Simulated Pressures From a “Positionless” Defense (2019 Sugar Bowl)

MQ takes a look at Texas’ 3rd Down pressure package versus Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.

The Spread offense has touched every corner of college football. The SEC used to be one of the sole holdouts with only a few teams, namely Ole Miss and Texas A&M, embracing the shift. Saban has finally embraced the change as well, throwing the ball more than he ever has before with Tua Tagovailoa. The 2019 National Championship saw a battle of Spread teams that featured two of the most efficient offenses in the country (and two of the best QBs as well).

Even the NFL saw many of its teams embrace a more open style of play. Defenses in “the Leauge” were getting scored on at a historic rate. Sean McVay and his 11 personnel under center (UTC) offense has taken over the league en route to a Super Bowl appearance. In McVay’s offense, the use of quick motions, multiple formations, and what seems to be an Air Raid-ish passing game has given NFL defenses fits all year. Even further, turn on a Cowboys or Seahawks game and you are likely to see multiple ways to run the Zone or Arc Read. The trickle-up effect is in full swing. Even former Big 12 Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury got a head coaching job with the Cardinals on nothing more than his offensive acumen.

One key element I talked about in my latest book, Hybrids: The Making of a Modern Defense, is the use of a more positionless defensive gameplan going forward into the future. Rigid positional structures are giving way to a more fluid style of play. For example, to counteract the speed of the Raven’s Lamar Jackson, the San Diego Chargers went uber-small and put up to SEVEN DBs on the field at a time. This is something, until this year, fathomable only on a 3rd and Long or an end of a half situation in the NFL. The Chargers based out of it for a whole game!

This positionless style of play allows hybrid players, primarily at linebacker and defensive back, to play a larger role. In the NFL, the increasing use of 11 pers. groupings are being countered by many defenses basing out of a Nickel defense. Since L.T. in the ’80s, most NFL defenses also carry a hybrid DE, regardless if basing out of a three or four-down defense. The use of “small ball” to counteract the space created by Spread offenses is understandable. Hybrid players allow an almost endless amount of ways to blitz and pressure an offense without losing coverage ability (you’re dropping a speedy LB/DB instead of a rigid D-lineman).

The Big 12 is not new to the concept of “smaller” faster players playing on the defensive side of the ball. The notion that the Big 12 doesn’t play defense is false. Innovation comes from desperation, and in the offensive gauntlet that is the Big 12, it has created an evolutionary playground for defensive (and offensive) football. It comes as no surprise that in a league that is at the forefront of the evolution of the Spread would feature unique defenses within the league to counter the offensive onslaught.

Though Iowa State and their base Broken Stack that features a three-safety Dime Robber scheme has become the most popular scheme within the league, in truth, it is Todd Orlando at Texas that has made his mark around the country behind his use of a positionless defense and defending the wide-open schemes found in the league. I wrote about Orlando’s prowess as a DC in my article discussing how teams attack the Tite Front, the Longhorn’s base defense, but it is his use of multiple personnel packages within a game that truly shows his knack as a DC.

00 Base

The Longhorns base out of a 3-4 that utilizes the Tite Front (404) and a stand-up hybrid DE to the weak side, or away from the passing strength (this is “Mint” in Saban-speak). The inside LB corp consists of a Mike and what is referred to as a “B” ‘backer. In Orlando’s scheme, the Mike is the plugger and will go away from the Nose. This allows the “B” ‘backer to be a free player and essentially “go get the football!” The Longhorns base with a true Nickel as well, and align him opposite the Jack, primarily with the passing strength. The image above shows the Longhorns base look against the ever prevalent “Y-Off” 20 pers. looks seen in many Power Spread offenses.


“Positionless” Defense

Like Iowa State, Texas has a three-safety “Dime” package that they utilize against pass-heavy offenses (think Kingbury’s Tech) or in obvious pass downs where Orlando wants to drop eight and flood the zones. The beauty within Orlando’s use of interchangeable players allows him to stay within packages, but get different pre-snap looks. It also gives him the ability to put players in situations to take advantage of deficiencies within an offensive scheme or weaker/slower players.

The three-safety Dime package in the Orlando playbook is called “Lightning.” Originally, this package was a third-down personnel group that required two DEs and a boundary LB that functioned as a DE. Orlando still uses this personnel grouping on third-downs, but Orlando can easily leave in the Nose and get to a Tite Front and play his Dime personnel similar to what the Cyclones utilize in Ames. This fluidity puts pressure on offenses because Orlando can run the same pressures and coverages from each package, but the offense has to account for the change in personnel.

This “plug-n-play” style of defense allows Orlando to get his best players on the field while giving the offense different looks. If you follow the Longhorns, you know they are deep and talented at DB. Pressures and coverages now look different to the offense only because a different player is on the field and is now aligned in a different spot or using a different technique. This is similar to modern offenses running the same play our of different personnel packages. The play structure is the same, but the formation and players are different.

For instance, if Orland wants to use his Lightning package as a base defense, he will leave the Nose in and keep two sturdy DEs to hold the 4i’s instead of two DEs and three LBs. On third down, he can take the Nose and one of the DEs out and insert a speed rusher and another speedy DE at Nose to take advantage of unathletic guards. This is the same concept used by four-down teams that put a DE on a guard to take advantage of a difference in speed. The secondary stays the same, but now the D-line has more of an ability to rush the passer. This will be illustrated in the film study below.

I wrote about former Baylor and Arizona St. DC Phil Bennett’s use of two different 3-4 packages, Okie “Base” and “Light,” he used to defeat Boise St. in their 2016 bowl game. The scheme stayed the same, the players just changed. The ability to insert hybrid players into different positions is where the future of football is headed. Against offensive packages that utilize multiple TEs, a defense can just insert “heavier” players while still keeping a hybrid defense on the field. If the same offense subs in a lighter package, the defense can match without reinventing the wheel on defense. The scheme stays the same along with the calls. This fluidity allows the modern defense to be just as multiple as any offense.

Below is an example of how a simple pressure like a Cross-Dog can look and “feel” different by utilizing different packages. The first picture illustrates the blitz from a Dime personnel group. Something you might see on a 3rd and Long. On the right, the typical 4-3 version is shown. The result is the same. The pre-snap packaging is different.  Here is an excerpt from Hybrids explaining the concept:

Much like offenses use different personnel packages, but run the same plays, a modern defense is going to need to do the same thing. To keep the defense simple for the players, the use of multiple packages will mesh with concepts. For instance a simple cross-dog blitz can look completely different when ran out of a different package, but it’s still the same blitz. (p. 181-182)

Cross-Dog (Same) copy

The diagram below is another example of how a blitz can be modified by packaging and even tweaked to look completely different (though they are really the same). Using a scheme similar to Iowa State’s three-safety Dime package, the Cross-Dog now attacks the Guard instead of the Center. This can be done to attack a weaker lineman or a protection scheme.

The Dime (Di), or MOF safety, will sink into the box and add in if the RB blocks. This is similar to a “green-dog” path of a LB or a D-lineman inserting when he is responsible for the RB (this will be illustrated later in the article). What these three diagrams have shown is that regardless of the pressure called it can be used across the board throughout a defense’s personnel packages creating problems for offenses that now have to account for a different look. Like I stated in Hybrids if offenses are using the same plays, but out of different looks, why can’t a defense do the same thing?

.06 Buck Tampa Cross (2x2)

09 DBrown 3-3A prime example of using the same scheme throughout different packages can be found in Don Brown’s defense at Michigan. At the Lone Star Clinic in 2018, he described how his typical 4-3 fits are the same when he moves to his  3-3 Stack package on 3rd Down or long yardage situations. The image to the left illustrated the point he was getting at. The “Rob” LB functions as the 3 tech. in a typical 4-3. So when he changes the personnel grouping the base fits stay the same and everyone is on the same page. Blitzes/pressures react in similar ways.

Another example of Don Brown’s affinity for using the same pressures across groupings can be seen in how he defends Y-off or 20 pers. formations. In my article on how Brown defended Minnesota’s 20 pers. groupings in 2017 you could see how Brown used the same concepts, but disguised them by personnel groupings. Below is an example of the same blitz, but used in different groups. The only difference is in Brown’s base scheme (left) the coverage is zone, wherein the 3-3 Stack package it turns to Cover 1 (right). The result is the same. Obviously, because of the package and different defensive structure, some of the alignments are modified, but the overall structure of the pressure does not.

Brown-Same

Where this type of play can be used in the future is in the use of a hybrid defense. Every defense needs to have a home base. That is the structure that is taught from day one. Typically this will be your 4-3/3-4s schemes. As we move into the future the reliance on hybrid players will be more crucial. Base schemes will always be there as a foundation, but with less rigidity, as we have seen in the past. Strict positional groupings will shift to more of a focus on concepts and techniques that can be taught with a broad stroke. The use of a positionless defense can force an offense to guess where someone might be coming from. Blitzes and pressures lessen in danger because the players exchanging coverage responsibilities are similar in nature. It takes Arnsparger’s (godfather of the Zone Blitz) “safe-pressure” and puts it on steroids.

10 Base vs Dime (20p)

To reflect, above is a typical adjustment for a 3-4 team that will transition into a three-safety Dime defense. The main adjustment is in the Dime-back (Di). For the most part, everyone is doing the exact same technique except the boundary or single-WR side secondary players. The Di is substituted for the Jack, or hybrid DE/OLB. To account for the lack of a force player on the box, the defense now has to create. This can easily be done by running a “trap” coverage to the boundary. Instead of inverting, or sinking the BS into the box, the CB will now act as the main force player to the boundary. Though this may seem counterintuitive, remember, most OCs will not count the CB in the box fit. Therefore, he is basically a free player. If the offense were to run Power weak, the play would most likely bounce to the careening CB for little to no gain. This slight adjustment allows the Di to read the mesh and fit accordingly. By pairing the Dime package with the Tite Front, the defense has created two “free” players.

11 Bear vs Over

Let’s take this one step further. As I stated earlier, when utilizing the Tite Front, the Mike is most likely a “plugger” or a larger box ILB. A defense can easily get to a Bear Front (303 with two stand-up DEs) by moving him down to a 5 tech. away from the Jack (left). This is a simple adjustment. The only players that change from the base alignment are the Mike and the boundary CB (he knows that the BS is now a primary fitter and late to help on a pass).

Finally, a 3-4 can even get into a 4-3/4-2-5 look by aligning in an Over Front to a two-back set. The image on the right illustrates what a typical alignment would look like for a 3-4 team getting into an Over Front. The B-backer goes to the open “B” gap because the DE is playing “heavy” and will close that gap down with any out block by the Tackle and is the “Dive” player versus Option. This alignment keeps the “B” ‘backer relatively free to flow, much like he would in a Tite Front. To the H-back’s side, the Mike is still responsible for the “A” gap but is placed towards the H-back’s side to be a quick force versus Power.

The fluidity in which this can be done is how modern defenses must function. By placing an extra hybrid on the field, the defense simple adjust to the introduced player. Difference fronts can be used seamlessly as long as the players understand how to make the slight adjustment to compensate for the differences in schemes. This can be simply taught and instead of expanding the playbook by reinventing the wheel for each scheme, just adjust. This type of thinking and process can allow the modern defense to match to whatever it gets instead of trying to repackage for every different look.


Simulated Pressures + “Positionless” Defense

One defensive scheme that thrives with a positionless defense is the use of simulated blitzes. A simulated blitz is exactly what it sounds like, it gives the offense a full out blitz look, but post-snap it morphs into a four-man rush or five-man pressure. This is similar to a Fire Zone or Zone Blitz, except the defense is still flooding the zones and dropping at least seven instead of five or six. These pressures pin-point the offense’s pass protection tendencies and uses mugged ‘backers or specific fronts and movements to manipulate the protection. The beauty is in the post-snap movement that sees players who looked like they weren’t going to blitz rush into the box to overload an area on the offensive line. Combined with hybrid players that can rush as well as cover, this type of concept can be a devastating combination. A great example of this is shown below.

Texas gets in a Buck Front (505) and mugs (aligns in their gap) the two ILBs. This forces the Georgia offensive line to account for every player in the box. In a simulated blitz, many times, several of the blitzers will come from depth, this is the case in the above pressure. Post-snap, the two ILBs drop to their zones and the Nose runs a “sticky,” or engages the Center then drops with a spy on the RB (Fromm isn’t really a running threat). Georgia chooses to leave the RB in the protection, so the Nose inserts, similar to a “Green-Dog” blitz by a LB (insert only if your man doesn’t go out for a pass). When the Nose gree-dogs, call becomes a pressure. The “up-and-under” by the 5 tech. to the right occupies both the Tackle and the Guard. The RB crosses to the opposite side of the box and takes the blitzing Nickel. No one is there for the weakside overhang, who hits Georgia’s QB as he throws the ball. The result is an incomplete pass.

08 2nLong Sim.png

What this simulated pressure illustrates is the way a defense can manipulate the offensive protection by simple post-snap movements. On paper (above), this is a simple four-man pressure. The offense has six players in for protection and has the numbers to absorb the pressure. The movement of the boundary ‘backer (B) wasted THREE offensive linemen and the RB working away from his initial alignment exposing the QB to a massive hit. Two players, the Nickel to the field (wasted the RB) and the “B” ‘backer (wasted two) to the boundary, occupied five of the offensive blockers (that’s a 5-for-2). This is the textbook definition of a simulated blitz, and it worked to perfection.

The use of multiple personnel groupings and moving players around within them gave the Longhorns a distinct advantage against the Bulldogs. Georgia’s O-line looked out of sorts all game. On 3rd down, Orlando’s scheme really shined. Though Georgia was a decent 6/13 on 3rd Down (46%), it was Orlando’s use of simulated blitzes that forced the Bulldogs to struggle to move the ball. Texas would hold them to less than 300 yards of total offense and only 72 on the ground. The point of this article is to look at Orlando’s use of simulated pressures from a “positionless” defense that utilized multiple hybrids on the field from a plethora of alignments.

Over the course of the game, the Longhorns used almost every position on the field to rush the passer. Orlando sprinkled in multiple fronts and alignments to confuse and set up most of the pressures. Like some “ameba” defenses (no structure pre-snap), it didn’t matter where the players aligned pre-snap, it was all about where they finished. The result was a resounding win over one of the top programs in the dominant SEC. What is even more important is that the result solidified what many Big 12 teams already know, when structured right speed kills, and “small” ball can be used to devastating effect against bigger “slower” teams.


Film Study – 2019 Sugar Bowl

Texas utilized their Lightning package for most of the 3rd Downs seen in the Sugar Bowl. This placed two DEs on the field with three LBs: a field (F), Mike (M), and boundary (B) ‘backer. The secondary saw their typical field and boundary players along with the Nickel, but the package replaced the Jack ‘backer (hybrid DE) with a Dime-back that could be used in a multitude of different ways (similar to a Ni). By placing so many hybrids on the field, Orlando could use his simulated pressures to manipulate Georgia’s O-line without sacrificing coverage. The use of six DBs, four being safety-types, gave Texas the freedom to give multiple looks in the backend to make Fromm work post-snap. The use of two DEs and LBs near the line put fast-twitch players on larger O-lineman. The result was a 28-21 resounding victory.

One of the first 3rd Downs of the game saw success for the Bulldogs. Orland chose a four-man simulated pressure. The initial alignment sees the defense align in a Buck Front (505) that has the two DEs and the Mike functioning as the D-linemen. The Field (F) and Boundary (B) ‘backers mug their gaps, “F” stacking the guard and the “B” sitting outside the Mike. There is a lot of movement pre-snap, and that is on purpose. This is to confuse the O-line even more as to who is rushing or dropping (hence the name “ameba”).

On the initial snap of the ball, the two DEs long stick across the O-line. This is to try and get someone to chase. The Ni that had been sitting near the box inserts in the strong-side “A” gap. The “F’ loops outside for contain and the Mike sprints to take the RB who flares out of the backfield. Georgia absorbs the simulated pressure well, giving time for Fromm to find the crossing WR. The result is a 1st Down.

01 Light Ni-F

Secondary wise, both CBs are playing MEG coverage (Man Everywhere he Goes or “lock” coverage). The “B” backer is manned on #2 weak (TE) and the boundary safety (BS) cuts the crosser of the #1 weak. The FS and the MS work in tandem to take the Over route by #2 strong (motion man), but the MS doesn’t cut the crosser and the WR runs free. With little pressure on Fromm, this is an easy pitch and catch.

Note: Not quite sure if this is a coverage breakdown, but the FS clearly holds his ground near the hash instead of chasing the crosser. The MS is late because he looks to be sitting in the middle to support the “B” ‘backer on the vert by the TE. BS cuts the under instead of sitting and waiting for the Over route from the front side of the Mesh. I always tell my safeties that if they see a naked route to jump it. Must be what the MS saw and worked over top the seam route to get to the naked crosser. In a perfect world, the BS would have let the CB chase it and the FS would have met it on the other side, getting his eyes to the middle of the field (MOF) for the Over route.


The clip below is a great example of using previous looks to set up a simulated blitz. In a typical Zone Blitz, if both ILBs are going to blitz, either a dropping D-lineman or secondary player must replace the middle hole. In the case of a 3×1 formation (below), the most likely player to replace the blitzing LBs would be the safety to the three WR side. Below, the “F” ‘backer and Mike mug their gaps and the FS drops into the box to account for the void created. Orlando turns to a clever simulated pressure to play off what appears to be a basic five-man pressure. The presence of safety sells the blitz pre-snap.

At the snap of the ball, the “F” and DE aligned at Nose long-stick to occupy the right side of the O-line and use up three linemen with two men. To the Trips side, the DE runs upfield and beats his man around the corner forcing Fromm to step up in the pocket. The FS that appeared to be dropping into the low hole inserts into the “B” gap occupying the Guard. To the single-WR side, the Mike works to sticky the RB, but Fromm takes off so he goes with him. The “B” ‘backer drops to replace the vacated FS. Every zone is accounted for and the QB is forced to scramble. The FS, who’s outside arm is free, peels off and forces an errant throw by Fromm. End of the drive for the Bulldogs.

02 Light FS (B)

Coverage wise, this is a simple Cover 3 concept. Both CBs are locked on the #1 WRs and the Ni and Di communicate as the #2 and #3 WRs come together with the pre-snap motion. You can see the defenders signal to each other, “Banjo” the stack (Ni takes outside/Di takes inside). The BS works from the backside to cap the front side routes. As stated before, the low hole is taken by the “B” ‘baker and Mike is responsible for the RB.


Below is actually an example of a Zone Blitz, but the principles are very similar. Texas drops the FS down on top of the #3 WR to give the illusion of man coverage. The LBs are at their normal depth instead of mugged like previously shown. The DE to the three-WR side occupies the OT and the Guard as he inserts into the “B” gap. This pressure also highlights how a blitz from the secondary can have an effect on the QB. No one picks up the FS as he works off the edge and the QB has to throw a hurried ball to the RB.

Like in most Zone Blitzes, a D-lineman is dropping away from the blitz. The blitz side coverage is nothing more than Cover 3. To the single-WR side, the Jack will cut underneath #1. This inhibits quick throws to the “X” WR. The CB to that side is locked on the “X.” Because of the field pressure, the QB has to quickly throw to the RB. The Jack has leverage (even though he does fall down) the DE’s movement to the outside actually assists him on the play. The RB is quickly tackled for a loss as the DE peels off.

03 Base M-FS


Offenses use motion to create matchups with a defense, but also to expose the coverage scheme. Some DCs will even check out of blitzes if teams get into bunch formations. Texas actually shifts from one look to another as the moton man comes across the formation. The Longhorns move from a 505 (Buck) look with both ILBs mugged to a “Jet” front with two 5s and two 3s. This is a typical passing down front from a four-down defense.

In the initial alignment, the Ni is going to be responsible for the point man in the bunch. When the #3 WR motions across the formation to create a 2×2 formation, the whole defense shifts. Over the stack, the secondary will play a Cover 3 look while the backside safety will zone off towards the MOF, eventually taking the TE’s vertical.

The center initially slides to the RB’s side and takes the looping DE as he comes into the middle of the formation. The rush of the “F” ‘backer takes the OT and the RB to his side. This leaves no one for the Mike who comes unabated to the QB for a sack. Either the center thought the RB was taking the Mike or the RB went the wrong way.

04 NI M-Loop

This is a great example of what I call a “looping” blitz. The inserting 3 tech. and the edge rush of the “F” ‘backer take up the guard and OT. The RB and center now have to make sure they have each other’s back. If an offense likes to chip the DE with the RB, this type of blitz can be deadly because it puts two defenders on one blocker. No one is left for the Mike.


Texas used multiple different fronts to confuse the Georgia O-line during the Sugar Bowl. In this particular case, the Longhorns overloaded the outside of the box, only using a DE as a 3 tech. and the Dime (Di) mugged on a guard. That put four players outside the OTs. The DE as the 3 tech. and the “B” ‘backer both drop at the snap of the ball. The DE will play the low hole, or “Rat” defender, while the “B” is responsible for the RB. Like in other situations, the defender responsible for the RB will insert, or “green-dog,” if the RB blocks. This is the case below as the “B” adds in.

In this simulated blitz, the edges and the “A” gaps are attacked. The pressure from Fromm’s right forces him to step up and work outside the box. This is where the Mike works back out from the “A” gap to hurry the QB. The secondary divvy up the routes and Fromm tries to hit the outside Post over the middle. The result is a hurried throw and an interception.

The key in the blitz is the Mike not wasting himself and understanding where the pressure is coming from. With eyes on the QB as he works to the middle of the box, he can easily escape the blockers with speed. Another advantage of using speedy players when pressuring the QB.

05 Light M-Di (INT)


Later in the game, the Longhorns go back to a simulated four-man pressure. This time attacking the OT to the TE’s side. There are actually three Longhorns that are attacking the TE and OT. The DE to that side will loop into the middle of the formation, while the “B” will take over as the 5 tech. This leaves the BC as the edge rusher. Since the RB is set to the opposite side, there is no one to pick up the CB. The result is a quick inaccurate throw to the RB as the check down.

This is a great example of how a simulated blitz can be used to attack deficiencies within a pass protection scheme. The TE releases on a Mesh route leaving the OT to handle two edge rushers. The looping DE (5 tech.) occupies the center of the box. The Mike and the “F” work to cut off the mesh routes and the rest of the secondary can handle the other WRs. By using only four rushers, the defense is able to get the best of both worlds, pressure on the QB and max out their coverage ability. It’s similar to a Zone Blitz but safer, and with pinpoint accuracy.

