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:

.99 C3

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”

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Defending Trips – Special Coverage

If the offense won’t throw to #1, lock him up and reduce the field.

When defending a team that runs Trips it is important for the defense to have multiple coverage options. Depending on how an offense chooses to attack a defense the selection of the right coverage can be crucial. Being able to switch from base coverage to base coverage allows the defense to keep the offense on its toes. If a defense only runs one base coverage against Trips, offenses will quickly find a way to exploit it. This fact alone should encourage a defensive staff to carry multiple coverages into a game and be able to use them when the opportunity arises.

Many times offenses use the #1 receiver as a decoy or chooses to run him off to create a void so the #2 or #3 WR can run an out route into space. One way to counteract the nonuse of #1 and outs by #2 or #3 is to run Special Coverage. Unlike Stress where the Sam is blind to what the #3 WR is doing, Special eliminates the #1 completely and reduces the field. The Sam takes on the responsibility of a Two-Read CB. His eyes are squarely on #2 and will carry the vertical of #2 if the offense runs vertical routes. Like Stress, the key player is the Sam linebacker and his ability to run with a vertical route. Eliminating #1 puts the Sam on an island with #2. As stated earlier, having options in coverage is important to defending the spread. A defense must be able to adapt to any situations and adjust to any formation/scheme thrown at it.  Continue reading “Defending Trips – Special Coverage”

Defending Trips – Stress Coverage

Most HS QB’s can’t throw the 25 yard Comeback. So make’em.

Defense is reactionary by nature. The offense knows the play and the defense must be structured enough to counteract and defend. Outside of forcing the offense’s hand through pressure, a defense must play on the law of averages and use the tendencies of the offense against them. For most high school offense the #1 wide receiver in a Trips set rarely gets the ball, and when he does it usually comes by way of an underneath route or a sprint out by the offense. Few high school QB’s can make the 25-yard comeback throw from the opposite hash. The few that can make the throw must execute the long throw which can tend to hang in the air long enough for a good corner to react to it. Plus, most high school offenses won’t run a four vertical play and attack the #1 WR to the Trips side. Usually, it is the #2 on a bender or the “X” WR to the boundary (especially if the defense is “kicking” to the three WR side). Using the law of averages can give the defense an advantage and protect itself from the backside fade and a “solo-ed” CB.

Defending Trips is about sectioning off the formation and forcing a weak armed QB to make a long throw. Some defensive coaches turn to Special coverage against Trips because the #1 WR rarely gets the ball. In Special, the CB will lock on the #1 WR and the defense runs a Two Read scheme by bracketing the #2 and #3 WRs. This allows the Sam to move to outside leverage of the #2 and drive on any out routes. The #3 WR bracketed by the Mike underneath and the field safety (Cover Safety – CS). There are several issues when Special is the base defense against Trips. One, the coverages is susceptible against crossing routes by the #1 and #2 WRs. Since the CB is locked on the #1 WR he must follow him everywhere he goes (MEG coverage). Offenses can easily use rub and pick routes to wall off the CB and knock off the Sam. Another issue with Special is the vertical of #2. Since the Sam is outside leveraged, and the CS is holding the inside of the #3 WR, it is easy for the offense to use a four vert scheme to attack the coverage. Most teams will run the #3 WR on an “over” route to the opposite hash allowing the #2 WR to bend into the middle of the field (MOF) creating a window and a relatively easy throw for any QB. By alignment, the Sam is beat to the inside and must work outside-in to get hands on the WR. Special is great when teams are running out routes with #2 and #3 and is a coverage all two-high defenses need in their repertoire. If teams are attacking vertically, Stress is best.  Continue reading “Defending Trips – Stress Coverage”

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”

Defending 20 Pers. — Read Coverage

Use a field “robber” scheme to defend 20 pers. pass schemes.

Defending the run versus 20 personnel is hard enough. Factor in offenses using this set to RPO the defense, it can be difficult for a defensive coordinator to decide how to attack it. Using multiple coverages, fronts, and stunts/pressures can keep an offense on its heels, but there has to be a plan. If a DC moves the Sam closer to the box and plays quarters behind, the offense can take advantage of the lack of cover down and throw out routes or stops all day. These routes play off of the leverage of the safety, which in quarters happens to be deep and inside. Spinning to the two receiver side leaves the offense vulnerable to the backside RPO or weakside run (lack of plus-one). A weak spin is sound and keeps the defense even, but still gives up the flat and backside choice route. 20 personnel is one of the hardest formations to defend because the offense has added an extra player to the box and can create a new gap on either side of the formation.

Staying Two-High

Playing Four-Press (Sky) to 20 pers. can be a great deterrent to offenses that utilize RPOs in their scheme. The pressing corners eliminate much of the route tree and force low percentage throws outside (ex. – Fades). The Down Safety to the boundary acts as a catch-all and plus-one versus the weakside run. In Sky, the safety can rob the underneath of #1’s route and will drive on any slant. To the field, the Sam can cover down to the slot, essentially deterring bubbles routes while the Cover Safety fits off the Sam. The issue in Quarters versus 20 pers. is the outside flat to the field. If the Sam is aggressive to a run look, the offense can take advantage of the deep safety and the corner being run off by #1. Even versus an out route the Sam, who aligns inside, can be frozen by a run read and late on the pass. See below:

02-sky-vs-sz-pap

In a 4-3/4-2-5 scheme, the Sam linebacker is taught to gain a run read while relating off the slot WR. The problem with this technique is the Sam is late on out routes. If the Sam is over aggressive, the offense can take advantage of his vacated area. Late in the second quarter of the 2016 Pinstripe Bowl, Northwestern started to take advantage of Pitt’s aggressive Sam versus 20 and 11 pers and Narduzzi’s Press Quartes scheme. Northwestern turned to a Smash concept (stop/corner) to take advantage of an aggressive Sam and the inside leverage of the safety. Though the pass was not completed, it exposed the defense’s scheme.

