Monday, February 8, 2016

Playing Cover 2 in a 4-4 Defense

In a base 4-4 personnel with 4 down linemen and 4 linebackers the natural thought process is to play 1 high safety coverages like Cover 3, Cover 1, or Robber.  

In the above example the Sam and Will outside linebackers are guys with true linebacker skill sets. It is completely impractical to have either of those players play a deep 1/2 safety technique. One solution is to use the Will LB in the role of the a cover 2 corner by walking him out over #1 and playing the Corner in the role of the deep 1/2 safety off the hash.

This solution can make sense for all the personnel involved. The Corner may not be a physical beat 'em up player and may be better suited to play the deep 1/2. Especially if the Corner is typically playing a deep 1/3 or man.  The Will may be the better choice for being physical and re-routing the #1 receiver. The Will already practices being a flat dropper in other coverages. Keeping the run support structure similar is another factor. The Will is typically the force player in most 4-4 defensive structures. By widening him out to the role of "corner" the Will is still the force player. 

The defense could also choose to play a 1/4 1/4 1/2 concept this way.

By having a tag word to align the Will out of over the #1 receiver weak the defense can also build a natural disguise package with other base calls it is already running.

The defense can show the FS and Corner deep on the hashes with the Will walked out on #1. At the snap the coverage can easily roll to a base Cover 3 concept.

The defense can also easily walk the Safety down off the hash and roll the corner to deep 1/2 and play a Robber coverage concept.

Basic pressures now have a naturally added change up element as well.

A standard 4-4 outside linebacker zone dog can easily function like a corner dog.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Cover 1 (Man Free) Fox Adjustment

This post is about an adjustment to Cover 1 that is designed to defend offenses who use a fullback. It follows up on previous posts about Basic Man Match-ups in Cover 1 and Cover 1 Technique. In those posts the coverage concepts of Funnel and Fiddle are explained.  

Funnel is a 3 vs. 2 coverage concept used vs. 2 Back Formations

Fiddle is a 2 vs. 1 coverage concept used vs. 1 Back Formations

For more info on Funnel and Fiddle be sure to check out the previous posts.


Fox technique is another solution for the defense to handle 2 back formations. Instead of using the Funnel (3 on 2) technique vs. 2 back formations the defense can elect to use a Fox technique. In Fox technique the 2 LB's play Fiddle on the RB and the Safeties play Fox technique on the FB.

In Fox technique the 2 Safeties match up with the FB based on where the FB goes. 

Here the Corners are matched up with the #1 receivers and the SS has the #2 receiver strong. The Linebackers (Mike & Will) are playing Fiddle on the RB. The FS and WS are playing Fox on the FB. The FB goes to the FS's side. The FS drops into the box to man cover the FB. The WS reacts to the FB going away buy rolling to the deep middle and becoming the free player.

When the FB goes to the WS's side, the WS drops into the box to cover the FB while the FS rolls deep to be the free player.

Against the run, Fox technique allows the defense to get an extra player where needed.


Here the offense is running Iso or Lead to the strong side. When the FB leads to the FS's side the FS foxes down and brackets the FB's block with the Mike. If the Will is cutoff by the Center/Guard combo block, the defense still has an unblocked player at the point of attack.

Against Iso to the weak side the Will and WS are able to bracket the FB's block. Again the defense has an unblocked player at the point of attack.


Here the offense is running Power to the TE. The TE blocks which allows the SS to trigger vs. the run. The FS foxes down on the FB and the Mike reacts to the flow of the RB. The end result is 3 defenders (SS, FS, Mike) for 2 blockers (FB, Puller). Again there is an unblocked defender at the point of attack.

How the defense fits power specifically is affected by how the scheme uses the DE.

Here the defense uses the DE in the C gap. This could be a head up DE playing in to the C gap, a DE aligned inside shade on the TE, or a DE slanting into the C cap. The final result is the defense forces the puller to go wide. The Mike can scrape and fit inside out on the puller. The SS is outside the FB while the FS is between the blocks of the puller and the FB.

