Sunday, December 15, 2019

America's Blitz vs. Action Pass

Here is America's blitz variation from UCLA in a 3-4 spacing with 4i DE's.

The Rush:
DE to the A gap with the OLB crashing on a low track and the ILB scraping over the top to contain. Opposite the blitz the 4i and Nose are running a twist game.

The Coverage:
3 Under 3 Deep

This pressure is a nice 1st and 10 play call. The scrape pattern opposite the hip aligned blocker gives the defense good play vs. split zone and counter concepts. Also moving the DL to the hip player gives the defense play vs. strong side runs. The DL movement cuts off strong side runs forcing the ball carrier back into the blitzers. Here the offense tries to go play action with a split zone action using a full zone blocking. The two backs on the edge struggle with the pick up vs. the edge blitzer. This examples shows the pressure has good play against play action concepts too. Good coverage technique by the field side seam dropping safety to turn and find the crosser. Nice regular down and distance pressure concept from UCLA and Jerry Azzinaro.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Blitz the Formation

This site exists to have an in-depth thoughtful dialog about blitzing. I've heard the criticisms of blitzing for a long time.

Blitzing is guessing
Blitzing is too risky
Blitzes are great when they hit but too many times they are bad calls into the wrong look
Blitz is just something young coaches like to do before they know how to coach defense
Base defense is the safe/smart/correct way to play defense because it lets players Play Fast

I've seen coaches call a blitz into an unfavorable look then use that decision as confirmation bias. "See blitzing is reckless..." or "caught us in blitz..." Is it? Did they? Or was that a poor usage of that blitz? Is it the tool or operator error? 

Don’t tell me why we can’t blitz show me how we can blitz when & where we want it.

Enter Blitz the Formation concepts:

The term blitz the formation (BTF) has become a popular term. Like all concepts in football there is NO universal terminology. Generically BTF is a blitz that adjusts based on the formation. This broad definition places a great many concepts under the umbrella term BTF. 

One common place the BTF terms show up is in pressures that adjust to a specific indicator.

Here is a simple example of blitzing based on the RB location. The pressure is an America's blitz variation set to the RB with a twist opposite and back stopped with 3 under 3 deep firezone coverage.

vs. 2x2

vs. 3x1

The call is going to be a blitz regardless of the formation. The pressure is adjusted based on the alignment of the RB. This can be a great strategy in the appropriate game plan situation. But what if the scouting report doesn't lead to a plan that wants to blitz every formation? What is the solution if you only want to blitz one formation structure and not others?

One solution is a BTF concept we call Blitz Automatic.

Blitz Automatic - We are making a call but are going to auto check into a pressure vs. a specific formation structure. 

General Rules:
The calls we are blending together need to exist in the same spacing. It can become confusing to go through an extreme change and move 10 of 11 players to make a check. We want to be game planned up but not unreasonableIdeally the pre-snap defensive alignment and presentation won't change too much from call A to call B. 

We need to use one word calls. To get everyone on the same page we need simple ways to communicate pre-snap on the field. Which call are we in: A or B? Can you communicate it quickly on the field with a mouthpiece in? Also players have to comfortable with the calls. . Players have to get reps of both A and B to have the confidence to run either based on a quick pre-snap call. We must master the parts before we can use them together.

We need a practice plan to get it learned. These are game plan specific calls. The majority of our practice work on a Blitz Auto concept will be in-week and in-season. That isn't a lot of time or reps. What is our weekly teaching progression to get it executed on game day?

Game planning Regular D&D (1-10 and 2nd Down on schedule) 
Open field (No red zone or backed up or other special situation)
10 personnel

In 2x2 RB Strong/Weak and 3x1 with the RB strong the offense has balance and variety lacking any stand out strong tendency. However, in 3x1 with the RB aligned weak the offense has a strong tendency to make the RB flat and run power read. 

Basketball = Blitz Auto

Spurs - 4 Down Over front with 3 Match Coverage auto checked to a strong edge pressure vs. 3x1 with RB weak

Call structure
The call will come in from the sideline Spurs. The Mike LB will communicate the "Over" call to set the front and either Trio (3 match) or Scrape (strong pressure). The secondary will communicate the coverage adjustments.

vs. 2x2 and allows for a 6 man box and 3 match coverage

vs. 3x1 with the RB strong the coverage is a flooded cover 3 with weak rotation. This allows for the Mike to be out of RPO conflict and to build a 6 man box.

vs. 3x1 with the RB weak the pressure is the check. This allow for 2 off the edge vs. the power read play. By starting in 2 high and holding the pressure the goal is to show a look the offense wants to run their top play into. The 2 off the edge gives the read to give directly into the blitzing Mike. Multiple studies show drives with a TFL result in no points 80% the time. This is a great opportunity to create a TFL.

This type of concept allows us to have a blitz plan for the situation we want it. Are we going to only call Spurs? Of course not but we do want to have a plan to attack a tendency that exists. If we don't like a specific pressure concept or plan vs. other formations, why call it? Lets play a base defensive call when the scouting report doesn't show strong tendencies. Lets keep ourselves out of blitzing a look we don't want to blitz/lack certainty and heat up the looks we want to pressure.

Example Practice & Install Plan for a Blitz Auto

This is a plan for the overall practice. We will also of course work the blitz technique and pressure pattern within individual and group periods.

Sunday - Players off

Monday - Install on the white board followed by a cutup to show then when and how we will use the call. Walk thru reps. We walk and talk the concept and give the players the chance move and execute the call. We will use garbage cans and live bodies at receiver.

Tuesday - Pre-practice run thru will be much more uptempo version of Monday. When going against scout team the call will be hard called. We will call and run Scrape vs. 3x1 gun weak and call and run Trio vs. the other formations. We won't make any Spurs calls. Why? We want the focus to be on executing the call so we can get good at the call vs. the formation and plays.