On third down, Northwestern ran a Divide scheme (three verticals dividing the field into thirds) and took advantage of a blown coverage by the CB, getting the Wildcats inside the Pitt 30 yard line. Assuming Pitt would stay in their traditional quarters look, Northwestern turned to a zone RPO out of Trey to attack the crashing Sam and isolated safety. The QB read the Sam working into the box and flipped the ball out to the slot on a stop route. The safety missed the one-on-one tackle and the WR worked deeper into the Red Zone before being tackled. Northwestern would score on the next play, taking advantage of a missed assignment by the DE to the boundary and scoring on the bounce of a zone play. 14-3 Wildcats.

After Pitt scored quickly to bring the game to within four, Northwestern quickly turned back to attacking Pitt out of 11 pers. Trey. When the Wildcats lined up in 10 pers. 2×2 and motioned the H-back into the formation Narduzzi called a timeout. Out of the timeout, the Wildcats went back to the formation, but Narduzzi had changed the coverage to a Read Coverage, or field robber. Assuming Narduzzi knew that Northwestern felt Pitt had made adjustments to the Trey set and was now switching to a new look, he called a quick timeout after seeing Northwestern align in 20 pers. Out of the timeout, Narduzzi switched to Read Coverage to combat Northwestern’s new set to take advantage of the soft spot to the outside in Pitt’s Quarters coverage. This small sequence highlights the constant cat-and-mouse game that is football and a great change-up coverage to split field quarters versus 20 pers.

Continue reading “Defending 20 Pers. — Read Coverage”

MQ’s Link Book | #ArtofX

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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.

How I Teach Match Quarters – Pt. 2

A clinic on the pedagogy of match quarters. Pt. 2 — Teaching the Safeties.

Teaching the Safeties

Four Read (Sky)

01-sky

Sky coverage is the “go to” coverage for Quarters teams on first down, and is used by many defensive coordinators to gain a nine-man box. The key difference in how DC’s play Sky coverage is the cover down by the Sam linebacker. In a true 4-2-5 scheme, the Sam LB is completely covered down to the #2 WR. The lack of a gap inside the box enables the Sam to widen his alignment and hold the inside hip of the slot. A 4-3 scheme apexes the Sam, allowing him to be aggressive to the box. How a DC decided to cover down the Sam affects how the safety to the field plays Sky coverage. In the diagram above, the defense is running a 4-2-5 with an Over Front and the Sam is completely covered down on the Sam. The 4-2-5 allows the safety to be more of a “robber” player, hanging in the intermediate in pass distribution and aggressive to the run. In a 4-3, the safety is in a hybrid man scheme because the Sam will be late to help with the #2 receiver.

The initial step of the safety referred to as a “step off.” This technique is a step-replace technique very similar to the CB’s slide technique in Sky. Each safety is aligned at 10 yards with a toe-to-heel stance and shaded to the inside eye of the slot receiver. 10 yards is a good depth for the safeties because it gives them enough depth to carry a vertical, yet they are close enough to drive on WR screens and play fit support in the run game. The main responsibility of each safety in pass coverage is to protect the inside of the field and bracket the #2 WR with the OLB. In coverage, the safeties are considered “robber” players and fit underneath any post route from the #1 WR (intermediate). The CB is the “topper” and must pin, or “top,” any vertical route from #1 (high hole). Against a double vertical route combination, the safeties will “collision and carry” the vertical of the slot WR. The collision and carry method is one that must be practiced multiple times.

The danger of Sky coverage is in the vertical by the slot. Being able to collision the slot as he is going vertical allows the safety to slow the WR down while regaining the upper hand on the route. In Sky, the safety is “stepping off” and is not fast bailing (Cloud). This allows the WR to climb with tempo. In order to combat a vertical by the slot, the Sam must get hands on the WR (easier out of a cover down) and the safeties eyes have to determine departure speed. Reading the departure speed of the slot is a key attribute a quarters safety must have. In order to combat the aggressiveness of the scheme, the safeties eyes have to be transfixed on the slot at the snap of the ball.

Versus the run, the safeties are responsible for making the OLBs right. If the OLB gets stuck inside, the safety will fit outside of the slot receiver (fit support). The OLB/safety work as a team to bracket the slots and cover the “O” gap to the field and the boundary safety (DS) corrects the Will to the boundary. This tandem action allows the safety to be aggressive to the ball in the run game. As stated in the previous paragraph, the safeties must key the slot’s departure speed in order to combat the aggressive nature of four-read.

The Cover Safety (field) has the most help  because the Sam is able to cover down all the way to the slot (in a 4-2-5). This allows the Sam to get his hands on the #2 WR and force the receiver to “run the hump” or slow his departure speed. The Down Safety (boundary) versus 10 personnel 2×2 must hold his position longer because the Will is not covered down to the slot (fold player into the “B”). Versus a 20/11 personnel look, the DS can be aggressive to the run because he must hold contain in the “O” gap (Will is now in the box) and is the intermediate player in the pass. This “robber” technique forces offenses to run vertical routes and away from the RPO slants. The aggressiveness of the DS in 20/11 pers. is why many quarters teams have a field corner and a boundary corner. The boundary corner tends to be the best man cover player because he is most likely not going to get quick support from the DS, who must fit the run. Continue reading “How I Teach Match Quarters – Pt. 2”