Defending the Diamond Formation

Ideas on defending a unique and multiple set.


The inverted bone offensive set has become an integral part of many spread offenses over the past decade. The set is similar to the 12 personnel “Ace” set (2×2 with two TEs) and reflects how offenses have gotten creative by taking the TEs off the ball. Any even set with a “pistol” backfield has created a two-way-go with their play calling. Defensively this puts pressure on the players to set the front to the strength. With modern football moving more towards hybrid players, the Diamond set allows for offenses to move seamlessly from 30 personnel to 20/10/11 personnel. Add tempo to the mix, and defenses now have to line up correctly to multiple sets without a sub to tell them what they are getting. 

The Diamond set, as stated earlier, is the spreads answer to 12 personnel. The set is an even set, meaning there is not true strength. In the picture above, Dana Holgerson even stacks his backs creating leverage to one side. The even set gives the offense an advantage in playcalling because they can choose which side gives them the best leverage or read. Defensively there are a few ways to combat the set, but the set doesn’t lend itself to being attacked very easily. The evenness of the set combined with the fact the offense can use max protection forces the defense to be vanilla. Depending on how the offense is choosing to attack the defense should reflect how a defense lines up to it.

Two High


One of the great advantages the 30 pers. Diamond set lends to the offenses is the opportunity to max protect and create 1-on-1 matchups on the outside. Much like an “Ace” set or even 21 pers. Pro set, the Diamond can easily be turned into a max protect, vertical shot, set. The evenness of the set makes it difficult to blitz because the offense can run any of their plays in either direction. In the diagram above, the defense is aligned in a two-high set. This allows the defense to be even with the offense and protect itself against the vertical threats of the receivers. The Mike, as usual, is in his “zero” position to lend himself to either side of the formation. The Sam aligns tight to the edge and holds the “C” gap. On the opposite side, the Will stacks the DE to combat full flow (stretch) and to give him an advantage if the offense runs a read play (the DE has Dive, and the Will has QB). In the case of a run to the boundary (which is a short edge if on the hash), the DS is responsible for the “O” gap. In terms of coverage, the choice is between 2-Man or Sky. If running 2-Man, the CS has the luxury of being able to bail quickly and top the #1 receiver to the field. The DS, on the other hand, must be patient and hold his fit support. The alignment of both safeties is at 10-12 yards, but each one must understand their responsibilities are different. The leverage of the CBs should be a soft press or even off-man. The reasoning behind this is to protect from the quick vertical throw. Most offenses when seeing press are going to run a fade or slant, seeing that the set is one that lends itself to max protection, the vertical shot is probably what the offense will choose.



Versus teams that are heavy run out of the inverted bone set it might be beneficial to drop the DS and run a 4-4 split look. This gives an extra defender to either side of the formation and protects each side from the stretch play. The CS is essentially a double alley player. His alignment should be zeroed over the center, and heels at 10 yards. The DS and the Sam hold the “O” gaps and box everything. This allows the Mike and the Will to attack their gaps without being concerned with full flow. Both inside ‘backers can align in their gaps because they have the luxury of someone outside. In the diagram above the Mike and the Will are in 20 alignments (stacking the guards). This alignment allows them to attack their gap but still have enough width to reach the outside. Unlike the two-high look, spinning allows the inside LBs to be “box” backers. The fits are the exact same as in a two-high look, just the alignments change. One of the main issues with spinning to single-high versus a max protection set is the 1-on-1 matchups with the WRs. The CBs should align themselves in an off-man position (6-7 yards and protecting the inside) and expect a vertical route.

Run Fits vs Popular Plays

Stack Stretch – Versus a stack set, the Sam should align tighter to the line of scrimmage. This allows him to set the edge quicker. The CS should set the edge off the outside shoulder of the second lead blocker. The key to this play is the play side DE. He can not get reached. The objective is for the Sam and the CS to set a wall and create a cutback. The Mike and Will should read full flow and attack the ball carriers inside shoulder.


Arc Read – This is one of the best plays from the Diamond set. It is nearly impossible to defend, and the offense can literally choose who they want to get the ball. In the diagram below you will notice how hard the play is on the Mike. The zone blocking forces the Mike to step to his gap. This allows the away-side tackle to climb and block him from scraping if the QB pulls the ball. The Will and the DS have to fit off the outside shoulders of their pullers. The beauty of this play is the two gaps created by the backfield pullers. If done right, the play will bounce, and the DS must make a 1-on-1 tackle. The CS to the field is the extra man. on the QB. He has to scrape on top of the play and read the ball. The Sam must hold his “O” gap, then fold into the box if the ball is handed off. The two-high scheme allows the CS be the extra man versus the zone and the QB pull. The only difference from the two-high fits and the single-high fits is the DS’ fit will be faster, and the QB will most likely cut back. That puts pressure on the Mike to climb over the block back.



Like 12 personnel’s Ace formation, the Diamond is an even set and makes it hard on the defense. Being even allows the offense to have its pick on what DE/LB it reads. It is possible to blitz Diamond, but be aware that the offense has the numbers to absorb it and challenge the CBs vertically. Single or two-high, each scheme has its place versus the Diamond set. It really comes down to the preference of the DC. When blitzing or pressuring the Diamond set, make it simple, and efficient. Since the offense is in an even set, it is nothing for them to check away from your blitz. Even in a “stacked” backfield, the offense can essentially run the same plays. Versus a “stacked” backfield the only real adjustment is to align the OLB to the backs tighter to the line. Motion should only affect the LBs in a two-high look, they just have to bump and the ‘backer to the stack needs to tighten to the line.

Author: MatchQuarters


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