Monday, April 18, 2016

Two Gap One Gap Defensive Line Play 2016 Mailbag

I've gotten quite a few questions since first posting about the Two Gap One Gap (TGOG) defensive scheme.  I'm going to answer what seem to be some unanimous questions about the technique to try and further clear up some of the confusion.  I myself have even been confused at times about certain merits of the scheme, but have gotten clarifications over the past year and aim to shed light on these questions than many readers have been asking.

The Two Gap Defensive Tackle Vs. the Double Team

When I first learned about the technique, it was mainly being used to allow linebackers (LB's) to walk out of the box, and be better adapted to fitting against one back run games from the spread offense.  Most of the en-vogue running styles back then were pure zone in nature, or gap only to the point of having the quarterback (QB) being led by the offset running back (think QB Iso or QB Power).  As time has gone on, and more and more teams are gap run oriented, the need to address the play of the two-gapping defensive tackle (DT) in the scheme needed to be addressed.  Quite simply, when this player feels a double team, he is to sit and maintain gap integrity, looking to the hold the double team and keep the scrape player from coming off and blocking the LB.  Even though, as we know from previous posts, this player is essentially "teeing off" on the guard in front of him, once he feels the outside pressure from the down blocking tackle, he must fight pressure with pressure to avoid being washed down.  By doing this, it allows the LB's more time to fit vs. these spread gap scheme runs.  If he were to continue on his normal path, fighting into the A gap, this would create a large running lane, and also give the scraping offensive tackle (OT) a free shot at the LB.

One note, against gap schemes this past season we were about 50-50 in running TGOG.  To be quite honest, it fares better vs. zone, but does have it's place against gap style run games.  The idea here, is not to "base" out of the scheme, but use the scheme as a means to adapt to, and attack what is being thrown your way by your opponent.  When we break down our opponent, we look at the merits of traditional block down, step down (BDSD) vs. TGOG to see what will give our opponents more trouble.  We have even gone so far as having just a two-gapping defensive end (DE) against some teams.  These are just subtle adaptations to the scheme to better allow you to prepare for what your opponent is trying to accomplish with their offensive attack.

Pass Rush Issues

One of the largest issues with TGOG is that it reduces your ability to rush the passer from both sides.  While true in one respect, there are some teams that have very interesting "twist" built into their scheme that allows them to still attack the passing game with some aggressiveness.  To first understand the scheme, we must see its limitations when it comes to rushing the passer.

The "elephant in the room", so to speak, is the fact that the two-gapping DE, is largely ineffective in rushing the passer.  Because this player, has to keep contain against a pass set by the OT, he must work from a tight shade, bull rush mentality to now one of containing a QB.  This can be difficult to do from a tight shade (remember, the two-gappers align tighter to their offensive lineman than the one-gappers do).  By bull rushing, a generally larger opponent, lends itself very little room for the DE to execute an escape move by the time the ball has gotten out of the hands of the QB.

The adaptation, or twist (literally) comes into play is between the DT's.  The DT's, if given a pass set, will attempt to rush to the opposite side of the QB.  The scheme is really THAT simple.  Where the coaching comes into play is against either  a true pass set, or a hard set, such as slide protection.

Against a true pass set, or big-on-big (BOB) protection, the two gapping DT, will rush hard inside and attempt to work to the opposite side of the QB.  This technique almost always results in the guard having to quickly collapse down to the inside to cut off the inside rush lane.  The one-gapper, usually in a shade, will be double team from the snap, and will not get as much depth as the two gapper, which creates a perfectly timed stunt, as the one-gapper crosses the center's face has he rushes to the opposite side of the QB.  The QB, will generally look to step up into the opening created by two factors.  The first is the two-gapping DT that crossed the guard's face and the fact that the DE to the two gapping DT's side is generally a one gapper (unless there was a TE).  This opening is where the shade will fit in his pass rush and almost always will yield a sack or some pressure.  The guard, blocking the two-gapper will have a tough time coming off and blocking the shade, because of the manner in which the two gapper attacks the guard.  Remember, the two gapper is playing king of the boards (KOB) here, so he bull rushes the guard, sees pass and then crosses the guard's face.  I don't know about where you coach, but we don't see too many high school guards that can handle that and still switch off to take the shade.  The center, if he chases, most often gets caught up with the guard assigned to block the two gapper and the two gapper.  The result is the shade almost always coming Scott-free.

