Once the opponent breakdown is complete the first thing a defensive staff should do is create a hit chart. This is where a defensive staff can really see the fruits of their breakdown labor. Even with the advent of HUDL, and playmaking technologies, it is important to have a basic drawing of the formations a team is going to run. With a hit chart, a staff can identify quickly how they want to align to a given formation, what blitz/pressures work against it, and identify tendencies within the offensive scheme. The hit chart is a visual representation of an offense.
The hit chart serves a broad purpose within the overall breakdown of an opponent but can give the defense an edge in playcalling if done the right way. It is important to stay efficient when creating a hit chart. The breakdown of formations is key to the quality of a hit chart. If there are too many the chart loses its value. In order to be efficient drop the right and left formations. 2×2 is 2×2. The back being on the right or on the left in a doubles formation really doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, the formation is still doubles and there is no need to have separate labels. Where the formation is different is if the back is into the formation, or formation into the boundary (FIB). The play calling for many offenses changes when the formation is put into the boundary. That is why, in a hit chart, you should track how many times a formation is into the boundary (doubles, ace, and 1×1 diamond is the only exceptions because they are even sets).
The hit chart should function as a base view of what the formation looks like. With more teams going to the spread, the gaps and holes the offense is trying to attack matters less. The play call, or type, and what direction the play is going matters more (which end is being read in the zone read). The layout should be clear and concise. For instance, shifts (offensive player/s move and get set before the snap) should go in a different place than motions (offensive player is moving when the ball is snapped). Is the run play a “box” play or is the play going outside the tackles? Some offenses use certain formations to run outside and vice versa. The hit chart should clearly show these plays in different areas.
Aesthetics are important, but too much detail makes the hit chart cluttered. Try and create a separation of key players by adding color to them. For instance, use yellow to denote the TE in 11 personnel sets. If a team likes to put a certain WR in the backfield, use a color to highlight the formation where he is located in the backfield. Take the hit chart to the next level by adding how many times a certain position is targeted. Putting target number can allow the staff to quickly determine what positions are getting the ball the most. This is helpful in deciding on coverages and blitz schemes.
When designing a template for a hit chart just follow these basic rules:
- Each personnel grouping (10, 20, etc) needs to have its own color. This allows the reader to identify the personnel quickly and helps when trying to find a formation.
- Draw a clear depiction of the formation. Large enough for the reader to see the formation. Drop the right and left formations, only be concerned if the formation is into the boundary.
- Color code the runs and passes. Inside runs should be put in the “box” and outside runs outside. Label strong and weak to determine what side they go on. When labeling a read play, it should go on the side of the player being read.
- Add how many times a team saw the formation. This is important to determine whether a defense might see these plays. If a defense is heavy man, the offense may use different formations to attack it. This also goes with fronts. Offenses are different in the run game versus three and for down.
- Add details as needed, but don’t clutter the space. Add a target number, or add notes to the box. If a team RPOs, determine where the reads are by labeling the screens, or single receiver throws. This creates a better picture for where the ball is going.