Friday, December 31, 2010

Green Bay Packers Nickel & Psycho Packages

More and more teams are now utilizing pass rush personnel groups with only 1 or 2 defensive linemen on the field. Dom Capers' Packers defense has generated a great deal of pressure this season with these types of hybrid personnel groups. The Nickel concept allows the Packers to rush 4 and drop 7 with two edge rushers that have speed and athleticism. Teams like the Packers that base out of a 3-4 concept often want both OLB's (typically the best pass rushers in a 3-4 scheme) rushing the QB and a 4 man rush. This specialized personnel group allows for both OLB's to stay in the game and for a Nickel secondary to be on the field by only utilizing 2 down linemen. The Packers can be seen here rushing 4 in a traditional 4 man pass rush with 2 Rush LB's as the defensive ends. The versatility of this personnel is that you can bring 4 rushers from a blitz look.

In this pressure the Packers show a 5 man rush pre-snap with a LB walked up on the left. However, the right Rush LB drops out. The coverage is a Cover 3 concept with a 4 man rush. Video can be seen here.

This package isn't limited to only 4 man rush pressure. The 5 man rush package can give the defense well designed blitzes coupled with skilled players dropping into coverage.
The Packers use an overload blitz concept with Cover 3 Fire Zone behind it to create a 5 man pass rush. The hybrid personnel allows the Nickel to rush the QB and not have any true defensive linemen drop into coverage. Video can be seen here.

This type of personnel also makes overload blitzes like Dick Lebeau's Triple Inside Fire Zone and Safety Gut Fire Zone (both utilize 2 dropping DE's) more realistic pressure options.

The Packers also have a 1 down lineman (Psycho) package from their odd front. The pressure possibilities from this package are basically endless.

Here the Packers shuffle the Right Rush LB down and have him long stick to the opposite side of the center. The blitz is a variation of the NCAA blitz with all 3 linebackers rushing on the same side. The Nose loops for contain opposite the blitz while the Left Rush LB drops to the 3RH. The coverage is a traditional Cover 3 Fire Zone with a dime personnel secondary. Video can be seen here.

With offenses continuing to put more speed at the skill positions and spread the field I believe defenses will continue to develop answers like the psycho package to match up. More information on this trend is available on Brophy's Blog in a post here. Also more information about Dom Capers and his defense can be seen in his 1997 Carolina Panthers playbook.

Fire Zone Coverage Series

The final post of the series will cover the techniques of the 3 deep players in a 3 under 3 deep Fire Zone coverage concept. The underneath coverage was featured previously in posts on the Seam and 3RH techniques. The technique of the FZ 1/3 corner is described in Dick Lebeau's 2002 Cincinnati Bengals playbook.

Lebeau gives rules for the corner on page 144


The Corner is playing a very aggressive technique on the #1 receiver's route. The only route the corner is not aggressively playing is when the #1 receiver releases on a shallow crossing route. In that case the Corner will work the Deep 1/3 divider and squeeze to a vertical by the #2 receiver.

The Corners must be alert for reduced splits that might result in the #1 receiver going on a fast crossing route. With the Seam player carrying #2 vertical the Corner is not required to midpoint 2 vertical is his zone as he would in a traditional Cover 3 Deep 1/3.  This allows the Corner to play press or bail technique on the #1 receiver and does not require the Corner to make a "China" call vs. smash route concepts. Overall the concept is very simple; the corner plays #1's route aggressively unless it is a shallow crossing route.

The play of the Middle 1/3 or FZ Middle player as Lebeau calls it is very similar to a traditional Cover 3 middle 1/3 safety. The safety will work the middle 1/3 divider (imaginary line that cuts the middle 1/3 in half) and expect the Seam players to carry and deliver vertical routes. The FZ Middle player will midpoint 2 verticals and squeeze to 1 vertical route in the middle 1/3.

