Monday, August 17, 2015

Two Gap, One Gap Defensive Line Revisited



I'm not sure any one post I've ever written has generated as much email, both pro and con, in my inbox.  What is amazing to me, is the lack of understanding folks have for this concept and technique.  What I'm going to do today, is revisit the original post and look at Two Gap/One Gap (TGOG) from the perspective it was meant to be run from and that was helping the 4-3 defense to defend the spread offense.

Purpose
TGOG was developed as the shotgun, power run game came into effect in the landscape of college football.  As we all know, when facing doubles, in the 4-3 defense, generally both outside linebackers (OLB's) will have to walk out and honor each of the two receiving threats to the outside of the defense.  If not, the defense stands to become outflanked.  Enter in today's offenses that mix zone and power runs with fast, or bubble screens, or even down-the-field passes and you have a tremendous need for the OLB's to be able to play outside of the box.  There are many answers to having just a five man box in the 4-3, and one of those answers is TGOG.

Remember, when walking both OLB's out of the box in the 4-3 you are now playing to the offense's hand if you keep your defensive line (DL) in their respective gaps.  There are potentially six offensive blockers, which means there are seven gaps and you only have five immediate bodies there to help.  Even if you counted the OLB's in the fit, you end up cancelling them out because by alignment, they are in the same gap as the defensive ends (DE's).  Something has got to give.  Enter in TGOG which actually fits the pieces of the defense right into where the offense is attempting to run the football.  Because of this fit, the ball is pushed directly to where the offense doesn't have good leverage with its blockers.  By using TGOG you can now add the OLB's back into the count of the run fit, because, even though displaced, the defensive reaction is setting them up to be in the proper gap.

OLB's displaced from the box


In my original posts on TGOG, I drew it up against two back, power run game.  It can be used against these offenses, but the technique is at its best when attacking one back zone run teams.  The technique doesn't do too bad against one back power run game either.  If using it as a base DL technique, the only issue that needs to be guarded against is the three technique getting washed down inside on double teams.

The Basics
As you remember from before there are rules to follow for this technique.  On each snap, depending on the front, the DL has to figure out what kind of player they are (i.e. am I a two gap player or a one gap player).  The rules are simple, if your alignment puts you next to an open gap to your inside, you are a two gap player.  If your alignment puts you next to a gap that is already occupied by another DL, then you are a one gap player.  So, looking at the traditional open sets of 10 personnel, with the three technique set away from the running back (RB) in the shotgun, you can see, by alignment, the 3 technique (T) and the weakside DE are the two gap players.  The gaps to the inside, or in towards the football (center of formation) is open.  By rule, these players are now two gap players.  The remaining two players, the strong DE (A) and the Nose (N) are one gap players.  The Nose gets people confused because they feel like because the gap "inside" of him would be the strong A gap is open, he too would be a two gapper.  This is not the case.  The Nose is taught, early on, that if aligned in the A gap, he's a one gap player.




Many folks have been confused by this, thinking that there will be one two gapper and one one gapper on each side of the formation, and this simply isn't true.  Looking at the set up for 11 personnel and you can now see to the tight end (TE) side of the formation, you actually end up with two players that are two gapping (both the Tackle and the DE).  On the open side, the set up, is of course, the same as it would be for 10 personnel.  For me, the weak side rarely changes because I do not line up my weak DE in anything other than a five or a seven technique.

Fronts can change assignments.  If you look at the two illustrations below, the Indian and the Outlaw fronts make a difference as to what the DL is doing.  With the Tackle and Nose in 2I techniques (Indian), both of those players are now one gap players, while both DE's are now two gap players.  In the Outlaw front (both the Nose and Tackle in three techniques), the Nose and Tackle are now two gappers, while the DE's are one gap players.  Again, it is quite simple to determine who has what, by following the alignment rules.



