Thursday, December 22, 2016

Quarters Coverage Zone Pressure

Here is an interesting zone pressure run by the NY Giants this season. Giants' Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo dialed up a non-traditional 4 man rush from a Dime personnel group and backed up the pressure with quarters coverage.

The Rush:
Nickel & Dime - Contain Rush
Mike & Nose - A gap, Inside rush lanes

The Coverage:
3 under 4 deep zone coverage

Corners & Safeties - Quarters
DE's - Attack the OT, Drop
Will - Show pressure, Drop

The bluff of the pressure by the Will LB attracts the attention of the RG which prevents the guard from being able to help with the rushing Dime. The attack and drop tech of the DE results in the OT blocking no one. 

Another factor in the success of the pressure is the usage of the Nickel and Dime as outside rushers. This pressure could easily be run from a traditional 3-4 personnel with OLB's filling the role of the contain rush. The OL reacts differently to OLB's as rush threats than they do to Nickel/Dime DB players. An OLB is a 50/50 or higher percentage chance of rushing the QB. A DB is much less likely to rush and the OL are less inclined to pass set to a DB aligned at or near the LOS.  

Good stuff from the Giants defense. This is a creative way to generate pressure while rushing 4 and playing quarters coverage on 3rd & 9.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Atlanta Falcons' Nickel Zone Dog

Here is a zone dog rushing the nickel the Atlanta Falcons have busted out several times this season.

The Rush:
Nickel - Contain Rush
DT - Penetrate B gap
DE - Loop to A gap
DT - Inside Rush Lane
DE - Contain Rush

The Coverage:
3 Under 3 Deep Zone

The bluff of pressure by the Mike and Will linebackers helps control the pass protection of the Center and the RB.  

Here the bluffing Mike forces the set of the Center away from the pressure. The bluffing Will attracts the block of the RB. The result is a 3 on 2 leaving the Nickel unblocked.

Here the offense motions to empty. The Center sets away from the pressure to the initial threat of the bluffing LB's. Again the result is a 3 on 2 with an unblocked nickel.

Here the looping DE beats the redirecting guard. The DE pressures the QB into sliding off his launch point in the pocket.  The Nickel is accounted for by the TE. The looping DE affects the QB buying time for the Nickel to beat the TE 1 on 1. 

The pressure has yielded good results for Dan Quinn and the Falcons.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Dallas Cowboy Zone Dog

Here is an interesting 5 man dog from the Dallas Cowboys' Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli. 

The play starts in a standard 4-3 2 high safety shell look.

During the cadence the DL stems the Nose and DE into this look.

The Nose moved to a head up zero technique and the DE went from a wide alignment to head up on the OT.

The defense then stemmed a 2nd time into this look.

The Nose moved to a strong side 1 technique and the Sam backer walked up on to the LOS. The stemming by the defense allows the Cowboys to create a odd front structure and bring a 50 front type of pressure.

The Rush:
Sam & End - Contain Rush
End - Inside Rush
T&N - Delayed twist

The Coverage:
3 under 3 deep

The penetration of the Nose in the A gap forces the Center's shoulders to turn. The delay twist by the Tackle is able to loop tight and pressure the midline.

Using pre-snap stemming and DL alignments are creative ways to incorporate Odd front concepts into a base Even front defense. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Don Brown Pass Rush Twist

Here is a 4 man pass rush twist Michigan Defensive Coordinator Don Brown utilized last season when he was coaching Boston College. 

The DE's are slanting inside. The DT's are looping to contain opposite of their initial alignment. 

A more traditional double twist from a DL looks like:

Both have the DE's going inside and the DT's looping. Crossing the DT's creates an interesting challenge for the pass protection.

The initial inside looping action of the DT, looks and feels like a DT twist.

The loop causes the guards to squeeze inside and put their vision to the opposite DT. With the Guard's attention inside the End has a 1 on 1 inside rush opportunity vs. the OT. 

For the offense to pick this stunt up the OG and OT have to set inside and redirect back out.

