Thursday, March 4, 2021

Coaching the Rat in Cover 1

Here is a few coaching points we use for the rat in the hole when preparing the rat to cut crossers in Cover 1.

  • The hole player does not need to drop quickly. By sitting low the hole player is in a good position to collect a low crosser. If there is no crosser the hole player will drop into the hole. The hole player will be under all intermediate crossers. There is NO rush to get to the hole drop.
  • Keeping a head on a swivel is important to see the crosser. You cannot stare down the QB and see a crosser.
  • Communication is key. If there is no “cut” call there is no cut. The hole player must tell the man defender he is taking over the route. Man defenders stay in man until the cut and collect by the hole dropper.
  • Alerting man defenders where you are looking first is helpful for them to anticipate you will be cutting their man. An alert does not guarantee there will be a cut. The alert only tells the coverage players where the hole player will look to cut first. The call alerts the man coverage players and talks to his partner(s) in the funnel telling them where to look first.
Where to Alert?

We start with a camp rule.

Against 2x2 formation, look boundary first. Why? The low crosser running from boundary to the field is the bigger threat to catch and run going to all the open space. Also the boundary low crosser will get to the hole player faster than the low crosser from the field due to reduced split into the boundary.

Against 2x2 formation in the MOF, look to the side of the RB release 1st. Why? Many teams release the RB to the side of the low crosser.

Against 3x1 formation. Look strong first.

Against Empty look weak first. 

Be aware of any reduced split by a receiver. Look to the side of the reduced split first regardless of 2x2 or 3x1 or Empty. 

Be aware motion can change the situation. 

Game Planning the Cut

We will set the alert rules by game plan based on scouting report. Those rules may adjust by down & distance, formation, defensive call, etc.

No Cut – One consideration is to have a no cut rule. The hole player will drop to the hole and will not cut any low crossers. We use this on longer down and distances. On 3rd & 12 we may be looking to deny the intermediate crosser and force the ball low to break and tackle the route short of the sticks. We can also set a “no cut” rule on a specific receiver. In that case the hole player will not cut because we want to maintain our pre-snap man match-up and avoid asking the hole player to take over that receiver in coverage.

TE Only – Against some teams having the hole player cutting a WR may not be a realistic matchup. In a TE only rule the hole player will look to cut a Y on a crosser. If there is no crosser from the Y then drop to the hole. The hole is not free to cut any WR on a crosser.

TE first – Tendency may dictate the alert goes to the TE side. The hole player will look to cut a low crosser from the TE side first. Then scan opposite.

Slot First – Tendency may dictate the alert goes to WR aligned in the slot. The hole player will look to cut a low crosser from the slot first. Then scan opposite.

Reduced Splits – Tendency may dictate the alert goes to WR with a reduced split. The hole player will look to cut a low crosser from the side of the reduced split first. Then scan opposite. This can include being aware of bunch and stacked WR formations.

To a WR - Tendency may dictate the alert goes to a specific WR. The hole player will look to cut a low crosser from the side of the declared WR. Then scan opposite.

Strong/Weak/Field/Bench - Tendency may dictate the alert goes to the strong side or weak side of the formation or to the field or boundary.

By RB location - The RB alignment in may tip route combos and dictate where we want to alert. The RB location in gun, his depth, a cheated wide alignment, RB and TE paired/split etc. may be indicators for the alert. 

By formation – Specific formations may carry cut rules to alert to a specific place. Those cut rules may be specific to that formation only.

Short motion – Tendency may dictate a short motion rule. Teams may want a reduced split and use late short motion to get the WR on the run to a reduced split alignment. The man coverage player will alert the hole of the short motion. This is the only alert that comes from a man player and not hole player.

Alert side only - The hole player will cut to the side of the alert but will not scan and look to cut opposite, if there is no crosser from the alert side the hole player will work for depth to the hole. This allows the man coverage player opposite the side of the alert to play inside leverage man. This can make sense in some game plan situations. 

Hopefully this is helpful as you consider your Cover 1 rat in the hole rules. If there is something you do to help that player be sure to leave it in the comments. 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Adjusting the Run Fit in Fire Zone Pressure

Fire zone has run fits like all other defensive calls. Those fits can be adjusted to help prevent issues or account for stress areas. 

Here is an example with a number of errors resulting is a good gain for our opponent. 

What were we trying to accomplish?