Stance and Alignment
I get several questions about this as well.  I don't have a great answer for a lot of this, because it really depends on what kind of player you have where you're at.  Where I coach at now, we've got one hell of a DL, so we don't really change our alignment much when we run TGOG.  My last stop, however, yes, we had to change our alignment a bit for our guys to get the job done.

The one gap player, if anything, needs to align just a bit wider than he normally would.  For an interior DL, this doesn't matter as much as it does the DE.  In some of the fits, the DE will actually be the guy setting the edge, so he'll need to be in a position where he doesn't get reached.  Getting reached is the number one cardinal sin for the DE, so he will need to align where this cannot happen.

Difference in alignments of a one-gapper (DE) and two-gapper (DT)


Technique- The One Gapper
The one gap player is a very simple technique.  They are rush players.  Getting up the field is not an issue for them, even against the trap game.  Now this is not to say that they are so far up field they cannot defend the run, or they are creating a gap by their depth.  No, the idea here, is to get off the football, get up the field and find the ball.  Once this player reaches ball depth, they should set their feet and begin to play off the block they are getting.  The main two focal points for the one gap player, is to not get reached (if this requires the player adjusting his base alignment, then do so), and get off the football.

Varying angles of attack by technique.  Two-Gapper (T) attacks the outside eye to center of defender, where One-Gapper (E) plays outside using an "escape" or pass rush mentality.


Technique- The Two Gapper
The two gap player is more of your traditional, block down, step down (BDSD) type player.  This player's main concern is winning the stalemate battle with the offensive lineman (OL) over him.  The idea is to treat this just like the King of the Boards (KOB) drill.  The two gapper is not concerned about getting reached.  If this player gets reached, he's done his job, because his gap is actually the gap inside of his base alignment.  Many folks have confused this technique for a stunt, and THIS IS NOT THE CASE.  The two gap player, will play the inside gap from an outside alignment.  Against a base block, this player will work the blocker backwards until the ball declares, then, and only then, will they work into the inside gap.  Against a reach block, the defender simply allows himself to be overtaken (this should be pretty easy for the OL since the two gappers usually align in a tighter shade than normal).  One of the real benefits of the two gap technique is that of how it handles the down block or scoop block.  Because the defender is in such a "heavy" alignment this makes it very difficult for the down blocking OL to climb to the second level, thereby protecting the LB's.  Second, it puts the two gapper in a great position to spill any trap blocks by pulling OL.  On a pass set by the blocker, the two gap defender will bull rush, then rip under and work into the inside gap.



Linebacker Techniques
The LB techniques don't change all that much from traditional ones except for that of the inside linebackers.  When played from a 4-3 set with both OLB's outside the box, the MLB will use what is called a "fast scrape" technique.  It's called this because the MLB does not care about the cutback.  All he cares about is the angle of the ball, whether it's split zone, or gap runs and what side he's supposed to attack.

Against the split zone stuff, the MLB reads the block of the center.  If the center sticks his nose into the 2I, then the MLB jumps the front side A gap, because the center cannot cut him off.  If the center leaves the 2I and immediately climbs to the Mike, then the Mike sits and will actually allow the center to push him right back into where the ball if being forced to cut back to which is the B gap underneath the guard.  The guard should not be able to handle the one-gapping Nose because he's getting off the ball so hard (remember he's "rushing" not reading).  The guard pushes the Nose into the path of the RB, forcing him to cut back right into the MLB who is being pushed right back into the new path of the RB.  If the back continues to wind the ball back, he'll end up running into the unblocked DE.





Against runs that are full flow type runs (two backs in same direction), the MLB will fast scrape with either two-gapper depending on what side of the ball is being attacked.  Outside zone is a full flow run that when run at the 3 technique the MLB will fast scrape to the outside hip of the two-gapping Tackle.  The Mike takes a flat angle to the ball and if the ball has declared beyond the B gap, he will continue to pursue the ball inside-out.  The center will have a very difficult time getting to the MLB here in this situation because of how lateral the LB is.