It is a difficult task for the guard to transition his eyes from DT to opposite DT and finally to the End. If he does get his eyes in the right place, he then has to physically handle redirecting and blocking the End. 

The OT has a difficult block due to lack of initial help from the guard. On a traditional DE/DT twist the OT will squeeze hip to hip with the OG. The body position of the OG helps stop the momentum of the penetrating DE. Once the DE is controlled the OT can set back outside to the looping DE. With the DT looping from the other side, the OT gets less help initially. No body positioning help for the OG means the DE may simply win the inside 1 on 1 pass rush. The other challenge is the OT may be engaged, locked on, and deep in the pass set by the time the looping DT from the opposite side shows up. In that case it is difficult for the OT to redirect and pick up the looper.

This same twist can be found other places like a old playbook from Tennessee Titans Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Tennessee Titans Man Free Blitz

Here is an interesting concept from legendary Titans' Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau. The Titan's are a base 3-4 structure. However, they very rarely look like the 3-4 diagrammed below.

The Titan's use their base personnel against run heavy personnel groupings.

Often against these formations the 3-4 reduces the front, playing the OLB's at the LOS to create the under front and other base defensive structures.

Against spread formations with 10 or 11 personnel the Titans will sub to a Nickel or Dime package. 

While it may look like the normal 4-2-5 defense there are some differences. In the NFL most of the 3-4 teams sub out the Nose for the 5th DB. The DT's in this diagram are the ends in the base personnel grouping while the Ends in this package are stand up OLB's. Subbing into a 4 man line nickel package does have a some limitations. One being the defense can't bring 3 down odd front pressures from an even front.

The Titans have a solution.

Tennessee is using the sub nickel package but bumping the front to create an odd front look. This concept allows the defense to bring pressures like:

The Rush:
Mike & Will - Contain
End & Tackle - Long Stick to A Gap
End - B gap blitz
Tackle - Jap then loop to B gap

This is an America's Blitz variation. The twist action of the long stick DT with the looping zero technique creates an America's blitz effect on both sides of the formation.

The Coverage:
Man Free with the rushers covering the RB if the RB attempts to block them.

The offense has the numbers (6 vs. 6) to block the rush.

The left side (blue) picks up the pressure exactly as expected. The right (red) side is where the breakdown occurs. The guard is expecting the Center to be occupied with the zero technique. The guard sets out the B gap rush threat (either the Tackle or Will). When the Tackle long sticks the OG doesn't know initially if he will get help from the Center.

The Center squeezes the protection to the long stick DT when the zero technique loops. The guard locks on the long stick and realizes too late he needs to redirect to the looping zero technique. By the time the guard reacts the looping zero technique is through the B gap and pressuring the QB. 

The Titans found a create way to bring odd front pass rush from an even front personnel. The usage of the Zero and 5 tech on a twist that plays out like America's blitz is also creative. This concept is a good way to get the zero technique a better pass rush option. Often an odd front nose is forced to fight through a center from a head up alignment. The Center often has protection help from one or both of the guards. In that environment, pass rush opportunities can be tough to come by for a zero technique. Creating rush opportunities for the zero technique to use athleticism is a good change of pace from simply asking him to bull rush the mid-line and push the pocket. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Eagles Cover 2 Zone Dog

Here is a cover 2 zone dog run by the Philadelphia Eagles earlier this season.

The Rush:
Tackle - Work B gap to Contain 
Nose - Slant Opposite A
End - Long Stick to A gap
SS - Contain
Will - Scrape

The Coverage:
Corner & End - Flat
Sam & Mike - Hook
FS & Corner - Deep 1/2 

The Eagles show a 1 high safety coverage with a safety rotated down over the #2 WR. The expectation is the Eagles have to stay in a 1 high coverage unless they rotate a safety back deep. Instead Philly uses a corner in the role of a Deep 1/2 player.

The protection has the numbers to pick up the pressure.

The protection has two (OT & RB) vs. 2 (Will & SS) but loses both match ups. The OT is badly out athleted by the rushing DB. An OL forced to kick set out to a DB in open space is a match up the that favors the defense. On the inside the RB is forced to pick up the rushing LB. A LB on a full speed straight line run to the QB vs. a RB in pass protection is another match up that favors the defense. 

