Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Cover 3 Safety Sim Pressure

 The Ravens are in a specialized pass rush Dime Personnel on 3rd & 5.



The Rush:
The DE's are contain with the Nose working away from the pressure. The Safety is pressuring the weak side inside pass rush line.

The Coverage:
Sting - 3 Under 3 deep Firezone with a free/bonus dropper to create 4 under 3 deep concept.

With the mugged up A/B gap threats and the safety bluffing pressure strong the OL slides to the strong side rush threats. The slide allows for the pressure safety running through on the RB 1on1. The coverage creates confusion also. The initial look is 1 high pressure, but when the post aligned safety rotates down the look simulates a zero pressure. The QB has to ID one safety rotating down while the other is popping the top to the post. 1 high coverage that rotate to 1 high can be difficult to quickly ID under pressure. 

In coverage the free/bonus dropper is able to collision the #3 receiver which helps make the 3RH droppers job easier. The seam droppers hang in the seams as opposed to expanding to the flats.

Nice pressure design from Wink Martindale.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Cover 3 Sim Pressure vs Empty

The Ravens are in Nickel personnel with OLB bodies at DE vs. 12 personnel empty on 2nd & Long.



The Rush:

The front is spaced like an even front in over G. The Mike walks up running a twist game with the DT. The 2i DT is looping to contain opposite the pressure.

The Coverage:

Sting Concept - Sting is a 3 under 3 deep firezone with a 4th dropper as the free/bonus dropper. The end result is a 4 under 3 deep 3 buzz like coverage.

Here is another example of Sting vs. Empty from the Rex Ryan/Mike Pettine. 




The OL is in a 5 man protection. The usage of the DT in a G helps influence the Center. The Center is looking to give the guard help with an inside shaded DL. When the Mike walks up the defense has 3 rushers overloading 2 blockers. The Center is forced to redirect to a full speed inside LB. The T/G do a nice job squeezing inside to take the most inside threats. The G loses his 1on1 but the T/G do a nice job of taking the 2 most inside threats and leaving the widest rusher. The QB drifts away from the unblocked rusher to give the protection a chance. 


Without knowing the call the coverage is difficult to tell. I think it is Sting because of other sim pressure concepts the Ravens have run as well as the coaching tree Wink Martindale comes from. However, this could also be 3 buzz with 2 Curl-Flat and 2 hook droppers.




Why differentiate between sting and 3 buzz? Playing a sting concept allows the defense to maintain it's firezone coverage principles when bringing 4 instead of 5. The Ravens bring 5 and play fire zone regularly. A concept like sting can help eliminate complexity. It can be easier on players to stay this is fire zone with a free/bonus dropper when rushing 4 instead of a different coverage like 3 Buzz. The 5th rusher is simply replaced by the free/bonus dropper in Sting to create the 4 under 3 deep coverage.

Nice job creating pressure with a non-traditional 4 man pass rush from the Ravens and Wink Martindale. 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

2 Point Play

Here is a really nice 2 point play from the Bears back in 2017. The play is combination of some classic football plays. There is an element of the hand to hand counter found in wing offenses, a speed option concept, as well as blocking of gap scheme staple power. The play shares some concept with power read as well.


The OL is blocking power to the open edge. The EMLOS (Will) is the read on the option. The play begins as a lateral flow handoff to the RB. The RB gives the U an underneath handoff following the pulling guard. Following the handoff the QB gets into pitch relationship with the U. The U is reading the EMLOS. If the read key runs up the field to take the QB as the pitch the U will follow the puller into the endzone. If the read key plays to the U, the ball is pitched to the QB.


Really nice design and execution on a 2 point play from the Bears. Good stuff from former offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains.

Monday, August 31, 2020

It Really Isn't That Simple

This sack is a throw away play on 1st 20 late in the 4th quarter of the Memphis vs. South Florida game with the Tigers leading by a score of 49-10. From a game situation perspective it really doesn't hold much significance. 


The Rush:
End is contain working up the field with the 3 tech DT looping to contain opposite the pressure. The Nose is attacking the A gap before working to the interior pass rush lane opposite the pressure. The Mike is pressuring the inside half of the B gap and the SS is rushing the outside half of the B gap. 