If the play is being run to the weak side of the defense the Mike will scrape one gap wider to the outside hip of the two-gapping DE as shown below.  On paper, it looks as though the guard has the angle on the LB, but as long as your LB can rip across face he should be able to scrape to the outside hip of the DE.  If the LB gets reached, it is not an issue because the one-gapping Nose cannot be cut off by the center and will end up in immediate pursuit of the ball unblocked.  The force player can box the lead blocker back (who this is depends on coverage) to the chasing Nose who overtakes the two-gapping DE and can replace the LB if he gets cut off.


MLB gets cut off, Nose replaces in the fit, defense is still +1

Against split flow gap runs, the MLB keys the pullers, and again, has the same scrape aiming points.  This is all based on the fits by the DL and whether they are two-gapping or one-gapping.  If running a counter play to the three technique the offense has the difficulty of trying to double the three to get to the Mike.  As shown below, the two-gapping Tackle drives into the guard forcing a bubble in the offense.  The OT is forced to double to help get movement to get the lane cleared for the BSG to pull through.  The two-gapping technique allows the MLB to scrape off the hip of the Tackle and spill the second puller in the counter gap scheme.

Vs. counter gap to the open B gap side, the MLB simply scrapes one gap wider, again scraping to the outside hip of the two-gapping defender.  His job is still the same, spill the second puller in the counter gap scheme.  This allows the Mike to play fast, as with repetitions and seeing the guard pull, he knows where he  needs to scrape to in order to be in the correct position for his fit.

I get many questions about Power Read or Inverted Veer as well.  Again, just follow the rules listed above and defend the play.  The MLB's rules and fits do not change with the play, he's reading flow type and looking for pullers, then scraping to his fit.  In the case of Inverted Veer, he will scrape to the outside hip of the two-gapping DE and spill the lead blocker out to the OLB or safety (or both depending on how the coverage is set up.  The two-gapping DE also forces the offense to show its hand by forcing the give read to the sweeper.  The DE plays so heavy of a technique the OT cannot get out from underneath him to cut off the running MLB.  Also, many times the offense motions the sweeper back into the box, which adds another player, the OLB to the side away from the offset back that now can also get into the cut back fit if the offense were to fake the sweep and call the QB  keep automatically.

The OLB's are very rarely called into action to fit to an inside gap because of the two-gapping technique.  There are some situations that have the OLB to the Tackle's side of the defense that will have to scrape into the B gap, but due to the two-gapping technique by the Tackle it allows the OLB to be late getting there.

The OLB's run fits are very simple when it comes to where they should be.  Again, they have to know whether they are working with a one-gap DE or a two-gap DE.  The OLB to the two-gapper side has a perfect fit, because all runs will be spilled out to his side.  On runs away, or split zone looks, the OLB scrapes to the outside hip of the DE, replacing the DE and playing the QB on option-type runs.


Against a gap run at the two-gapping DE, the ball is spilled outside to the OLB.  In all actuality, the true fit is that the DE spills to the MLB who boxes to the DE and spills to the OLB.  Either way, the ball will bounce outside to either an unblocked OLB or an unblocked safety, depending on how the coverage is set.


When working with a one-gapping DE, the OLB will fit inside hip of the DE.  For some sets, this can make for a long run by the OLB, but the technique of the Tackle also helps delay the gap declaration because how he plays his two gap technique.

Setting the Front
I also get some questions about how to set the front when using TGOG.  I prefer to set the front away from the offset back.  The main reason is that with the three technique away from the back, the zone runs are tough on the OL and the gap runs, where the offset RB is the lead blocker, get spilled outside by the two-gapping DE.  I'm not saying that you can't set the front otherwise, just simply follow the rules for TGOG and you will be sound against whatever it is you're defending.