Against the hard set, the two gapper simply has to know what is the center doing.  If the center has gone away from him, then the two gapper will use the guard's push to slam himself into the near hip of the center, and from there will look to work vertically into the backfield.  The guard's initial push will aid the two gapper in getting to the opposite side of the QB from the snap.  If the hard set comes from the center, then the two gapper will simply chip across the face of the center and then work vertical to attack the opposite side of the QB.  The shade does the exact same thing!  If the center hard sets on him, he will come flat across the face of the center and work to the opposite side of the QB.  If he gets a hard set to him from the guard, he presses into the near hip of the center, then attacks vertically to the opposite side of the QB.

The nice thing about the technique is when we use it, we generally set the three technique away from the offset running back (RB) in the gun.  If teams choose to slide protect against us, then what they will be getting is the shade, slamming into the center, and then pushing vertically to the strong side of the QB, while the two gapping three technique will loop around to weak side of the QB.  The quicker the DT's the better this "twist" works, but it can be quite effective.

The other nice thing about teaching the technique this way is that you can still line up in one's, two's or three's and the DT's are doing the same thing no matter if they are a two gapper or a one gapper.  This means there isn't any new teaching based on alignment.  Multiplicity through simplicity!

Some offensive schemes that do limit the effectiveness of TGOG in the pass rush game are those offensives that use 11 and 12 personnel groupings.  The nine technique, is generally a two gapper, so his ability to rush the passer is greatly reduced.  In the past, there have been some calls, where if the LB remains in the box, the DE will play traditional BDSD rules and can be a bit more aggressive against the pass.  However, if this LB has to leave the box, this DE will then become a two gapper.  Again, the idea behind all of this is trying to figure out exactly what you need to stop to defeat your opponent.  If you are facing a team with a good QB, that passes over half the time, TGOG might not be what you want to use.  If you face an 11 or 12 personnel team that runs the ball 75 percent of the time, you might want to use TGOG.  Good film study and game planning can usually help answer these questions.

The Rush DE, to Box or Not to Box

In the early years of using the scheme, there was some debate on the technique of the rush DE, or the one-gapping DE.  Early on some coaches attempted to have this player rush, but then "duck under" and wrong arm any pullers, or kick out blocks.  Unfortunately this has proven just too costly in the grand scheme of things.  Where I work at now, the one gapping DE always boxes.  There will even be times when we play this player in two-point stance so he can better read and react to the blocks he's seeing, but even so, we still have him just box.  By keeping him doing just one thing, we are able to keep it simple, and allow our guys to play faster.  In recent years with advent of Power Read and Inverted Veer and other edge plays, coupled with run-pass options (RPO's), the one gapping DE has had to even become the force player.  It is much easier to be the force player when you know, that you only have one way in which you react to certain blocks.  Basically by boxing, we've taken the "if this then that" part of the equation away from the player.

Basing Out of TGOG

I've had many coaches ask about this, and my answer has always been "no".  I get many surprises about this, but it's true.  In today's game, I think basing out of what you defense was originally designed to do is what you need to do.  Most four man fronts nowadays, were built on BDSD.  I would "base" out that scheme.  It is a great scheme, has been around for quite some time and is easily coached.  TGOG, while easy to coach as well, is different.  For all intensive purposes, TGOG was mean to be an adjustment.  In today's game, I don't think you can just "base" out of something without any change ups.  Offensive coordinators (OC's) are too good anymore to just sit in one scheme.  Being able to be multiple, or even adaptive within your own scheme needs to be the new M.O. of today's defensive coordinators (DC's).  So again, no I wouldn't "base" out of TGOG, but I sure as hell would have it as part of what I was going to teach my players, especially if my schedule was laden with spread offenses.

TGOG For The Odd Front

I must get this question at least once a week.  My answer is quite simply, "I don't know".  The scheme was born from the four man front, so whether it will adapt will be something that will have to be done by trial and tribulation.  I don't know enough about odd front schemes to tell folks whether or not it will adapt.  What I do know, is you don't know unless you've tried it.  That's the beauty of football and being a good football coach.  To be innovative, you have to try stuff.  Don't be a "cookbook coach".  If a scheme intrigues you, but isn't run by your front, find a way to adapt it to your scheme, or quite simply don't run it.

