Having a set routine throughout the year alleviates the stress of creating a weekly practice plan. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel every week. Even if an opponent’s scheme changes drastically from week to week, it is in the best interest of the staff and players to keep a consistent thought process and build towards Game Day. When creating a weekly schedule a defensive coach should approach it much like teaching a class. The early part of the week should be focused on getting to know the opponent and reviewing how base alignments and calls line up against an opponent’s scheme. Towards the middle of the week is when the pressures and stop calls designed to shut down a particular offense are worked, and later in the week slow it down and review before the final test, Friday Night. There should be a build up of knowledge, all building off of the base defense. Each day should be set aside for a certain theme (1st down, 3rd down, Red Zone, etc), all accumulating on the Thursday walkthrough. By Wednesday there should be no more tweaking of the call sheet. Does your staff need help building your weekly practice plan? MatchQuarters lays it all out for you.
Typical Game Week
Sunday is spent reviewing the film breakdown data and looking at the hit chart. The first film usually watched is the “Explosives Tape.” This tape consists of what the offense has been explosive in (runs over 10 yards/passes over 15). Is it a WR they are targeting, do they have a speedy QB that tends to get out of the pocket? Where and what are these explosive plays. Once the staff has identified where the explosives are coming from it is time to turn to the hit chart and create a game plan for how the defense will align, and where can we pick up tendencies and attack the offense. All practice plans are completed and the scout team playbook created before the day is over.
Monday (Day 1):
Monday is an introductory day for the players. During practice, there will be a “formation adjustment” period, where the players will align to the opponent’s top formations. During this period it is important to explain what the players will see from each formation. Each practice begins with a “formation adjustment” period (7-10 minutes), preferably during pre-practice. The goal of this period is to cover all base formations (throughout the year) and base calls to create muscle memory in the players. They easily recognize formations and naturally line up correctly. Monday’s are base days. This means the defense will stay in its base calls. The only pressures that will be used in Monday’s practice are ones that are considered our “bread-n-butter” calls. Each Monday includes a good-on-good pass skell and team situation (1st down). Once the scouts come over, there is an inside run period followed by as pass skell period. Outside run is next up, and practice is ended on a play-action/screen period as a team. The first day of the practice is to expose the defense to what they will see, with the emphasis being 1st down (why you only run base calls).
Tuesday (Day 2):
Tuesday is when the “stop” calls are inserted into the practice. During a Tuesday practice, the players can expect to see much more pressures and blitzes. This is the day to make sure that what you are calling is going to work. Monday was for the base calls, and to get the players lined up. Tuesday’s are for matching up the opponents top plays against your stop calls. The down and distance focus of day #2 is still 1st and 2nd down. There is still a good-on-good period, usually a pass skell (if seeing more power teams, a true team session would fit). Like Monday, Tuesday is separated into inside runs (or conventional runs), a field skelly (what are we seeing in the middle of the field), outside runs/options, and finally a team session that is based off what the opponent is showing us on 1st and 2nd down. The skelly portion is used to see if our blitz pass distribution is going to work against their pass concepts. The worst thing you can do is create a blitz and never work it against something that will stress it. Tuesday is the best day to stress all of your calls, see if they really work, or just look good on paper. Failure is fine, as long is it’s now instead of Friday night.
Wednesday (Day 3):
After reviewing the practice film from Tuesday, any call that didn’t fit well or was too risky versus pass is dropped. This is the day where everything is solidified. Generally, we also take a step back in terms of contact. The first session for the defense is a Red Zone pass skell. I like to move the ball from the 20-yard line in. This gives the players spacial awareness, and offenses tend to change closer to the goal line. Once we reach the goal line, the defensive line is brought over and we walk through the opponents’ goal line package. Finally, the practice is finished off with a 25-30 play script where we have a set down and distance. This gives the players a feel for how the game might flow. All the plays are selected based on our opponents’ tendencies. I usually start the script off with plays from their own -20. As the script goes deeper I work in plays from the middle of the field (teams like to take shots past the 50), and then pre-red zone (+40-30). The calls for this session will match the game plan. Nothing is random.
Thursday (Day 4):
Typically the day before a game is a walk through. After the special teams portion is complete I go through all the sub situations, then transition into a ten play run script. This is against our opponents top ten run plays, and what our likely calls will be against them. Once finished with the team run portion I go to a field pass skell (15 plays) and then a red zone skell (moving towards the end zone, and about 12-15 plays). Finally, the practice is finished in a review of our PAT/FG block, safe punt, and “victory,” or Hail Mary defense.
Friday = Game Day
Clear Plan and Execute
Bottom line, have a clear plan for the week and execute. Don’t be afraid to stress your defense and see them fail. There is nothing worse than going through a full week of practice and no one really getting tested. That is unrealistic. The point of practice is to stress the mind and body so the game slows down. Each day has a theme and needs to be reflected in the plays your defense sees from the scout team. Tuesday is probably the most important day. That is the day you see if your gameplan will really work. Without ever running blitzes against the pass you will never know if the distribution is there. Again, have a plan and execute. Knowing what the week will bring helps you, the defensive coordinator, and your staff, be more efficient during the weekend. Wasting time is a leader’s worst enemy. It creates dissension and negative attitudes. Work smarter, not harder.