Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Giving the Corner Relief in Isolation on the X in 3x1

When the Corner is isolated on the X on the backside of 3x1 formations it can be nice to find calls that help provide that Corner some form of help. In our defense we call these concepts relief calls. 

Here is an interesting example of a relief concept from the Ravens. Baltimore is in a Nickel personnel with 2 OLB, 3 DL, 1 ILB, and 5 DB's. 

The Rush:

The Nickel is edge pressuring off the slot while the rush OLB and DT work a twist game. Weak the DE is a B gap pop.

The Coverage:

3 under 3 deep firezone with the Nose spying the RB

Weak side the presence of a Rush OLB on the LOS, 4i DE, and shade Nose forces the C, G, T to set to the 3 threats. With the turn of the Center weak, the protection has 3 threats (Nickel, OLB, DT) vs. 2 OL and the scan RB strong. The twist creates confusion with the G squeezing to the most inside threat from the wrapping OLB. The OT fans to the Nickel instead of squeezing to the DT. The RB scans to the Nickel who is blocked by the OT leaving the DT on a free run. The protection has the numbers to account for the pressure but sorting it out is difficult. If sorted out the concept forces the RB to block across the formation on a full speed Nickel off the edge and the T/G to handle the twist 2 vs. 2.

The OLB walked on the LOS weak is able to key the QB's front shoulder intentions and buzz out to provide an underneath zone dropping body presence to the Corner. This prevents the Corner from having to be completely isolated in coverage and results in the interception.

The usage of the Nose as a spy on the RB is what makes this coverage execution work.

If the Ravens had truly rushed 5 and played firezone the weak seam dropping OLB is relating to the weak #2 (RB).

In this example the seam dropping Rush LB opens his drop to the #2 which leaves the Corner in isolation with the X. Why?

If the Rush were to key the QB's front shoulder intentions to the X and buzz out he could again help on quick game. However, if the QB resets his feet and throws the RB a screen or check down there is a hole in the middle of the coverage. The Seam and 3RH droppers strong are expanded to cover #2 and #3 strong. This is a specific risk as the Browns have two good RB's, screen is a threat from backed up field postion,and the Browns hit earlier in the game on both a TE screen and a RB screen. 

Notice the QB's front should intentions are initially away from the RB screen.

The decision to utilize the Nose as a spy helps solve this problem. The Seam dropping OLB can react to the front shoulder intentions of the QB and help undercut routes to the X. The Nose helps mitigate the risk on the RB screen and check down.

The usage of the Nose as a spy shows up in many defensive schemes.

This example is a completely different pressure pattern but illustrates another application of the concept. This example is from the Rex Ryan/Mike Pettine Jets. The current Baltimore scheme has crossover with the schemes of Rex/Rob Ryan.

The usage of the Nose as a spy not only helps the OLB provide relief to the Corner in coverage. It also:

1. Gives the Nose a coverage responsibility the Nose can execute and has a reasonable installation cost. Teaching a Nose a hook zone drop would be much more expensive to teach for example.

2. Helps manipulate the pass protection. The Center is occupied throughout the pressure mirroring the movements of the Nose. If the Nose drops off the LOS into coverage, the Center can potentially reset and provide help elsewhere in the protection specifically helping with the wrapping OLB from the pressure side. With the Center occupied with the spy Nose, the Center is a non-factor.

Really nice pressure design and usage of Nose spy from Baltimore Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale. 

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Understanding the Opening Script

Many offensive coaches use an opening script to begin a game. What goes into that script? I had some ideas based on my experiences vs. opposing offenses, from film study of a variety of schemes, and from picking the brains of offensive coaches I've had the good fortune of working with in the past. I also reached out to a few offensive coaches to ask them for insight. Finally I crowdsourced info by asking coaches through twitter. The responses and willingness to share was amazing and a testament to the awesome "Football Twitter" community. The sheer number of responses was a bit overwhelming. To all those who contributed, Thank You!

After looking at the philosophy of offensive coaches as well as what they are scripting I broke the responses down into 5 categories: Identity, Diagnostic, Designer, Catalyst, and Cumulative Effect.

IdentityPlays that get scripted that are all about who the offense is at its core.

Top Plays - Call what the OC feels are the best run schemes and best pass concepts in the offense's arsenal. These calls are all about being who the offense feels they are as an offense and don't overly depend on the opponent's scheme.

Sure Things – Runs the OC feels can block any D look. This isn't necessarily the scheme the offense feels is their top production play or most explosive scheme. This extends to passes with protection that accounts the most possible looks. This might include max protection, play action, movement passes like boot/naked/sprint. Plays in this category are all about consistency and reliability. 