Wednesday - Pre-practice run thru. This time the defensive signal coach will be behind the defense. The defense is forced to turn their back to the formation (No Peeking). Once the formation is set by the coach running the scout look the defense gets the signal and turns. This forces the defense to get the call, turn and see the formation, make the ID, communicate, and run through the call. In scout period will will make some hard calls and some Spurs calls.

Thursday - Pre-practice walk thru will slow down and show motion adjustments. What do we do if they move us into or out of our blitz automatic. Against scout we will show both motion and no motion.

Friday - In the film room we will do choir practice. Players will get a signal from coach and turn to the film. Everyone must go through their pre-snap communication and then we play the play on film. This allows players to interact with the film and take mental practice reps. Each week we have a cutup and script for this choir practice meeting. On the practice field we will have a run thru what will be uptempo with reactions and execution.

Saturday - Execute the plan

The Spurs plan is a simple example of a blitz auto. There are countless blitz auto concepts that can be built to apply pressure when and where we want it. As players learn and get comfortable with weekly blitz auto concepts the ability to go into the lab to build more complex automatics is very possible. Blitzing is a defensive tool. Our goal is to be masters of using the tool effectively. There are many systems to build blitz the formation concepts into a defense and get the most out of pressure.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Attacking Counter with DL slants in the 3-4

Oklahoma is running a GT pull counter from a 2 back formation.

Even with the strong DE slanting outside the offense has good angles and numbers on the defense. The Will backer is going to have to deal with the play side OT. The offense has 3 (RB, Guard, Tackle) for the defense's 3 (Down Safety, Mike, DE). The defense does have an unblocked defender. Unfortunately the plus one defender is the Jack OLB on the backside of the play. Pre-snap the picture looks good for the offense. Post-snap the Will linebacker is able to get a run through and make the tackle due to the slant of the Nose and backside DE.

Play side the safety and DE set an edge and get help from the Mike playing over the top of the inside releasing OT. With an edge play side the backside of the defense can chase the play down from behind. The Nose is slanting strong. The slant attacks the guard who is blocking back, limiting any movement on the Nose. The Center is blocking back on the 4i DE aligned in the B gap. When the DE moves outside the Center ends up in no man's land unable to block the slanting DE and unable to redirect to the Will. The Will attacks the LOS and gets a run through in the seam created by the Nose and the Center chasing the DE. This could be a snap blitz from the Will. Regardless of it being called or a reaction the Will can be fast because the defense has the DE and folding Jack LB for any QB keep or cutback runs. 

Good stuff from UCLA and Jerry Azzinaro.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Handling Four Strong Route Concepts in Fire Zone Coverage

Here is a fire zone pressure clip from Alabama. The Tide are in a Dime personnel with OLB bodies as the DE's.

The Rush:
The Mike covers the center creating a bear spaced front with all 5 OL covered. The Rush backers on the edges are contain. The strong DT is moving inside to the midline. The Dime  takes a path through the DE's heels creating a full speed straight line run to the QB.

The Coverage:
3 under 3 deep fire zone 

The initial path of the Dime fools the RB into taking a wide path. When the Dime goes through the heels of the up field DE, the RB struggles to redirect and make the pick up.

The coverage does a great job handling the 4 verticals from a 4 strong formation.

The formation presents 4 receiving threats to the strong side of the formation. The Mike is the seam dropper relating to the #2 receiver. In this formation the #4 strong is also #2 receiver weak. Weak side the corner is playing an aggressive man style technique with limited coverage help. To the strong side there is a choice to make about the strong corner's technique. The corner could play a divider zone technique deep 1/3. Instead the corner bails to man style technique leaning on the #1 receiver. The Nickle in the seam is playing match-carry-deliver seam technique. With the #2 receiver vertical the Nickel carries the route. With the RB #4/#2 blocking strong the drop down safety has inside help from the weak seam dropping Mike LB. The safety and LB do an excellent job of passing the route. The Mike gets is eyes outside to see the threat and makes a man turn and rolls back with the vertical from the #3 (once the route distributes it is the new/final #2). The drop down safety is able to pass the inside vertical and zone off over the top of the RB who becomes the new/final #3.

This is a good understanding of a four strong formation and how to pass and match the route distribution from Alabama. Good stuff from Pete Golding and Nick Saban.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

A Gapped Mugged Zone Under Man Pressure

Here is a clip of the 2016 Patriots running a zone under man pressure coverage. The coverage shares many similarities to quarters coverage.

The Patriots are in a 4-2-5 nickel personnel with OLB bodies as the DE's.

The Rush:
Nickel off the edge with the DT and Mike pressuring their gaps. The field side rush is working a long loop over the top of the penetrating DT and LB.

The Coverage:
The Corners and Safeties are playing man coverage while the two drop LB's are working inside the #2 receivers to deny hot throws.

The protection ends up taking on a man to man principle with all the OL covered. The RB works inside to help with the A gap rush threat. The Rush looping pulls the OT's eyes and feet inside leaving the Nickel free off the edge. With no safety rotation it is very difficult to ID the Nickel as a pass rush threat pre-snap.

This coverage concepts shows up in the 2006 Eric Mangini Jets Defense

It also shows up in the 2010 playbook from Romeo Crennel in Kansas City

In this concept the Palms coverage is only played vs. 2x2 and the coverage converts to a 3 under 3 deep vs. any 3x1

This coverage concept can help mitigate some of the 2x2 formation risk associated with being in a 3 deep fire zone coverage. The risk of verticals often requires a firezone coverage to carry the #2's vertical with the seam dropper. If the defense doesn't want to match the #2 receivers in the seam with underneath droppers this coverage allows the defense to use DB's on all four vertical pass threats while maintaining a strong coverage presence in the seams for hot throws.

Good stuff from former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. No doubt Bill Belichick had a hand in this concept showing up all over in his coaching tree. 

Friday, December 6, 2019

2 Under 3 Deep Overload Blitz

Here is an overload pressure from the Colts in a Dime personnel.

