Monday, June 18, 2012

Creating an Eight Man Front to Defend the Spread Offense III

In the first post I touched on various ways that one-high (MOFC) coverages can be utilized in a sound manner to defend the spread offense.  The second post touched on some adjustments you can make via the front and the coverage to attack certain things the offense is attempting to do.  Now, I want to touch on a couple of the finer points of the eight man front such as:
  • The Free Safety (FS) and his role in MOFC coverage in the eight man front.
  • Simplifying alignment in the eight man front.
  • Blitzing in the eight man front.

The Free Safety's Role in MOFC Coverage
The FS in most MOFC defenses has a tough job, especially if the coverage is cover one, or some sort of two-deep rotational coverage.  Robber, and Cover One are not too strenuous on the FS, the reason being, in Robber the FS is pattern reading, and it's basically man, and in Cover One, the FS is free to roam based on the QB's eyes.  However, introduce Rip/Liz Cover Three and you now have the best of both Cover Three and Cover One.  Let's look at the pros cons of each and then display them with Rip/Liz and see what we get...shall we?

Cover One-Pros
  • Aligns to and covers virtually everything with guaranteed MOF help.
  • Simple, cover your man, run with your man if he goes in motion (you can bump, or motion blitz if you'd like, but again, this is simple man-to-man defense here).
  • Provides a stable defense for the MOF, having both a MOF deep player and a MOF shallow player (Rat-in-the-hole). 
  • Affords sending up to six defenders on a blitz if using peel coverage rules.
Cover One-Cons
  • Run force-the force defender can be "run off" by a receiver he's supposed to cover man-to-man (although catch man alleviates some of this, it is still, nevertheless worrisome).
  • Not all 11 eyes on the football.  Zone defense affords 11 eyes watching the football, whereas man defenders cannot always eye the football for the threat of being beaten in pass coverage.
  • Outside 1/3's vulnerable to match up issues.  Corners are on an island in Cover One.
  • Suspect to picks and rubs, as is any man-to-man defense.
  • FS must have very good range.
Cover Three-Pros
  • Aligns to everything.
  • Very simple to install (should be able to do this in one practice).
  • Good run support (dedicated force players at or near the LOS with a solid MOF alley player).
Cover Three- Cons
  • Covers nothing.
  • Weak in the seams.
  • Weak in the curl.
  • Weak against flood routes.
  • Every offense in the country has several "Cover Three Beaters" installed in their offense day one (which means EVERYONE's seen it).
  • FS has to have excellent range.
By utilizing Saban's Cover Three, you end up with the following:

  • Aligns to everything.
  • Excellent MOF defense with a MOF safety deep and MOF underneath player (ROBOT).
  • Can keep same rules for zone blitzing (Number one and two droppers are identical in both Cover Three Rip/Liz and most three deep, three under zone blitz schemes), which alleviates teaching time(multiplicity through simplicity).
  • Force players not as apt to be run off by receivers.
  • All 11 eyes are on the football at the snap.
  • No need to worry about picks and rubs (you're not in man-can run banjo schemes).
  • With flat players funneling the number two receiver inside the hash, FS doesn't need to be as "rangy".
  • Has the same run support structure as "Country Cover Three".
  • Very strong in the seams and curl areas because of the pattern read.
  • Works against most "Cover Three Beaters" and is hard for offense to distinguish between Cover Three and Cover One.
  • Not as easy an install as "Country Cover Three" or Cover One, due to the pattern reading nature.
  • Force players can still be run off somewhat, providing for a "soft edge".
  • Corners are still on an island (match up).
Whew!  I know there are some more, but these are just the basics.  What you can see here is you get a lot of bang for your buck with Rip/Liz.  You can still run some Cover One if you need to and it's a great disguise for when you do.  You also can zone blitz from the one-high look and don't have to afford any pre-snap rotation to give away what you are doing (which many QB's are being taught for what to look for pre-snap nowadays). 

The biggest benefit I think is the protection of the seams, and the fact that the FS doesn't have to be a guy that can cover a TON of ground. Sure he has to be able to move, and read on the run, but he doesn't need to be a Major Wright!  The funneling of the number two receivers also helps the FS in the run game.  The FS can get a clearer read because the number two receiver is being pressed and thereby has to make his intentions pretty quickly (am I blocking or running a route) so the FS can get into his run/pass read quicker and is thereby a little better factor against the run than a traditional Cover Three FS.