Get ball into the hands of the best player. What play calls guarantee the top player on offense is involved early?

Get multiple guys touches. A recurring theme was OC's wanting to get as many guys involved and engaged in the opening script as possible. This wasn't always just about getting the ball to the best player but getting everyone in on the action.

Get the QB in a rhythm. What plays allow for the QB to make easy throws? What plays have the easiest reads? This includes not only passes but also option schemes. How can the offense script to create consistent success for the QB early?

DiagnosticPlays that are scripted to diagnose some piece of info about the defense.

Alignment to formations – Does the defense align in the front and show coverage that match what was is to be expected from scouting report breakdown data?

Motion/trade/shift adjustments – How are they adjusting? Is there confusion or misalignments? Can offense move one player and get multiple defenders to move? Are adjustments being made by running defenders with motion, spinning/rolling coverage, bumping LB's, sliding DL? This can inform follow up play calls. 

Personnel – Is the defense using the personnel expected from scouting report info. Are players aligning where they were expected? Are matchups as expected?

How does the defense respond to something outside of normal? A new formation, formation into the sideline (FSL), unbalanced, empty, compressed formation, etc are all possible in a script to diagnose what the defense will do. This info can inform subsequent play calls or can be one offs.

Correction – Is there a formation, motion, or play the defense struggled with in previous games? Have they made corrections? Have they fixed what went wrong previously? Football is a copycat sport. This script element is all about forcing defenses to prove they have corrected their previous errors. 

Who made the play? – Typically this is about running a base/foundational play and looking at what occurred. Who made the tackle or made the play difficult? This informs follow up plays that compliment the foundational play. This could be series based play calling like many wing-t and option schemes utilize. This could also be just an if/then type of game plan. If the backside DE is chasing hard, then call the complimenting naked concept. 

Designer- Play specifically designed for the defense.             

OC are looking to script potential big plays or plays that create stress. This may be a shot pass play. This could be a trick play like a double pass, reverse, flea flicker, etc. This could be a scheme design from game plan meeting looking a the defense's previous plan. There is no perfect play call for the defense. Offenses know what stresses each defensive concept. It could be a personnel, motion, formation, or play concept but the OC is looking to craft those elements into stress plays in the script. Some designer concepts however are fragile. They may not be great outside of the specific/desired defensive look. Many designer looks in the script also carry a can/alert/kill concept. Two plays are called in the huddle. If the defense is in the desired look the designer play is on as planned. If the look is sub-optimal, the QB cans the play to a base call that holds up against more defensive looks. Some OC's prefer to do this with a check the sideline mechanic vs. asking the QB to can the play at the LOS.

Catalyst - Plays designed to provoke a response from the defense.

Catalyst concepts take many forms. Some may be simple like getting in a 3x1 and taking a shot to the X in isolation. The catalyst is all about looking to force the D to respond by playing some type of weak 2 over 1 coverage concept. The O certainly would like to complete the pass but the bigger goal was to create opportunities to the 3 receiver side or in the run game. Catalysts can be schemed in the run game also. The O may feel the best path to success running the ball is to get the DE aligned in a specific location on the TE. Scripted early calls like pin & pull may not be the O's most desired scheme. It is being scripted to encourage the defense to widen the DE's alignment, which sets up the opportunity to run other schemes on future plays. Not all catalyst plays provoke the same type of responses. Some OC's are scripting looks that are meant to confirm to the defense what the offense looks like. These are scripted calls that mirror the expected looks from the scouting report. The personnel, formation, play, etc was what the D expected based on film study. The goal here is to provoke the defense to be locked into their plan. If the D feels confident the O matches the scouting report, they are going to do what they planned to do on defense. Once the offense is locked into what the D's plan looks like it sets up the plan of attack. Most OC's don't like defensive variance so the catalyst may be to get the defense locked in a specific plan. Catalyst plays may take the form of setup plays. A distinct motion or formation leads the defense to talk it over on the sideline. When that look comes up again defenders make the ID and believe they know what is coming off that look. This may be where the setup leads to the payoff. The offense wanted the D to feel like they know what is coming and really cared much more about the payoff play vs. the setup play. Catalyst plays may be about manipulating defensive personnel usage. An offense that uses 11 but begins flexing to create 10 personnel formations vs. more traditional TE in the core 11 looks to get the D into sub-personnel. Once the D is subbing to Nickel or Dime, the O can attack those sub-personnels by putting the TE back into the core and running their base 11p package. The O may go 22 personnel to get the D in base personnel but create an empty formation and isolate a TE vs. a LB. Catalyst plays can take many forms but they want to force the defense into an action favorable to the offense. 

