Cautious Aggression

Defensive schemes to combat spread offenses.

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

.98 Cover Pic

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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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The Dime Package

An introduction to the three down Dime package.

One of the greatest luxuries in football is when a defense has enough depth in the secondary to create a Dime package. As spread has become the norm in football, the Nickel package, replacing a linebacker with a secondary player (usually a safety), has become the norm and many defenses’ base. Most teams have “tween” or hybrid players. Utilizing these players on defense has made it easier for defensive coordinators to adjust to the onslaught of spread teams. The Dime package, in particular, is different than its sister the Nickel package. Instead of replacing a LB with a safety, the Dime package puts two defensive backs in and replaces either two LBs (four-down) or a LB and a defensive lineman (three-down). The specific package being discussed in this article will cover the three-down, three safety Dime package most generally seen in college today.

A 3-4 Base

If a defense’s base is a 3-4, it can easily adjust to the spread by putting a Nickleback at Sam, much like its counterpart, the 4-2-5. A three-down Dime package takes the Mike off the field and inserts either a safety or a CB depending on the DC’s preference and the scheme being used. The front most used in a Dime package is the Buck Front or a 505 front. This ensures an edge rusher on either side of the quarterback that will define the box. The Nose’s role is to get a vertical push on the pocket and make the QB move.  Below is a diagram of a 3-4 Buck Dime Package:

.01 Buck Adj (2x2)

The first decision that has to be made when developing a Dime package is who is going to be part of the Dime package personnel? If looking to run more of a man scheme, a DC is more likely to bring on two cornerbacks and leave the two most athletic LBs on the field. As stated earlier, more defenses are shifting to a Nickel/Hybrid base. This means the traditional Sam LB is actually a safety. In the case above, the Nickelback is more than likely a third CB while the Dimeback is another safety.  Continue reading “The Dime Package”

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”

MQ’s Link Book | #ArtofX

Find everything you need in one place.

MatchQuarters.com’s Philosophy of Football ::

** Each link will open in a new window, so bookmark this page and get to reading!**

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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”