Here the defense uses the DE in the D gap. The DE reacts to the down block by the TE and can either wrong arm the kick out block of the FB or box that block. In this example the DE wrong arms and should get one or both blockers between the FB and puller. Even if the TE is able to block the Mike, the defense has 3 vs. 2. The SS, FS, DE vs. the FB and puller creates an unblocked defender at the point of attack. If the DE is able to wrong arm and get both the FB and puller the defense has both the SS and FS unblocked.

Here the defense aligns in an under alignment. The defense can choose to have the SS react to the down block of the TE by Forcing or Wrong Arming. No matter how the defense chooses to play the SS against a down and kick out scheme the defense is again 3 on 2. SS, FS, Mike vs. the FB and puller.

All of these same concepts apply with the power going to the weak side. The only difference is the WS is foxing down to be the extra defender at the point of attack.


Against split zone the Mike and Will will react to the flow of the RB. Here the DL and LB end up fitting to control all the gaps. Often the RB is forced to cut back and follow the backside cutoff block of the FB. When the ball cuts back the foxing WS is there as an unblocked defender. The defense can choose to wrong arm the FB's block with the DE or box that block. The fit of the DE will dictate if the WS will fit inside the DE or outside. In this example the DE is wrong arming the FB resulting in the WS fitting outside.

Against a boot or naked concept the coverage should be able to match up. The WS foxes down and covers the FB to the flat. The FS is free and can double cover the post with the Corner. The Mike man covers the RB. The Will becomes the Hole player in Fiddle technique and doubles the crosser with the SS. 

Fox technique can also be used against 1 back sets.

3x1 with a Hip player

2x2 with a Hip player

Here the offense aligns with a player on the hip. In the diagrams above that player is generically labeled as the F. The hip player could be a FB type, or a TE, or an H back. The FS and WS can fox off that player.

If the offense chooses to motion the F, the defense has little to no adjusting. Once the ball is snapped the FS and WS will fox based on the release of the F and get the extra player where the defense needs it.

If the offense is using the hip player to run Iso, Power, Split Zone, or boot the end result is same as it was from the I formations diagrammed previously.

The fox technique is also good for defending other schemes being run with a hip player.

Here the offense is running a pin and pull concept. Once the F blocks the FS foxes down into the box. The FS and Mike bracket the lead puller. All of the interior gaps are controlled by the 4 defensive lineman and the Will.

Fox technique can also be good vs. spread concepts. Here the offense is running zone read with the F wrapping as a lead blocker if the QB pulls the ball on the read. In this example the defense plays a scrape exchange with the DE chasing for the RB and the Will LB scraping over the top for the QB. The WS foxes down on the F wrapping around while the FS rolls to the deep middle and is free. The WS and Will can bracket  the F creating a 2 on 1. The QB is forced to pull the ball into an unblocked defender.

Fox technique is a useful adjustment for a Cover 1 scheme when facing an offense that uses a FB.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Super Bowl Preview: Carolina Panther Defense's Man Free Coverage

This post focuses on the Carolina Panther Defense's Man Free coverage schemes. A major factor in the success of these schemes is the athleticism of the Panther's linebackers.

Vs. the Packers

Here the Panthers use LB Thomas Davis to walk out over the TE who is split as the #2 receiver. Davis is athletic enough to play man to man on a player split out from the formation in open space. The Panthers walk the other LB over the Center to help create 1 on 1 pass rush opportunities for the 4 down defensive linemen. The walked up LB eventually slides off to man cover the check releasing RB. Because the Panthers can use a LB to cover the TE the weak side Safety can play a 2 on 1 bracket man coverage with the corner to the single receiver side.

Vs. the Buccaneers

Here the Panthers use their base 4-3 personnel vs. a spread formation. LB Shaq Thompson is able to walk out over the inside receiver to the strong side and cover him man to man. The middle linebacker is free to drop to the hole and break on the throw.

