Monday, May 2, 2011

2 Read/Blue Coverage-Run Fits

Run fits in a coverage are every bit as important as how the secondary relates to the pass.  Blue coverage is a great way to get the benefit of a patter reading coverage, with the aggressive run support of a Robber (TCU's cover 2), or double robber coverage (Quarters).  A lot has been asked of me over the past few weeks about Blue coverage and the run fits.  I want to go over these in some detail here and try and clear up some questions.  Obviously utilizing only one coverage scheme can be dangerous, but it is my honest opinion that a high school team could solely base out this coverage and be very competitive (with all other "Jimmies" and "Joes" aspects being the same).  Blue coverage is very adaptable to the spread run game, as well as the 2 and 3 back power varieties.  So let's dig deeper into the run fits in Blue coverage.

As with any defensive scheme, and in the words of the great Brophy, "your coverage determines your front".  There has never been a truer statement in all of football, because your secondary structure determines your run support.  This is critical if you are going to understand the rest of the post.  Blue coverage, Robber coverage, and Quarters coverage all are set up to turn the inside 6 or 7 defenders loose, without having any fear of the cutback.  It allows them to play a spill philosophy with reckless abandonment because those interior players know, they have somebody on the edge to spill to, or they know there will be somebody there to play the boot, reverse, and cutback (BRC).  In every defense there needs to be these two players.  I call one of them the force player, and the other the BRC player (for more info. on BRC, go here and check my post on backside run support).  The force player is the defensive back who's side is being attacked.  The BRC player is the force player on the opposite side that the offense is attacking.  These two players are the crux, for aggressive run support from your secondary.  So, let's look at Blue coverage run support now.

Blue Coverage-Run Support
Blue coverage is a safety run support coverage, exactly the same as that of Quarters coverage.  The safeties in Blue coverage should flat foot read on the snap of the ball.  I have always taught to read the #2 receiver, because that is our passing key, and this key tells everything we need to know, about the play that is developing in front of them.  Now some folks argue, you should key the end man on the line of scrimmage (EMOL) for this read.  To which my argument has been in the past, linemen have not given the DB's I've coached clear reads.  I've seen tackles who's lazy run blocks closely resembled a pass set.  The other thing is, by keeping the safeties eyes on his normal keys, he doesn't have to make 2 reads on the same play.  Key #2, and everything should be fine. 

Always key #2

I'm going to give you some basic run fits vs. very basic plays.  I hope this isn't too vague, as I don't know if I have the time (or patience) to draw up Blue coverage to all the possible run plays you will see.  I will show you from a 4-2-5 perspective, so you will have to use your imagination if you run another front (sorry).  However, I do feel that from these illustrations you can get an idea on how the coverage attacks the run game.  So here goes.

Blue vs. Isolation/Power Runs
Strong side

Full Flow Strong

The $ will attack the D gap, on isolation/power runs to him, and will spill any type of kickout block coming to him.  The F will overlap the $ and force runs to the strong side, always keeping his outside arm free.  The W, will see action away, and will screw down and check for BRC, finally ending up in the weakside B gap.  The force side corner, will secondary force the play, and the backside corner will use a technique I call "insurance".  The force side corner will only come downhill to the LOS, once the ball has declared and all threat of a pass has been eliminated.  The same goes for the backside corner, however upon seeing action away, he will look to execute his pursuit drill technique to protect from the "home run" play should the inside run leak past the front 6. 

Weak Side

Full Flow Weak
Here, the W, sees action his way (the #2 receiver being in the backfield helps with this read).  The W keeps his outside arm free as he attacks the LOS.  The $, will scrape to play cutback in the strong side A gap, while the F will screw down and will check for boot and reverse only.  Here, the BRC responsibilities are split between the $ and F, whereas in the 4-3 structure I presented in my earlier post on backside runs support the backside safety takes all the BRC responsibilities.  Just a slight difference in the two defenses is all. 

Blue vs. Outside Runs (Sweep/Stretch/Option)
Strong Side

Fast Flow Strong
On fast flow to the strong side the $ is great position to leverage this run, however it's the F's job to make the $ correct.  If the $ comes under the fullback's (FB's) kickout block (which is perfectly acceptable, remember his rule is to spill any kickout blocks) then the FS will overlap to the outside and force.  If the $ gets upfield, and forces, then the F will come under the block and play the alley.  This run support is actually a mixture of how true Robber and Quarters would play the outside run in this situation.  The W has his normal BRC rules, and the corners follow their secondary force and insurance rules.

Fast Flow Weak
 Weak side

On weakside runs, the W will see #2, which is in the backfield, coming at him and will attack this downhill once he sees the ball pitched or handed off.  The $ can scream from the backside and play any cutback threat, while the F has the boot and reverse threats sewn up on the backside.  A coaching point for your corners is that on sweep type plays where the ball is pitched quickly, young corners tend to want to "fly up" and join in on the fun of tackling the ballcarrier.  However this is where the threat of the halfback (HB) pass comes in.  This is why it is imperative that you coach your corners, to NOT attack these wide run plays until the ball has crossed the LOS.  This will eliminate the threat of the deep ball being throw by the running back (RB). 

Option Strong

Dive Option Strong

 I tried to keep this as simple as possible, and I know there are way more ways to run option to the strong side of a pro formation, but to be quite honest, defending the option with Blue coverage could be a post in and of itself.  Anyhow, the basics against the option are that the $ is an outside 1/2 of quarterback (QB) to pitch player, and the F can rally straight to the pitch.  The corner, as with the sweep will wait until the ball has broken the LOS to attack the ballcarrier.  The W will execute his BRC technique and the backside corner executes his insurance technique.

