Defending Jet Motion

Don’t take the bait. Don’t get out leveraged.


The jet motion is a great leveraging tool that offenses use to either move the defense (to counter the opposite way) or cut them off (speed kills). Auburn under Malzahn has utilized the jet motion to create deception and outmaneuver opponents. The speed at which the jet motion attacks, forces the defense to recognize the motion and adjust accordingly. Because the offense is using a fast motion, the defense is forced to plus alignments or spin an extra player down to the side the motion is moving. Many times, an offense uses their best athlete on the jet motion to focus even more attention on the movement.  Offenses can even use the jet motion as a decoy because the defense has to honor the motion. To gain width, or to freeze an OLB/DE, offenses will send a jet motion to one side and run a play going away. This “freezing” of the defense allows an extra lineman to climb to the next level. This focus causes tunnel vision and can lead to exposure away from the direction of the motion.

Offenses use motion as a leverage tool. The Slot-T version of the spread, which Auburn runs, uses the jet motion to move the defense into compromising positions. Every 03-auburndefensive coach knows that when an offense uses motion (especially jet motion), the defense is forced to adjust promptly to the new formation. As stated earlier, the speed of the jet motion can make defenses over rotate to counteract the quick rotation of the offense. For many defensive coordinators, it is easier to rotate safeties (spin) than to bump linebackers because of the tempo at which the WR or slot is running. The introduction of unbalanced formations (X-off) and the utilization of the quarterback in the run game have made it more difficult for defenses to defend jet motion teams. In the picture above, Auburn used an unbalanced set to attack the Alabama defense. Out of the stack set shown, the offense can run a double lead jet stretch, running back counter weak, jet power read with two lead blockers or any QB run they choose. With so many play variations off of one formation and motion, it is no wonder many spread teams are using this type of motion to build whole offenses around. Any time the QB becomes a runner, the defense is stressed even more. The added value that the jet motion gives teams is undeniable.

Defensive Tendencies

If a team is heavy in jet motion, the tendency is to adjust with the secondary and spin in the direction of the motion. By rotating the safeties, the offense gains an advantage away from the motion’s direction. Rolling down a safety and playing Cover 3 to the motion vacates the plus-one to the weak side. In most versions of the Slot-T, the QB is one of the primary run carriers. If this is true, the defense has to fight the urge to over rotate. Any time an offense can use the QB to run, it gains an extra man in the box. Spinning to single-high allows the defense to cut off the jet stretch, but sacrifices bodies to the weak side and in the box. Slot-T teams that utilize jet motion want defenses to over rotate. This allows the offense to counter back to the away side with either the QB or the RB.

The second schematic tendency that defensive coaches tend to use is stunting the front in the direction of the jet. The theory behind the choice to stunt is by moving the line in the direction of the motion, the line will be able to penetrate and set up a wall forcing a drastic cutback. One issue with adjusting with the line is many times the LBs are taught to read flow, and if they see the O-line reaching for the outside and the jet motion they are more likely to chase the motion. This creates too many men outside, and what was supposed to be a good thing (the cutback) ends up being a productive play for the offense. If a defense chooses to stunt the line in the direction of the jet motion it is crucial that the LBs do not leave their designated spots and be patient in waiting for for the cutback.

Keys to Success

To defeat any motion, the defense has to move as little as possible. As stated earlier, the jet motion forces defenses to honor the speed of the motion. The defense has to cut the motion off in order to not get reached and beat to the outside. Rotating to the motion puts the defense in a bind away from the motion and stunting to the motion can leave the defense vulnerable to getting cut off by the O-line. The best approach to the jet motion is to stay even and don’t take the bait of the offense.


In the diagram above, the LBs plus their alignment by one step as a response to the jet motion. This allows the ILBs to attack the offense if the ball is given to the motion back. Their eyes are squarely placed on the guards (who never lie). It does look as though the safeties are rotating to single-high, but they are not. In a Quarters scheme, the boundary safety can attack the curl while holding underneath leverage. He is the underneath player in four-read, so he has the luxury of attacking the curl. The field safety moves with the motion and aligns where he normally would versus a 30 personnel set. The Sam closes in on the line, holds his position, and is responsible for cutback/reverse. Remember, the motion is an illusion, even if the offense hands the ball off to the motioning WR. In order to defend the jet motion, the defense has to play it as from where the formation is when the ball is snapped. In the case of the above diagram, the formation ends up in 30 personnel.


The key to success against a jet motion is to treat the motion as an extension of the backfield. When the ball is snapped, the motion back is in the backfield and creates the formation. In the instance above, the motion created a 30 personnel set. There is no reason to over rotate unless the offense is not going to counter back. The ILBs are the key cog in defeating the jet motion. The box LBs’ eyes have to be squarely on their keys, and their only movement is to slightly “plus” their alignment to the direction of the motion. Other than the play side DE (who has to honor the jet motion), the rest of the line must react to the O-line’s blocks. In the picture above (and the first clip of the Jet Motion Tape below), the Nose played the counter perfectly. He saw the block back, climbed over the center and made the play. In the secondary, the DS leveraged the boundary and played underneath the CB (which is a principle in Sky coverage). The Sam and CS stayed at home for any play to their side.

Stay Even


Staying even and not rotating to the motion allows the defense to be flexible and adapt to what the offense is giving them. Playing a two-high look and keeping box integrity allows the defense to maintain their box fits and not get out-leveraged by the offense. If the motion was to the Sam (like in a 2×2 10 personnel set), the defense could send him up the field to take on the lead blocker (probably the RB). The CS safety behind him would sink into the curl and play Sky coverage from an underneath look. The Sam is responsible for the “O” gap, so sending him to make the jet motion cut back would not hinder gap integrity. By staying even and using quarters rules, the defense can adapt to any jet motion thrown at it. The key to breaking down a team that uses jet motion in its offense is to understand they are trying to move the defense. Whether they are going to use the QB to run counter away from the motion or to get the LBs/safeties sucked in for an RPO, the defense can counteract this by staying still and using the leverage and flexibility given to it by staying in a two-high look. As stated earlier, if the defense doesn’t move, the offense will stop moving. Force the offense to play left-handed.


The best defenses against motion teams don’t let the motion effect the gap or coverage integrity of the base defense. Spinning to Cover 3 only opens the door for the offense to use RPOs and runs away from the motion. Only blitz the motion when losing the defender won’t hinder the integrity of the defense (see above – 10 personnel). Film breakdown is key when facing a team that uses jet motion. Some offenses use the motion as window dressing to move the defense, while others use the motion to out-leverage the defense. Either way, make the offense left-handed. Always be aware of teams that can run with the QB. The extra box player for the offense has to the pressure put on the defense. Jet motions create width for the offense, it is in the best interest of the defense to plus its LBs, but not to the point they are too removed from their home base. The LBs still have to fill their gaps. Lastly, play the jet motion from where the ball is snapped, when the motion back is in the backfield. Having this mentality allows the DC and defensive coaches to plan accordingly for what they are going to see, and adjust to the formation created by the offense.

A Film Study

Here are several clips of run fits against a jet motion. The clips include most personnel groupings and even includes a look a Quads Open jet. Most looks are from a 3-4 Okie (Under Front), and against two-back sets, we primarily ran an attached” Jack” as well, which is a true Under Front, so it translates to a 4-2-5 or 4-3 single gap fits schemes.


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Author: MatchQuarters


13 thoughts on “Defending Jet Motion”

  1. Hey coach, with the jet motion do you keep the front in an over front, or are you sliding the line to an under front.

    If a team motions to trips are you checking to an under front?

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