Some fronts that present both a two gapper and a one gapper on each side are illustrated below.  These fronts, with either two, 2I's or two 3 techniques change the dynamic of how the offense will attack the defense and keeps the opposing OC guessing as to what you're doing with your front.  With, what I call Outlaw, or 33, the two 3 techniques you get two, two-gapping DT's and two one-gapping DE's.  This front is very good for the zone teams that like to find your 3 technique and then flip the back so they can run zone opposite of him.  Well, don't give them a three technique to attack, give them two!

Outlaw or 33 front
Indian or 11 front
One of my favorite fronts was the two 2I's, or what I called Indian.  What I liked about this front was, you can essentially turn loose your DT's to wreck havoc and it takes the OL three guys to block two.  This keeps the MLB free to scrape C gap to C gap.  The two, two-gapping DE's spilled any gap runs outside to the scraping MLB and the OLB's.  This works great against teams that like to run QB zone or QB Wrap from empty or two-by-two looks that force both OLB's out of the box.  You are pushing the ball out to these players, making the player's job easier to defend both the run and the pass.

Conclusion
I'm hoping this will help to set the record straight on some issues.  This really is a simple technique that can vastly reduce the stress on your OLB's when having to be displaced from the box due to spread sets.  It can be used against two back run game, but is better suited to defend the one back spread run game.  What I really love about the setup is the fact that TGOG attacks gap runs as effectively as it does zone runs.  No need to guess what your opponent is going to run, or get caught in a bad defense, because TGOG is set up to defend both.  TGOG is set up to push the ball where the defense has an unblocked defender, which should be the goal of ANY defensive scheme, not just TGOG.  Again, I'm hoping that this post will shed some light and give clarity to what a good scheme TGOG is.

Duece

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Mailbag Volume 3

Continuing with the mailbag theme, I'll go over a few of the emails I got over my vacation.  I actually have had a lot of questions about Saban's "Mable" adaptation to Cover 3 versus 3x1 formations (follow the link for Brophy's original post).  I'll start there.

Saban's Mable Adaptation to Cover 3
I don't get all the fuss over this coverage adaptation, because it's nothing really ground breaking here.  I think the major problem is folks wrapping their head around what Saban asks his linebackers (LB's) to do in the coverage, but since there are several of my readers having trouble with this concept, I'm going to break it down piece by piece for you and position by position.

Strong Corner
Typical Cover 3 corner, he will play by his normal divider rule and read rule as "old school" "Country Cover 3" corners would do.  You can do many things with him such as press and bail (giving the illusion of Man Free), or align him deep splitting the number one and number two receivers.  What matters here is, this player is playing a traditional deep 1/3 technique.

Strong Safety (RV)
The Strong Safety (SS) will be the flat dropper and will drop off the number two receiver.  If two is outside he'll jump it.  If two goes in, then he'll look to relate to the number one receiver.  Again, standard flat player stuff for Cover 3.

Strong LB (by passing strength)
The OLB to the pass strength will do the exact same thing as the SS, but reading the number three receiver.  Basically look at the above and change the numbers.  The LB will relate to the number two receiver once the "dust has settled".

Free Safety
Standard middle-of-the-field (MOF) safety.  This is the post player.  The free safety (FS) will read from the number three to number two receiver and will favor number three.

Weak Corner
The weak corner will play man-to-man on the weak number one receiver.  I prefer to press over here, but if that's not your gig, you can play off man if you like.  Basically, he's got to lock up on the back side in order to keep the weak quick game from killing your coverage.

Inside LB's
Now for the nuts and bolts of the coverage, the two LB's that remain in the box versus trips sets (Mike and Will in the diagram above).  These two LB's must relate off the running back (RB).  The LB that gets RB flow to him, will jump the back.  This is very important against 3x1 sets that put the RB offset to the trips.  Again, the idea is to push the coverage where it's needed, or to have, as I've said a thousand times on here, the "plus one" advantage.  In the illustration above, the defense has a four-over-three advantage on the strong side (to the trips) and a three-on-two advantage weak.  In the illustration below, where the offense has set the RB to the trips, the defense will use the leverage and reaction of the Mike to gain a five-on-four advantage if the RB were to release strong.  If the RB releases weak, then the Will LB would jump the RB.