We called this pressure to have the DL slanting to the boundary with the walked up OLB on a low track spill course and the ILB going from depth on a wide track. This is a variation of America's Fire Zone. When the OT blocked out on the OLB the Sam should have gone under the block. The expectation is the Sam will go inside/under blocks because the ILB will be pressuring on the wide track outside. That is one of many mistakes on the play, the Sam stay outside. We also have an "I'm IN" or "I'm OUT" call happening here from the Safety. In this example there is a split #2 resulting in the down Safety saying "I'm OUT" meaning the ILB has the wide track.

If the #2 was in a cut split or a TE the Safety would have a better angle for the wide track and would call "I'm IN" taking the wide track pressure pattern and job swapping his seam drop to the ILB.

This is a run pressure concept, the angles can be beneficial to alter who is in the pressure pattern based on the formation.

Why take on this type of complexity? Why not just let the Mike be the wide track the whole time? Don't make it harder than it needs to be. 

On this call the #2 went in motion.

When the motion happened we didn't get the "I'm IN" call. The Safety should have gone from out to in with the motion. That plus the missed assignment by the Sam lead to the Mike's confusion. He gets caught in no man's land neither pressuring nor reacting to the play. 

The Safety ends up on the edge of the box playing like we don't have any "I'm IN"/"I'm OUT" rules on.  

Let's assume we did coach it with no "I'm IN"/"I'm OUT" rules in place. The Mike would pressure no matter what. The Safety needs to vise the lead block with the Will LB. The ask of the Safety here is very very big. The Safety cannot be too aggressive running into the box when he reacts to motion to avoid several problems:

1. Running into the off the LOS ILB wide track pressure from the Mike

2. Over running any potential run by the RB to the pressure side

3. Over running any potential route release from the RB or Y off

4. Over running any return motion from the #2

Just like in the actual clip the Safety ends up being too far from his work to fit the vise on the lead block and the run fit has issues.

If we had correctly handled the "I'm IN" call on this play.

Now the Safety has a great angle to hit the wide track pattern on the run as the motion pulls him inside and into the pressure. The Mike can shuffle over. The result is 2 inside LB's vising the lead block while the pressure pattern remains intact. The Mike doesn't have to be in a hurry allows him to be able to react to any flow or route threats to the pressure side. His stress is less than the Safety being asked run full speed to get to his work as in the prior example.

Something like "I'm IN"/"I'm OUT" may seem like unnecessary complexity at first look. That added complexity got us on this play as we didn't coach it or execute it well enough. You can choose to use that as strikes 1, 2, and 3 for why you don't need something that might create confusion. However, when executed correctly it relieves a great deal of stress on the players.

What is another option if I don't like the "I'm IN"/"I'm OUT" concept but I'm worried about the stress on the Safety. 

Another option is to set pressure Strong (To the Pass Strength) instead of to the wide field. 

In the original example the pressure pattern adjusted with 
"I'm IN"/"I'm OUT" but stayed coming from the field. In this concept the pattern is declared to the defensive right because that is the pass strength. This version has no "I'm IN"/"I'm OUT" rules and will always be an OLB + ILB pressure pattern. 

When motions happens the pressure is changed to the left.

The pass strength is now the left. The defense must now reset the pattern with a left declaration. The new pressure is well positioned vs. runs to the TE side. However, this does create stresses too. The LB's/Safeties have to communicate and adjust quickly to the motion. The DL must hear, understand, and execute the new left call in the pressure pattern. The rotation of the Safeties also creates stress to execute. Lastly, the adjustment also places some stress on the plays like split zone and counter going away from the motion. 

These two options are both tools to have and rep to help take some stress off the players when motions happen in the fire zone run fits. The set it and forget method works in some contexts but if the offense begins to stress those hard called pressures that don't adjust there are only really three options:

1. Make no adjustment and ask the players to repeatedly execute difficult tasks, this includes the player over playing to achieve the difficult task and creating other potentially bigger issues

2. Allow the offense to chase you out of fire zone pressure calls

3. Have tools available and understood by the defense to be able to adjust. 

It is easy to throw a cutup of good pressures on and say "see it works". Well what about when it goes wrong? What are mechanisms of failure? This post hopefully shows a failure we had in way that not only addresses how and why but also gets to the why behind adjustments we carry and coach. Having the tools available is the key to being a complete defense. It takes constant work and there will be failures. Those failures can fortify why we are doing what we are doing, to give players the best possible chance to succeed.  Simplicity for simplicity's sake and unnecessary complexity both undermine the goal. A clip like this one isn't fun because we failed on the play however it is invaluable for helping players and coaches understand the why. Good luck as you build your tool box and master your tools.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Football 101 - Spill vs. Box

This is a short explanation video of the defensive concepts of spill and box. Many people are interested in learning about football, the biggest barrier to entry is football vocabulary.  There is no universal football terminology so this video uses generic terms to establish general definitions of the concepts. 

