Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Putting it all Together-Run Fits in the Two Gap/One Gap Scheme

Since writing the piece on the Two Gap/One Gap (TGOG) scheme for defensive line (DL) play, I've had a lot of coaches ask about the linebacker reads and run fits when utilizing this scheme.  The TGOG is one scheme I've seen that makes your LB's play extremely fast.  The reason: there are basically little to no reads.  Most of us have some sort of read or recognition scheme in place for our LB's.  Whether it be guard-readers, back-readers, cloudy/clear, etc., all of us defensive coaches have a system in place that allows our LB's to get their reads and keys.  The difference with the TGOG scheme, is that there are no more reads, only keys. 

Let's take a look at the "typical" run fits you will see from a standard 21 personnel I formation team.  I'm going to look at these three plays in this article:

  1. Isolation
  2. Power (G)
  3. Counter (GT)
Before looking at the individual play, let's look at LB reads in a generic fashion so as to display the glaring differences between the read/key system and the key system of the TGOG scheme.

As I mentioned, most schemes use a visual key to stimulate the LB to read the play.  Some coaches use near back, far back, offensive line or a combination of two or all of the above.  Whatever it is you use, there is a key and then a read that must occur to allow your players to decipher the play.  The key is a visual object, such as the near back.  Most coaches use and "if/then" approach to coaching the key read system.  What this means is, we teach by stating "If the near back does X, then you do Y".  So your player is looking to decipher the key's initial movement (X) and then react to what he's been trained to do if he sees this movement (Y).  There is nothing wrong with this system, so before the lynch mob shows up at my front door, please understand I've done this very same system for many years with mixed success.  However, upon being introduced to the TGOG scheme, I realized that by reducing the reads to a very simple and clear cut reaction, you get faster LB speed, which thereby puts your players in a better position to make a play.

How it works is simple, because you as the defensive coach know what gaps are filled pre-snap, you can convey this to your LB corps.  What happens is that you can now tell your LB's instead of seeing a key make a movement and then having to scrape to the open window, you can simply say "run through this gap".  This type of attack reaction is nothing new, our odd front brethren (especially the 3-3/3-5 guys) have been doing this for years.  All you are doing now is utilizing the same philosophy of the odd front guys, but out of the even front.  Pictures are worth a thousand words, and I'm sure by now I have you thoroughly confused, so let's look at the run fits of the three plays mentioned earlier and clear some things up.

The Iso play is quite simple and is shown below.  This play can be seen from two back 21 personnel teams, to one back spread teams.  The idea is to "isolate" one LB and use a lead blocker to block this person while the offensive line (OL) blocks everyone else. 

Look at the reaction by the defense, one can see it's the usual run fits for the 4-2-5.  However it's the "how" the defense gets to this point that makes the TGOG scheme such a great system.  Looking from strong to weak, the strong DE is a two gap player, meaning he has the C gap and doesn't have to honor the arc release by the TE. The three technique, is also a two gapper, so he's in a very, very tight three alignment.  He's thinking bull rush and stop the trap.  When he gets the base block, he simply comes underneath and slides into the A gap.  The strong side inside LB (SILB) will see the B gap open and will attack the outside breast plate of the lead blocker.  This LB is the "box back" player, meaning he is to box the ball in to the backside LB.  On the weak side of the play, the Nose, is a one gap player, meaning he is getting up field and upfield quickly.  This technique of upfield play will not allow the center to come off for fear the backside guard (BSG) will not be able to cut off the Nose and the Nose will make the play.  The weakside five technique is a two gapper, so he's thinking bull rush and spill any puller or kickout block.  If they zone away from him, he comes screaming down the LOS looking to spill any puller.  If they hinge block him, he will come underneath and then work down the LOS to the football.  The weakside inside linebacker (WILB) is the key to defending this play.  First off, I do not coach my LB's to have cutback.  The number one way to slow a LB down is have him play the cut back.  I want fast LB's so the WILB, knowing (because you've coached it this way) that both the A and B gaps to his side are taken, only has to react to flow strong one way.  He is to intersect the path of the lead blocker from the inside and look for the ball.  The WILB in this case is known as the spill LB.  Simple, fast, and easy to coach.  So, the WILB only has to react one way to his key's movement.  There is no open window/closed window etc. you are TELLING him where to go based on his keys movement.  The Strong Safety, (SS), Free Safety, (FS) and Weak Safety (WS) all handle cutback and force duties.  This way your LB's can play fast and your opponent will swear you either have a copy of their playbook, or are blitzing every down.  Now let's look at the weakside isolation play.

To the weak side, the weak DE, being a two gapper, will come underneath the base block by the tackle and play outside the fullback's (FB) isolation block.  The nose is getting upfield, so he is constricting the run lane from the backside, thereby helping with the cut back.  The WILB, knowing the DE has B gap, the Nose has A gap, and the SILB will be inside the fullback, he can scrape outside for the spill.  To the strong side, the three technique is purely thinking king of the boards (KOB) and stop the trap, so when the guard scoops, he's coming hard down the LOS looking to spill any puller.  He's doing this as he drives the OG down inside, thereby keeping the OG from being able to cut off the SILB.  The strong DE is getting also a two-gapper, so he comes screaming inside the TE and forces the OT/TE to combo him thereby keeping the SS free for playing the cutback.  The SILB, knowing that the A and B gaps, as well as any threat of the cutback has been taken away is the "free runner" here.  He can fly across the hip of the Nose to inside the lead blocker.  So to the weak side the WILB is the box back player while the SILB is the spill player.  This concept is not new and has been referred to on other sites as "lever, spill, lever".  What is different is how the LB's get into their role.  The TGOG LB, runs to a certain spot, while others have to "read" their way there.