I really don't know?!

Hopefully this post will answer some of your questions on the matter.  I have had the privilege this past season to work with one of the true innovators of the scheme and really get to see it's nuances.  Hopefully there will be more to come from this upcoming season!


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Five Spoke Secondary Part III

In this segment on the Five Spoke Secondary Posts, I'll delve into the blitz strategy that one can institute using TCU's blitz scheme as a template.  Now, a lot of this IS NOT what TCU does, but IS some thing that myself and other coaches have done in the past when utilizing the 4-2-5 defense.

The Basics

To review the coverage aspects of TCU's blitz coverage scheme, simply known as Cover 0, we need to review the rules and the adaptations that TCU has in adapting their coverages to fit their blitz scheme.  The rules in TCU's Cover 0 are very simple and are as follows:

The scheme is completely based upon match ups.  Generally speaking, in college football, unless the tight end you are covering is Gronkowski, then there's no need to waste a corner here in that match up.  So, vs. closed sets (twins closed, or trips closed) then the corner to the nub side will simply "flip" over to the other side and cover the other "number one" receiver in the count.  An illustration of the count system is shown below.

Typical Count System

Count System vs. Twins Closed

Count System vs. Trips Closed

As you can see from the illustrations above, this count system is adapted to the Cover 0 scheme to keep corners covering receivers, and linebacker (LB)/safety types covering tight ends (TE's) and running backs (RB's).  One thing missing from the list of rules is the diagnosing of the position of the number two receiver.  In general, the Strong Safety (SS) and Weak Safety (WS) will have the number two receiver to their respective side, outside the tackles.  If no number two receiver outside the tackles, then they are deemed as "free".  The Free Safety (FS) will handle the number three receiver outside of the tackle box, and if there isn't a number three receiver outside the tackle box, then the FS is listed as "free".  The Read Side LB, will have the number three receiver inside the tackle box and the Away Side LB will have the number two receiver inside the tackle box to his side.

Now, as we know, somebody is blitzing, so there won't be seven defenders involved in coverage.  As is the case with  most six man pressures, there will be five guys in coverage.  The FS is generally the adjuster when it comes to blitzing in this scheme, however this isn't always the case.  There are also some calls when a defender, by alignment, does not have good leverage on who he is supposed to cover (as is the case when the SS is asked to cover an attached TE).  In this case, the SS and FS can "banjo" the TE, so long as the FS is not covering somewhere else for another blitzer (think Bullets vs. two back sets for instance).  The LB's also have some calls and rules that help them distinguish who is covering who, but for this post, I am just concerned with the fact that you know the basics.

Banjo concept

Blitz Coverage

Now that the basic rules have been established a quick review of some basic man blitzes from the 4-2-5 is listed below:

  • Bullets- Both LB's blitzing.  This means all five defensive backs (DB's) will be involved in the coverage (although the coverage is not just limited to the DB's, the defensive line (DL) can also be involved by adding certain calls).
  • Smokes/Lions- One or both of the outside safeties (OSS's) are blitzing.  In this case, the LB's, and the FS would be involved in coverage along with the Corners.  If tagged, a DL could also be involved.
  • Dogs- An OSS and a LB are blitzing to one side of the formation.  Now, both Corners, the FS, a LB and the OSS not blitzing are part of the coverage.
  • Bullets Thunder- This means an OSS, and both LB's are blitzing.  Now a DL must be added into the coverage mix along with the OSS not blitzing, the Corners and the FS.
  • Mob- Here, both OSS's are blitzing (if they can by rule) and the LB's are blitzing.  The DL, the FS and the Corners are all now part of the coverage.
Again, this is just the basics.  I know TCU does this, and Boise State does that, etc., but this is just meant to be a review.  I strongly suggest going to Cripes! Get Back to Fundamentals or to Blitzology to get a better understanding of each individual blitz if you aren't familiar with them already.

For this post, I'm focusing mainly on the secondary and how it handles blitzing one of its own.  Bullets are not a major factor, because the five "cover guys" are doing just what they do best...cover.  What I'm more concerned with are when one, or both of the OSS's are involved in a blitz.  