The Rush:
The Colts cover the center and go 5 at the LOS with two wide DT's and the mugged up Mike creating a bear front look. The strong DE is up the field for contain. The DT's are looping weak. The Nickle is up and under, the Dime is down the middle of the strong guard. The Mike bluffs dropping out including turning his shoulders to sell a drop out off the LOS. The Mike then adds back into the rush in the A gap. 

The Coverage:
2 Under 3 Deep 

The up and under by the Nickel creates a straight line path to the QB through the heels of the contain DE. The RB scanning across the formation has a tough pick up on a full speed blitzer. Having a DT and DE weak holds the guard and tackle away from the pressure and forces the Center to travel back with the strong DT. The Center has no way to know the weak side guard is going to be freed up. The Mike bluffing a drop out gets lost by the pass protection and when he re-inserts himself in the rush he is free in the A gap. Good execution from the Colts and nice pressure concept from Matt Eberflus

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Bear Front Green Dog

Simple example of using bear front and cover 1 with green dog technique to get a 6 man pass rush.

The Rush:
The DE and DT are working a twist with the DT penetrating and the DE going up and under. The Mike is walked up rushing the B gap and Rush backer is off the edge as contain.

The Coverage:
Cover 1 with the Dime using a green dog rush to cover technique. When the RB blocks the Dime adds into the pass rush.

This is a simple concept with well executed nuance.

The looping DE does a great job of pushing up the field before working his inside move. The inside move is tight through the heels of the penetrating DT. The timing and path allow the DE a full speed straight line path to the QB. 

The down safety and dime both show pressure to the TE side and opposite the RB. The threat of pressure helps force the OL into a hard slide in this half slide protection scheme.

The DT aligned on the center is working a bull rush type technique which:
1. Occupies the Center preventing the Center from helping on the looping DE
2. Forces the Guard in the slide to set to the midline leaving the RB on the Mike and creating a short edge for the green dogging Dime

The Dime is presenting pressure opposite the RB. As the slide of the OL sets the RB is left one on one with the LB in the B gap. The Dime's positioning allows for an extremely efficient path to the QB. The Dime keeps his path tight off the blitzing LB's hip, stays square, and has low pad level to allow for quick change of directions. Similar coaching points to a looper on any LOS twist game.

Well executed details from the Eagles and good design from Jim Schwartz.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Cover 1 Peel Blitz

Here the Jaguars are in a 3-3-5 nickel personnel

The Rush:
Ends are contain with peel responsibility to cover the RB on any route crossing face. The Nose is working weak opposite the crossfire action from the Mike and Will. The weak side down safety is going depth and under into the B gap.

The Coverage:
Cover 1 with the edge rushers peeling for the RB.

The pass protection is a 5 man scat with the RB free releasing. Being in a scat protection forces the OL to block the 5 most dangerous threats. The guard has eyes on the mugged up Will LB. When the backer drops off and the Mike triggers to blitz the A gap the guard's eyes and feet are pulled to the strong side to help pick up the nose working away from the cross fire. The Guard working strong creates the run through for the B gap blitzing safety. The scat release RB is eaten up by the DE on the peel technique. Good design and execution from Jacksonville.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Under Front Plug Pressure

Here is a classic simple under front pressure from the Panthers.

The Rush:
Will LB blitzing his open A gap.

The Coverage:
Cover 1 with the edge rushers peeling on the RB

This pressure has good versatility on 1st and 10. The plug of the A gap by the blitzing Will backer can be an effective run stunt. Here the pressure is too fast for the RB on the pickup off play action. Simple effective call from Carolina and Eric Washington.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

2 Under 3 Deep Overload Blitz

 2 Under 3 Deep has gained popularity in college football from Michigan St, Pitt, Clemson etc. Here is an example from the NFL.

The Rush:
Roll down safety off the edge, Dime in the B gap, bull rush DE and A gap DT create a weak side overload. 

The Coverage:
2 Under 3 Deep with the weak side corner playing an aggressive technique on the single side WR

Using zone coverage against the bunch is a good way to let routes distribute and allow for an effective cover down. Zone technique by the underneath droppers also helps the defenders avoid being picked which is the risk in man coverage. The overload pressure creates four from a side weak. Against a half slide concept four to the man side should force a hot throw. The issue for the QB is it isn't clear there will be four weak rushers. Typically a six man rush with four weak requires a cover zero coverage look. The sight picture strong and weak both show zone coverage and it is. Six man overload pressure is very unexpected from this look. Good stuff from Romeo Crennel and the Texans.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Tampa 2 Corner Sim Pressure

Tampa 2 sim pressure from Tennessee. The Titans are in a sub personnel with  2 DL, 3 LB, and 6 DB bodies.

The Rush:
Corner is pressuring in an inside pass rush lane taking an angle off the DE who is working up the field. The linebacker is working to balance to the rush and the strong DE is contain.

The Coverage:
Tampa 2 concept with the two high safeties both rotating weak to play the weak side flat and half concept.

Pre-snap the coverage looks like a two high concept. The coverage rotates which typically indicates a one high safety concept however this is double rotated with the Nickel to the field also rotating to build a two high coverage. This is an interesting way to generate more pass rush from a four man rush and play Tampa 2. Good stuff from Dean Pees and the Titans. 

Friday, November 29, 2019

Disguising Nickel Firezone

Nice disguised zone dog from the Tennessee Titans. The Titans are in a sub personnel with  2 DL, 3 LB, and 6 DB bodies.

The Rush:
Nickel off the edge with the two DL going up and under. The LB is working across the center to balance the pass rush. The weak side LB is the contain rusher.

The Coverage:
3 under 3 deep firezone with the safeties rotating at the snap. The weak side corner is play a tight aggressive technique on the single WR side.

The pre-snap presentation shows the Nickel as a none blitz threat. With the weak side safety down and a safety in the post the initial sight picture is there will be no roll down safety to replace the Nickel if he pressures.

