Once an opponent breakdown is complete the first thing a defensive staff should do is create a Hit Chart to analyze the different formations used by the offense. This is where a defensive staff can really see the fruits of their breakdown labor. Even with the advent of HUDL and other playmaking technologies, it is important to have a basic drawing of the formations a team is going to run. Especially one that a staff can manipulate, duplicate and is aesthetically pleasing.
With a Hit Chart, a defensive staff can identify quickly how they want to align to a given formation, what blitz/pressures will work against the said formation, and identify tendencies within the offensive scheme. The Hit Chart is a visual representation of an offense and can be used in multiple ways. For example, if utilizing PowerPoint, the defensive staff can create a separate slide for each formation, print them, and place them on a wall. This allows the staff to continuously look at the Hit Chart as they discuss film and meet about the game plan. This kind of quick reference guide allows the staff to efficiently answer questions regarding formations.
Hit Charts 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 initial breakdown of formations is key to the quality of the chart. The more accurate the information, the better. If there are too many formation variances or mistakes, the chart loses its value.
In order to be efficient, a defensive staff should drop the use “right” and “left” formations and combine the data to give a more complete picture. A traditional 10p Doubles formation is a Doubles formation. The back being on the right or on the left in a Doubles formation really doesn’t matter. The only variance a staff could use is formation into the boundary (FIB) or when the RB aligns into the boundary in a Doubles set.
The play calling for many offenses changes when the formation is put into the boundary. This reason is why, in a Hit Chart, a defensive staff should track how many times a formation is into the boundary (Doubles, Ace, and 1×1 Diamond are the only exceptions because they are even sets). In an even set the DC can make a decision whether to keep a tally at the top of the Hit Chart (FTB/FIB) or make it a separate card. At the end of the day, the formation is still Doubles and there is no need to have separate labels as demonstrated below.
The Hit Chart should function as a basic view of what the formation looks like. With more teams going to the Spread, the gaps and holes the offense are trying to attack matters less (so stop with the tick marks in the gaps!). The play call, or type, and what direction the play is going matters more (Example – which DE is being read in the Zone Read).
The layout of the chart should be clear and concise. For instance, Shifts (offensive player/s move and getting set before the snap) should go in a different place than Motions (offensive player is moving when the ball is snapped). Another question to as when breaking down runs are, “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. In the diagram below, notice where the Q Stretch and Jet Stretch plays are located – outside the “box,” while the inside runs are located inside the “box.” This simple way of keeping track allows a staff to quickly decipher whether a team is trying to use a particular formation for Power (inside) or Speed (outside).
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 (a staff could even opt to put his number in the circle). Take the Hit Chart to the next level by adding how many times a certain position is targeted over the corresponding circle. 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.
Breaking Down the Hit Chart
Title Bar: Front left to right, the Title Bar gives the Personnel grouping, formation name, and the number of times the formation was run during the breakdown.
Shifts: Upper Left of the Diagram box should contain the names of any shifts that occurred during this formation and the amount those shifts were used. If no shifts occurred, there is no reason to have it up there. It can be any color.
FTB or FIB: FTB stands for “Formation/Trips/Back.”This is the number of times this formation was run into the boundary. In a 2×2 formation the RB would be the indicator, but in 11p 2×2 the WRs would also be an indicator. Trips is another big one too.
Motions: The green writing in the upper right-hand corner is where the motions and the amount they were used are located. Be sure to note who was motioning (same with shifts).
Pass Plays: Passes are labeled in red. There are several ways a staff can decide to do this. One is to just list every pass concept and the number of times ran in one list. Another way is to break the passes up with screens going to the WR target and area of the formation thrown, concepts being listed, and any time a single WR is the target (for example “X” in the diagram) but the play name near the WR (Ex. – X-Hitch).
Run Plays: Runs are labeled in blue and as explained earlier are best used when separated by strong and weak and inside versus outside the “box” as shown in the diagram.
Run/Pass Total: In the bottom left corner is located the total run plays and pass plays run in the particular formation. This is a quick reference guide for coaches that allow them to quickly gauge if this formation is used for passing, running, or both.
Like Opponent: The yellow box in the bottom right-hand corner displays how many times the particular formation was run against a like opponent. This is useful when teams run different defenses in a conference/district. Many times offenses will change the formations and plays they use according to the front (3 or 4-down). Another example is how passing concepts change depending on the coverages ran by an opponent too. This is a quick reference guide to help coaches cut down any formation that was run solely to a defense that is not like their own. Remember, the use of a Hit Chart should help in efficiency.
When designing a template for a Hit Chart, follow these basic rules:
- Each personnel grouping (10, 20, etc) needs to have its own color. This allows the coaches to quickly identify the personnel grouping and helps when trying to find a formation or identify the top groupings used by the opponent’s offense.
- Draw a clear depiction of the formation. Large enough for the coaches to see the formation and identify quickly. Drop the right and left formations and only be concerned if the formation is into the boundary. This streamlines the analytics process.
- Color code the runs and passes. Inside runs should be put in the “box” and outside runs outside the “box.” Label strong and weak to determine what side they go on. When labeling a read/option play, the strength should reflect the side of the player being read.
- It is important to track how many times a like opponent saw a formation (yellow box – bottom right in the HC image). This allows the defensive staff to determine whether or not their defense might see this formation and plays. For example, if a defense plays a lot of man coverage, the offense might use different formations and route combinations to attack it (Ex. – cluster and bunch sets). This also goes with defensive fronts. Offenses are different in the run game versus three and for down defenses.
- Add details as needed, but don’t clutter the space. Add a target number, or add notes to the box if a staff feels these are suited to their needs. If a team RPOs, determine where the reads are by labeling the screens, or single receiver throws. This creates a better picture of where the ball is going. A great example of the use of target numbers is in 3×1 formations. Many teams don’t target the #1 WR to the Trips side. By using target numbers a staff can identify where the ball is going and be able to adjust their Trips check for the week.
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