Saturday, January 30, 2016

Super Bowl Preview: Carolina Panther Defense's Man Free Coverage

This post focuses on the Carolina Panther Defense's Man Free coverage schemes. A major factor in the success of these schemes is the athleticism of the Panther's linebackers.

Vs. the Packers

Here the Panthers use LB Thomas Davis to walk out over the TE who is split as the #2 receiver. Davis is athletic enough to play man to man on a player split out from the formation in open space. The Panthers walk the other LB over the Center to help create 1 on 1 pass rush opportunities for the 4 down defensive linemen. The walked up LB eventually slides off to man cover the check releasing RB. Because the Panthers can use a LB to cover the TE the weak side Safety can play a 2 on 1 bracket man coverage with the corner to the single receiver side.

Vs. the Buccaneers

Here the Panthers use their base 4-3 personnel vs. a spread formation. LB Shaq Thompson is able to walk out over the inside receiver to the strong side and cover him man to man. The middle linebacker is free to drop to the hole and break on the throw.

In both of these examples the Panther defense has flexibility in their scheme because of the athleticism of their linebackers. Thomas Davis played Safety at the University of Georgia. Shaq Thompson was a super athletic LB at the University of Washington. He was a good enough athlete he also played running back for the Huskies.

Thomas Davis Draft Profile 2005
Height: 6'1
Weight: 230
40: 4.60
3 Cone: 7.10

Shaq Thompson Draft Profile 2015
Height: 6'0
Weight: 228
40: 4.64
3 Cone: 6.99

Clearly the Panthers have developed a profile for who they want to play the versatile linebackers in their scheme.

Vs. the Packers

Here is another example of the Panthers using a man free scheme. Carolina uses a LB and a Nickel to cover the inside receivers in man coverage. This allows the Safety to walk down from deep on the hash and blitz off the edge. Blitzing the safety is made possible by the ability of the LB to cover the TE man to man.


Vs. the Redskins

Here is one more example of the Panthers using man free coverage. The Panthers reduce the front to a bear front alignment. By covering up all 5 offensive lineman the Panthers force the OL to block their immediate gap threat. The LB blitzing the A gap becomes the responsibility of the RB. The result is pressure in the face of the QB, forcing him to move in the pocket and change his launch point. The Panthers also do a nice job of using the LB walked up outside to man cover the running back. His pre-snap alignment on the line of scrimmage forces the OT to pass set to him. As the play unfolds he slides inside mirroring the RB in man coverage and eventually adds to the pass rush.  

In coverage the Panthers have some confusion handling the receiver releases from the bunch formation. They are ultimately saved by a bad throw forced by a well designed pressure scheme up front.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Super Bowl Preview: Carolina Panther Defense's Zone Dogs

The Carolina Panther's defense under Defensive Coordinator Sean McDermott is a unit that typically creates a pass rush with their four defensive linemen. When the Panthers do send extra rushers it is most often a zone dog (rushing 5 and backing it up with zone coverage). Here are a few examples of zone dogs the Panthers have dialed up this season.

VS. the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship Game

Here the Panthers aligned in a sub Nickel package. The front creates a pseudo 3-4 alignment by using a DE as a 2 point stance "LB" walked up over the guard. By covering both guards the Panthers force the Cardinal's 5 offensive linemen to account for the 5 immediate interior gap threats (DE, DE, Nose, LB, T). The RB is left to account for the blitzing LB while the blitzing Nickel is unblocked.

The coverage is a 2 read coverage. The LB and DE are buzzing through the seams. The Corners and Safeties are playing match up zone reading the release of the receivers. 

VS. the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving

Again the Panthers are in a Nickel personnel. Here they show their double A gap blitz look. The rush is a simple design that allows the 5 rushers to get 1 on 1 rush opportunities. The coverage is a 3 under 3 deep zone concept. The Safety who gets the interception is able play from his seam across the formation to cover the crossing route. This is possible because the primary threat to his seam (RB) stays in to block in the pass protection. The RB is forced to block the A gap blitzing LB. This occurs because the Center is forced to initially pass set the the walked up A gap LB who ultimately drops into coverage. On paper the offense should be able to block the 5 rushers with the 5 OL. In reality the offense is forced to use the RB in protection and commit 6 to block the 5 rushers. Walking up the double A gap blitz look creates this subtle but effective manipulation of the pass protection scheme. Additionally the Corner is playing an aggressive match-up 1/3 which allows the Safety to play from the seam across the formation without needing to expand to help the Corner with the #1 WR to the weak side.

VS. the Seattle Seahawks

Once again the Panthers are in Nickel personnel. The DE that drops into coverage plays from a 2 point stance. The dropping LB initially shows in the A gap to help attract the attention of the OL. The dog is a overload in the weak side B gap which creates a 2 on 1 vs. the RB in protection. The coverage is a 3 under 3 deep concept with the Safety playing an outside 1/3 to replace the blitzing Corner.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Link Blitz

Awesome share from Coach Brophy. This is video of new Philadelphia Eagles Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz talking about the Wide 9 Front in his 4-3 defensive concept and his pass rush philosophy.