Cumulative effect - Plays that aren't about a single play but affecting the defense through repetition. 

Perimeter run/screen – The goal is to force the DL to run sideline to sideline. Tiring out DL early in the game can affect pass rush, run fits, block shed, pursuit and overall effort.

Establish tempo of the offense. Many OC's mentioned wanting to set or change the tempo in the script. This concept is also tied to creating fatigue on the defense early in the game. This may also get the D into more basic schemes. 

Attack the best player – If the defense has a great player the offense may look to make that player's life difficult. A defense with a dominate 3tech DT for example. The offense may script early concepts that double him, trap him, wham him, read him, and screen him. That player is now getting hit from all angles. The goal is to create frustration and prevent that player from getting going. A slow start for that player may keep him from getting going at all. 

Attack the worst player - Isolation of a weak link on defense with the goal that enough attacks on the weakest player will lead to big plays. It might not happen immediately but attacking as many times as possible is the best path to exposing the weak link as the weak link.

Being as multiple as possible. By showing various personnels, formations, trades, shifts, motions, and schemes plus varying tempo and snap count the defense has a lot to address and process. The goal is to slow down pressure looks including base pass rush and force the defense into basic concepts. Cumulative effect occurs from the the variety making the D be ready for anything/everything.

After doing this research, I have a different viewpoint of evaluating an offense's early play calling. It is always interesting to look at how offensive coaches think and plan. Hopefully there is something in this info that can help you and your defense or offense better understand the opening script. If there is something you think was missed be sure to reach out, I'd love to continue to build my understanding of the scripting process. 

Friday, December 4, 2020

Broncos Pass Rush

The Broncos have generated pass rush in several ways in 2020. I recently went on the Cover 2 Bronco Podcast with Jeff Essary and Joe Rowles. Check it out the episode here - Cover 2 Bronco. I thought I'd share some film and thoughts of what I've been watching the Denver defense do to get to the QB.  One major factor is Denver's ability to capitalize on hybrid skill set athletes on defense.

Denver has several athletic interior DL who can isolate and attack Guards and Centers in the pass rush. Here the DT hits the Guard with a jab to a quick arm over to win with speed. 

Athleticism inside also allows for the DL to use pass rush games.

Here Denver used an interior pass rush twist to punish over sets with the zero technique Nose the DT on the twist is able to create quick interior pressure.

Having players with hybrid skills and athleticism allows for creativity when building a four man pass rush. 

Denver has joker package here playing 55 Chubb as the joker. A joker concept allows a specific defender to move around making that player a threat to insert into the pass rush in any area. A joker is a wildcard. This example allows the joker to attack a Guard and is paired with a pass rush twist opposite. If the pass protection doesn't honor the joker, the guard is on an island with a great pass rusher.If the pass pro slides to the joker the twist attacks the T/G forcing a difficult exchange. Again having athleticism from interior DL helps make this stunt work.

Denver can also get the ILB's in on the pass rush. Here the Broncos built a 4 man pass rush with 2 OLBs, 1 DT, and 1 ILB. The double pass rush twist helps manufacture opportunities of the OLBs, capitalize on the pass rush abilities of an ILB, and requires a DT who can covert to an edge rusher. 

Capitalizing on hybrid athleticism also means simulated pressure. The ILB inserts in the pass rush while the an Edge drops into coverage. The offense is forced to block 4 rushers with 6 blockers. This also keeps the RB from getting into a route. This pressure again requires athletic interior DL to balance the pass rush and work to contain. 

Denver has several ways to bring 4 while still using 7 players in coverage. Denver also has the ability to rush 5. 

Having 5 immediate rush threats at the LOS creates 5 games of  1 on 1 for the pass rushers. Here that allows an edge rusher with a 2 way go on an isolated OT. Not all pressures are sacks, this is a good example of getting the QB off his spot quickly which alters the timing and throw.

Another example of creating 5 games of  1 on 1 with 5 rushers. The interior rushers are working a twist to create inside pressure. 

Denver also stems around pre snap to create confusion about which 5 are coming and from where. 

Here is another example of combining 5 man pressure with DL twist. The most impressive part is in the coverage. The Safety covering the RB is able to play from depth and vision break to provide help on the crosser while still leveraging the RB.

Denver here presents 6 man pressure with an interior twist game. The B gap rush LB comes out of the rush to eat the RB when the RB attempts to release into a route.

Denver again presents 6 man pressure with a 2 on 1 overload on the RB. The pass rush again eats the RB preventing any type of release. The ILB in the hole is able to vision and break providing coverage help to the Corner in isolation on the X receiver. 

Overall Denver has found some interesting pressure and pressure coverage concepts to get to the QB this season.