The Coverage:
3 Under 3 Deep Firezone


The protection is a 6 man half slide concept.


The OL is sliding (Green) blocking the area to the defensive right. The OT is manned up opposite the slide and the RB is inserting/blocking edge threats inside out.

When the defense rushes two threats through the B gap the RB is overloaded 2 on 1 resulting in the unblocked fast pressure on the QB. 

The pressure pattern is a classic concept found in many defensive fire zone pressure schemes. The article could be summarized: Here's an a overload the RB fire zone pressure vs. half slide protection. Good design from former Memphis Defensive Coordinator Adam Fuller, excited to see his defense in 2020 at Florida State. That could be the end of the discussion.

I think there is more to this play than meets the eye on first look. Having more time available I've decided to write a more indepth article and take a deeper dive. Down the rabbit hole we go. 

The resource exchange for the offense is poor. The offense is blocking with 6 protectors while the defense rushes 5. The protection in theory should always be able to account for 5 rush threats. The defense may win some percentage of 1 on 1 matchups to create pressure against any protection. That is a reality of any pass rush situation. However that isn't what happened here. There is 6 vs. 5 and a rusher is left completely unblocked. How? Why?

Fire zone pressures are designed to create these problems. Zone dogs have been around for a long time creating these exact issues, they still work. There are numerous articles and examples on this site about fire zone pressure. What's the big deal? 

This article is less about scheme and more philosophical. There is a subset of coaches who love to toss around the acronym K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid). The half slide protection is a simple idea. Simple concepts unfortunately don't always hold up under multivariable threats. 

If the defense would have brought the Will instead:



The protection is simple and clean vs. this look. The slide side knows they have help from adjacent OL and can pass the twist off. The diagram is clean and the outcome of the pass rush vs. protection battle comes down to the 1 on 1 matchups, coverage vs. routes, and the QB getting the ball out on time. 

If the Mike had been in a zeroed alignment and pressured the slide side, the protection again has a good answer.



The Guard can't allow the Nose to slant from the slide side to the man side and has to redirect his set and travel back. The Mike is isolated on the Center with a two-way go but again the pressure is accounted for by the protection. The pass rush vs. protection battle again comes down to the 1 on 1 matchups, coverage vs. routes, and the QB getting the ball out on time.  

If Memphis had run the exact pressure with the Mike aligned zeroed up:

The slide side OL could have seen the Mike pressuring to the B gap and the C/G could have redirected their sets to handle the pressure. The OL cannot let anything go from the slide side to the man side. Once again the pass rush vs. protection battle again comes down to the 1 on 1 matchups, coverage vs. routes, and the QB getting the ball out on time.  

When the Mike aligned in the B gap instead of zeroed up the protection has issues. The Mike is outside the vision of the slide.  A small change in alignment has a big effect. This is where complexity creeps in no matter how badly the goal is to keep it simple. Complexity comes in two types: obvious and hidden. To account for the Mike's alignment being in the B gap instead of zeroed up the offense has several choices some carry obvious complexity while others the complexity is more hidden:

1. Ignore the Mike's alignment and run the protection as called. The sack is an example of that concept playing out on film. While simple the QB is pressured immediately. This likely occurred for South Florida because they were late in a lopsided score game with inexperienced players on the field. Those guys likely didn't make the necessary adjustments. No doubt the film session following the game included what adjustments should have been made.

But addressing specifically the keep it simple disciples out there - 

The KISS crowd loves to say:
"that way players can play fast" - players played fast on this play
"that way players can be physical" - it was a  physical play
"that way they don't have to think they can just play" - they did 
"they can play confident knowing their assignment" - no clear indecisive actions on the play

Simple doesn't solve everything. How can the players possibly pick this concept up without making an adjustment, without adding complexity? It doesn't take many plays like this sack for players to get frustrated. Doubt quickly creeps in and players thoughts become "this protection doesn't work". 

2. Ignore the Mike's alignment and run the protection but the QB has to throw hot off of 2 extra rushers to the man side.  


