Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The 46 Nickel and the Triple Option...Myths Debunked!

For years I was one of those coaches who always thought the 46 Defense (sometimes called the Bear), was no match for the dreaded triple option.  A few years ago in a spring scrimmage we played a 3-4 team that kept shifting to the 46, and it completely wrecked our gameplan.  The only success we had was attempting to run Rocket toss as well as getting in a "Heavy" formation and trying to run outside veer (OSV).  By the time the adjustments were made, it was too little too late unfortunately and we lost the scrimmage.  I had never really faced the 46 as an offensive coach, and I have always been interested in why we didn't have that much success against that defense.  Well as most know from this story, I came upon the 46 by sheer necessity to stop the bleeding a couple of seasons ago.  Well, not facing many option teams where I'm at led me not to worry about the old myth that the 46 can't handle the triple option.  Anyhow, as with anything I run, I research the heck out of it and over the past few months I've been wearing out grease pens attempting to break down this myth that the 46 cannot handle the triple option.  So that's what this post will be about, and most notably, the triple option from the flexbone offense.

Rule #1...Set the Coverage First!

As with defending any offense, you must set your coverage first.  The 46 Nickel bases out of man free, or what some call Cover one.  I'm not a fan of man coverage when facing the option, as I want all 11 eyes on defense being able to see the offense.  So, I fall back on one of my old coverages (which you can read about here), known as "3 Robber".  Simply put this coverage is based on whether or not the offense motions.  If the offense motions, you are playing standard Robber Coverage.  If the offense does not motion, you are playing a three by three fire zone.  Here are the pass responsibilities for each defender depending on which coverage is used (motion or no motion):

Robber (vs. motion)
  • Corner- Deep 1/2 all of #1 vertical
  • FS- All of #2 vertical (away from motion), 2 not vertical rob curl to post of 1.
  • SS/WS- Curl/Flat/Swing deep of #2
  • Mike- Middle hook, all of #3 vertical

3 Robber vs. Triple Pass

Cover 3 (Offense did not motion)
  • Corner- Deep 1/3, all of #1 vertical
  • FS- Deep middle 1/3, all of #3 vertical
  • SS/WS- All of #2 vertical or out
  • Mike- Middle hook, disrupt any crossing routes (do not chase)

3 Robber vs. 4 Vertical

The coverage sets the front, so now that we have set our coverage and how we are going to play these respective players, now lets look at the front.


The front is fairly standard when you get down to it.  I treat this as a one back offense, so the Mike LB will align over the single back which would be the flexbone's B back.  The defensive line (DL) will align in their standard three, zero, three alignment, while the outside linebackers (OLB's) align on the line of scrimmage (LOS) two yards outside the end man on the line of scrimmage (EMOL).  The strong safety (SS) and the weak safety (WS) will align at LB depth, over the slot to their side.  The corners can align any way they want so as to disguise where their zone responsibilities are.  The FS aligns over the center, no deeper than ten yards off the LOS. 

Base Alignment
 Now the variations are numerous to the base front.  In this post, however, I'm only going to concentrate on how the base front will handle the flexbone.

Rules for Defending the Inside Veer

The Inside Veer (ISV) is the basis of the flexbone offense.  This is the heart and soul of the flexbone.  To defend this offense, you MUST at the very LEAST slow down this offensive play.  How do we do it, let's look at the guiding principles in which the flexbone offense is going to attack the 46 Nickle.

First, with the 46 being predominately a one-high (better known as MOFC) defense, the flexbone offensive coordinator (OC) is usually going to treat this as an eight man front (and rightfully so).  Here is how a typical flexbone team will run the ISV at the 46 Nickel:

Inside Veer vs. 46
Nothing surprising here, the playside tackle (PST) and playside guard (PSG) are going to attempt to move the three technique and combo to either the Mike LB or the WS, depending on whether or not the Mike scrapes or fills.  The playside slotback (PSSB) will load the Mike LB if he scrapes, whereas he will stalk the FS if the Mike fills.  Everything else is pretty standard flexbone stuff.