The FZ Middle player does have to be aware of the release of the #3 receiver. If the #3 receiver releases out the FZ Middle player must lean to #3 because the Seam player will go with the flat route and the 3RH player will not stretch vertically.

The Fire Zone coverage concept allows for many of the benefits of man free coverage while still utilizing zone coverage concepts.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

3 Receiver Hook Drop

Previous posts discussed the Seam technique in Dick Lebeau's Cover 3 Fire Zone coverage and provided a video clip. This post will continue the fire zone coverage series and will focus on the the 3 Receiver Hook (3RH) drop. The 3 underneath coverage consists of Seam/3 Receiver Hook/Seam. The 3RH can be a dropping defensive lineman, linebacker, or inverting safety. Regardless of who is the 3RH the technique remains the same. The following is Lebeau's explanation of the 3RH from the 2002 Cincinnati Bengals Playbook.

One page 144 Lebeau defines the 3RH drop.



Based on the rules and diagrams in the playbook here is my analysis of the 3RH drop.

If #3 Blocks:
  • Drop with Depth (Max of 10 yards) over the #3 receiver. Be aware of the check release.
  • Be ready for fast crossers and in routes being delivered by the Seams droppers.
  • Have your head on a swivel and listen for communication from the Seam players.

If #3 goes vertical:
  • Carry vertical do not stretch with vertical route.
  • Be alert for fast crosser from #2 and be ready to carry and deliver(Look for reduced splits)

If #3 goes out:
  • Communicate out cut to Seam player
  • Expand an find the first inside breaking route.
  • You may have to carry and deliver a fast crosser from #1 or #2.
  • Be alert of the slash/flat combo (Look for reduced splits)

If #3 releases across the formation:
  • Carry and Deliver the crosser to the Seam Player

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Off-Season Self Scout

Here are a few thoughts of things to evaluate a defense during the off-season. Be sure to leave comments if there is something you breakdown/evaluate in the off-season that isn't on the list.

Self Scout Checklist
How often did we call each?
  • Front
  • Slant
  • Twist
  • Blitz
  • Coverage
  • Disguise
  • Tags & Adjustments

How effective was each call? (Yardage allowed, TD's, TFL's...etc.)
What percentage of our total calls is each?
Do the percentages reflect our philosophy?
Does what we called mirror our practice scripts? Did we run what we practiced?
Does what we called mirror our installation schedule?
Is our investment of practice time commensurate with our usage of each call? (Consider the call's effectiveness as well)
What changes need to be made to the playbook based on what we called during the season?

When did we make our calls? 
  • Down & Distance
  • Field Zone
  • Hash
  • Vs. Offensive Personnel Group
  • Vs. Formation

What are our tendencies?
Do our tendencies reflect our philosophy?
Were we predictable?

Evaluate all:

  • Explosion Plays
  • TFLs
  • Incomplete Passes
  • Runs of >3 yards
  • QB Pressures (Sacked, Hit, Hurried, Knocked Down)
  • Takeaways
  • Touchdowns
  • Plays that resulted in End of Drive (EOD)
  • Plays that resulted in a 1st down
  • Missed Tackles (MT)
  • Missed Assignments (MA)
  • Mental Errors (ME)
Were there any common causes?
What do we need to emphasize, de-emphasize, or change in our teaching model to account for what we did on the field?

Technique Checklist (List of all techniques utilized by a position group)

What techniques did each position execute well/poorly?
How many times did we practice each technique? (Compare technique checklist with practice plans)
What drills did we do for each technique? (Compare technique checklist with practice plans)
In what ways did what we practice effect our execution of technique? (Positive & Negative)
How can we teach the technique more effectively?

What did offenses run against us this year?

  • Personnel Groups
  • Formations
  • Runs
  • Routes & Route Combinations
  • Protections
  • Trades, Shifts, and Motions
How can we adjust our spring practice plans to help prepare for what we saw the most or had difficulty with during the last season?