Friday, January 22, 2021

NFL Film Study Part 3

This week the cutup is the Colts in 2 under 3 deep hot coverage bringing 6. Watch, save, or share. Cutup will be available this week only.

Friday, January 15, 2021

NFL Study Part 2

Been studying NFL scheme and making cutups. Watch, save, share how you like. This cutup will be available for this week. 

This weeks cutup is every 2 point play of the 2020 season. Lots to learn from on both offense and defense.

Friday, January 8, 2021

NFL Off-Season Study

Been doing studies of NFL scheme. Going to start releasing cutups on Fridays. Watch it, save it, share it however you like. This cutup will be available this week and a new one will be up next week.

First cutup is teams using box technique vs. counter gap scheme runs. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Giving the Corner Relief in Isolation on the X in 3x1

When the Corner is isolated on the X on the backside of 3x1 formations it can be nice to find calls that help provide that Corner some form of help. In our defense we call these concepts relief calls. 

Here is an interesting example of a relief concept from the Ravens. Baltimore is in a Nickel personnel with 2 OLB, 3 DL, 1 ILB, and 5 DB's. 

The Rush:

The Nickel is edge pressuring off the slot while the rush OLB and DT work a twist game. Weak the DE is a B gap pop.

The Coverage:

3 under 3 deep firezone with the Nose spying the RB

Weak side the presence of a Rush OLB on the LOS, 4i DE, and shade Nose forces the C, G, T to set to the 3 threats. With the turn of the Center weak, the protection has 3 threats (Nickel, OLB, DT) vs. 2 OL and the scan RB strong. The twist creates confusion with the G squeezing to the most inside threat from the wrapping OLB. The OT fans to the Nickel instead of squeezing to the DT. The RB scans to the Nickel who is blocked by the OT leaving the DT on a free run. The protection has the numbers to account for the pressure but sorting it out is difficult. If sorted out the concept forces the RB to block across the formation on a full speed Nickel off the edge and the T/G to handle the twist 2 vs. 2.

The OLB walked on the LOS weak is able to key the QB's front shoulder intentions and buzz out to provide an underneath zone dropping body presence to the Corner. This prevents the Corner from having to be completely isolated in coverage and results in the interception.

The usage of the Nose as a spy on the RB is what makes this coverage execution work.

If the Ravens had truly rushed 5 and played firezone the weak seam dropping OLB is relating to the weak #2 (RB).

In this example the seam dropping Rush LB opens his drop to the #2 which leaves the Corner in isolation with the X. Why?

If the Rush were to key the QB's front shoulder intentions to the X and buzz out he could again help on quick game. However, if the QB resets his feet and throws the RB a screen or check down there is a hole in the middle of the coverage. The Seam and 3RH droppers strong are expanded to cover #2 and #3 strong. This is a specific risk as the Browns have two good RB's, screen is a threat from backed up field postion,and the Browns hit earlier in the game on both a TE screen and a RB screen. 

Notice the QB's front should intentions are initially away from the RB screen.

The decision to utilize the Nose as a spy helps solve this problem. The Seam dropping OLB can react to the front shoulder intentions of the QB and help undercut routes to the X. The Nose helps mitigate the risk on the RB screen and check down.

The usage of the Nose as a spy shows up in many defensive schemes.

This example is a completely different pressure pattern but illustrates another application of the concept. This example is from the Rex Ryan/Mike Pettine Jets. The current Baltimore scheme has crossover with the schemes of Rex/Rob Ryan.

The usage of the Nose as a spy not only helps the OLB provide relief to the Corner in coverage. It also:

1. Gives the Nose a coverage responsibility the Nose can execute and has a reasonable installation cost. Teaching a Nose a hook zone drop would be much more expensive to teach for example.

2. Helps manipulate the pass protection. The Center is occupied throughout the pressure mirroring the movements of the Nose. If the Nose drops off the LOS into coverage, the Center can potentially reset and provide help elsewhere in the protection specifically helping with the wrapping OLB from the pressure side. With the Center occupied with the spy Nose, the Center is a non-factor.

Really nice pressure design and usage of Nose spy from Baltimore Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale.