I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how to formation your blitz calls, as well as packaging different calls that are similar (click HERE for the original article – Formation Your Defense ). The best way to approach packaging blitzes/pressures is to create a master list and sort blitzes that are from the same tree. For instance, all blitzes that send an edge pressure from one of the outside linebackers can be lumped together because they are mirrors of each other. The next step is to draw them up against basic formations and decide if you like the look of one pressure over another. In the truest sense, this is blitzing to formation, or BTF.
Blitzing to Formation
Each BTF stems from a base blitz and that blitz is adjusted to defend each formation it sees. An example of an adjustment is a defensive coordinator may not want to send an edge blitz into the face of a TE when coming up against 11 personnel. A better alternative would be to blitz the openside versus a TE. That rule can be carried throughout the packaged blitz call. By packaging the blitzes, a DC can eliminate long call sheets and dense verbiage. Against spread teams that tempo, seconds matter. I’ve been asked several times what my call sheet looks like, or what did it look like for Coach Bennett at Baylor. I’ve never used one, and Bennett kept the sheet in his pocket. Packaging your blitzes eliminates the call sheet altogether because you have you bread-n-butter calls already memorized, and they attack the formation how you want it because you taught your players to adjust to the formation (the definition of BTF).
Packaging defensive calls makes your team smarter too. Players see the game as the coach sees it, by formation, and understand the intricacies of how the defense works. If you call your defense by strong and weak, you could check into the wrong blitz (and are most likely guessing where you think the offense will line up). The best way to teach players the checks to each formation is through a formation adjust period. There should already be base rules set up in how you align to an offense and how your defense sets the strength. Teaching these from Day 1 in a 10-minute pre-practice period (or regular period) creates muscle memory. As long as your blitzes build off of the rules built in your defense, the players can handle anything.
Not every blitz is perfect. If you are using an edge blitz with full line movement you want it to go in the direction best suited to eliminate the plays of the offense. For instance, if you want the line movement to go to the H-back in 20 pers. what do you do if you called the edge pressure to the weak side and you are now moving away from the H-back and blitzing right into him (see diagram to the left)? If you had packaged your defensive calls, the players would have adjusted and sent the right pressure (Sam off the edge with line movement to the H-back). All this without you calling a timeout or praying you called the right blitz. The advantage to packaging plays is the same for the defense as it is for the offense. There is a reason our offensive counterparts are packaging plays and running RPOs. They work, and they make the defense wrong. They also limit verbiage and speed the thinking process up. Why can’t defenses package their pressures and make sure they are right 100% of the time?
Developing a Formation-ed Blitz
Step #1: Create a base set of rules. For our particular blitz, we will base out of a Tite Front (303/404) and will set the front to the back and the Sam will always go to the field. The pressure we are developing will be an edge pressure using two linebackers. In our case, the box LBs will be used in the blitz (Mike, Will, and Jack) This particular blitz is for spread only, so if the offense lines up in a TE or two backs we will check to something different.
Step #2: Draw the blitzes up against each formation. Since our base rule is to set the front to the back we will need to draw it up against four formations (Doubles and Trips with back to the strength and weak). We are also going to cross the Nose, this will need to be demonstrated in each picture. Drawing the blitzes holds you accountable. You don’t want to put your players in unfavorable situations. In our particular blitz, when the offense is aligned in a 3×1 with the back near the Trips we need to check to Cover 3. This allows the Will to stay in the blitz and we aren’t asking our Jack to cover the #3 WR.
Step #3: Name the Tree and the subsequent blitzes so they are easily identifiable and the players can learn the names. We will call this blitz Shark Check. It is a check because the players will check to the sub-blitzes once the offense lines up. The two blitzes will be “Mawl” (Mike/Will) and “Jaws” (Jack/Will). Here are our sub-blitzes:
(10) GN 2×2 :: Mawl
(10) 2×2 [FIB] :: Jaws
(10) GN 3×1 [Quads] :: Mawl
(10) GF 3×1 :: Jaws
Step #4: Identify adjustments that need to be made within the secondary. For instance, versus 3×1 with back to, the coverage needs to check to Cover 3. Against 2×2 FIB, the boundary secondary players need to give an “under” call, meaning the DS will play the curl in a “robber” technique. All this needs to be sorted out before you finalize the call sheet.
Step #5: Now that everything is drawn up and the blitzes are named you need to identify how you are going to react to motion, and if you need to check out of anything. Shark Check can easily maneuver around WR motion by adjusting the secondary since the back predicates the blitz. If the back jogs or moves, the Nose is the only one who needs to adjust their alignment. Once the back moves, the Mike gives the Nose a “move call” and switches the blitz from one LB to the other. The Will never changes.
Now you just need to go through your whole playbook and adjust, package, and create base rules. This is just one example of how to BTF a pressure. Make sure to use blitzes that relate to each other (like our Mawl and Jaws – one for strong and weak). Now you have formation-ed your defense, cut dense verbiage, and eliminated needless calls. Remember, if you are guessing on your blitzes, you are probably wrong. Package your play calls and BTF.
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