Cautious Aggression

Defensive schemes to combat spread offenses.

Introducing MQ’s first full-length book, Cautious Aggression: Defending Modern Football.

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Description: As the spread becomes more of the norm in all regions of this country it is important for coaches everywhere to have a resource for defending the modern spread offense. Cautious Aggression: Defending Modern Football is that resource for coaches. The schemes described in this book are tried and true methods for defending some of the best offenses this country has ever seen.

Starting with “The Why” and ending with “The How.” Cautious Aggression gives coaches a defensive philosophy they can trust. Using diagrams and concise explanations, the book lays out a formula for success for coaches to utilize in their own schemes. Below are the chapters:

  1. Argument for Two-High
  2. Defending the Modern Spread Offense
  3. Defending Run/Pass Options
  4. Systematic Creativity of a Quarters Defense
  5. The Art of Match Quarters
  6. All About the Cover Down
  7. Designing a Modern Defense
  8. Setting the Strength
  9. Defending Formations into the Boundary
  10. Defending Motions

Coaching at the lower levels of football bring its own issues to the table that many Division I football teams do not face. Cautious Aggression: Defending Modern Football is written for all coaches. The experiences Coach Alexander gained while coaching for Baylor Football combined with his experiences at the high school level has given him a unique perspective on defensive football. Many of the concepts and theories in this book have been adjusted to fit the needs of high school and small college coaches around the country. Come learn “The Art of X.”


Thank you to all that support the site, this book would not be possible without you.

-Cody Alexander

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Defending 3×1 Formations – Solo Coverage

Kick the coverage with out the spin.

The biggest issue facing defenses when defending 3×1 formations is the run/pass conflict of the Mike. No other player in a 3×1 formation has more on their plate than the leader of most defenses. In modern football, the age of a “plugger” at Mike is over. Each LB must be able to cover underneath routes and understand how their run fits relate to their pass drops. Defenses can no longer afford to drop their LBs to “zones” or landmarks. Each player is a link in a chain. As the spread becomes a permanent fixture in most regions’ football cultures, defenses are turning to match schemes to help alleviate the issues seen in traditional defenses.

Traditionally, teams have spun to the three receiver side to allow the Mike to stay in the box, switching his responsibility of relating to the #3 receiver to “plugging” the middle of the formation. Eliminating this run/pass conflict helped defenses against the “spread-to-run” offenses but it opened them up to high percentage throws that could easily become fatals (TDs) when those offenses ran play -action. In the diagram below, an Over Cover 3 scheme is shown:

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Right away, the main issue with Cover 3 or “kick” coverage to Trips is the backside corner is in man-to-man coverage with the single WR. Offenses traditionally have left their best receiver at the “X” because of this defensive scheme. The best offensive receiver on the field is lined up across from a player with little to no help. This can spell disaster for defenses. As the spread as evolved, offenses have developed reads for the third level. If a defense spins to a 3×1 formation (“kick”) the offense can easily check to a backside choice route depending on the leverage of the corner. For most, this is a post route ran right off the back of the kicking safety. This is a high percentage throw that can spell disaster for defenses.  Continue reading “Defending 3×1 Formations – Solo Coverage”

MQ’s Defending RPOs Clinic Tape

Defending RPO’s from a 3-4 Okie Front.

The clinic includes detailed explanations on how to combat RPOs by pre-snap alignment and even explains several stop calls, all from a 3-4 Okie Front. The clinic starts with five principles for defending RPO offenses and moves on to pre-snap alignments against top spread formations. This is followed by game film and diagrams of the stop calls with detailed explanations.

(This video was originally created for Keith Grabowski, host of the “Coach & Coordinator Show” before he joined USA Football and moved his show under their umbrella.)

Continue reading “MQ’s Defending RPOs Clinic Tape”

Defending Empty and Quads Open

When teams empty the backfield know how to line up.