The RB handles the 1 extra rusher and the QB must account or the 2nd. This is problematic because the defense can force the offense into throwing hot off of 5 man pressure or potentially a 4 man sim/creeper pressure. This significantly hinders intermediate and deep passing game concepts. The ball will routinely need to be thrown fast and short. It also requires the route concept to always have a built in hot route or WR's to use sight adjustments to account for the pressure. The QB also has to have all of his read progressions start on that side of the formation. The QB cannot see the hot if he isn't looking that direction. In the clip the QB's eyes are opposite the pressure. He ever sees it coming. The ball has to be thrown accurately under duress from an unblocked rusher, the WR has to make the catch and get YAC to make it truly be effective. There is a great deal of complexity to undertake for the offensive coaches, QB, and WRs to select this option all to keep the protection simple for the OL/RB. Additionally this just isn't how hot routes work. Most offenses will not build a hot concept unless the pressure cannot be accounted for numerically by the protection. Hot routes most often come into play on 6+ rush looks with no deep safeties. This goes back to resource allocation. When the O has 6 blockers a a 5 man rush it should not make the protection have to throw hot, ever. 

3. Change the slide and flip the RB. Either the OL or the QB has to change the slide direction. 

The offense has to ID the issue based on the Mike's alignment and communicate the new slide and the RB has to change alignment. The RB is opposite the slide to account for a potential 3rd rusher from the man side. If the RB is working to the man side, the QB is still hot to the slide side. The protection cannot handle the 4th rusher to the slide side. This has all the same hot throw problems as option 2. 

The protection can ask the RB to use a scan technique in this situation.




Now the RB will check his side then scan across to the opposite side. The protection has the pressure picked up in concept. Now we are getting somewhere. Unfortunately for the offense picked up doesn't equal protected. The block for the RB on a full speed rusher across the formation is a very difficult task. It may seem simple to change the slide and flip the RB. But there are a bunch of issues. This has to be repped in practice repeatedly to be used in a game.  The offense has to know how to do it, when to do it, how to communicate it, and how to get that all done on a play clock plus all the technique required to actually execute the protection. The RB needs significant reps of flipping alignment and making a scan block. The protection has to coached to ID the Mike's alignment and communicate/understand what is happening and why. The QB, OL, and RB have to be on the same page. The QB also has to get comfortable with a scan running back flashing in front of him and they both have to learn to co-exist when the QB looks to step up in the pocket or step into a throw to drive the ball down the field. Also flipping the RB has to be programmed into other plays in the offense. If the only time an O flips the back is to adjust the protection for drop back pass the defense will scout that up in film study. A defense may not check into a pressure on RB flip but simply knowing if a play is a run or pass pre-snap is a huge advantage. None of the complexity means this isn't a viable option. It can get the QB protected and create a clean pocket. 

4. Change the slide leave the RB's alignment.



Back to the problem of having 4 to the slide and needing the QB to throw hot.

If the RB scans all the same challenges exist as in option 3 in terms of coaching and practice time.





The pressure is blocked in principle and the execution may be easier on the RB. The RB checks the Will. With no pressure the RB can stay on his side to pick up the SS. The challenge for the RB in this protection is what happens if the Will is rushing. Any block where the RB has to cross all the way across the formation is a challenge. As with all calls you gain something and you give something up. This call may improve the situation for this pressure but make other pressure pickups more difficult. Again a viable option to create a clean pocket.

5. Bonus the protection



Bonus says the offense is going to put the slide and RB on the same side. This creates a 4/2 protection principle with 4 blockers to one side of the Center the protection can block the pressure. This requires the QB, OL, and RB to ID the situation communicate and get this adjustment made pre-snap and executed post-snap. The RB's block is significantly easier. Another viable option for the offense to protect the QB.

It also isn't without risks. The protection is weaker opposite the slide. Two man twist games to the man side will get no help.



This is a good example of the isolation that occurs when the T/G are manned up vs. a twist with no help. This protection example is likely big on big man protection concept but conceptually the struggle is the same for a bonus protection. 

