Monday, October 19, 2020

Speeding Up Slow Developing Plays

One reason to call pressure is pressure changes the tempo of a play. Slower developing plays like play action pass and screen will not work on the timing they expect to operate on if pressure forces the play to happen more quickly. 

A 2nd reason to pressure is plays designed to manipulate defender's reactions in base defensive techniques can find difficulty creating the desired effect vs. pressures. A pressuring defender isn't making the same run/pass read like in a base defensive technique. Attempting to fool a defender is harder when the defenders actions were defined pre-snap and are less reliant on a post-snap read/reaction. 

Here are four examples from Week 6 in the NFL

Buccaneers are in base personnel on 1&10 vs. 12 personnel.


The concept is a simple ILB edge pressure backstopped with 3 under 3 deep fire zone. The pressure forces the RB to adjust to make his block off his play fake to pick up a full speed edge rusher. The defenders aren't manipulated. The rushers don't buy the run fake. The pass droppers know the pressure can disrupt run or pass allowing coverage players to be coverage players who react to run not primary run fitters. The QB's play action tempo is too slow for the tempo of the pass rush created by the pressure. 

Giants are in Nickel personnel on 1&10 vs. 21 personnel. 


The Giants are bringing a 4 man sim pressure rushing the Nickel off the edge backstopped by a 4 under 3 deep coverage. The usage of  21 personnel, motion to a 2 back formation, and flash fake are designed to hold underneath defenders. If the underneath defenders are held there will be space to throw the switch verticals in the void created between underneath droppers and deep zone defenders. The rush changes the tempo and creates immediate pressure in the QB's face. The zone coverage specifically the roll down Safety is unaffected by the play fake preventing a void in coverage from being created.

Patriots are in Dime personnel on 2&9 vs. 12 personnel.


The pressure is 6 man blitz backstopped with Cover Zero man. The man coverage player on the RB engage rushes to add a 7th rusher when the offense presents a 6th blocker. The plus one pass rush requires the QB to account for the unblocked rusher. The QB has little to no time to react to an unblocked rusher following the quick play fake. 

Steelers are in Nickel personnel on 2&8 vs. 11 personnel.


The Steelers bring a simple Nickel edge pressure sending the DE wide and Nickel on a low track backstopped by 3 under 3 deep fire zone. The Browns are running a RB screen that is well schemed and set up for a potential big play with 3 OL leading the way for the RB. There isn't time for the QB to set up and deliver the ball off the play action fake. The DE who makes the play is in principle going to be controlled by a down block from the OT, orbit WR reverse bluff, and a TE blocking across the formation. The DE is edge rushing as part of the pressure preventing the down block/reverse manipulation and is too fast off the edge for the TE's block. 

Great stuff from Todd Bowles, Patrick Graham, Bill Belichick, and Keith Butler. Pressure is a tool and sometimes the tool is used to speed up slower developing plays and prevent defender manipulation.



Thursday, October 15, 2020

Reading the Slide of the Protection

 The Dolphins are in a 2-4-5 Nickel personnel on 2nd 10.



The Rush:

The End and Will are rushing as contain rushers. The interior 4 are reading the blocks of the OL to determine if they rush or drop out to hot drops. In this example the right interior stay as rushers while the left interior rushers drop out. More on this concept later.

The Coverage:

Cover Zero man with 2 hot droppers. The Safeties are using engage hug rush technique, attacking their man responsibilities forcing the TE and RB to block the players covering them in man coverage. When the X goes in motion the Corner runs with and bumps the Nickel reassigning with the new formation.


The read of the protection is a straightforward idea: 

If the OL is blocking toward the LOS defender the defender doesn't want to run into a player set up to block him, drop out with zone eyes to help on hot throws. The pressure is overloading the protection the QB must get the ball out fast.

If the OL is blocking away from the LOS defender the adjacent OL then must be responsible for blocking him. By attacking the near hip of the OL the defender is reading, it will take the defender as far from the adjacent OL's block as possible and put him on the fastest path to the QB


In this example starting from left to right:

DE - Contain rush

Rush - Reading the Guard, G blocks to him drop to hot throw

DT - Reading the Center, C block to him drop to opposite hot throw

Rush - Reading the Center, C blocks away, penetrate off Center's near hip

Mike - Reading Guard, G blocks away, penetrate off G's near hip

Will - Rushing C gap, becomes contain rusher if TE and RB release on routes

Safeties - Engage rush the TE/RB


If the turn of the protection had been different:


DE - Contain rush

Rush - Reading Guard, G blocks away, penetrate off G's near hip

DT - Reading the Center, C blocks away, penetrate off Center's near hip

Rush - Reading the Center, C block to him drop to opposite hot throw

Mike - Reading the Guard, G blocks to him drop to hot throw

Will - Rushing C gap, becomes contain rusher if TE and RB release on routes

Safeties - Engage rush the TE/RB

In this example the Rush will attack the RB which both creates immediate pressure on the QB and prevents the RB from getting into a route. The RB blocking inside also allows the Safety to be free off the edge. The penetrators will again create stress on the interior of the protection with the OL setting away from them. 