To understand the blitz coverage, one needs to review the second post in this series about alignment.  Your blitz attack, should mirror your base defense against the offense you are facing.  To drastically alter your alignment just to blitz is to tip off exactly what you are trying to do to the offense.  When blitzing members of the secondary (mainly Dogs and Smokes) there are a variety of ways to tag the blitz as to know who and where the blitz is going to be coming from.  These tags are critical when matching the blitz up to base alignments.  Let's take a look at each series of blitzes involving a member of the secondary to  understand who this system works.


As mentioned above, Smokes are a safety blitz, by either one or both of the OSS's.  Smokes can be tagged Wide, Short, Thunder or Lightning.  A wide call indicates that the safety to the wide side of the field will be blitzing.  A short call would be just the opposite.  Thunder indicates the safety to run strength will be blitzing, while Lightning is the opposite tag, meaning the safety away from run strength would blitz.  A Double Smoke call would indicate that both safeties are blitzing.

Coverage, when blitzing a DB has to be set up in a way that no man is left open.  One unique thing I noticed when learning this defense is that TCU rarely checks out of blitz.  If a cover guy is needed to cover instead of blitz, he covers and someone else will blitz for him.  For instance, if a Double Smoke is called vs. a 2x2 set, then one of the safeties, by rule, cannot blitz because you have a match up issue with an inside LB (ILB) covering a speedy wide receiver (WR).  This situation is where one of the safeties will make a "switch" call.  What switch does is put the DB in coverage and lets the ILB take the responsibility of blitzing.

Where the flexibility of the defense comes into play is clearly evident with the switch call.  I'll add to this even further.  I faced a very dangerous RB  in the past that was as deadly running the ball as he was catching it out of the backfield.  During that week, we changed the Smoke scheme up to where we ended up with the FS coming down into the box to cover the RB and both ILB's ran the Smoke, instead of the safeties.  This is illustrated below.

What this allowed us to do was keep a six man pressure on, and keep our best coverage options in place.  The reason we didn't simply call it Moe and Woe (in TCU terms this is Mike off Edge and Will off Edge, although I think TCU calls their ILB's Mike and Sam) was that sometimes they would line up said good RB as a slot receiver and bring in their backup.  In that case, we didn't want to switch both sides, only the side this player was on.  Again, you can see the flexibility of the defense.  Our guys were simply trained, that when this player (who wore jersey number 21) aligned in the slot, that safety covered and gave a switch call.  Everyone else simply ran Double Smoke.

If this would've been to the other side of the defense, we had our FS cover number 21, and ran the exact same look.  The reason for this is simple, despite the fact our SS is labeled as a safety is only in name.  This player, generally has been more LB than safety.  In the theme of keeping the best match ups possible, our FS was a better cover player than our SS, so we let the SS run the Smoke, and the FS would cover number 21.  My main point here is to not get caught up in what TCU does, but understand the basic concept and the dynamics of the scheme.


As I discussed earlier, Dogs are both a Bullet and a Smoke to one side of the formation.  Dogs are similar to Smokes in that they can be called Wide and Short, as well as Strong and Weak.  One common problem with Dogs, is that of coverage.  The FS has to cover for the blitzing OSS, whereas the opposite OSS may be asked to come across the formation and handle a third receiving threat.  This was never more evident that when TCU faced Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl a few years back.  The play that sealed the game was a Dog blitz run into a Trips formation.  The problem with Dogs is if the WS doesn't get over in time to cover the number three receiver out of these formations.  I've alluded to this in other posts on TCU's blitz scheme.

In the above example, the "Frog" Dog is a Dog blitz run to the side of the offset RB (in this example it would be called Frog Dogs C in TCU terminology).  As we can see the blitz coverage rules hold up, with the FS covering for the blitzing SS and the WS handling the number two receiver outside the tackle box.  The away side LB would have the RB.  Now, the away side LB doesn't have very good leverage here, so the blitz would more than likely be tagged with something such as a "peel" call so that there would be flare control on the RB.  No matter, the basics are pretty much covered.  Against a trips set, things would shake out as follows:

Again, all of this is just the basics.  The FS covers for the blitzer, but must signal to the WS to cover the number three receiver to the read side.  The away side LB will take the RB.  Again, TCU utilizes some other calls that assist the LB that isn't blitzing in his coverage on the RB.