Off-Season scouting report of each team we will face next season

Friday, December 24, 2010

Balancing Pass Rush

Here is an excerpt from Dick Lebeau's 2002 Bengals playbook with coaching points for pass rush and balancing a fire zone pass rush.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


I am looking for ideas or suggestions of what you would like to see on this site. Either leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail.

Blitz of the Week #13

Continuing on the themes of overload blitzing and looping edge pressure here are two blitzes from the Baltimore Ravens. Both pressures are from the Raven's Dime personnel package and both utilize a Cover 2 fire zone concept vs. 2x2 formations and a Cover 3 fire zone concept vs. 3x1 formations.

The pressure overloads the B gap with 2 blitzers. The blitz side DT works to the opposite side of the center (A gap to A gap) to balance the pass rush. The coverage behind the blitz is a soft Cover 2 concept. The Dime will have to run out to get to the #2 receiver strong.
Against trips to the blitz side the coverage adjusts to a 3 under 3 deep concept with the safety to the trips inverting.
Vs. trips opposite the blitz the coverage is again a Cover 3 fire zone and again the trips side safety is inverting. The only difference is a change in responsiblilties by the Dime and dropping DE. This pressure is very similar to the overload blitz used by the Rams in a previous post.
The second pressure has the DE loop for interior pressure. The coverage concept is identical to the first blitz.

Complimenting Edge Pressure

Whether it is TCU's Smoke concept or the NCAA blitz nearly every team has an edge blitz in their arsenal. One way to compliment the edge blitz is to add a pressure that loops the edge rusher inside.

The center should be occupied with the blitzing linebacker in the A gap and seeing the looping edge blitzer can be difficult. One key to this pressure's success is a great take off from the DL to force the QB to step up into the pocket and to give the edge blitzer a better angle to the QB. The edge blitzer should start as if off the edge then loop inside off of the penetrating DL and ILB. 

Film of the Cleveland Browns running a loop edge blitz can be seen here. The Browns blitz is not identical to the diagram but is a good example of the looping edge blitzer technique.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Designing A Pressure Package

Here are clinic notes from the 2010 Glazier Clinic in Atlanta that were posted online. The section from Brian Baker the DL coach for the Carolina Panthers is a good read. There is a section on Gap Control Defense as well as a Designing a Pressure Package section. A very interesting portion of the pressure package section is the naming system for breaking down opponent protections.

Also be sure to check out the speaker line ups for this years Glazier Clinics and Nike Coach of the Year Clinics.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Making It All Look The Same

One of the first things I noticed when looking at the TCU pressure package was the simplicity. The terminology and organization made understanding who was blitzing a breeze. The deeper beauty is how blitzes like TCU's Double Smoke concept compliment the alignments of their split field safety zone coverages to create an easy built in disguise.
Smoke tells the defense a safety is blitzing and Double Smoke means 2 safeties are in the pressure. Here the SS and WS are both blitzing off the edge. Both blitzers will give a "Fire" call to tell the DE to go inside. On all smoke calls the blitzing safety will make a "Fire" call because where there is smoke there is fire. Against a 2 back formation the defense is aligned in a 4-4 look which is identical to their alignment if they were in their Cover 2 (Robber) zone coverage concept.

The offense cannot readily tell if the defense is running double smoke or Robber coverage which creates a natural disguise element for the Horned Frogs without any extra effort. The natural disguise isn't limited to 2 back formations, it extends into TCU's alignments vs. spread formations as well.

With a split #2 receiver to the weak side the WS will make a "Switch" call alerting the ILB to blitz instead.When playing zone against the same formation TCU can play their Blue (Quarters) concept with very similar alignments. 

Lastly, against trips the pressure adjusts again to compliment a zone trips adjustment (Special).