06 Light B-BC


As shown prior, the use of outside rushers can have a devastating effect on the protection schemes of any offense. Though the blitz doesn’t hit home, the QB is forced into a low percentage throw to the single-WR (fade). The result is an incomplete pass and a 4th Down near the goal line.

The Longhorns turn again to the Buck Front (505) with two overhangs aligned to the outside. By utilizing hybrid players, Texas has inserted speed on the edge with the “B” ‘backer and the Di as the two players outside of the box on the RB’s side. The DE in the middle will engage and sink (“sticky”) and reinsert when he sees the RB engage a rusher (“green-dog”). To the three-WR side, the secondary has numbers with a four-over-three concept. The only place for the QB to go is the Fade route to his left (low percentage throw).

07 Light Bullets


Conclusion

Simulated pressures are a great way to manipulate the offense’s protection while keeping coverage integrity in the backend. Where Zone Blitzes rely on brute force to hit home, simulated pressures use manipulation as the main tactic to single out a flaw in the protection or a weak link in the offensive line. The use of mugged LBs near the box forces the offensive line into one-on-ones pre-snap. Everyone on the O-line has a man and must honor that man. Once the ball is snapped, the simulated pressure uses this to its advantage. Most of the pressures shown in the article use long sticking and mugged ‘backers to “waste” O-linemen.

At the college and NFL level, where protections are clean and consistent, simulated blitzes can be a great way to hit home without using extra force. The result can get a little muddier at the high school level where O-linemen can tend to do irrational things and protection schemes aren’t as clean. One way to ensure your simulated pressures hit home is to overload a lineman or gap. Start with the edges where you can easily overload a tackle, especially if you know where the RB is going post-snap. This way you ensure someone is coming free from one of the edges.

Pairing simulated pressures with a hybrid defense gives a simulated pressure package more of a punch. Texas illustrated this by running their pressures out of their Lightning, or two DE, package. This put a premium on secondary players, primarily safeties and speedy LB’s that could outrun bigger linemen. The added value of using hybrid players allows the defense to send players from every level and anywhere on the field without losing the ability to cover. In a Zone Blitz, there is usually a D-lineman moving into a zone or responsible for a speedy RB. This can have a devastating effect on the defense and most offenses will have an answer for your typical zone pressures.

The marriage between a positionless defense created by a bunch of hybrids and the simulated pressure scheme is a great way to attack Spread offenses, especially on later downs. Most teams will carry some kind of a passing down package. Being able to utilize all eleven on the field in your pass and pressure schemes is crucial in the modern era. Players now must be able to add value to every aspect of the game. When one player blitzes, another is there to pick up his man or zone responsibility. The fluidity of play is where a hybrid scheme earns its value.

Spread teams that are using hybrid players of their own, must be matched in the same way by the defense. What Texas highlighted against Georgia was the fact that you can win by playing “small” ball. The mantra, “Speed Kills” still hold merit. This is not saying that you can win without having a physical presence. In order to compete in the modern game, a defense must be multiple and have schematic answers every week for the plethora of schemes it will see. Developing concepts like simulated blitzes to bait the offense into bad situations are key to the success of modern defenses. The only thing that is limited is the ability of the teacher/coach.

In order to develop a positionless defense, the focus has to be on concepts and techniques, not strict positions. Your playbook doesn’t have to be super thick either. All pressures can be used in different schemes, just make slight adjustments to balance out the differences from one scheme to another. As illustrated at the beginning of the article, pressures and calls can be fluid through the playbook as long as each member understands the foundation of the scheme (gap and pass responsibility). As offenses get more multiple and begin to shift toward heavier personnel groupings (the pendulum always swings back, see the 2018 Patriots), it is important for the defense to develop ways to keep speed on the field without sacrificing overall schemes. A true hybrid defense is built to combat what it sees, being able to plug players in seamlessly to match the offense on the field.

 

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Hybrids: The Making of a Modern Defense

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