The Titans do a nice job holding the pressure and rolling the safety late to the strong side seam and using the weak side safety to run out to become the post player. Having a DB body mugged up in the weak side A gap but still having the speed and athleticism to get to  the 3 drop is a big piece to making this call successful. The presence of 6 rush threats at the LOS holds the OL inside and prevents an OL from pass setting out to the Nickel off the edge. The RB does a great job in protection scanning from weak to strong to have a chance to pick up the blitz. The Nickel does an even better job winning the one on one vs. the scanning RB. Good pressure design, disguise, and execution from the Titans and defensive coordinator Dean Pees. 

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Tampa 2 Sim Pressure

Here is a well designed sim pressure from the NY Jets.

The Jet are in a nickel personnel with 2 DL, 3 ILB, 1 OLB (X) and 5 DB bodies.

The Rush:
Up & under pass rush from the DE's and edge pressure from the nickel and weak side safety.

The Coverage:
The pre-snap presentation is 1 high. Post snap the coverage rotates to a Tampa 2 variation.

The walked up LB bodies inside help hold the protection inside. The up & under by the DE's helps create short edges for the DB's. Creative design with excellent disguise from the Jets and Gregg Williams.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Pressure vs. Empty

Here is a well designed pressure from LSU vs. an empty formation from Alabama.

Alabama goes 00 personnel and LSU matches with a multiple DB sub package on 3rd & 6.

There is only one DL body on the field but the front is a very traditional 4 down alignment with two 3 techniques and two A gap mugged up rushers. The difference is 5 of the players at the LOS are in 2 point stances. The presentation is a 6 man blitz with 1 DL, 3 LB and 7 DB bodies on the field

The Rush:
The 3 techniques convert from B gap to contain rushers and both A gap rushers are in the pressure. Both of the aligned edge rushers drop to coverage. End result is a basic four man pass rush concept.

The Coverage:
Split field coverage concept with a four over three coverage tool to the field and three over two coverage tool to the boundary. 

This structure allows LSU to rush 4 and drop 7 using a traditional 4 down pass rush and split field quarters coverage on the back end all while creating a run through in an A gap. By using sub personnel the Tigers are able to get skilled players into the coverage drops and still generate a pass rush. For the "Well Bama/the OL should have just...." crowd. The OL is in a big time bind here. They have to block most dangerous as there are only 5 OL for 6 pass rush threats. "Protect inside first...."  sounds like a good strategy until you consider personnel. If the OL slides the protection leaving an edge rusher free the inside rush would in principle be blocked. In that situation the OL would also be freeing up either #3 (currently leads LSU in sacks) or #18 (4th currently on LSU in sacks) off of one of the edges. The OL doesn't know if one, both, or neither of the edge guys will drop. Which is the bigger threat: A gap mugged DB or a top sack guy off the edge? Good design and usage of personnel from Coach Aranda and great execution from the LSU defense.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Defending the Green Zone

There are many ways to define field zones and use that information for game planning purposes. When an opposing offense crosses midfield here are the field zones we use.

Goalline - 1-3 yard line

Lo-Red - 4-10 Could push past the 10 if the offense's breakdown data dictates a change. For example if a team has similar tendencies from the 4-12 we will define the lo-red as being 4-12 yardline instead. On other teams where I have worked we called this area the hot zone.

Hi-Red - 11-25 The range will be adjusted and could be shorter or longer than the 25. The adjustment is based on our special teams scouting report. The range of the kicker determines the Hi-Red for us. If the kickers range for makeable FG's is out to the 30 the hi-red will extend to the 30 for example. Also game day may alter the hi-red. A windy or bad weather day, poor field conditions for footing, or struggles by the kicker may result in game day alterations to the hi-red's definition.

Green Zone - 25-35 This zone is adjusted based on the hi-red and offensive philosophy. This area is the Green Zone because the offense is more likely to go for it on 4th down (Green means Go). The special teams scouting report plays a role in this area as well. If a team has a great directional punt they may punt in this field zone and play field position. However many teams have opted to instead be in a go for it on 4th and not punt in this area. A touchback on a punt in this range does not net much field position advantage. Also there is analytic data about going for it on 4th down being effective. This is an area where going for it on 4th down has many upsides. The game state matters as well. Game state is our term for the category of factors that affect play calling in general. The time, score, previous drive outcomes, etc. alter a team's philosophy generally and also apply in this area of the field. This zone is the most interesting area to call plays in my opinion. The complexity is very high. 

Team could call normal 3rd down and follow up with a specialized 4th down play (think 2pt type play).

Team could call normal 3rd down and follow up with a 3rd down call on 4th down.

Could play 3rd down like 2nd down and try to stay on schedule. Then call 4th as a 3rd down.

Could play 3rd down like 2nd down and take a more aggressive shot knowing 4th down is going to be available.

Offense can call two plays at once and go tempo. Allows the offense to try to steal a 1st down by getting on the ball and rapid fire running the 3rd and 4th down calls.

Offense can go into a 4 down mode but stop and re-evaluate based on 3rd down outcome. 

There are many strategies for the offense and defense in the green zone. It is also challenging because this is an area with a lack of data. How many plays does the offense/defense have in a scouting report in the green zone or 4th down? It is a fascinating play calling situation.

Managing the green zone can directly lead to wins and losses. A couple season ago a team I was coaching with was in a dog fight game. We were up by 3 with the ability to run the clock out on our final possession assuming we got 1 more first down. Our offense had the ball and drove across midfield into the green zone. Following a 3rd down that set up a 4&4 the head coach told the offensive coordinator we were in 4 down territory. This was not a great game management situation for our team. The :40 clock was already running. The OC had not treated the 3rd down as a 4 down play call. His assumption was play it safe and we will punt and play defense with the lead to win the game. This was also my assumption. The go for it on 4th decision came as a complete surprise to everyone. Now the OC had likely misused his 3rd down play call and was rushed into a poorly called 4th down. After the game he was not happy with his 4th down call. Also this was not a situation we had invested enough time on in practice.

We did not convert, turnover on downs. The opponent crossed midfield and kicked and made a FG over 10 yards past their kicker's typical range. Tie game and off to overtime and an eventual loss.