And the zone compliment (Special).
For more information on TCU be sure to check out the 4-2-5 resource guide. A helpful resource when looking at TCU's defense is the Boise State playbook from 2000. Brent Guy (Boise State Defensive Coordinator in 2000) was on the defensive staff with Gary Patterson at Utah State which is why you see basically identical terminology.  Also for more info on the "Special" trips adjustment and the split field safety concept check out Run COD Hit Blog and his articles on TCU's coverage package.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Overload Blitz Concept

Watching the 2010 St. Louis Rams it is clear the influence Steve Spagnuolo has had on the development of the Rams pressure package. An example of the overload style of pressure the Rams are using can be seen in their game vs. the Arizona Cardinals.
In this pressure the Rams are using a modified Dime Personnel (3 DEs, 1 DT, 1 LB, 2 Safeties, and 4 Corners)
  • Nose is jabbing to help hold the Center's attention then looping for contain
  • The 2 DEs aligned to the left are dropping out and walling off hot routes
  • The Right DE is the Contain Rusher
  • The LB is rushing the A gap to the blitz and working to the other side of the formation to balance the pass rush
  • The SS and Right Corner are overloading the the B Gap and creating a 2 on 1 vs. the Back
 This pressure can be seen on film here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Understanding BOB Protection vs. the 3-4 Part 2

This post is a continuation of a previous post on Understand BOB vs. the 3-4. The focus of this installment is on understanding the protection schemes that use a dual read by the OL in conjunction with a dual read by the back to help account for 7 potential rushers with only 6 blockers. Simple math makes it impossible for the offense to block all 7 rushers with only 6 blockers, therefore a 7 man pressure will still create a hot throw or a sack. The goal of this protection is to account for the most common 3-4 pressure schemes and allow the offense to throw drop back concepts without having to throw hot off of 5 man or 6 man pressures when the offense has enough blockers to account for those pressures. As in all Big on Big schemes the OL has the down linemen.

The OT's would have the DE's and the Center would have the nose with no blitzing linebackers. The guards would look to give help either to the Center or Tackle. Most 3-4 teams however, do not rush 3 and drop 8 on every snap. The guards will read the inside linebacker to their side. If the ILB is NOT blitzing the Guard looks to the outside and it is 2 on 2 (OG & OT for DE & OLB). If neither the ILB nor the OLB are blitzing the Guard is back to helping the Center or Tackle with their DL.

If the inside linebacker IS blitzing the Guard and Tackle are now 2 on 2 for the ILB and DE. The running back is reading straight down the middle keying both ILBs. The running back will look first to the side of the first inside linebacker to show blitz. This allows for the offense to be able to pick up 5 man zone pressures like the NCAA concept.

The same rules when the defense brings 1 ILB and both OLBs.

If both inside line backers show blitz the running back will step to the side he has determined to be most dangerous.

If both sides are danger the RB will protect the QB's blind side and the QB must be ready to throw hot.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Teaching Inside Blitz Technique

Blitzing by design is intended to allow a defender to be an initiator instead of being a reactor. The defensive player knows before the ball is snapped where he is going and therefore can play "fast". Unfortunately, there are times when a "fast" blitzer runs past a TFL, creates a seam by running up the field or getting kicked out, or loses gap integrity. The challenge becomes how to get fast blitzers who end up in the right places without running the risk of being "over-coached" and losing blitz effectiveness. One teaching model for interior blitzes involves three blitz reactions.
As the blitzers times up his blitz he will react off of the offensive linemen to the inside of the gap he is blitzing.

A B gap blitzer, as in the example, will react off of the guard. An A gap blitzer would key the Center. The blitzer is not just running through the gap he is attacking the outside edge of this blitz key.

There are three things the OL key can do and therefore three reactions by the blitzer.
  1. OL key steps toward the blitzer = Widen
  2. OL key steps away from blitzer = Bend
  3. OL Pass Sets = Pass Rush

When the blitzer's key steps toward him he will Widen. The blitzer must maintain a good hit and shed base throughout the blitz. From that good base he should deliver a shock to the blocker from pad under pad (PUP) leverage and be ready to shed the block while maintaining B gap leverage.