Mike's read on the RB puts him on the weak side of the coverage initially

Now the Mike reads put him on the strong side of the coverage
The key in all of this is the reaction to the back.  A better example to look at, is when the RB is neutral, or aligned on the midline of the formation.  In the first example, the RB releases strong, so the Mike will jump this route, and the Will is now reading to the number three receiver.

Now, if the RB releases weak, the roles are simply reversed.  The Will jumps the RB and the Mike now reads the release of the number three receiver.  Again, as you can see the reads help the coverage relate to receiver distribution post-snap.



The big kicker, I think most folks have with the coverage is Saban's term "Three up is three", which basically means take number three vertical.  Now, mind you, this really isn't "man" because you have a FS playing centerfield, but the FS has to split number two and number three if they both go vertical.  The idea here is that the LB will carry the receiver if he goes vertical in order to force the quarterback (QB) to throw the ball high, allowing the FS time to get over the top of the route.  To see how this looks I'll illustrate it from the above diagrams.

So here's how the coverage would handle four verticals with the back flaring to the strong side of the coverage.  The Mike can jump the flare, while the Will takes the first crosser, and since "Three up is three" he will run with the "F" in the diagram above.  The coverage is still Cover 3, the FS has to split the two verticals in the MOF, while the strong corner will split the two outside receivers in his third.  One key is that the underneath coverage players such as the strong outside LB (OLB) can reroute these vertical routes as they get into their drops.

As you can see, the Mike now plays number three vertical and the Will relates to the RB releasing weak.  These two players, the inside LB's are what help the coverage adapt to these types of concepts front 3x1 sets.

I think one key mistake readers of Brophy's posts on Cover 3 made, and even wrote and posted about was that this was a way to play Quarters from a one-high coverage.  Make no mistake, this is NOT the case.  At the end of the day, this is still Cover 3 and has it's glaring weaknesses.  Now I have run into coaches that go above and beyond the "Saban way" and actually have their FS take the number two receiver vertical and let the ILB's handle number three vertical.  That's a stretch, especially in high school football to ask a player to do that.  Saban will admit, he's in this coverage to defend the trips side passing game, and the run, NOT to defend four verticals.  If you are a base, one-high defense, this is a good adaptation to the typical spot-drop approach, because you do have some similation of an answer to four verticals, but this is NOT in any way shape or form, similar to Quarters.  Quarters adaptations have nobody "splitting" receivers or having to read two receivers.  Quarters adaptations to 3x1 sets end up in man-to-man coverage against four verticals, which is a glaring difference in the coverages.  This is not to deter someone from using Mable, it's just that you really need to know what you're getting into before you commit to teaching it.  Hopefully this post has done just that.

Shuffling

I get a ton of questions on the shuffle technique played by my conerbacks and to be quite honest, I feel silly when I answer on how I teach it and came to teach what I've adapted to using, every since the 2007 season.  I've just never had corners that were good at backpedaling and I have even heard wide receiver (WR) coaches comment on how to beat a defensive back (DB) that was backpedaling because of (insert reason here) so much so that I gave up on the technique altogether in 2007.  What I did, was learn how basketball defenders are taught!  Yep, that simple.  I went to basketball practice and learned basically what they were teaching their defenders and adapted it to what I wanted out of my cornerbacks.

Originally I started out aligned square, as though we were a squat corner, then open on the snap, and shuffle.  Later, I moved to the angled in stance, where the corner was already turned in at a 45 degree angle.  My reasoning is simple, most DB's, when beat, it's in transition.  The transition they get beat in the most is going from the pedal to opening their hips to run with deeper routes.  Well, if this is the case, why not take this out of the equation?  So I did!  Now, I'll say one thing, the technique is difficult if you're playing a coverage that requires dividers.  For the most part, I've been a two-high safety guy, so I've had the luxury of playing outside leverage with my corners, to which I felt my technique worked just fine.  I can't speak of how to use it when a corner has to align inside the number one receiver.