Where the flexibility comes into play is with something I encountered back in 2013.  I had two prototypical deep safeties.  Long, rangy, and both ball hawks.  Both were pretty good in coverage, and did a decent job of coming downhill and playing in the box when needed to.  My problem was my SS.  My SS was a young man, of tremendous heart and character, but extremely small stature, and minimal athletic ability to be labeled a "DB".  His coverage skills were poor, but he had a knack for getting to the football.  His 5'5" 165 pound frame didn't lend him well to playing inside the box, because as soon as an offensive lineman (OL), got his hands on him he was finished.  Where this young man really excelled was when we brought him off the edge, these same OL, couldn't block him.  His quickness and lateral change of direction speed in tight areas made him a nightmare to block.  To add to this, my WS was almost the complete opposite.  When he blitzed him, he was easily picked up, and quite simply put, didn't care anything at all about being blitzed.  Don't get me wrong, he was smart, and was a master at keeping the away side coverage aligned and in the proper call, but he just didn't have that knack for getting after a ball carrier, or QB when being blitzed.  What would end up happening to us, is we'd get into a blitz, and by alignment or motion, it would end up being the WS getting blitzed and not the SS.  This caused us some grief early on, until discussing the subject with a good friend, shed some light on the flexibility of the scheme.

This was pretty much my SS

What my friend and I came up with is what I later coined "Scottie" blitzes.  Since my SS's name was Scottie, I named it after him!  What a Scottie tag did was tell my SS no matter what the blitz was (Smoke or Dog) he was running the blitz.  For instance, if we wanted to bring a blitz from the boundary, the SS (Scottie) simply switched with our WS and ran the blitz.  The WS would become the safety away from the blitz and cover.  The FS would travel with Scottie and would cover the number two receiver to the side the blitz was being run to.  We had Scottie Dogs and Scottie Smokes, but all of them were consistent.  It was quite simple to teach, and even easier to execute as it actually gave the players less to  think about.  My FS, who could be absent-minded at times, simply had to follow Scottie, and cover the number two receiver outside of the tackles.  My WS, who was very intelligent simply covered the number two receiver outside the tackle box away from the blitz.  A good illustration in the differences between the two blitzes is shown below with a Frog Dog.  Normally, to a trips set with the RB set weak, the weak side LB and WS would blitz this formation and the SS and FS would cover number two and number three, respective, to the trips side.  Well, if we were running a Scottie Frog Dog, then our SS simply went to the side of the RB and blitzed, whereas the WS replaced him, covering the number two receiver into the trips side.

What this little tactic did to our blitz scheme was actually twofold.  First, it put our best blitzer doing what he did best, blitz.  It also kept him from being in coverage, where he was, quite simply put, a liability.  Secondly, this made blitzing our WS EVEN BETTER.  Yes, you read that right.  Teams would scheme us, and figure out who our blitz guy was and so we were seeing them adjust protection in the direction of "Scottie".  Well, we'd Dog or Smoke away from Scottie every now and then and those blitzes hit pay dirt over 95 percent of the time that season.  Even though we weren't sending our best blitzer, it's easy to blitz when a team doesn't think your blitzing!


Again, as with the other posts in this series, one can see you don't have to run the 4-2-5 verbatim to what they do in Fort Worth.  The general idea behind Gary Patterson's scheme is so much more than just being able to call "Field G Army Wide Dogs B Silver".  It's the ability to pigeon-hole your players into what fits them the best within the defense.  Had I just simply stuck to what TCU did in 2013, we wouldn't have been anywhere near as good of a defense.  If there is one thing that you should take away from these posts, it is the age-old football axiom of "Think Players, not Plays".  This used to be an offensive point of wisdom, passed from one offensive coordinator to the next, however it can also be adapted to the defensive side of the football.  Don't ask your players to be something they are not.  My Scottie, was not a DB, as he struggled with man-to-man coverage, despite us doing one-on-ones' on a daily basis.  What he could do, was be the most disruptive little "fly-in-the-ointment" when we blitzed him.  Flip that around and the same could be said for our WS.  He wasn't going to do well if we blitzed him, yet, he was very solid in coverage.  Again, adapting the scheme to fit your players is the common theme or thread that needs to be taken away from these posts.  Hopefully I was able get you to understand that in just three posts!