#1 Widen = Shock & Shed with Gap Leverage

When the blitzer's key steps away from the blitzer the reaction is to bend. Bend is a flattening of the course by the blitzer. The change of course helps keep the blitzer away from the adjacent OL, who is the most likely player trying to block him. The bend also helps prevent the blitzer from running up the field, where he is more likely to get kicked out or create a seam. If the OL key is pulling it is the flattest bend (hip pocket of puller) that in most cases takes the bliters directly to the ball.

#2 Bend = Flatten your course  

The final reaction is for the blitzer to pass rush if the OL key pass sets.

#3 Pass Rush = Get on a blocker's edge and work a move

A simple drill to teach this block reaction method is have a coach act as the OL key.
The line of blitzers time it up and react (Bend, Widen, Pass Rush) off of the coach. This is a very rapid fire drill that can start a period or practice with energy and tempo. The same teaching model can be applied to slanting DL.

A DT on an inside move is taught to bend, widen, or pass rush based off of his OL key (Center). Whether it is a blitzer or DL the terminology and drill work can remain the same and hopefully get the defense to attack, play fast, and make plays.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

More Steelers Cover 2 Fire Zone

Another video clip of the Steelers in a Cover 2 Fire Zone is available here. The pressure concept is similar to the the pressure from the Blitz of the Week 12. Notice again the Nose (#96) spying on the RB.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fire Zone Coverage

The final interception in the Steelers vs. Bengals game is a great example of the Seam technique that was featured in previous post (here). The Seam technique (match of #2 vertical and out) has also been covered extensively on Brophy's Blog in his series on Nick Saban and the Cover 3 match concept (here). The same coverage techniques utilized in Saban's Rip/Liz are used by the Steelers in their Fire Zone Coverage. The Seam player squeezes #2 (outside in) to the 3RH (Hole) dropper or to the MOF Safety. In the film the corner at the bottom of the screen is playing bump technique which is possible because he is not a true deep 1/3 corner (Reading 2-1) but instead a Tight 1/3 corner (Heavy on #1 unless on a shallow crossing route). The video is available here.

Blitz of the Week #12

The welcome back Blitz of the Week is actually 2 blitzes. Both are 5 man "Dogs" from the Pittsburgh Steelers arsenal. Both also utilize Cover 2 as the coverage concept behind them. The first was used by the Steelers two weeks ago in the big showdown with the Ravens.

The concept is a modified version of the tradional NCAA blitz.
  • Non-Blitzing Linebackers - Vertical Hook (VH), matching vertical and inside releases
  • Corners - Soft Squat
  • Safeties- Deep 1/2
Video of this pressure can be seen here. Based on the eyes of the Nose (#96), I think he has a spy technique on the back releasing on screen.

The 2nd Cover 2 in this post was used by the Steelers against the Bengals this week.

The pressure concept is very similar to #1 but without the long stick.
  • Left DE (or OLB depending on how you classify him) - Stand up 3 tech, drop Vertical Hook
  • Tackle - 3 technique, working weak to balance the pass rush
  • Non-Blitzing Backer - Sugared alignment near LOS over the Nose, drop Vertical Hook
  • Down Safety - Curl-Flat (acts like a soft squat corner)
  • Deep Safety and Weak Corner - Deep 1/2
  • Strong Corner - Soft Squat
Video of this pressure is available here.

The coverage behind both pressures is almost man under 2 deep in nature. In both pressures it appears the DL (#96) that is looping away from the pressure to balance the pass rush also has his eyes on the RB as a weak side spy.

Back in the Saddle

Guys I'm going to try to start updating the blog again. It has been a hectic season. I apologize to everyone who has e-mailed me over the last few months I will be responding to all the messages in my inbox in the near future.