Teams run empty backfields to isolate WRs and open the middle of the field. With more teams opting for athletic QBs, empty sets have become a way to expand the QB running game. Defensive coordinators that want to keep a six-man box are forced to run “Zero” coverage behind the front with help only coming by late support underneath from the inside linebackers (better to just send a six-man pressure and force an errant throw), or spin to single-high. Either way, “Zero” or single-high coverage, the defense is putting its defenders in one-on-one situations. Split field defense can adjust to any empty set, but it puts the ILBs in conflict. Following base Trips rules and running an Under Front versus Empty, the Will LB is responsible for the “A” gap yet has to cover down to the weak slot. This conflict can be used against the defense and is a primary example of why Empty sets are so hard to defend.

The sister formation to Empty is Quads. This set stresses the defense even more and forces the backside safety to become a box player. The Quads set shifts the defense to the four WR side. This shift puts the DS into primary fit support in the “A” gap and completely takes the Mike LB out of the fit (another reason teams like Quads). By taking a box LB out of his fit, the offense has now forced the defense into an uncomfortable situation. Spread teams also like Quads when they have a stud WR. By alignment alone, Quads forces a one-on-one situation to the single WR side. The DS still can help the backside CB, but with any run action by the QB, or a pulling Guard, the DS must honor his fit and work into the box. This allows a brief window in the middle of the field (high percentage throw). Whether 3×2 or 4×1, the offense can put immense pressure on defenses by eliminating the RB from the backfield. All is not lost, 4-2-5/4-3 split field defenses have several ways they can combat empty backfield formations without blitzing or dropping eight.  Continue reading “Defending Empty and Quads Open”

Defending the Spread From a 3-4

Running an Okie Front to defend the modern spread attack.

Defensive linemen are at a premium. For many teams, it is hard to field a deep roster that can lend itself to a four-man front. Running parallel to the defensive dilemma of lineman depth is the popularity of the spread. A natural conclusion for many defensive coordinators around the country has been a shift away from a four-down front and into a 3-4 scheme. The flexibility of the 3-4 and the added athlete on the field makes the scheme spread friendly. The multiplicity within the scheme allows DCs to attack the offense from multiple directions without sacrificing pass distributions. Running a two-high scheme behind a three-man front meshes well with teams that have a history of running a 4-2-5 or 4-3.

The Okie Front, in particular, can be of service when defensive coaches are looking to defend the spread from a three down front. With a 5 technique, a shaded Nose, and a 3 tech. (or 4i) to the weak side, the Okie’s anchor points fit the spread much like its four down sister, the Under Front. To the weak side, the Jack linebacker (boundary OLB) is technically a wide “9” in the run fits and controls the edge of the box to the boundary. The Jack LB, in particular, is useful when defending offenses that like to attack the boundary through the air. Even though the Jack is technically a conflicted player (he is responsible for the “C” gap), his alignment allows him to read the offensive tackle and slow play the run. In most four down fronts, the boundary OLB (Will) is the “fold” player and is considered conflicted because his gap is in the box. The Okie Front eliminates the fold and replaces it with a loose overhang (much like a natural Will/DE exchange in a four down front). Continue reading “Defending the Spread From a 3-4”

MQ’s Link Book | #ArtofX

Find everything you need in one place.

MatchQuarters.com’s Philosophy of Football ::

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Go deeper into defending the spread with MQ’s Book ::

Cautious Aggression: Defending Modern Football:

https://matchquarters.com/2017/06/22/cautious-aggression/

Defending the Spread ::

Formations/Run Fits

  1. Zero the Mike (Belly-Key)https://matchquarters.com/2016/07/22/fmt-zero-the-mike/
  2. Using Natural Gap Exchanges in Your Front Sevenhttps://matchquarters.com/2016/12/30/teaching-gap-exchanges/
  3.  Line Twists to Combat Heavy Zone Teamshttps://matchquarters.com/2016/10/28/fmt-tex-stunts-to-combat-zone/
  4. Defending the Zone Readhttps://matchquarters.com/2016/07/25/attacking-the-zone-read/
  5. Defending the Power Readhttps://matchquarters.com/2016/09/02/fmt-stopping-the-power-read/
  6. Defending Split Zonehttps://matchquarters.com/2016/10/07/fmt-defending-split-zone/
  7. Defending Unbalanced Setshttps://matchquarters.com/2017/02/10/defending-the-spreads-unbalanced-sets/

