Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Blitzing Zone Read from the 3-3-5

Here is America's Blitz from a 3-3-5 alignment. The coverage is a cover 3 firezone but it could easily be run with a cover 1 concept.

Against zone read this type of blitz can have some issues away from the blitz.

The defense can choose to have the DE step down with the OT's down block. The LB (here Will) plays over the top and takes the QB. If the QB makes the proper read the ball should get pulled and the Will should be there to make the play. The biggest issue with this situation is that forcing the QB to pull the ball makes the blitz obsolete. If the ball is getting pulled the blitz is attacking nothing. Many times this situation leads to the film room coaching conversation trying to answer the question "Why aren't we playing base and allowing the Sam and Mike to pursue like normal instead of blitzing them out of the play?".

The alternative is to have the DE stay square on the LOS, which should force the ball to get handed off. It makes sense to have the ball handed into the blitz. However, there are still issues.

As the ball is handed off the Will and DE are in a tough spot. The Will is fast flowing to defend the B gap. If the Will does not aggressively attack he risks being cut off from the B gap by the OT. If he is cut off the RB will hit in his back side B gap. If the ball cuts all the way back to the C gap the Will needs to redirect from fast flowing to the B gap. On the redirect the Will needs to press the OT back to squeeze the C gap. That is much easier said than done. The DE is also in a bind. If the DE is too wide as in the example; the running back has a cutback lane. 

The DE can squeeze down the space created by the OT releasing to the 2nd level to shrink the cutback lane.

The issue is even if the DE stays square; he is moving inside. If the QB reads that as a pull, the DE can be run around by the QB. Teams running zone read are often playing one of if not their best athlete at QB. A DE moving inside has a tough task to redirect and tackle the opposition's best athlete in open space.

One easy solution is to bluff the Will as a blitzer.

By bluffing the Will in the B gap the OT is forced to make his block at the LOS. Because there is less space created by the OT climbing to the 2nd level the DE can more easily play on the LOS. The DE will force the ball to be handed and still be in position to play the QB if he does pull it. If the RB tries to cut back away from the blitz the Will & DE can control the cutback because there is less space.

Walking up the Will plays out like America's blitz from a 4-3 under front.

Using a 3-3 with the Will walked up can have a nice effect vs. spread teams running boot or naked scheme passing.

The DE to the action is not being asked to drop. There is no run/pass bind for the DE allowing the DE to apply quick  pressure in the face of the QB. Another positive is the 3RH dropper is a LB not a defensive lineman. On most defenses the Will dropping from the LOS to find the crosser on a boot is a better coverage option than a DL.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Combining Boot with Quick Game Passing Concepts

Here is another offensive passing game concept. The play is from a 3x1 formation combining a quick game passing concept on the weak side with a boot route concept on the strong side.

The route progression for the QB:
1 Hitch (X)
2 Corner (S)
3 Slam Flat (Y)
4 Run

If there is space to throw the hitch take it. 

If there is no space; the QB will pump the hitch and boot to the strong side. Typically if there is no space the offense is playing a 2 over 1 coverage concept to the weak side.

Weak Side Squat & Half

Weak Side Invert Safety

In either situation the defense is overloading the coverage weak. Against both looks the goal is to work the flood route concept strong.

The Z is running a skinny post. His route is designed to cross the face of the corner in man, cover 3, or quarters coverages. If the route is run correctly the skinny post should force the corner too deep and inside to play the corner route. The skinny post must be cautious not to break too far inside on the post. 

Against cover 3 or quarters the Corner may pass the post off to the Safety if the post break is too aggressive.

The S is running a corner route breaking at 10. The corner route must stay deep enough to high low the flat defender. If the flat defender can cover both the corner and the flat route; the corner route is not deep enough.

The Y is running a slam flat. The Y will hit the DE and release to the flat. The route is working to get width before depth. The Y will throttle the route at the numbers.

Once the QB runs the boot; he is reading high to low from the corner to the flat route. If both are covered the QB will tuck the ball and run.