Bonus protection may force a player to travel back with no help.



The same pressure earlier in the game with the RB working to the slide on a bonus. The Center oversets and the Nose is able to win across his face. Adjustments can help account for the pressure they don't solve 1 on 1 matchups.

Bonus protection also has to scan the RB to Will pressure which is a difficult pick up.



Bonus protection can work and like call calls has strengths and stress areas.

6. OL adjust to a man protection principle when the Mike shows



In half slide protection the first uncovered OL starts the slide. In the initial picture that is the uncovered left guard from the defensive perspective. As the cadence starts the Mike shows early. The guard could make a 5-0 call telling the OL there are 5 treats at the LOS. Now all the OL are covered and all need to use man protection principles. Several things have to happen for this to be viable. The Guard/QB has to make the ID and communicate. The QB needs to control the cadence potentially even giving a "Easy, Easy" type of call to allow the protection to communicate and sort out what needs to happen before restarting the cadence. The Center is now in man and has to set to the Nose and travel back when the Nose crosses face. The Guard and Tackle are also manned up and have no slide help on inside movement to their side. It takes significant work to make a quick protection adjustment during the cadence happen. Again a viable solution but does up the complexity.

7. Call man protection instead of half slide from the start



Man protection or Big on Big (BOB) has the OL handle the 4 down DL and a declared Mike in the this case the OL would say " Mike 3 Mike 3". The blocks are just like option number 6. The big advantage is the OL doesn't have to make an adjustment during the cadence. This isn't without challenges.

In a half slide the OL can't depend on help from adjacent OL. In man protection OL end up going 1 on 1. The RB also has the challenge of going coast to coast. The RB setting to the SS has a difficult scan to the Will. If the RB sets to the Will he has a tough scan to the SS. And a Saw concept is a problem for the protection.


Memphis like every 4 down team has a version of SAW attacking both edges with pressure.

8. Check to Full Slide Protection


The offense still needs to make the ID and communicate. The RB could flip or not. This solution takes a great deal of stress off the RB. The RB on this pressure doesn't have a DE to block. However, in other pass rush situations the RB may have to block the defense's best rusher off the edge. The slide has challenges too. The Guard has to bypass the immediate threat in the B gap from the Mike and push his set out to the SS in the widest part of the B gap. The Center has to bypass the Nose and set wide to the fast threat from the Mike. The back side Guard has to hit a set that stops the Nose from immediate pressure on the midline while also avoid being too aggressive and oversetting the Nose.

Full slide away from the pressure forces the RB to be overloaded. The OT has a B threat from the Mike, the result is two off the edge vs. the RB. The RB vs. the DE is likely and advantage for the D. The overload give the RB no good option.

9. Get the RB out into a route or screen and put the pressure on the defense.

The idea is straight forward. Instead of adjusting the protection, get the RB out and stress the pressure by stretching the defense horizontally and vertically. In a similar line of thinking check/alert the play to a screen. Either way the offense is thinking the stress on the defense will punish the defense for bringing pressure.


Same pressure vs. a RB swing double screen concept. This is a play getting the RB out and a screen on the same play. The edge widens with the RB on the swing and the pressure forces the QB to throw it away. The dropping DE is a problem for the WR half of the double screen. This doesn't solve the fundamental protection problem. How do you protect a drop back pass when you want to throw a drop back pass? 

There are more solutions for the offense but there isn't a need to keep going the point is hopefully made. The reality is pass protection has rules and defenses can manipulate them. A simple Mike alignment change creates big challenges. Offensive line coaches and pass protectors have a very difficult task. On both sides of the ball it is easy to fall into the keep it simple mindset. Who will own the blame when the simple concept breaks down? For me it cannot fall on the players. If the concept needs to be adjusted to work, it needs to be adjusted. We have to accept complexity is necessary and embrace it. Teaching why the complexity exists and how it allows us to be successful has to happen. When a simple concept is broken by moving the Mike 3 yards, complexity becomes necessary.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Weak Overload 3 Cloud Sim Pressure

Duke is in a odd front Dime personnel on 3rd & 7 vs. 11 personnel with a flexed TE. The Blue Devils are showing an up pressure presentation with both LBs and the Dime showing near blitz demeanor at the LOS.