These are the types of man blitzes that allow the defense to make the OL wrong no matter how they choose to block, help deny hot throws, and prevent rushers from running into OL set up to block them. 

Great scheme from Dolphins Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer and Head Coach Brian Flores. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Nickel Run Pressure

The Titans are in Nickel personnel on 1st 10 against the Bills in 11 personnel.

Following motion by the Y to the backfield the WR goes in motion.


The Titans travel the Nickel with the motion. This is a common Nickel adjustment on Change of Strength (COS) motions. The Nickel aligns to the pass strength, when the offense uses COS motion the Nickel often travels to maintain the Nickel being to the pass strength spacing of the defense. Many of the coverages in Nickel personnel want the Nickel aligned over the slot to the pass strength. 

The defense also reloads the front changing the alignments of the DT's and flipping the ILBs.


The Rush:

The Nose is ripping across Center (RAC), the DE is on the inside move with the Nickel coming off the edge.

The Coverage:

3 Under 3 Deep Fire Zone


The run is a lead scheme with the TE. The scheme is designed to handle the 6 box defenders with the 5 OL + TE to create a 6 vs. 6 matchup. 

The C/G combo is working to the Mike, the lead is working to the Will. If the Will fits outside the Y's block the ball should run inside the lead off the combo.


If the Will fits inside the Y's block the ball should run outside the lead.


If the Mike plays across the combo to vise the lead block with the Will, the ball should stay playside in the B gap.

In all three examples the blocking scheme doesn't/can't account for the Nickel as a 7th body in the box. 

The Bills motioned twice on the play. The motion forces the defense to move and in theory helps control the Nickel.

The Titans travel the Nickel with motion and edge pressure. The Nickel was pressuring strong and is still pressuring strong when the offense presents COS motion. The DT on the RAC disrupts the play by beating the Center with speed and interfering with the Y's lead block. The Nickel off the edge cannot be accounted for by the scheme. 

The offense is matching the run scheme to the defensive personnel. Defense is in Nickel, the run scheme is designed to attack a 6 man box Nickel personnel. The defense can disrupt the scheme with Nickel pressure. The offense knows this and attempts to account for the Nickel in the box with a Y motion followed by a COS WR motion. The Nickel travels with the motion but still edge pressures leading to a 3 yard TFL. This is the back and forth of football. 

Really good plan and execution from the Titans and Mike Vrabel. Nickel travel pressure is a tool in the defensive tool box to answer and offense's answer of motion to control edge pressure in the run game. Some coaches wonder why some defensive playbooks are thick and why a nickel travels strong pressure is even necessary. This situation shows why this tool exist, when you need to account for an offense's motion plan vs. Nickel personnel this can be a great tool to have in the toolbox. 




Sunday, October 11, 2020

Sim Pressure using Sting Coverage

The Broncos are in Nickel personnel with OLB bodies at the DE positions. The snap is on 1st 10 a 2min situation with Denver leading by 11 points.



The Rush: 
Both DT's are looping strong to balance the pass rush. The Rush OLB is wide with the ILB pressuring the B gap

The Coverage: 
4 under 3 deep Sting cover 3 coverage
 

The coverage concept of Sting has been featured on the site several times. Sting allows the defense to use 3 under 3 deep firezone teaching progression and techniques when playing 4 under 3 deep coverage. Continuity of Sim/Creeper coverage with Zone Dog coverages is a huge positive for defenses. 

The usage of Sting coverage allows the Nickel to carry #2 in the seam like fire zone. By contrast in a standard cover 3 distribution the Nickel would play the C-F and the OLB would drop to the strong hook. The OLB on the LOS isn't forced to get depth into the hook to cover the slot on the basic because the Nickel is carrying and the ILB is dropping with depth to #3. The free OLB can easily match the #3 on the check release to the flat. Denver is able to deny the basic to the slot with the Seam and 3RH droppers taking pressure off the OLB dropping from the LOS as well as efficiently deny a multilevel route from the offense. 

The pressure is a simple concept that isolates the RB in pass pro with the pressuring ILB. The Guard travels with the inside movement 3tech DT leaving the RB on the pressure LB in the B gap 1on1

This is another example of why teams use sim/creeper pressure. The defense can play a 7 man drop coverage while generating a pass rush. Very few traditional 4 man pass rushes can isolate a RB with a full speed rusher while wasting 4 OL on 2 DT's. The resource allocation is a major victory for the defense: 6 blockers vs. 4 rushers while still creating quick efficient pressure backstopped with 7 man drop coverage.