The guiding principle is this, there must be a dedicated defender to defend the inside and outside half of all three phases when defending the triple option.  What does that mean?
  • There is a defender inside the load block (dive).
  • There is a defender outside the load block (dive).
  • There is a defender inside the QB (cutback).
  • There is a defender outside the QB (spill).
  • There is a defender inside the pitch (alley).
  • There is a defender outside the pitch (force).
Now all we have to do is get the right pieces in the right place!  So how do we do that.  It's quite simple actually, and here are the rules:
  • Nose- Hips to the hole, close the A gap, if overtaken, make a pile.
  • End (to action)- Hips to the hole, do not allow PST off to Mike, if you feel movement, make a pile.
  • End (away from action)- Don't allow jump through, look for pull coming back to you (trap) and play dive cutback.
  • OLB (to action)- Feather pitch, don't allow pitch back to gain outside leverage on you.  Keep shoulders square to the LOS at all times.
  • OLB (away from action)- Squeeze down inside, keep shoulders square and play BRC (boot, reverse, cutback).
  • OSS (to action)- Fit off the load block, play inside 1/2 of QB.
  • OSS (away from action)- Scrape and stack the BSG, play cutback all the way.
  • MLB- Fit in open window (A open, fit inside dive/A closed scrape and play outside dive to inside 1/2 of QB) to flow.
  • FS- On motion, slide over guard in direction of motion, eyes on #2.  If #2 is vertical, man #2 per Robber rules.  If #2 load blocks, fill outside load block and play outside 1/2 of QB and rally late to pitch.
  • Corner (to action)- Drop off #1, if #1 stalks, rally outside late to pitch, must ensure it's not veer pass.  If #1 cracks, replace and run to pitch.
  • Corner (away from action)- insurance rule, get in pursuit angle.
So, who fits where?

Make it fit!!!
Inside the Dive
Outside the Dive
Inside the QB
Outside the QB
Inside the pitch
Outside the pitch

Not only do you have at least one player dedicated to each half of each phase, in some cases there are even two players dedicated!  This is an important factor if your defense is to break down the triple option rushing attack.

What makes this defense so special against the option compared to others I've run is the DL play.  If the nose does his job he leverages any cutback by the B back on the give portion of ISV.  However, coupled with the Mike play of filling the open window to flow, of the Nose DOES get reached, then the Mike simply fills this window.  The Mike is your "plus one" player you always hear me talking about when facing the triple option.  The key component to making all of this work is that action-side three technique.  He cannot lose ground, and must make a pile in the B gap.  Most triple option QB's are not going to give the ball when there is a mess in that B gap.  What makes this tough is that you MUST find a kid who's willing to sell out and make that pile all night long, because if not, the scheme will be severely compromised.


So, now that you've shown your hand in the first series, how are you going to deal with adjustments by the offense?  The way to handle this cat and mouse game is to adjust first!  The Jet call is the first adjustment that I would use.  Jet is simple, all jet does, is tell the OLB and OSS to exchange responsibilities.  So now the OLB is going to slam down off the load block and play inside 1/2 of QB, while the OSS is going to auto scrape and play outside the pitch back.  One coaching point is to school the OSS to get on his horse as there will probably be a very quick pitch, so he needs to get out there and maintain leverage on the pitch back.

Jet Call
Another call that can be utilized is the "Heavy" call.  Heavy puts the OSS to the action side down hard inside off of the down block by the PST, and has the Mike scrape hard across the load and take the FS normal job.  The FS now fits inside the load block on the Heavy call.  Again, just another way to "mess" with the triple option QB.

Heavy Call
As you can see, the 46 is actually quite sound against the triple option.  In my next post I'm going to explain how to play some of the other formations that flexbone teams will throw at you, as well as some of the other plays such as midline, rocket, and the dreaded outside veer (OSV).  Until next time!