In both of these examples the Panther defense has flexibility in their scheme because of the athleticism of their linebackers. Thomas Davis played Safety at the University of Georgia. Shaq Thompson was a super athletic LB at the University of Washington. He was a good enough athlete he also played running back for the Huskies.

Thomas Davis Draft Profile 2005
Height: 6'1
Weight: 230
40: 4.60
3 Cone: 7.10

Shaq Thompson Draft Profile 2015
Height: 6'0
Weight: 228
40: 4.64
3 Cone: 6.99

Clearly the Panthers have developed a profile for who they want to play the versatile linebackers in their scheme.

Vs. the Packers

Here is another example of the Panthers using a man free scheme. Carolina uses a LB and a Nickel to cover the inside receivers in man coverage. This allows the Safety to walk down from deep on the hash and blitz off the edge. Blitzing the safety is made possible by the ability of the LB to cover the TE man to man.


Vs. the Redskins

Here is one more example of the Panthers using man free coverage. The Panthers reduce the front to a bear front alignment. By covering up all 5 offensive lineman the Panthers force the OL to block their immediate gap threat. The LB blitzing the A gap becomes the responsibility of the RB. The result is pressure in the face of the QB, forcing him to move in the pocket and change his launch point. The Panthers also do a nice job of using the LB walked up outside to man cover the running back. His pre-snap alignment on the line of scrimmage forces the OT to pass set to him. As the play unfolds he slides inside mirroring the RB in man coverage and eventually adds to the pass rush.  

In coverage the Panthers have some confusion handling the receiver releases from the bunch formation. They are ultimately saved by a bad throw forced by a well designed pressure scheme up front.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Super Bowl Preview: Carolina Panther Defense's Zone Dogs

The Carolina Panther's defense under Defensive Coordinator Sean McDermott is a unit that typically creates a pass rush with their four defensive linemen. When the Panthers do send extra rushers it is most often a zone dog (rushing 5 and backing it up with zone coverage). Here are a few examples of zone dogs the Panthers have dialed up this season.

VS. the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship Game

Here the Panthers aligned in a sub Nickel package. The front creates a pseudo 3-4 alignment by using a DE as a 2 point stance "LB" walked up over the guard. By covering both guards the Panthers force the Cardinal's 5 offensive linemen to account for the 5 immediate interior gap threats (DE, DE, Nose, LB, T). The RB is left to account for the blitzing LB while the blitzing Nickel is unblocked.

The coverage is a 2 read coverage. The LB and DE are buzzing through the seams. The Corners and Safeties are playing match up zone reading the release of the receivers. 

VS. the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving

Again the Panthers are in a Nickel personnel. Here they show their double A gap blitz look. The rush is a simple design that allows the 5 rushers to get 1 on 1 rush opportunities. The coverage is a 3 under 3 deep zone concept. The Safety who gets the interception is able play from his seam across the formation to cover the crossing route. This is possible because the primary threat to his seam (RB) stays in to block in the pass protection. The RB is forced to block the A gap blitzing LB. This occurs because the Center is forced to initially pass set the the walked up A gap LB who ultimately drops into coverage. On paper the offense should be able to block the 5 rushers with the 5 OL. In reality the offense is forced to use the RB in protection and commit 6 to block the 5 rushers. Walking up the double A gap blitz look creates this subtle but effective manipulation of the pass protection scheme. Additionally the Corner is playing an aggressive match-up 1/3 which allows the Safety to play from the seam across the formation without needing to expand to help the Corner with the #1 WR to the weak side.

VS. the Seattle Seahawks

Once again the Panthers are in Nickel personnel. The DE that drops into coverage plays from a 2 point stance. The dropping LB initially shows in the A gap to help attract the attention of the OL. The dog is a overload in the weak side B gap which creates a 2 on 1 vs. the RB in protection. The coverage is a 3 under 3 deep concept with the Safety playing an outside 1/3 to replace the blitzing Corner.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Link Blitz

Awesome share from Coach Brophy. This is video of new Philadelphia Eagles Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz talking about the Wide 9 Front in his 4-3 defensive concept and his pass rush philosophy.