Coverages

  1. Defending the Air Raidhttps://matchquarters.com/2017/02/03/steal-coverage-to-combat-air-raid-offenses/
  2. The Dime Packagehttps://matchquarters.com/2017/05/12/the-dime-package/

Motions

  1. Defending Jet Motionhttps://matchquarters.com/2016/11/18/fmt-defending-jet-motion/
  2. Defending A-Behind and Flare Motionhttps://matchquarters.com/2017/04/07/defending-flarequick-motion/

Defending the RPOs ::

  1. RPO Stop Callshttps://matchquarters.com/2016/08/19/fmt-three-rpos-three-stop-calls/
  2. Using Split-Field Coverage to Counteract RPO & Check-With-Me Offenseshttps://matchquarters.com/2016/10/03/leveraging-the-boundary/

Defending Trips/Empty ::

  1. 10/Empty Personnel:
    1. Why You Should Run an Under Front to 3×1 Sets:  https://matchquarters.com/2016/07/18/how-do-you-play-trips/
    2. Trips Coverages Explainedhttps://matchquarters.com/2016/08/08/how-do-you-play-trips-pt2/
      1. Defending Trips with Stress Coveragehttps://matchquarters.com/2017/03/10/defending-trips-stress-coverage/
      2. Defending Trips with Special Coveragehttps://matchquarters.com/2017/03/17/defending-trips-special-coverage/
      3. Defending 3×1 Formations with Solo Coveragehttps://matchquarters.com/2017/06/09/defending-3×1-formations-solo-coverage/
    3. Defending Empty and Quadshttps://matchquarters.com/2017/03/31/defending-empty-and-quads-open/
    4. Attacking Emptyhttps://matchquarters.com/2016/11/25/fmt-three-ways-to-attack-empty/

Defending Formations/Personnel Groups ::

  1. Defending Stack and Bunch Setshttps://matchquarters.com/2016/10/17/defending-stack-and-bunch-sets/
  2. 11 Personnelhttps://matchquarters.com/2016/08/22/tight-end-sets-vs-match-quarters/
  3. 20 Personnel:
    1. Over vs Underhttps://matchquarters.com/2016/12/23/defending-20-personnel-over-vs-under/
    2. Read Coverage (Field Robber)https://matchquarters.com/2017/01/06/defending-20-pers-read-coverage/
  4. 21 Personnelhttps://matchquarters.com/2016/09/05/defending-power-football/
  5. 12 Personnelhttps://matchquarters.com/2016/11/21/lining-up-to-ace/
  6. 30 Personnelhttps://matchquarters.com/2016/11/04/fmt-defending-the-diamond/
  7. Defending the Wing-Thttps://matchquarters.com/2016/11/11/fmt-tips-on-defending-the-wing-t/

Stop Calls/Pressures/Blitzes ::

  1. Packaging Blitz Callshttps://matchquarters.com/2016/09/12/how-to-package-your-blitz-calls/
  2. Building a Better Zone Blitzhttps://matchquarters.com/2016/08/15/building-a-better-blitz/
  3. Run Down Stop Callshttps://matchquarters.com/2016/09/23/fmt-3-run-down-stop-calls/

Quarters Pedagogy and Drill Tapes ::

  1. Teaching the Safetieshttps://matchquarters.com/2016/11/28/how-i-teach-match-quarters-pt-2/
  2. Teaching the Cornershttps://matchquarters.com/2016/10/31/how-i-teach-match-quarters/
  3. Match Quarters Pass Distributions: https://matchquarters.com/2016/10/21/fmt-four-and-two-read/
  4. Daily Musts for DBshttps://matchquarters.com/2016/09/30/fmt-daily-must/
  5. LB Philosophy and Fundamentalshttps://matchquarters.com/2017/01/27/linebacker-drills-and-fundamentals/