It is easy to say the offense should have simply had the OT sit for the Will and sent the RB wide to the SS. Both seem like better match ups for the offense. The issue is the RB is initially threatened by 2 rush threats as his dual read is the Mike & Will. If the Mike rushed the B gap the RB would have needed to block him. Likewise when the Will rushed B. It is very difficult to expect the RB to dual read the Mike to Will and adjust to the SS in the rush. Also A DB rotated over a slot receiver was not a likely rush threat. 

The usage of a DB in the rush and the alignment of the LB's in a 4-3 core created bad match ups for the protection. The coverage violates pre-snap expectations forcing the QB to make a post-snap read and buying time for the rushers to win. Good stuff from Eagles Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Virginia Tech Green Dog

Here is a 5 man pressure green dog dialed up by Virginia Tech Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster.

The Rush:
Will - Contain Rush
Left DE - Slant Inside
Left DT - Slant Inside
Right DE & DT - Twist (DT 1st, DE 2nd)

The Coverage:
Cover 1 - man free coverage with a LB man on the RB. If the RB blocks the LB adds to the pass rush.

 The green dog technique by the LB creates a 2 on 1 vs. the RB and a clean run on the QB.

If the turn of the Center in protection is to the twist side of the pressure the offense cannot block the 4 rushers (Will, DE, DT, Mike) with the 3 blockers (Guard, Tackle, RB) to the defensive left. The offense does have a 3 on 2 vs. the twist and should be solid picking it up.

What ends up happening is the Center sees the Mike's path and squeezes his pass set back to the pressure side. This creates two major problems for the protection. First, the Guard and Tackle would also need to squeeze back for the offense to pick up the Mike in protection. There is a low probability of the offense having the Center, Guard, Tackle all set one direction then identify, process, communicate and execute redirecting to block the rushers. The second problem is once the Center squeezed the protection back with the Mike, he created a 2 on 2 man blocking side against the twist. A Pass rush twist is highly effective against OL locked on in a man protection concept.

Here the Center stays in the slide to the twist side. The defense has an easy 2 on 1 overload against the RB.

This pressure is being adjusted based on the alignment of the RB. On the first clip #54 is the LB aligned to the wide field and the back, he edge rushes. #40 is aligned to the short side & opposite the RB, he green dogs. In the second example the RB is aligned to the short side. #40 is aligned to the short side and the back so he walks up a rushes off the edge. #54 is to the wide field and opposite the RB, he green dogs. In both examples the DL must also be aware of the RB alignment to know if they are pinching inside or twisting. Interesting and effective concept from the Hokies.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Alabama Cover 2 Zone Pressure vs. Empty

Here is an effective pressure concept Alabama used vs. LSU. 

Alabama is in a 6 DB Dime personnel with 2 stand up DE's (OLB types).

The Rush:
End - Up the field to Contain
Tackle - Slant inside
Nose - Loop to Contain
Nickel - B gap pressure

The Coverage:
Corners - Flat
SS & FS - Show 1 High Safety rotate to Deep 1/2
Dime - Zone to #2 Strong
Mike - Zone to #3
End - Zone to #2 Weak 

The initial alignment by Alabama dictates the protection.

The LSU pass protection has 5 blockers for the 5 most dangerous rushers. Pre-snap the immediate gap threats represent the 5 most dangerous rushers.

The RG is forced into being manned up on the DT and blocking him on the inside move. The RG doesn't know the Center, LG, LT will be freed when the Mike and DE drop into coverage. The deep pass set of the RT against the speed rushing DE creates the clean B gap run for the Nickel. By the time the OL could process what is happening the Nickel is in the face of the QB.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Interesting Cover 2 Zone Pressure

Here is an interesting Cover 2 zone pressure concept from Green Bay Packers Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers.

The pressure is from a 3-2-6 personnel package. In old playbook material Coach Capers called this personnel Dollar Personnel which is a variation of a dime personnel grouping.