More Info about Coach Schwartz and the defensive schemes he will bring to Philly from Coach Light.

Article about how writing notes by hand makes you smarter.

Good stuff from Chris Brown of Smart Football talking about innovation and evolution of football.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Hybridizing 3-3 Stack Defense with 4 Man front Concepts

Here is a standard 3-3 stack defensive alignment. 

To complement the base three man line concept the defense can walk up a linebacker to create a four man front concept.

On a South call the Sam walks up on the line of scrimmage. The End reduces to a 3 technique (could also be a 4i). The Nose aligns in shade (could also be a 2i). The Mike and Will bump their alignments.


West is like South except the Will is the walked up linebacker and the front is bumped to the Will.

It is easy enough to have words to change player's alignments. The challenge is creating continuity between the teaching and execution of the base stack front and the complimentary South and West fronts.

Take for example a zone read run.

The offense is zoning to the defense's right and reading the left defensive end. 

Here are the defense's run fits from the base stack front.

Left DE - Gap exchange with Sam, Control the B gap from behind the LOS chase the Dive
Nose - 2 gap, fall back into the backside A gap
Right DE - Control C Gap
Sam - Gap exchange with DE, Scrape over top for QB
Mike - Play flow to open A gap
Will - Fill B gap

Now look at how that base teaching matches up when the defense aligns in the South front.

Left DE - Control the B gap
Nose - Control the A gap
Right DE - Control C Gap
Sam - Control  C gap, play for QB
Mike - Play flow to open A gap
Will - Fill B gap

The major differences are the DE and Nose are lined up and controlling the gap they are aligned in at the snap. The Sam is still playing for the QB, the difference is only his alignment.

Looking again at the base stack front fits.

Here the zone is being run at the Sam while the Will is now to the side being read. The Will and right DE play the scrape exchange and the Sam and Mike fill their gaps.

The fits change very little if the same run is called vs. the South front.

Left DE - Control the B gap
Nose - Control the A gap
Right DE - Gap exchange with Will, Control the B gap from behind the LOS chase the Dive
Sam - Control C gap
Mike - Play flow to open A gap
Will - Gap exchange with DE, Scrape over top for QB

The defense again keeps the run fit virtually the same for the LB and DL. The adjustments are the alignments. The other major change is the reduced DE is fitting the B gap and the Sam is fitting the C gap which is a role reversal from the base stack run fit. However, it is common sense for defenders to understand their new run fit is to control the gap they are aligned in pre-snap.

Using the South and West fronts can also create versatility for the pressure package.


Monster - Mike (1st) & Sam (2nd) with DE outside

DE's - Contain
Nose - A gap away from blitz
Mike - B gap (1st)
Sam - A gap (2nd)
Will - Coverage

This same blitz can be translated to the the West front.


DE's - Contain
Nose - A gap away from blitz
Mike - B gap (1st)
Sam - A gap (2nd)
Will - Coverage

The differences are again the alignments. The right DE needs to work to contain through the B gap. The Will drops into coverage from the LOS. One advantage of using the West front for pressure is the ability of the defense to drop a LB, not a DL, into coverage. The Will already knows how to execute the pass drops so there is little new teaching.

The defense also has flexibility to run concepts found in 4 man front defenses.

Here the defense aligns in the South front and runs TCU's Blue coverage. Blue is a 2 read concept. If this type of coverage is being taught it can also be run from the base 3 man line stack alignment. The versatility doesn't stop there. Elements of this coverage can be used in the pressure package.


The blitz is Monster from the West front. Against 2x2 the coverage is a Blue (2 read) coverage concept. 

vs. 3x1 the coverage is 3

If the defense is already teaching cover 3 and Blue these types of pressure coverages have a low investment cost.  The players dropping in coverage are LB and DB. When the defense uses South/West to drop a player from the LOS it is a LB who practices the coverage every day.

Concepts like South and West allow a 3-3 stack team to morph into a 4 man front. The best part is there is limited new teaching for the DL and LB.