Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Align to Win Part 1

In an effort to give our defensive front the best chance to win, we try to coach the game within the game. The offense has tendencies based on how they line up and we are going to use those tendencies to help ourselves do our jobs. Good defenses react, great defenses anticipate. 

Take a standard 4 man even front with a 4-2 box. The easy alignment explanation is:

DE's - 5 technique 
DT - 3 tech
Nose - Shade

LB's - Ability to play open A and B Gap.

But do those simple alignments give us the best chance to win each play? If you watched a cut up and keyed the DT in a 3 tech, is he always aligned the exact same way?  Should he be? Maybe a 3 technique isn't always just outside shade on the guard. Maybe there is more to it.

Take a formation with the back aligned to the 3 technique side. The most obvious play, but certainly not the only play, for the offense is the inside zone read. With the back aligned away, the Nose and End will widen their alignments. Those 2 know the OL's blocks are coming to them with the RB aligned away. The Nose in a Wide alignment may align physically where a 2i would align but will have inside hand down inside foot back keying the Center. This alignment allows the Nose to leverage the Center's block well and control the A gap. The End has the width to set the edge. The Will is protected by the width of the Nose's alignment, as the Guard doesn't want to hang the Center out vs. the Nose 1 on 1. The result is the Guard is typically not too fast to work up to the Will backer because he is providing body position for the Center. 

The alignment also effects the Mike fast flowing the A gap. The Center is forced to zone hard to the wide alignment nose opening the A gap for the Mike to press the LOS. The backside Guard is forced to zone hard to the Mike. This is why the DT has widened to a 4i. He is now 1 on 1 with the OT and wants to put is eyes on his work. Hands and eyes go to the OT and we expect to win that 1 on 1 consistently. The DT has a leverage advantage. The backside DE is a shuffle square player for QB and cutback. The 4i DT makes the cutback very difficult.

What if the defense wants to chase the DE to the dive instead. The Nose and DE would still go wide. The backside DT will go heavy 3 (almost head up) to force the OT and OG into an aggressive scoop block. The backside DE will heavy up and chase hard. The LB's now align in 20's to allow the Mike to scrape exchange for the QB. The Will plays B and rocks back. The Nose's wide alignment will force the ball to cutback to the chasing DE.

Inside zone read isn't the only play for the offense. 

If the back is flat the offense may be running stretch and is much less likely to run inside zone read. The DT backside will heavy up to make the backside scoop block as difficult as possible for the guard and tackle. Frontside the Nose will slide to a G (2i) alignment. By changing eyes and hands of the Nose from the Center to the Guard the Nose has a much better chance to beat the reach of the Center.

Another play from the flat back alignment is the power read play. Again having the DT in a heavy and the Nose in a G is advantageous. The DT is much better position to squeeze the block back by the Center. The Nose is much firmer against the down block of the guard in a 2i by bringing his eyes and hands to the guard. 

These simple adjustments can go a long way to helping defenders make plays. It is always the temptation as a defensive coach to think about all kinds of exotic schemes and stunts. Often times the best answer is your base defense. One strategy in game planning can be to avoid the "what call should we make here?" conversations and focus instead on how will we coach our guys to align to win.


  1. Believe in the G allignment..thoughts on setting the front,2×2,20p,3×1?

    1. Setting the front depends on what the offense is running and what coverage we are running. Generally we will have a plan for setting the front both strong/weak vs. any offense.

  2. Appreciate you! The wheels are spinning for our 3 Front.