Anyhow, on to the technique.  From a balanced open stance, tilted in at a 45 degree angle, on the snap, the corner begins to shuffle.  I have them, in their minds count to three.  By this time, the ball should be in the air if it is three step or quick game.  Generally, I teach to have vision on the number one receiver, but you can easily have them read the QB for the three step drop if you like.  I like adapting to routes, so I want them seeing routes and understanding how what the number one receiver does ties into what the number two receiver will be doing, but to each their own.  The actual shuffle technique is just like that of a basketball defender.  I like the feet to remain at least shoulder width apart, with the head being directly in line with the body.  The head position is important, because if the head is too far forward, or towards the line of scrimmage (LOS), then the DB will have trouble transitioning into the second phase of the technique which is the bail.  If the head is too far back, then the corner will struggle transitioning and breaking on the shorter throws.  The key here is balance, so that weight can be transitioned easily.

On short throws, that ask the corner to transition forward, I have them use a T-step technique.  It is literally common sense, because since the corner is already turned, he can easily get all of his cleat surface into the turf, making transitioning forward quite easy.  If the DB is asked to transition inside then he simply rolls forward inside toward the QB.  Again, I'm not using this for man, or where the corner is supposed to use some sort of divider rule.  I've only used it for Quarters coverage, and it works well, because in the three step quick game, the corner is simply playing his deep quarter and not getting beat deep.  I cannot speak on how it adapts to other coverages, but it works quite well with Quarters.



If the ball isn't thrown after the three count, then the DB will now transition into the bail technique.  This is nothing more than a crossover run technique.  I have always taught this with a post leg, and drive leg.  The post leg is the leg that is farthest from the LOS as the DB is turned.  In other words, if I'm the right corner, and opened inside, facing the QB, it would be my left leg.  This leg doesn't gain much ground, and is there for balance only.  The drive leg, is the leg closest to the LOS (my right leg in our example).  This leg gains the most ground as the DB works into his deep zone.  I've gotten extremely technical with it for this post, but if we were sitting at the bar, blowing the top off a few cool ones, I'd simply tell you he's running sideways.

If the DB has done his job, and has maintained his over-the-top relationship to the receiver, then he can work sideways to relate to the route as necessary.  The idea here is, that if the DB ends up inside, he's in great position to ride the receiver into the sideline, better known as the twelfth man.  If the receiver works inside of the DB, again, he can easily roll into the route and regain inside leverage due to his depth and being over-the-top.

To transition into covering the deeper routes, the technique varies by the type of cut the receiver is giving the DB.  On inside cutting routes (dig, post etc.), the corner will roll over into a traditional run.  Very difficult to explain via text, but explained quite simply it's going from running sideways to regular running.  On routes that are out breaking, the corner needs to get the hips opened and does so much like a pulling guard does when trapping.  The corner will take his near arm to the receiver and rip it open (in drills I have them overemphasize this like they were pull starting a lawnmower)to get the hips open.  Once open, they T-step and drive on the route.  I never saw many deep out cuts where I coached, so we didn't spend too much time working on these routes, but it is a skill that will need to be coached.

To be honest, I apologize for not having much on the technique, but it was really a "necessity" item.  The video below shows a pretty good example of the technique and who should be using it.  Those that know me closely, and know where I've coached will easily tell you that I've coached in some "athlete poor" areas, so I was grasping at any straw I could to get the most out of my guys.  What I found out in my experimentation is that the DB could play closer to the LOS because he's already transitioned.  Being a Cover Four/Cover Two guy, this allowed me to disguise my intentions.  The technique also helps in teaching press bail coverage techniques as well, because the only difference is that in one you shuffle, the other you don't.  See, there's more to the technique than shuffling, because you only shuffle for the quick game stuff.  After that, you've got to transition in to some sort of run, which is the crossover run, or bail technique as I mentioned above.  I've tried to break down the technique as simple as I can, but if you honestly want to see the technique in action, go to your basketball practice and watch them teach defense, and you'll get everything you need to know about the shuffle.