Route Adjustments

By game plan the weak side Hitch can be adjusted to a Slant or Speed Out.

Strong side can be adjusted to any 3 man route combination.

The Protection – Full Turn Back Gap Protection

The protection is set to the 3 receiver side

Away Tackle – Cut C gap defender

Away Guard – Block back on B gap, No B gap threat = firm body position the A Gap with eyes on your B gap

Center – Block back on A gap, No A gap threat = firm body position the call side A Gap with eyes on your A gap

Call Guard – Block back on A gap, No A gap threat = firm body position the B Gap with eyes on your A gap

Call Tackle – Block back on B gap, No B gap threat = firm body position the C Gap with eyes on your B gap

A – C gap defender, block his outside number and seal the edge

Here is an example with the protection set to the Right:

The LT is the away OT and will cut the C gap defender (DE). The cut is designed to keep the DE’s hands down and out of the throwing lane to the hitch.

The LG has an immediate B gap threat from the DT and will block back.

The Center has no immediate gap threat in the A gap. The Center will provide firm body position on the call side A gap to help the RG. While holding position the Center’s eyes are in the away A gap looking for threats from a slanting DL or blitzing LB.

The RG has an A gap threat and is blocking back.

The RT has no immediate gap threat in the B gap. The RT will provide firm body position on the call side C gap to help the A. While holding position the RT’s eyes are in the call B gap looking for threats from the slanting DL or blitzing LB.

Another example, again with the protection set to the Right:

The LT is the away OT and will cut the C gap defender (DE).

The LG has an immediate B gap threat from the DT and will block back.

The Center has and immediate gap threat. The Center will block back on the blitzing Will in the A gap.

The RG has an A gap threat and is blocking back. When the Nose slants to the call the RG will let the slant go and block the new A gap threat from the blitzing Mike.

The RT will block back on the Nose slanting into the B gap.

Game Management - When to Kick the PAT and When to Go for Two

You can never be too prepared on game day to make good game management decisions. Here is a quick reference chart for when to Kick the PAT or Going for 2.

This chart can be downloaded in an Excel file here.

The downloadable file also includes charts for running out the clock and for when to take a safety.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

FAQ - What is America's Blitz?

I thought I would attempt to answer a question I am asked frequently in e-mail. What is America's blitz? 

America's Blitz is a colloquial term for the following blitz concept:

The blitz is known as America's Blitz because "every" team in America runs it. I have also heard the blitz called the NCAA Blitz. The name similarly implies that every college team runs this blitz. While not every team is running the blitz it is very common. Looking in a few NFL and college playbooks here are a few examples of the America's Blitz concept.

This example is from long time Pittsburgh Steeler defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau.

Here it is from Mark Dantonio's time as Ohio State's defensive coordinator. This variation of the concept is being run from a 3 man line sub personnel with multiple DB's in the game.

Here from Nick Saban's defense at Alabama in Base personnel.

Another example of America's blitz from Coach Saban being run out of sub personnel Nickel or Dime.

Here from Bo Pelini's Nebraska Defense

From Rex Ryan's NY Jets Defense

It doesn't take long to see why this concept is known as America's Blitz. 

Why is this blitz concept so ubiquitous? Simple answer it is effective. The deeper answer is versatility.  This blitz concept can be run from nearly all base and sub defensive personnel groups. Defenses also have the flexibility to play man or zone coverage behind this blitz. 

The blitz also has usage versatility. The blitz successfully attacks both run blocking schemes and pass protections. Defenses who carry this concept into a game plan can have confidence this blitz can be effectively called in multiple situations.

The success of the concept comes from the blitzes ability to overload half of the offense, attack the blocking scheme, and adjust based on the offense's blocking.

The concept is simple. The outside blitzer (Sam) is off the edge as a contain player. The DE to the blitz is slanting to the A gap. The inside blitzer (Mike) is letting the DE clear first and blitzing the B gap.

Several situations can play out based on the offensive blocking scheme.

The first situation is the offense zone blocks to the blitz. The zone could be either a zone run scheme or zone pass protection.

