will disengage the center and work toward the back. With the contain player handling the RB on the pitch, the Nose is freed up to take the QB.

We call a limited number of bear front calls per game. In any game plan we do not necessarily plan to use bear front against every personnel or in every down and distance. We also don’t plan to use this 7 man overload blitz in every situation. Teams playing us however, are forced to be prepared to block all of their plays vs. the bear front. Being prepared for our base defense as well as our change of pace calls like bear limits what an offense can carry in a game plan.

Are bear front adjustments from the 4-2-5 something you guys would like to see more about in an article?