New team but that green zone lesson has stuck with me. Now green zone is a situation we practice particularly against our offense. This area is not as dynamic to practice when scripted. Similar to 2 minute, a scout team cannot give you a green zone situation look like your offense can.

We start off and it is known the offense is going for it on 4th down. Later we do it where the offense is either in 3 down or 4 down mode but the defense does not know which. This forces the defense to make calls using judgement and adjust on the fly. Other days we will start a move the ball period on the negative side of midfield. If they get across midfield, they can play the green zone with the possibility of 4 down play calling. We will also use green zone as the start to a red zone period. If they get out of the GZ the RZ plays start. Another practice period is just a move the ball scrimmage type period only the offense has to go for it on 4th down. The 4 down play calling can have situational application for in game defending 4th down and 4 down mode 3rd down play calling. These situations can also help inform play calling in 2 minute, green zone, and 2 pt plays where 4th down and must convert situations must be defended. Some interesting practice periods can be built around the green zone. These periods help both the offense and defense call and play better situational football. 

These situations have lead to growth in our philosophy on green zone play calling, handling 4 down situations and have helped us develop our green zone/4th down section of the game plan/call sheet.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Defending Flex Bone

I was looking on an old flash drive today and found some instructional video I did a few years ago on defending flex bone option. So I figured I would share.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Book Club

Non-football book this month. This book is fascinating. An economic reporter wrote about the drug trade by looking at it as if it wasn't an illegal enterprise. How would the business model be evaluated from a purely economic perspective? How could that economic information inform the approach to drug regulation and law enforcement? This book is an easy, interesting read and simply provides a view of the drug trade from an entirely new perspective. 

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Pop Up Clinic

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Cover 1 Double #1

This is a guest post from Chris Vasseur. Chris is currently the Defensive Coordinator at Clovis HS in California. He is also the host of the Deep Dive on Defense Podcast for USA Football. Vass is always learning and talking football if you have questions about this article or are looking for good football info follow him on twitter @CoachVass. When I asked if he would write something for the site he asked "Can I tell a story?" So here is a story from a great football coach and a great friend. -Brian

The story of how I did everything you’re not supposed to do for the biggest game of my life and not be fired from the coaching profession

In 2017, I faced a monumental task of coaching against a school with what would end up being the #1 offense in the country, in a state championship game.  They had a QB with offers from USC, UCLA, FSU, and Arizona State, where he ended up going, a RB that would end up at Arizona, and scariest of all, a WR named Darren Jones (who will be referred to as #1 the rest of the piece). #1 is 6’8 and had over 2000 yards receiving in one year.  Their #2 and #3 (hell, their #4, #5, and #6 WRs) were pretty good as well.  Not to mention a 6’6 245 pound DE who doubled as a TE in jumbo packages, with offers from Alabama and Texas A&M among others, coming in to play TE next to Randy Moss Jr. on short yardage downs.  We were outmatched, to say the least.  To make matters worse, we found out this team was our opponent on a Sunday morning, and had to play the state game on Friday at 4 pm.  We didn’t have a lot of time…

I turned the film on and was terrified.  They were every bit as good as I thought they would be… really, even better – they were explosive, crisp, and well coached.  Their schemes were varied, effective, yet simple enough to be done while going fast.  After having what my friends call my patented Chris Vasseur Meltdown™, I started tagging the games.  As I was tagging this team, I realized their best run was when the QB, Jayden Daniels would scramble.  It was the most explosive run they had, and it was going to hurt us if we didn’t do something differently.

I am a 4-2-5 guy to my core.  After starting my career as a student assistant at the University of Miami for a brief time, where I learned the Miami 4-3, I went to work at San Jose State as a Graduate Assistant doing football video.  There my met my mentor, Keith Burns, who taught me the “G Defense,” but with a twist.  He was one of the first guys to play those OLBs as DBs types and checked to Quarters vs. one back.  After a few years coaching high school football, I wanted more flexibility, so I studied the TCU defense.  To say I fell in love is putting it mildly; I learned every detail and it became an obsession.  I stalked TCU GA Brandon Lechtenberg who felt sorry for me and allowed me to pick his brain.  We kept in touch and a year and a half later, he hired me as his Corners coach at Millsaps College.  I learned the defense and exclusively studied it for six years.  There was only one way to coach defense – the Gary Patterson way.  That is until this fateful Sunday.

As I watched this team, I realized that our 4-2-5 defense would hurt us – we are a man match Quarters team and this team flared their back quite a bit.  If we matched the “Fast 3,” it would be a 4-0 box and the QB would take off and run all day.  We were thin at DL and moving guys around to compensate. Changing position and trying to mastering pass rush lanes ain’t easy five days before the biggest game of your life.  Plus, if we did attempt to cage him, we would just be sitting there and letting him have all day in the pocket to throw.  I also knew we needed to double their stud WR (#1) – there was no way around it. I was starting to think we needed to play 3 down, something I had NEVER done as a base.  I was afraid it would be too much to put in and I didn’t know it well.  Plus, can you REALLY throw your defense out five days before a state championship game!?   The previous year, we had started 0-4, won 10 in a row, and lost the state game in a heart breaker.  We were back in the big dance and I wondered out loud if it was really smart to do this?   So I called two of my closest confidants, Chris King, DC of St. John Bosco in Bellflower, CA and Brian Vaughn, the owner of this website.  I didn’t want to give them my thoughts, especially about switching to 3 down – I wanted their opinion without tainting their perspective. 