Good stuff from Denver Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell and Vic Fangio. 


Saturday, October 10, 2020

Disguising Sim Pressure

Here is a really nice example of a well planned pressure disguise and execution from the Cleveland Browns. 


The Rush:

End working a super stick to cross the Center, the Nose attacks/engages the Center before looping to contain. The Dime is up the field to contain with the Nickel going through the Dime's heel line on a straight line run to the QB.

The Coverage:

4 under 3 Deep Cover 3


The disguise from Cleveland is very impressive because of the multiple layers of disguise elements and the attention to detail.


The first element is following the motion the Dime walks out of the box and presents an alignment and demeanor of a coverage player. His tempo, stance, and body language all help sell him as being in coverage. 

The next element is the presentation of 4 rushers from the left. This affects the set of the RG. The RG sets to 4 rush threats to allow the OL to have 4 blockers for the 4 rush threats. This also forces the OT to be manned up on the DE to the strong side. 

The third element is the deep Safeties subtly showing a weak rotation. The subtle disguise helps sell the 4 from a side weak overload. The offense is looking for clues to help define where the pressure is coming from. A 4 from a side weak pressure presentation with strong rotation safeties can tip the OL the 4 weak will be dropping out. The Browns really sell the 4 weak pressure at all three levels of the defense. 

The OT being manned up forces the OT to set inside with the DE on the inside movement. The RB is left with a 2 on 1 overload vs. the edge rushers. The pattern with the Dime up the field forces the RB to block the first threat. The Nickel is actually the inside most/direct line rusher which should make him the most dangerous. The RB cannot afford to block the first threat that shows in order to sort out the pressure pattern. Once the RB commits to the Dime the Nickel is left on a clean run to the QB. 

This is another example of why defenses are using sim/creeper pressure concepts. Very rarely does a traditional 4 man pass rush result in an overload on the RB and a free run to the QB. Sim pressures can manufacture pass rush opportunities with 4 rushers that typically require bringing 5 or 6. 

Great pressure design and even better coaching of the details from Cleveland Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods. 

Friday, October 9, 2020

4 Minute Defense

Last night in the Bears game the Buccaneers lead by a score of 19-17. Tampa took possession of the ball with the lead and 2:48 remaining in the 4th quarter. This put Chicago into 4 Minute Defense. The objective is simple, get the ball back to the offense with as much time remaining and in as good of field position as possible.

Every defense has rules, coaching points, and practice drill for 4 Minute Defense.

Here is an example from an old playbook of HOF Coach Dick Lebeau


Another example from former NY Giant Defensive Coordinator Bill Sheridan.




Most defensive playbooks have a situational football section with coaching for 2 Minute, 4 Minute, Final plays, etc.

The Bears did a tremendous job against the Buccaneers executing in 4 Minute defense. 

1st 10 from the -16 yard line 2:48 remaining. 


The Bears are in a reduction front vs. the Bucs 13 personnel. The front is spaced like a 6-1 with the walk down safety in a choke on the inside TE.


The gapped out alignment to the TE side creates a very difficult angle/block for the H. The 5 tech DE is able to create a TFL. Timeout Bears.

2nd 12 from the -14 yard line 2:43 remaining. 


The Bucs came back on 2nd down expecting Chicago to again go to a run heavy loaded box with man coverage. The Bears present a look similar to 1st down. Tampa calls a play action to attempt to attack the aggressive run stopping nature of the Bears' 4 Minute defensive call. 


The Bears use a 4 man rush Cover 3 on 2nd down instead. Chicago drops a LOS LB into the X's slant window and has zone coverage to handle the TE's and RB check down to the strong side. Incomplete pass stops the clock setting up 3rd & Long. 

3nd 12 from the -14 yard line 2:37 remaining. 


On 3rd down the Bears match the Bucs' 11 personnel with Dime personnel. The coverage allows Dime coverage on the RB as well as Safety help for the Corner on the X receiver weak. The TE stays in to help control a dominant pass rushing DE. Strong side the Nickel has help from the ILB underneath as well as Safety help over top in the slot. Incomplete pass and the clock stops.

Following the punt.


The Bears take over 2 yards shy of midfield with 2:21 on the clock and 2 timeouts remain. The Bears drove to kick a field goal to win 20-19.

Great execution from the Bears and Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano in 4 Minute Defense. This is a great example of why situational football is so critical. Defensively 4 Minute is area that must be coached and practiced in the same way 2 minute and other situations are handled in preparation.