Initially the Packers represent 2 walked up rushing LB's and a possible rush from the Dime. The coverage is showing a 2 high safety shell.

The expected blitz pick up for the offense is for the OL to block the immediate gap threats and the RB to scan across the formation to pick up the possible Dime rush threat. With the defense presenting no 4th rush threat from the weak side the RB is free to scan to the strong side. During the cadence the defense shifts.

The pressure the Packers actually brought defies the initial expectations of the offense.

The Rush:
Ends - Up and under to an inside rush lane
T- Middle Rush
Nickle - Contain Rush
SS - Roll down to Contain Rush

The Coverage:
Corners - Flat
Dime - Pop the top to the Deep 1/2
FS - Weak side Deep 1/2
Backers - Zone dropping to #2 & #3 strong side

The shift by the defense created confusion for the protection. The RG's eyes shift inside as the LB shifts from walked up outside to being aligned in the core. The Guard set inside because he is looking inside. Once the RG set inside the protection had serious problems. The RT is forced to stay locked on the DE which allows the SS to come free off the edge. The RB thought he was scanning initially so he continues to scan. The timing of the pressure prevents the RB from seeing, processing, and adjusting to the threat of the SS.

 The coverage also defies expectation. If the QB tires to attack a perceived weak side 1 on 1 match up in coverage there is actually a 2 on 1 concept. Traditional thinking is that if a defense is in a 2 high safety shell and rotates a safety down the coverage MUST be a 1 high coverage. The Packers break that rule. The FS rotating also indicates a 1 high safety but the FS isn't rotating to the deep middle and is instead rotating to a deep 1/2. The flat defending corner to the strong side is also a surprise and forces the QB to double clutch the throw to the strong side flat buying time for the the pressure.

This pressure could be easily run from a traditional 3-4 personnel set.

What the pressure loses is the manipulation of the protection and the disguise of the coverage. Many OL's & RB's can process and pick up this basic pressure. Many QB's can understand this coverage concept. Creative ways to make basic pressure concepts very difficult to pick up is what makes the NFL pressure schemes so effective.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Attacking 7 Man Pass Protection

Seven man pass protection schemes are utilized by offenses for a number of reasons: 

  • To allow for deeper/longer developing routes 
  • To create a sense of security and confidence in the protection for the QB
  • To simplify the protection scheme by eliminating dual read pass protectors 
  • To prevent the defense from forcing a hot throw
  • To have numbers against 5 and 6 man pressure schemes 
  • To give the OL help vs. DL stunts or a dominate pass rusher
Often our defensive plan vs. 7 man pass pro is to use a base pass rush and drop 7 into coverage. While that may be a good plan, what are some potential pitfalls? The defense may have a bad match up on deep routes. If the offense has a WR that can beat a DB 1 on 1, the offense can exploit that with a protection scheme that allows the WR the time to beat the DB. 7 man pro also allows the offense to run double move routes like Out&Up or Post-Corner. Multiple move routes can be difficult to cover even for the most talented DB's. Also the protection may allow for routes to work into soft spots in the zone coverage and get open. Bottom line is it is frustrating to drop 7 vs. a 3 man route and still give up a completion. So what is plan B?

Here is one solution. The NY Giants were defending a 3rd & 10 against the Ravens. The Ravens came out in a 2 back formation and used a 7 man protection. 

The outside receivers ran 15 yard out cuts. The #2 ran vertical into the middle of the field. This route can attack 1 high safety coverages like cover 3 or cover 1 by isolating the corners vs. the deep outs. Similarly the out routes attack the corners vs. quarters and robber coverage. Against cover 2 the defense can play high low coverage vs. the outs with flat coverage corners and deep 1/2 safeties making the outs difficult to throw. In that case, the middle of the field route by #2 is there to attack a cover 2 concept by splitting the safeties. This type of route could be difficult to cover even with 7 players in coverage.

Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's solution, rush 8. The Giants are using 4-2-5 nickel personnel.

The Rush:
DE's - Contain
Left DT - A gap
Right DT - Bull rush Guard
Nickel - B gap
Mike - A gap
Will - Inside B gap
$ - Outside B gap

The Coverage:
Cover zero man with the pass rush covering any back that steps up to block them.