The Rush:
The Nose is looping to contain opposite the edge rushing walked up LB. The DE is up the field before working inside to balance the pass rush. The Mike is delayed before wrapping tight off the DE's movement.

The Coverage:
3 Cloud - the Corner is the flat player with a no reroute zone technique


The protection is a 6 man half slide concept. 

The Guard is starting the slide. The 4 OL in the slide are accounting for the 4 threats (Green). The OT is manned up on the DE and the RB is responsible for the edge. The OT cannot expect help from the Guard. The technique of the DE and Mike make life difficult for the OL. The DE attacks the OT thought the inside shoulder into the B gap, pressuring up the field and inside. The OT sets out initially to the alignment of the DE and immediately travels back inside with the DE on the movement. The OT has no guaranteed help inside. The DE's rush technique buys the OT. The Mike's tempo makes his intentions unclear. Is he going to drop out, man the RB, spy the QB, re-insert into the rush???. The T/G have a very difficult pass off with two threats on different levels with the DE deeper and the Mike adding later especially when the Mike's intentions are unclear. 

Nice pressure design from Duke Defensive Coordinators Ben Albert and Matt Guerrieri. 

Friday, August 28, 2020

Backer Support & Alley Safety vs Load Option

Army is in 3-4 personnel odd front spacing vs. Air Force. The run support to the option is Backer support with the OLB as the pitch player. 


The OLB is the force/pitch player shuffling for width on the LOS. The slow play helps make it unclear to the QB what the OLB will do. By not committing immediately and obviously to the pitch the OLB buys time for the ILB and Safety. The OLB is able to shuffle keeping leverage to play the outside half of the pitch.

The ILB is able to play inside out to the inside half of the QB. The alley Safety comes downhill to play the outside half of the QB to the inside half of the pitch.

The fit results in the alley safety to be able to vise the QB with the inside/out ILB and once the ball is pitched vise the ball with the outside/in OLB.


This type of teaching method allows the defense to play multiple support structures on the edge. Teach the elements of support and change who handles the force or alley.


In a sky support the Safety plays force/pitch taking the outside half of the pitch while the OLB plays the alley going from outside half of the QB to inside half of the pitch.


In a cloud support the Corner is force fitting O/S half of the pitch with the OLB in the alley playing O/S half of QB to I/S half of the pitch.

Good stuff from former Army Defensive Coordinator John Loose. 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

4-2-5 Weak Overload Firezone Pressure

New Mexico is in a 4-2-5 personnel with stand up hybrid players at DE running two examples of the same fire zone concept.

The first time the Lobos dialed up the pressure on 3rd 10.


The Rush:
The DL is slanting away from the pressure with 3 tech DT on a long stick movement going 2 gaps. The Will is wide as the contain rush with the Mike wrapping off the long stick DT.

The Coverage:
3 Under 3 Deep Firezone 


The dropping DE does a nice job of attacking the OT before dropping out. The protection is a 6 man with the RB scanning. The Center is setting weak which allows the Guard to pass the DT to the Center and set the Mike on the inside pressure. The RB has responsibility for the Mike if the Mike had pressured the the side of the RB. The challenge for the RB is going inside out to the opposite side. With an interior threat from the Mike the RB checks his inside threat. By stepping up to check the Mike the angle to get to the Will off the edge is extreme. 

Later the Lobos use the pressure again this time on a 3rd & 6.



Another 6 man pass protection scheme. Again the dropping DE attacks and occupies the OT before dropping out. This time the Center is setting away from the pressure. The result is the T/G are manned up opposite the slide of Center. The G is forced to travel with the 3 tech on the long stick because he doesn't have guaranteed help from the Center. The Center is occupied setting the A gap DT and would have a difficult redirect set to travel back with the Mike then take over the long stick DT. The Guard would have to react to help from the travel back by the Center and redirect to the Mike. 

Nice pressure design from UNM Defensive Coordinator Jordan Peterson.