I kept watching the film, scribbling down ideas, and as the night fell, I heard back from both guys.  Both coaches, at that time to my understanding, were “4-2-5 guys.”  As we talked about the opponent, they started echoing the same things I saw – the QB scrambling was their scariest run, their line was physical, and I had to figure out a way to double the 6’8 WR with 2000 yards receiving.  But the most striking advice is what I had thought but didn’t disclose: “you should think about playing 3 down with two 4is sprinkled in.”  That previous spring I had visited my former boss (and now current boss), Rich Hammond.  I was there clinic-ing his DC and in the evening, we exchanged ideas.  During that time, he had shown me Dave Aranda’s Tite front.  To show you how smart I am, I looked at it with my 4 down snobbery and I believe my exact quote was, “there are no edges, there is no pass rush… this is #$&!ing stupid, I’d never @%&$ing do this.”  (Coaches… as a sidebar, never ever never ever ever question the wisdom of Dave Aranda EVER).  Now, 4 ½ days before kickoff, I am trying to figure it out with zero resources, cursing myself for not paying more attention to Rich. I called our head coach at Serra, Patrick Walsh, and told him we would roll the dice and switch things up.  Coach Walsh has many amazing qualities, but one of his best is trusting his assistant’s judgment and having faith in them.  Coach Walsh blessed the overall plan and shared the sentiment that we needed to do something different.

So the basic plan was this:  On run/playaction/RPO downs, play Tite front with Quarters/Palms away from #1 and Cover 5 Wall (TCU’s version of Man Match Cover 2) to the side of #1.  We had played these coverages before so we were in familiar territory.  If it was Trips, we would play Special/Stubbie/Mini/Lock to the Trips and take our Dime and press the X WR on the backside with a 1/2 defender over the top, where #1 usually played.  We had some other ideas to pick our spots in the blitz game, getting into 4 down and play Cover 1 if we had problems stopping the run, and a way to revert back to our base defense if everything went to hell.

The next question became, what would we do on passing downs?  Chris and Brian provided some great ideas and I combed ideas I keep in a super secret doc (don’t bother asking it’s going to my grave), that is about 250+ pages of stuff I have seen, done, wanted do, organized by types of offenses, formations, personnel groups, defending certain people, etc. The problem with defending #1 besides him being Megatron reincarnated is that he played all four receiver spots in 2x2 and 3x1, even lining up at some tailback.  As our Safeties coach Lyndon McGee created the hit chart for his routes based on where he was, I kept looking and racking my brain.  I was on the phone with Blitzology (that’s his real name, don’t act like it’s not) and he sent me a picture of a rotational Cover 3 concept that would self adjust no matter where #1 was.  I loved the idea as we had planned on doing something similar for base downs, but we don’t play Cover 3.  As he was talking it dawned on me: play Cover 1 Double Jersey #!  

One of my closest friends in this business is James Light.  James has done more for me than I will be able to repay and I feel so lucky that I get to call him a friend.  If it weren’t for him, I am not friends with Chris, I never go to Georgia which got me on the Saban Tree defensive journey that I am on, and my best friend is not the Offensive Coordinator at St. John Bosco.  Cover 1 Double Jersey # is a coverage James had tweeted about and I always was intrigued.  The basic premise of the coverage is that you double the WR you want to stop with the deep safety to the side he is on, and the other deep safety plays the MOF.  From there, you decide on the type of bracket you use vs. each position the WR can line up at based on the routes they run.  To me, 1 Double # is more a concept then a specific set of rules.  You can put basic camp rules in, but it’s customized to stop a certain person so putting in “camp” rules doesn’t make much sense to me, if you’re just going to change it when you play the guy you need to double.  However, NFL teams put it in their playbook to practice in camp, where formations are more stagnant.  Note: Also, I only recommend using it if the WR moves around a lot.  If he is always the left WR, you can set your rules much easier, and don’t need to put the whole concept in, but I digress. 

I trust Coach Light and his endorsement alone was enough to make it worth doing.  However, he had some pretty good coaches backing up his assertion.  1 Dbl Jersey # is Bill Belichick’s go-to when playing a stud WR on passing downs and he has used it extensively throughout the years.  The most famous example is when he used 1 Dbl #83 (the player they are doubling is included in the call) to combat Andre Reed in Super Bowl XXV as the Defensive Coordinator for the New York Giants.  The plan worked so well that is enshrined in Canton, opened to the page containing 1 Dbl #83.

 Belichick has also used the coverage various times over the years vs. Chad Johnson.  A video excerpt of Belichick talking about it can be found here, even teasing Johnson before the game, telling him he was going to be doubled: 

It was also revealed that the Patriots deployed this tactic vs. the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI on Julio Jones, after a whiteboard with their gameplan on it was left un-erased.  Keen observers like James Light believe they have seen the coverage also used against Antonio Brown, T.Y. Hilton, Travis Kelce, Michael Thomas, Tyreek Hill, and Robert Woods in the Super Bowl in February.  It’s safe to say it’s been used many other times before, between Reed and Woods, before the dawn of “Football Twitter” to figure it out.

Another coach who used the coverage is Belichick protégé, Romeo Crennel.  To understand an example of the rules, here is a copy of the page from a 2010 Kansas City Chiefs playbook when Crennel was the Defensive Coordinator.

Also, here are some drawings from the 2015 Houston Texans playbook when Romeo Crennel was the Defensive Coordinator.

Another coach on the Belichick tree that has used the 1 Dbl Jersey # is Nick Saban.  In general, Saban prefers to use a coverage called 7 Special, which doubles the opponents’ best receiver inside of his man-matching quarters structure.  However, he used it more this past season than any other year, having it in the gameplan for AJ Brown (Ole Miss), Jonathon Johnson (Missouri), Ryan Davis (Auburn), Mecole Hardman (Georgia), Hollywood Brown (Oklahoma), and Hunter Renfrow (Clemson). Over the last five years, Coach Saban has had gameplans to double Christian Kirk (Texas A&M), Travis Dural (LSU), and again double A.J. Brown (Ole Miss) and Hunter Renfrow in 2017.

Belichick has also incorporated it into 5-man pressures where instead of rushing 5 and playing with a MOF safety, the MOF safety doubles the star player.  In the Super Bowl, the Patriots brought a variety of 5-man pressures and sometimes added a tag called “Dbl #17.”  This tag told the Deep Safety who is usually responsible for the MOF, to double Robert Woods.   Anyway, back to our opponent.