Sticks

I had some questions about a coverage I called "Sticks".  Like most of my stuff, it's stolen.  I have a good friend that utilizes this concept, and it's also a TCU coverage concept.  What's beautiful about the coverage adaptation is the fact that despite appearing "soft" it's really the best example of the defense forcing the offense into bad situations.

"Sticks" is a coverage adaptation for long yardage situations on third and fourth downs.  Again, it's not really anything revolutionary, but here goes.  When I tag a coverage with the term "Sticks", my DB's are going to all put their heels on the line to gain and play the coverage called.  Generally it's Quarters, but it could be any zone coverage you want them to play.  The idea here is that the defense is building a "wall" at the line to gain.  On the snap, we don't back up, we read our respective key and react in the same way that we would if aligned normally.  Any route that is thrown underneath the DB's will be broke on and tackled.  The concept is similar to that of the Two Level Defense deep safety in that by depth, the DB can see and react to anything that happens underneath of them easier than they can if they were closer to the LOS.



Where this coverage is really great is when you face an offense that is taught to run option routes based on both coverage and down and distance.  As a defensive coordinator (DC) you are forcing the offense right into the teeth of the defense in these down and distance situations.  With the defense playing so far off, the receivers are more than likely going to run something short.  Well, that's exactly what you, the DC, wants them to do.  Your defenders then rally and make the tackle.



I use the coverage tag with Cover Two, Quarters and have used a Cover Three version of it as well.  An old friend, better known as "OJW" on the Huey board, gave me a coverage they simply called "line".  Line is of the same premise except he used it on all downs and on the snap rotated players to various areas after all his deep zone defenders had aligned in a straight line.  Line and Sticks vary though in that there is no downhill rotation on the snap with Sticks.  Defenders are taught not to drop and to defend the down markers.  Sticks is also a good goal line coverage when paired with Quarters because it puts the defense where they need to be to defend the run aggressively, but still in a position to drop off and defend the pass if the need arises.

TCU using their "Sticks" concept on 3rd & 10 vs. West Virginia

In the version I use, the MLB will align at his normal depth and is still a run first defender.  He will execute whatever his normal assignment is in the coverage called.  The OLB's can deepen their alignment from the normal five yards to seven to eight yards, or even to the line to gain if need be.  The general rule here is seven to eight yards.  The OLB's are thinking pass first when they hear the tag "Sticks", but they aren't just dropping immediately to their assignment.  They still key their run/pass key (usually the OL) and will come up against the run.  The depth you play them at allows them not to have to drop off into a zone if pass shows, as they already have their depth.  In the case of using the Sticks tag, now all the OLB's need to be concerned with is the width necessary to get to their respective zone based on the coverage called.

The secondary will all align with their heels on the line to gain, still reading whatever their normal key would be if they were in their regular alignment.  The main difference is, they will not pedal nor will they drop on the snap of the ball.  The reason is, they are where they are needed already.  It is very much a Two Level Defense (2LD) concept in that it is easier for a defender to come up, than it is for them to go back.

As you can see, many zone coverages can be adapted to fit this concept.  I wouldn't recommend playing man out of this look, unless using some sort of banjo concept (which makes it so much more like zone, why not play zone anyhow) was utilized.  Man, I fear, would be too confusing, allow for too much space to be utilized by the offense and create some insane rub and pick advantages for the offense.  Anyhow, the Achilles heel to the entire coverage is your defense's ability to tackle in space and rally to the football.

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Well, that's it for this edition of the mailbag.  Keep the questions flowing.  I know I'm a bit slow at getting to them, but be patient with me, remember this is just my side job!

Duece