You can see the left DE (#54) take the RB in coverage when the RB stepped up to block him.

Some of you may be thinking, "Really, this article is saying the way to attack 7 man pass pro is to rush 8. Wow, thanks so much. I could have never thought of that on my own." Fair point, but I do think the conversation is deeper. 

One of the reasons this site exists is that I wanted to have meaningful discussion about pressure and blitzing. Look in any playbook or go to a clinic and you will see diagrams of interesting pressures. Take for example:

This is an 8 man pressure called Rattler from one of the Nick Saban playbooks floating around on the internet. I'm interested in the blitz and how it works. Even more, I'm interested in how, why, and when to use this blitz. Those are questions I'm trying to answer and the discussions I'm interested in having. 

As the season is coming to an end, we will begin the off-season process of self-scouting and planning for next season. Part of that process is a playbook inventory or what we will need or not need for next year. I think having an 8 man pressure concept or two is worthwhile. Do we need 5 or 10 of them? I'm highly doubtful of that, but 1 or 2 seems possible. Why? I think one of the offensive trends going forward is going to be more 7 man protection drop back pass. 

All the teams we face are spread. The bulk of the pass game is quick game, RPO, and WR screen. Teams are investing less and less in deeper drop back route concepts and protections. Even the 5 step concepts we see are all quick 5 step designed to get the ball out as soon as the QB plants on his 5th step.  Six man pass protection schemes are complex and require a big investment. The pass blocking technique and blitz pickup take a big chunk of an offense's weekly practice time. If teams are going to continue to invest heavily in read run schemes and RPO's, something else is going to have to get less time.Teams will however still want to take deep shots and have a way to throw drop back. Having 7 man pass pro as a way to do that seems logical. The protection has simple rules, is sound, and could require less investment than 6 man drop back protection.  

Many of these spread teams are using 11 or 20 personnel with a H back type that can align anywhere and play the role of a 2nd back, WR, or TE. A 7 man protection can easily be run from these types of personnels and formations. We are already seeing some 7 man pro from these teams and I think we will see more. Having an 8 man pressure to attack these concepts is something to consider this off-season. Are we going to plan for an 8 man pressure vs. all 2 back looks and down and distances, no probably not. I do think having a plan B for 7 man pass protection is a good reason to have an 8 man pressure in our blitz package. Maybe it's a reason to consider having one in your's too.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Tampa 2 Pressure

Here is a concept used by Coach Schiano during his time with the Buccaneers. The pressure is a non-traditional 4 man pass rush. The coverage is a variation of Tampa 2. 

Traditional Tampa 2 uses the Corners in the Flat with 2 Hook droppers. The Mike LB is running deep to the Middle Read to help cover routes attempting to split the deep 1/2 safeties. 

The Buccaneers use a Nickel personnel to play a version of Tampa 2 coverage. 

The Rush:
Mike & Will - Aligned in A gaps reading the turn of the Center. When the Center blocks away the LB goes. When the Center blocks toward the LB drops off and spies/rushes. 

The spy/rush technique helps the defense control the middle check down route to the RB which is a stress area of Tampa 2 coverage. The spy can also help take away RB screen and QB scramble. If the RB blocks the LB can add to the pressure to create a 4 man rush.

DT - Rush through B gap to contain

The Coverage:
Corners - Flat
DE's - Hook
SS - Middle Read
Nickel - Pop the Top to the Deep 1/2
FS - Bluffs rotation to the deep middle and plays the Deep 1/2

The pass rush does a good job of attacking the RB in protection.

By showing the double A gap pressure the defense forces the RB to block an A gap LB on a clean run through. No matter who the Center blocks the other LB is attacking the back. Here the Center blocked to the Mike resulting in the Will getting to run through. The Mike then executes the spy/rush technique. Once the RB blocks the Mike adds to the pass rush to create a 2 on 1 vs. the RB. This is very similar to the overload situations created in Coach Schiano's Green Dog schemes.

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