I decided we would use the bracket concept and now it was time to decide how we would go about it.  I called long time friend John Rice to get some different options.  Besides being a world-class football coach and an even more amazing man, Coach Rice literally wrote the book on facing an offense similar to our opponent.  John’s groundbreaking book entitled “Defending the Spread Offense” was one of the first books written on the subject and has stood the test of time.  I had the generic concept from the Chiefs and Texans playbooks, and how Belichick had employed it over the years, but I wanted to create a menu of options.  Coach Rice has written extensively about the bracketing concept, and we went through the pros and cons of each type.  I thumbed through his book as John sent me more materials, talking through each call.

After hanging up with Coach Rice, I called Coach McGee to decide how we would play each Bracket.  We poured over the hit charts he created, studying each route #1 ran at each receiver spot by formation, and how many times he was targeted. We began choosing the corresponding bracket to see how they would fit to each concept, and the plan became to crystalize. All of the brackets above are done with a 4-man front.  However, our plan was to go 3 down, put one ILB on the back and leave another LB in the box as a spy on the QB.  We decided to take a chance and move our starting X receiver to defense to match up with #1. We felt he was such a good athlete and we needed a big body to match up with #1, we decided to roll the dice.  The player I am talking about is Patrick Nunn who stood at about 6’3” and could jump out of the gym.  One problem: he hadn’t played Corner all year long, or really ever before.  He now plays Safety at Washington State, which he had played for us in spot duty that year.  The plan was to move him move around and follow #1 to whichever side he lined up on.  Deciding on the brackets when #1 was playing at an inside WR position was easy – the low guy would play outside and the deep Safety would play inside (the Deuce Bracket in drawing #1).  The problem was:  what happened when he played at the #1 WR?  The best choice there was to play 2 Man Under.  The issue to me was that it didn’t make sense to have a 6’4” Corner trailing a 6’8” WR with a 5’10 Safety playing over the top.  It made more sense to flip it – have the shorter guy trail and let our big guy go up and contest the Fade balls. 

So, we devised a way to handle it.  If #1 was lined up as an inside WR, we would “Deuce” him as the drawings show above (down DB outside, deep Safety inside).  If it was Trips and he was the #2 or #3, we would “Deuce Bracket” both the 2nd and 3rd receivers.  When #1 was inside, the ball was going there, so we decided to take our chances and play man-to-man outside on the outside receivers.

If #1 aligned as the outside receiver in 2x2 or as the outside receiver to the Trips side in 3x1, we would check “Screw.”  This meant the defender over #2 would slide over to #1, the player who was normally the 1/2 Safety would come down and play man trail on #2, and the stud Corner we had would come back and play the 1/2.  This is an older concept that used to be used on the backside vs. a X receiver called “Thumbs.”  If it was 3x1, we would cover the 3rd WR with the Dime who would come over.  If #1 was the single WR, the Weak Safety would go press #1, the stud Corner would back up and play the 1/2, flipping responsibilities.  Also, to help away from the rotation, we gave the Corners relief by making Bail calls so they weren’t one-on-one in press the entire game.  As we studied more, we realized that the team had a “tell” based on a certain condition (I will refrain from giving the tell out of respect to the opponent).  If X happened, it was 60% pass, but if Y happened, it was 99% pass.  So, our final base plan was to play Tite with 1/2s to the stud when X happened, and check to Wide 5s and play our new 1 Dbl #1 coverage, which we called, “Screw.”  Here are brackets from our game plan. NOTE:  These match ups were specifically tailored to what this opponent did.  I HIGHLY recommend that you do not copy and paste this plan.  Take the theory shown here, and use the example shown below, to create your own plan.  This coverage will not work if you don’t customize it to what you see.

The defensive staff had our weekly Sunday night Skype call session and I reviewed the plan with our staff.  Line coaches Nicholas “The Eagle” Walsh, Matt McGinn, and our Inside Linebackers coach Kevin Dos Remedios all loved the plan, and embraced the change of the front 3.  The plan was officially set, but there was one small problem: when Monday practice rolled around, our secret weapon, Patrick Nunn, wasn’t there (he got very sick the night before).  After crying on the inside when finding out that the lynchpin to our game plan was not there, I tried to find a silver lining.  Their #2 WR was also REALLY good – our plan called to matchup our best guy on their best guy AND double him.  I started to wonder what would happen if they start beating us with their second best WR who was usually one of the outside receivers, with outside receivers generally harder to double!  The old “Deion principle” popped into my head and I started doodling before practice.  When Deion Sanders played for the Cowboys, they would sometimes put him on the teams 2nd best WR.  They knew he could handle that guy one-on-one, so they erased him with Deion and would then double the opponent’s best WR with two guys.  This way, they had some balance in the plan and weren’t completely selling out to stop one guy that the Cowboys lost to their second best guy.  First and foremost, you always want to take a way what a team does best but if you are putting all your chips on black every play, they just gotta hit red a few times and you’re toast.  So, we took the field and worked the “Deion Plan” with our 2nd Corner doubling #1 and making all of the adjustments and our 1st Corner (our 3rd best guy standing in for that practice) traveling with the 2nd best WR.  Our other personnel woes included playing without our top two defensive tackles, a starting ILB, and having to start two sophomores in the secondary, one of whom wasn’t cleared until two days before the game after sitting out the previous few weeks.

The week went on and we practiced our new defense, with Patrick coming back to practice on Tuesday.  As fate would have it, our #2 Corner, Chris Park, missed a day of practice as well with some sort of ailment.  Only having the full secondary for one practice made me question what I was doing – I knew I was taking a risk, but I felt I had no choice.  It helped that I was able to show the kids the NFL playbooks and tell the story about this coverage in the Hall of Fame to distract them from the fact that I was slightly terrified and this could backfire, leaving me with egg on my face.  I was doing everything you’re told not to do when you start first start coaching.  To make matters worse, I really do love our defense.  I believe in it.  I can anticipate how people will attack and most importantly, I know how to fix it.  After our penultimate practice of the season, I called Coach McGee and almost pulled the plug on the plan.  We weren’t executing like I wanted and the kids were confused.  The lack of cohesion relative to personnel was exacerbating the discomfort for the players and the staff.  I forgot how close I was to calling it off until I Coach McGee and I reminisced about the game. However, I knew deep down that no matter how good we were with our base, we were going to get killed if we continued doing what we had done all year.  But you know what they say, no risk it, no biscuit.  And if you’ve seen me, you know I love biscuits (especially Red Lobster ones).