So, we can see, the addition of a pattern reading Cover Three is the top priority if you are an eight man front and you want to consistently defend what spread teams will do to attack you.  It does not hurt to mix in some Cover One however, which will keep the opposing coach guessing and off track when trying to call certain plays.

Simplifying Alignment in the Eight Man Front
The eight man front is one of the easiest of all defenses to align.   The reason is, it's balanced with five defenders on each side of the ball and a MOF safety.  The thing I recommend, is to take a page out of our split field concept brethern's playbook and play field and boundary.  Let's look at the alignment shown below and I'll explain.

I chose the 3-3 defense for it's simplicity, but you can use the 4-4, 4-2, 5-3 or whatever eight man front you run out there.  However, the simplicity is that the Strong Safety (SS), who is usually the better of the two overhang safeties always goes to the field.  The WS (B in the illustration), would be the weaker of the two, and would be set to the boundary.  In most 3-3's I've seen, most coaches utilize right and left defenders which is super simple.  However, if you wanted to, you can easily set your strength to the field and still be quite sound.  Putting your best players to the field is not a bad idea either.  Here is how the 4-2-5 would align to the same look using field/boundary alignments.

Again, the defenders on the right side of the image are the strong side defenders, and are probably your better football players whereas your lesser player play into the boundary and are on the left side of the illustration above.

The simplicity of aligning the eight man front, affords your players one less thought that must tumble through their testosterone laden minds during the course of a game.  This lack of thinking keeps these players comfortable and playing exactly how we want them to...FAST.

Blitzing in the Eight Man Front
For years most folks new me as a Miami 4-3 guy, and to this day I still love that defense.  The one trouble I always had though, was blitzing out of it.  It may have just been me, but having been introduced to the TCU blitz scheme and after studying tons of 3-3 playbooks over the past few months, I can see there is no simpler front to blitz from than the eight man front.  Again, the balance affords simplicity in alignment, so teams have trouble getting you out of your base alignment.  What this does is affords for less of a chance that a blitzer will have to widen with an adjustment and thereby be caught out of position on the snap of the football.  The "six-in-the-box" concept keeps blitzing simple as well (both the 3-3 and 4-2, as well as some 4-3's keep this principle as well).  What I will show you, is some blitzes I used out of TCU's playbook, that despite us being a MOFC defense, we were still able to execute.

Bullets Away, my favorite!


Strong/Wide Dog

Weak/Short Dog

Mob (cop)

As you can see, quite simple really.  All the blitzes listed in TCU's playbook can be run with the same adjustments and calls that TCU uses.  You don't have to limit yourself there either, the 3-3 defense has a myriad of blitzes that can be run from a MOFC defense.  Whatever front you choose to run, will find blitzing is quite easy and not too terribly taxing either.  Another "cheap" blitz from the 4 man front is the zone blitz sending one LB.  The rules for coverage are very simple, with the number three dropper being the only one who really changes from the standard Rip/Liz coverage rules.

Sam "B"

  • Corners- Deep 1/3, all of 1 vertical
  • OSS- #2 dropper, all of 2 vertical and out.  2 shallow and inside squeeze to the 3 dropper.
  • ILB- #3 dropper, cut all crossers.
  • FS- Deep 1/3, all of 3 vertical.
There you go!  Very similar to standard Rip/Liz reads and assignments.  Again, this is multiplicity through simplicity, which is a time tested manner for being able to attack your opponent in multiple ways with very little teaching time. 

In conclusion, I think it is VERY possible to be a one-high, MOFC defense and succeed against today's spread attacks.  I think there are multiple reasons for doing so, from anything to poor match ups or solving tricky alignment problems to being able to bring pressure without having to roll coverage are just some of the numerous benefits you get from staying one-high.  Hopefully you've been able to use this and can couple this with some other things I've posted on the site to have a very successful defense in the near future. 

Don't forget to check my other blog, The 12th Man, and as usual you can follow me on Twitter @theduece02.