Dive Option Weak
To the weak side, the W is purely a pitch player.  The $ can scream down the LOS looking for cutback and the F is the boot/reverse player.  The key to defending the option on the weak side is the play of the defensive end (DE) and inside linebacker (ILB).  The R in this case will take the dive and the M will scrape and play outside 1/2 of QB to pitch.  The S, must scrape across and play for the inside 1/2 of the QB.  Again, defending the option is not something you can put in a "tidbit" format, however I think you get the idea of how to defend it.

Option teams also love to crack your pitch/force players with the wide receivers (WR's) whenever they see them being too aggressive.  Here is where Blue coverage really puts itself heads and shoulders above Robber and Quarters.  See, in both Robber and Quarters, the corners are usually well off the ball, and have either a zone (deep 1/2 in Robber) or man coverage responsibility.  This makes them late or unsure on any type of crack blocking scheme on the perimeter.  The presnap alignment of the corner in Blue coverage allows the corner to execute what I like to call, "crack and replace".  This technique is no different than that of block down, step down (BDSD) used along the defensive line.  The corner treats the crack block like the DE treats a down block, and comes off the hip of the WR and will replace, or switch responsibilities with the safety to his side.  So now, the corner is the force/pitch player, and the safety to that side becomes the secondary force player.  The corner must yell something to the safety to let him know a crack is coming.  I always had my guys yell "rat" as it sounded like crack, but was easier to say with a mouthpiece in.  Once the safety gets the call, he should settle his feet, and overlap the crack blocker.  In the safety's mind, he should be thinking "post corner" by the crack blocker, and not attack the LOS until after the ball has crossed the LOS.  This is a tough technique to master, but it is extremely important because as I stated earlier, option teams love switch blocking on the perimeter!  By executing the crack and replace technique, this will allow the defense to stay one step ahead of the offense, all based solely on a simple read by the corner and safety.

Crack and Replace

Now that's a crack block!

 Blue vs. Counter Runs
Strong side

Counter Strong
Against the counter to the strong side, the $ will spill any puller or kickout block he gets.  He can do this because he has the FS behind him to overlap and force.  I want to keep the ball lateral at all times (remember my motto: "Spill it and kill it").  The F will overlap the $ and keep his outside arm free playing for the bounce by the $ and Sam (S) LB.  The W, will check for boot and reverse, and will then screw down late for the cutback.  Some don't quite understand this concept, but TCU does this with their SS and they do so to keep the ball from cutting back.  The cut back run is the "home run" play in all of football, so the idea here is to keep the play running laterally.  The $ should see the puller to him, and slam down inside wrong-arming (or as I call it "splattering" the puller.  This creates a mess inside and forces the runner to "bounce" outside to where the F is patiently waiting. 


Counter Weak
Vs. counter to the weak side, the W will screw down and play the force player, looking for the spill my the Mike (M) and the weakside defensive end (DE).  The $ will scream from the backside playing the cutback and the F will screw down and be the BRC player away from the run action. 

Blue vs. Divide Flow

Divide Flow

It seems more and more Pro I teams are getting away from the old inside and outside zone, and going back to gap and man schemes (at least in my experience they are), however I thought I would share the divide flow just in case some of you are seeing this.  I don't know of any divide flow plays to the weak side, as I've always classified Belly and Inside Zone as the two divide flow plays an offense can run.  Please feel free to comment if I've missed something (oh yeah, the old trap play is a divide flow play too).

This is not much different than counter flow, other than the $ does not have to spill (there is no puller/kickout blocker).  The W is the key to defending this play, as he has to be SO patient.  Zone teams love to run the boot off of this very action, so he can't just go flying down to his cut back support role, however zone running backs are usually notorious for cutting the ball back against the grain.  The W has to be coached up on what to look for when defending a good zone run team.  I like him to keep his eyes on the QB as he approaches the LOS, and also attempt to see the TE coming back across the middle on his drag route. 

I know that is not all of the possible plays you can see, however I feel that is a fairly comprehensive list.  If you have any questions, hit me up via email and we can talk.  Again, I hope I'm doing some good now in my new role of "consultant" as I'm still having to get used to not having the whistle around the ol' neck anymore.  As far as I can tell, this should do it for the basics of Blue coverage.  Feel free to email me for more specific questions.  Whew!  I think I'll take a little sabbatical for a while, BUT as a teaser, I will let you in on what I'm researching.

  • The 3-4 defense. 
    • I've always liked it, never ran it, and actually got my start under an old "50" guy back in the day.  Anyone with any resources email me please!
  • The 46 Nickel
    • Still would like to look more into this great pressure package defense.  I feel I've just scratched the surface with what I learned this past season.
  • The 4-3 Scream and Splatter
    • I know, sounds like a bad night after some bad Mexican food, but I've had a lot of people over the years ask me about this defense and its concepts.  I'm going to scan what I have and make it available as well as writing about some of the conversations I had with the defense's founders.
  • The Flexbone
    • Yes, I haven't bitten the bullet yet, but I'm thinking very hard about writing that book.  Still sitting on the fence, however thanks for all the support in my latest poll.
  • Attacking Vertical Set Pass Protection
    • This one has me intrigued, and I really think it may the first topic I'm going to look at.  Hopefully some good comes in my research. 
Too much?  Well, I ain't got nothin' better to do, so might as well help out where I can!  For those entering spring ball, get after em' and good luck.  For those waiting until August, keep em' in the weight room!  Good luck guys!

Peace...I'm out!