Game day came around and the plan was deployed.  In addition to an effective defensive gameplan, Now don’t get me wrong - I have been wrong plenty in my career.  I’ve miscalculated on things, had plenty of bad ideas, and made a slew of other boneheaded mistakes.  But on this day, the football Gods shined on the Serra Padres… the calculated risk, the plan, the personnel moves – everything paid off and worked like a charm.  The Tite front rush confused the QB as he thought he had an edge to exploit.  The back would flare, one backer would expand, but the other would sit over the middle.  The QB would start to roll to escape the pocket, as the 4is looped to contain.  The QB would stop and the daylight rusher would step up and sack him.  This happened four times in the 1st Quarter.  Our kids played out of their minds with effort and tenacity that was jaw dropping.  The opponent averaged anywhere from 260-280 pounds up front and our 3 DL averaged a little over 200 pounds, but they held point.  My fear was confirmed on the #2 WR playing against out #2 Corner.  After trying to throw to #1 with little luck, the offense found the matchup they wanted.  To counter this, we enacted the “Deion Plan” to create a moving target.  The offense started figuring out our adjustment, and started winning with #1 again, so I randomized where our Corners would go.  We started by playing field and boundary for a few snaps, then flipping them, then playing left and right and back to our match ups with stud on stud, and then back to the Deion Plan.  It was a real live game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” and I looked like a deranged conductor, flailing about.  

Our offense created a masterful plan to control the game.  Lead by current St. John Bosco Offensive Coordinator Steven Lo, the offense took control of the game and going into the last drive of the half, we were up 14-0.  Our Quarterback Luke Bottari took a shot in the ribs that briefly incapacitated him.  On the drive, Luke short armed a routine ball to a wide open receiver that would have put us up 21-0.  Instead, our opponent got the ball and drove to half field, before executing a Hail Mary to make it 14-7.  I ignored the advice of everyone in the stadium and didn’t deploy the “everybody-on-the-goal-line Hail Mary coverage.”  I didn’t like it, and I thought they would try Hitch n’ Pitch.  Why?  I don’t know – I guess I am a dumbass.  In the end, we had some guys there to make a play and he still out-jumped 4 defenders.  For the second week in a row, we were on the cover of MaxPreps for all the wrong reasons, with a great action shot of #1 towering above our boys to snag the ball out of the night sky (the previous week, Kazmier Allen set the national TD record for one season at 76, in a 30+ point win by us).  As we jogged to the locker room I couldn’t help but laugh.  Even though we had gotten embarrassed on the Hail Mary, I couldn’t believe the plan was working.

To start the 2nd half, Cajon drove 99 yards to make the score 14-14.  Our offenses responded.  With a wounded Quarterback and at one point, four Offensive Lineman that did not start the season (two season ending injuries, and two players who kept getting banged up during the game), we scored 24 unanswered points.  Our spread offense that averaged almost 50 points a game, switched to our short yardage/grind-it-out Double Tight, Double Wing package for the second half, only throwing 2 passes after halftime. Coach Walsh’s yearly crusade to develop depth at Offensive Line paid off, and flawless Special Teams coordinated by Ron Ortiz, we controlled the game on offense and played mistake-free football.

In the end, our opponent moved the ball between the 20s and actually outgained us, but we played lights-out Red Zone defense, created turnovers, forced coverage sacks, and most important, we were nails on 3rd Down. The plan was easier to execute because our opponent didn’t move #1 around much, besides flipping from one outside receiver position to the other.  The final was 38-14 and we were champions.  

I was stunned.  The gamble paid off.  We were able to bob and weave our way to victory with a once-in-a-lifetime game plan due to the uniqueness of the situation and the tell that allowed us to check coverages.  To this day, it is the happiest day of my life.  I will never forget the feeling and disbelief in winning a state championship, and in the process holding the #1 offense in the country to 14 points.  And it’s all because of some great players making plays and some scheme help from an array of coaches on and off our staff, Bill Belichick, James Light, Twitter, and the blog you are reading now. 

If you want to read more about the game, including quotes that helped me land my current job, you can go here.

Game Film

Clip 1 – first drive of the game and we had just given up a big play.  They were not expecting man and it looks like we had never played it before either.  They had 2 open guys, but we flushed him, helicoptered the QB, and forced a fumble.  That play never happens if our FS doesn’t make an INSANE, 100% effort, come-from-behind tackle.

Clip 2 – 2nd drive.  #1 is outside to the bottom of the screen.  Good coverage results in us forcing the QB out of bounds for a sack.

Clip 3 – 3rd drive – you can see the rotation and our kids’ ferocity. 

Clip 4 – 4th drive – great clip to show to see the coverage and the pass rush plan!  Tear in my eye

Clip 5 – Fitting the run on a Jet sweep.  They actually started running a lot more in the second half to try to get us to come down.  We weren’t having it.

Clip 6 – Allowed kids to bail to take away verticals, which I believe they only threw 3 or 4?  Probably my favorite clip.  210 pounds vs. 160… #5 who forced the fumble is a sophomore in the clip.  He was also our kicker the year before in the state game.  We had to pull him up as a freshman which is UNHEARD of where we coach.  He missed 2 extra points and we lost the state game by 2 points.  Redemption.

Clip 7 – good vice on the screen

Clip 8 – tried to hide #1 in a TE position.  Great coverage

Clip 9 – Hail Mary… they only have 10 guys on the field and still go up 1-on-4.  Our kids looked like they’d never seen a football before.  I jogged into the locker room laughing, because even with that play, I never thought we’d only give up 7 points in the first half.