The power play, is similar to the isolation play, but the play side DE is being isolated now instead of the play side LB.  Here is how the run fits in the TGOG scheme look when the Power is run to the strong side of the formation.

Here the strong side DE is the isolated player.  The strong DE is thinking get up the field, however once he sees the near hip of the OT go down inside, he's coming flat down inside to spill the kick out block by the FB.  The three technique is two gapping as well, which puts him under the double team and helping with the cutback.  The SILB knowing that the A and D gaps are taken care of can scrape over the strong side DE's spill and play the C gap.  This LB is the lever LB, and will take on all blocks with his outside arm free.  To the weak side, the Nose gets up the field and helps to contain the runner from the backside.  The weak DE is a two-gapper, so when the OT either scoops or hinges this player will come underneath and play the cut back through the B gap.  The WILB knowing he has no cutback responsibilities is a free runner and can scrape across the midline to play the strong side B gap.  This LB is the spill LB, and will take on all blocks with his outside shoulder.

To the weak side nothing changes for any player.  The weakside DE is a two-gapper so he mashes the OT down inside and spills the FB's kickout block.  The Nose works upfield and plays the cutback.  The WILB, knowing all the gaps to his side are filled, can scrape outside and is the box back player to the weakside.  To the strong side both DL are two-gappers so they are coming down hard and flat and trying to eat up two blockers in doing so not allowing any blockers to come off on the SILB and SS.  The three technique is also working to get in the hip pocket of the puller in an attempt to chase the play down from the backside.  The SILB is the free runner, and the spill player, so he is free to scrape across the formation and spill the lead block of the pulling guard.

Defending the counter requires one hard and fast set of rules.  These rules, which I have used for many years were stolen from legendary defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan.  To properly defend the counter, or as I call it the GT counter (for Guard and Tackle pulling-some call this the Counter Trey), you need:
  1. A defender allocated to be outside the first puller.
  2. A defender who plays inside the first puller, but outside the second puller.
  3. A defender to play inside the second puller.
Looking at the diagram below we can see how the TGOG scheme defends the Counter Trey.

The strong side DE, being the two-gapper will come down inside and spill the first puller (this is the player inside the first puller and outside the second puller).  The three technique, works down inside the A gap and plays for any cut back runs by the running back (some of the most dangerous runs on Counter Trey come in either the weak or strong A gap cut backs).  The SILB, will step with his key (the running back for me) and rock back, knowing the A and B gaps are taken, he can scrape outside and play for the spill by the DE (the SILB in this case is the "outside the first puller" player).  On the weak side, the Nose helps to keep the RB contained by clogging up the weak A gap.  The Nose also makes the pulling guard and tackle's job difficult too by trying to create a "bubble" in the weak A gap for both the guard and the tackle to have to work around.  Good Noseguards can even pick off one of these players so the front side of the play doesn't have a chance.  The weak DE, being a two-gapper is going to try and get to the tackle, and once he sees the kickout block by the FB, he will spill this block and attempt to chase the play.  This is good technique for holding up the FB's release on waggle or counter-boot plays that are common playaction passes off of GT counter action.  The WILB will react to his key,  then rock back to the strong side coming off the hip of the Nose and playing for the cutback.  This LB is the "inside the second puller" player mentioned in the list above.

To the weak side, the weak DE, being a two-gapper, will mash the OT's release down inside and spill the first puller (inside the first puller, outside the second puller).  The Nose gets off the ball and works upfield to create havoc for the pulling guard and tackle and to control the RB cutting back into the weak A gap.  The WILB, once he knows the play is counter, is free to scrape outside the weak DE and play outside the first puller, as the box back player.  On the back side of the play, the Tackle attempts to get in the hip pocket of the guard and is working hard to keep one or both pullers from doing their job while he attempts to chase the play and help with the cutback.  The strong DE, being a two-gap player is working into the C gap and will spill the kickout block by the FB.  The SILB, will work off the hip of the Nose and play inisde the second puller (this is the spill player).

Uniqueness of the system
I used to be an open window/closed window guy in terms of what I taught my LB's to read.  At one point this did speed us up, but I never felt like my guys were fast enough to their reads.  I ran across this scheme and a friend of mine was doing it, so he and I had several discussions and what I found out was, no longer do you teach LB's reads, you teach "fits".  In other words, based on the alignment of the front, the LB's now know what gaps are open and closed presnap.  No longer are they wondering "will that three technique get reached?", instead they are reacting to flow and getting to their point of attack.  This system takes all the guesswork out of high school linebacking.  This scheme is also what has allowed our odd front brethren, such as the 3-3 stack to make it appear as though they are blitzing on every play.  The reason these teams look so fast, is that their LB's are not reading, they simply "fitting" where the are supposed to be based on backfield flow!  The simplicity of the linebacking when playing behind the TGOG scheme will free up your LB's to be runners and attackers instead of readers and reactors.

Nothing like a little reading!

Hopefully this will be out in time for you guys going into spring football.  I challenge you to install this system and let it work for you.  You will see LB's playing much faster than ever before, and it's all because you've freed those "big uglies" up inside!  Good luck!