If the offense is disciplined in their zone blocking the offense has a blocker for each defender in each gap. In this situation the Sam, Mike, End, and Nose all have excellent gap leverage and the ability to shed blocks and make a play. This blitz challenges the offense to stay disciplined in their zone blocking.

The DE slanting to the A gap creates a conflict for the Guard. The Guard initially feels like the DE is attacking the B gap. In that case the Guard is responsible to block him. As the guard realizes the DE is actually slanting down to the A gap, it may be too late for the Guard to transition and make a good block on the blitzing Mike in the B gap.

The Center has a similar conflict. If the Center engages with the Nose at all, the Center's block on the DE slant to the A gap is very difficult.

Another situation is the OT blocks down on the DE slanting to the A gap. 

As the offense's blocking collapses down the defense has a 2 off the edge blitz concept. This situation can play out vs. both the run and the pass.

Versus the block down and kick out schemes like power the defense is able to get two blitzers to the point of attack.

As the OT blocks down the Mike is blitzing the B gap area. With 2 blitzers off the edge; the Mike is able to spill and the Sam is able to contain. 

Versus the pass the offense is likely running a slide scheme away from the blitz. If that is the situation the blitz creates a 2 (Mike & Sam) on 1 (RB).

Here is some video of the Dick Lebeau coached Pittsburgh Steelers running the concept. This video is courtesy of an excellent article about Coach Lebeau's Strong Scrape Fire Zone from Coach Hoover.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Weak Side Fire Zone Corner Blitz from a Hybrid 4-3 Under Front

This blitz is from the 2007 USC Playbook from the Pete Carroll Trojan defense. The USC defensive front used a hybrid 4-3 / 3-4 concept. One of the DE's is a hybrid player who can play as a traditional hand on the ground defensive end. That hybrid DE also allows the defense to transition to a 3 man front concept by playing that DE in a 2 point stance. 


Field sets the nose to the field and the 3 technique into the boundary. The boundary DE (here the right DE) is the hybridized player.

The Rush:
Cowboy - Blitzes the Corner & the Will from the Boundary

Field DE - Contain
Nose - Field A gap
Tackle - B Gap
Will - Blitz A
Boundary Corner - Blitz Contain

The Coverage:
3 Seam is a 3 under 3 deep fire zone coverage concept

Sam - Hot 2
Mike - Hot 3
Boundary DE - Hot 2
Field Corner - 1/3
SS - Middle 1/3
FS - Boundary 1/3

If the offense aligns with a #2 weak at TE the defense is able to keep the blitz and the coverage intact.

With the blitz coming from the boundary, any 3x1 formation to the field can be handled without any adjustment. The Mike is able to handle dropping off of the #3 receiver to the field. The blitz and the coverage operate without any checks, changes, or adjustments.

Against a 2x2 formation with a split #2 receiver into the boundary the defense shows its flexibility. The boundary DE makes an "Okie" call. Okie moves the Tackle to a 5 technique. The hybrid DE walks out and is able to align as an OLB to execute his pass drop on a split #2 receiver. The Boundary corner has a difficult path to blitz with the DE and split #2 in his way. To solve this problem, the FS makes a "Sheriff" call. Sheriff means the safety is now blitzing instead of the corner. 

Pete Carroll's defenses with the Seattle Seahawks have featured this same concept of blending 4-3 and 3-4 concepts. Moving forward, hybrid players will continue to play a critical role in allowing defenses to innovate. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Spread Offense Smash/Seam Read Passing Concept

I have always coached defense. However, I thought I would share a passing concept I would run if I ever end up coaching on the other side of the ball. Even if that never happens, it does not hurt to study what offenses are running. So here goes.

The route combination is a smash concept to the field with a seam read and a vertical peel concept to the boundary.

The route progression for the QB is:

Peek the Vertical (X)
1. Field Corner (Y)
2. Seam Read (S)
3. Vertical Peel (X)

The Peek is a pre-snap read used vs. a press man look. 