3-4 Resources ::

  1. The Okie Fronthttps://matchquarters.com/2016/08/12/fmt-the-not-so-odd-front/
  2. Defending Modern Spread from Okiehttps://matchquarters.com/2017/01/20/defending-the-spread-from-a-3-4/
  3. The Tite Front (303/404)https://matchquarters.com/2016/10/10/the-3-4-tite-front/
  4. 3rd Down Calls From a 3-4https://matchquarters.com/2016/10/14/fmt-3rd-down-calls-from-a-3-4/

Install/Opponent Breakdowns/Practice/Self-Scout ::

  1. Install Plan for a 4-2-5https://matchquarters.com/2017/04/14/four-day-install-plan/
  2. Breaking Down an Opponenthttps://matchquarters.com/2016/12/19/breaking-down-an-opponent/
  3. Down & Distance Datahttps://matchquarters.com/2016/12/16/fmt-down-and-distance/
  4. Breaking Down the Runhttps://matchquarters.com/2017/02/24/breaking-down-the-run/
  5. Breaking Down the Pass: https://matchquarters.com/2017/02/17/breaking-down-the-pass/
  6. Building a Hit Charthttps://matchquarters.com/2016/09/09/fmt-building-a-hit-chart/
  7. Weekly Schedule (Practice Plan): https://matchquarters.com/2016/09/16/fmt-weekly-schedule/
  8. 5 Cut-ups to Improve Your Self-Scouthttps://matchquarters.com/2017/03/03/five-cut-ups-to-improve-your-off-season-self-scout/

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– Coach A.

Defending 20 Personnel – Over vs Under

How to attack 2o pers. using the offense’s tendencies.

There is a reason so many spread teams are using 2o personnel as a base formation. Slot-T teams like Auburn use jet motion and pulling guards to out leverage the defense, even using RPOs to find wide open receivers downfield. Florida St. uses a split-backfield to 01-pop-setsattack the defense with speed to the edge. Teams like Baylor and Ole Miss use 20 pers. formations to use RPO style attacks, Baylor with the third level vertical option routes and Ole Miss with Arc-Read RPOs. There are multiple ways to attack a defense from 20 pers. just using the backfields alone. Each set can create a different read for the QB (all this without using unbalanced and motion). The diagram to the left depicts some of the more popular backfields an offense likes to run out of 20 pers (this doesn’t even include Pistol or “I” sets). When breaking down a 20 pers. offense, each backfield creates a new formation. If an offense uses each one of the above backfield sets in their offense, it forces the defense to look at the formational data with a more critical eye.

For a defensive coach, 20 pers. causes problems not only in the backfield but with the three receivers. There is a tendency by some DC’s to spin against 20 pers. The thought process behind spinning is the offense has added another blocker, and potentially another gap, so to counteract tspin-to-hhat, a DC will spin. The diagram to the right depicts a defense that has spun to the H-back. This allows the Sam to work back to the box. Though the defense has created a plus-one to the field, they have left themselves exposed to the boundary. All an offense has to do is run a simple Arc-Read to the boundary and the offense has a numbers advantage. If a defense is going to spin against 20 pers., it is in the defense’s best interest to spin weak. Leveraging the boundary allows the pass distribution to the field stay intact, and a defense can play a hybrid quarters scheme to the boundary. The issue with spinning to the boundary is the third-level RPO read off the dropping safety. Teams that run a backside choice with the single receiver will see the dropping safety and run a post/slant right behind him. The best plan of action versus a 20 pers. offense is to stay in a two-high scheme and use the safeties as extra box players. The question now is, what about the front? Continue reading “Defending 20 Personnel – Over vs Under”