More Info about Coach Schwartz and the defensive schemes he will bring to Philly from Coach Light.

Article about how writing notes by hand makes you smarter.

Good stuff from Chris Brown of Smart Football talking about innovation and evolution of football.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Hybridizing 3-3 Stack Defense with 4 Man front Concepts

Here is a standard 3-3 stack defensive alignment. 

To complement the base three man line concept the defense can walk up a linebacker to create a four man front concept.

On a South call the Sam walks up on the line of scrimmage. The End reduces to a 3 technique (could also be a 4i). The Nose aligns in shade (could also be a 2i). The Mike and Will bump their alignments.


West is like South except the Will is the walked up linebacker and the front is bumped to the Will.

It is easy enough to have words to change player's alignments. The challenge is creating continuity between the teaching and execution of the base stack front and the complimentary South and West fronts.

Take for example a zone read run.

The offense is zoning to the defense's right and reading the left defensive end. 

Here are the defense's run fits from the base stack front.

Left DE - Gap exchange with Sam, Control the B gap from behind the LOS chase the Dive
Nose - 2 gap, fall back into the backside A gap
Right DE - Control C Gap
Sam - Gap exchange with DE, Scrape over top for QB
Mike - Play flow to open A gap
Will - Fill B gap

Now look at how that base teaching matches up when the defense aligns in the South front.

Left DE - Control the B gap
Nose - Control the A gap
Right DE - Control C Gap
Sam - Control  C gap, play for QB
Mike - Play flow to open A gap
Will - Fill B gap

The major differences are the DE and Nose are lined up and controlling the gap they are aligned in at the snap. The Sam is still playing for the QB, the difference is only his alignment.

Looking again at the base stack front fits.

Here the zone is being run at the Sam while the Will is now to the side being read. The Will and right DE play the scrape exchange and the Sam and Mike fill their gaps.

The fits change very little if the same run is called vs. the South front.

Left DE - Control the B gap
Nose - Control the A gap
Right DE - Gap exchange with Will, Control the B gap from behind the LOS chase the Dive
Sam - Control C gap
Mike - Play flow to open A gap
Will - Gap exchange with DE, Scrape over top for QB

The defense again keeps the run fit virtually the same for the LB and DL. The adjustments are the alignments. The other major change is the reduced DE is fitting the B gap and the Sam is fitting the C gap which is a role reversal from the base stack run fit. However, it is common sense for defenders to understand their new run fit is to control the gap they are aligned in pre-snap.

Using the South and West fronts can also create versatility for the pressure package.


Monster - Mike (1st) & Sam (2nd) with DE outside

DE's - Contain
Nose - A gap away from blitz
Mike - B gap (1st)
Sam - A gap (2nd)
Will - Coverage

This same blitz can be translated to the the West front.


DE's - Contain
Nose - A gap away from blitz
Mike - B gap (1st)
Sam - A gap (2nd)
Will - Coverage

The differences are again the alignments. The right DE needs to work to contain through the B gap. The Will drops into coverage from the LOS. One advantage of using the West front for pressure is the ability of the defense to drop a LB, not a DL, into coverage. The Will already knows how to execute the pass drops so there is little new teaching.

The defense also has flexibility to run concepts found in 4 man front defenses.

Here the defense aligns in the South front and runs TCU's Blue coverage. Blue is a 2 read concept. If this type of coverage is being taught it can also be run from the base 3 man line stack alignment. The versatility doesn't stop there. Elements of this coverage can be used in the pressure package.


The blitz is Monster from the West front. Against 2x2 the coverage is a Blue (2 read) coverage concept. 

vs. 3x1 the coverage is 3

If the defense is already teaching cover 3 and Blue these types of pressure coverages have a low investment cost.  The players dropping in coverage are LB and DB. When the defense uses South/West to drop a player from the LOS it is a LB who practices the coverage every day.

Concepts like South and West allow a 3-3 stack team to morph into a 4 man front. The best part is there is limited new teaching for the DL and LB. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Link Blitz

Good post by Alex Kirby about watching film.

Info and Coaching Points about coaching a 2 gap nose in odd front defense.

Nice breakdown of a 6 man cover zero blitz from the Dallas Cowboys.  As always a really good write up from Coach Light. Gotta love a 4 from a side blitz with cover zero behind it.

Article about Don Brown the former Boston College and new Michigan Defensive Coordinator. There is some video of Boston College football clinic from 2014 with video cutups.

Good article about evaluating your pass protection execution by Keith Grabowski. These same evaluations can be inverted to help evaluate your defense's pass rush.

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Years Resolutions

I want to wish everyone a happy and prosperous 2016. I have three goals for in the coming year.

#1. My first goal is to write 100 posts this year. That is more than double what I wrote in 2015. Hopefully I am able to make this happen.

#2 I want more guest authors to share their knowledge and schemes. If you are interested in writing something to be posted on Blitzology shoot me an e-mail at

#3 Integrate more video into the website.