The QB can throw the outside release vertical to the X as a 1 on 1 winner route. If the QB likes the matchup he can take it, otherwise he follows his normal route progression.

The first post-snap read is the field corner. If the corner sits in the flat the QB will throw the corner route to the Y.

If the corner sinks the QB works to the S on the seam read route. The S is running 2 yards outside the NCAA hash. As he runs vertical, he is looking at the middle of field (MOF). If a safety is aligned in the MOF or rotates to the middle, the MOF is closed. 

When the MOF is closed the S stays in the seam and should expect the ball thrown on a line as he clears linebacker depth.

As the S is running the vertical and there is no safety in the MOF, the MOF is open. 

When the MOF is open the S breaks his vertical to a post and should expect the ball in the middle of the field.

The 3rd route in the progression is the vertical peel. The X runs an outside release vertical. If he gets press coverage he must be ready for the ball on the peek throw from the QB. If there is no press, the X is running vertical reading the coverage of the corner. If the X beats the corner and gets on top, the X continues to run vertical. If the corner is over the top of the X’s vertical route, the X will peel the vertical back to a comeback route at 12-15 yards. The 3rd route in the progression is thrown when the defense is running a hybrid coverage. 

In this example a pattern match cover 3.  If the field corner sinks, the QB works to the S on the seam read. If the S is being matched vertical by a safety or linebacker the QB will work the X as the 3rd read.

The route can be tagged with a switch call to switch the route of the X and S. The S now runs a wheel & peel while the X runs a seam read. 

This tag is good against a safety getting width when #2 is out like Cover 2 and 2 read coverages. As the safety works for width to get over the top of #1, the X is working to the seam and breaking to the post. The switch call can also be good against man or matchup zone coverages. It can be difficult for the defenders to navigate the traffic of the wheel and seam read as they cross.

Another tag is an Alert for the hitch. This can be used in on schedule situations (1st&10, 2nd Medium, 3rd Medium/Short). The goal of an alert call is to throw the hitch. The alert tag tells the QB he can throw the hitch is there is space. 

The QB makes a pre-snap read of the field side coverage. If the corner is soft and there is space to throw the hitch the QB can throw the hitch. If throwing the hitch, the QB will not take a 5 step drop and will instead throw with 3 step tempo and footwork. If there is no space or if the QB is unsure, the QB will use the normal footwork and route progression.

Against teams that disguise their coverages or rotate to coverages at near the snap, I would run this route from a Polaroid tempo. I call it Polaroid because the QB will let the picture develop. The offense will line up and hard count. The offense does not look to the sideline following the hard count. The hard count is used to let the offense see the defense. The QB is looking at the coverage for a clear picture of safety rotation, bail corners, etc. The seam read receiver can start to see the MOF picture as well. Following the hard count the offense will immediately start the real snap count and run the play. Polaroid tempo prevents the defense from changing the call after the freeze. Polaroid is good for the base play or to allow the QB to see if the alert hitch has space.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

4-3 Under Front Crossfire Blitz

The Rush
End - Contain
Mike - First, Blitz B gap
Sam - Second, Blitz A gap
Nose - Opposite A
Tackle - B Gap vs. run, Contain vs. pass

The Coverage
Corners – Tight 1/3
FS – Middle 1/3
SS- Seam
Will – 3RH
End – Seam

The same blitz can easily be run with man coverage.

The crossfire action of the Mike and Sam can create confusion for the offense’s blocking schemes. The issue for this blitz is what to do when the offense has a three man surface. 

The defense runs the risk of being badly out leveraged on outside zone, pin & pull, or other perimeter run schemes.

If the offense aligns with a TE or H back to create a three man surface the Sam adjusts.
The Sam aligns in the normal under front 9 technique. Against the run the Sam blitzes outside and contains. 

The Will can easily play to the A gap on any flow to the TE.

Against the pass the blitz returns to the normal crossfire pattern. The Sam blitzes under the End and Mike to the A gap.

With a simple adjustment by the Sam the blitz can remain sound vs. the run and create the crossfire action vs. the pass.