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:
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.
Field or Coverage Side
The main reason the extra CB goes to the field side is because he is taken out of the run fits. By setting the Nose to the field, the defense has ensured the Nickel is able to cover down or aligns on the slot. This puts him in coverage. Most generally, a Dime package is utilized by a DC when there is a greater chance of the offense passing. This can be late in a game or a third and long situation. The field, or coverage, side runs a base quarters coverage depending on the alignment and tendencies of the offense. The Nickel’s role will mirror that of the Sam’s in the base defense. If running quarters, the Nickel is relating to the #2 wide receiver and matching his routes. The Field CB and the Cover (Field) Safety, will play their base coverages the same as well. The Mike is replaced by the Sam, who in turn, assumes Mike’s responsibilities in coverage (matching the #3 WR or the back).
The Dimeback and Will are going to “cut” their respective WRs. In the case above, the Dime will cut to the inside hip of the #1 WR and the Will will work to the hip of #2. This creates a four over two adjustment for the defense. Both the Will and Dime will hold inside leverage of their WR and force them to deviate of their routes. The boundary CB and the Down (boundary) Safety will play their coverages much like a traditional Cover Four, holding the tops of the routes ran by the boundary WRs. The inside of the field is protected by both safeties. Each one holding the inside shoulder of the routes ran by the slots.
Trips and Empty Adjustments
One luxury of running a three-down scheme out of the Dime is it allows the safety to the boundary to “kick” or work to the #3 WR versus a Trips set. In a 3-4, the backside LB can cut underneath the route of the single WR as the CB tops the coverage. This gives the defense a plus-one versus the single WR and frees up the boundary safety to work to the field. The rule of thumb for setting the front versus Trips, and Empty, is to set the Nose to the three WR side. As with the earlier 2×2 set, this allows for the best cover downs and protects the wide side of the field.
In Kick Coverage, the boundary safety (DS) will take all of the vertical of #3 and will get help underneath by the Mike LB (in the case of a Dime package, the Sam). As the defense works across the field, the frontside safety, Nickel, and field CB can match the routes ran by the #1 and #2 WRs. This gives the defense a plus-one in coverage across the field. Another plus in this scheme is free playing Will. The DC can choose to “spy” a dual threat QB, drop him into the middle hole, or send him on a delayed blitz. Either way, the defense has an extra player.
When aligning to an Empty look, the defense can rely on its base coverage. In the diagram below, the front side is running Stress and the backside can run either quarters scheme it feels gives them the best opportunity against the offense’s tendencies. As with Trips, the Will is a free player and can “spy” the QB, cut-off any crossers, or drop to the middle hole for extra help.
If worried about a QB draw, a DC can “spy” the QB with the Will and fold both the Sam and Dimeback into the formation. Most times a Dime package is called, the offense is far from the first down marker. Regardless of personnel groupings, the players coming in must understand their roles within the run fits. This is why the Nickel is most likely a defense’s third CB and the Dime is the extra safety.
Tampa Dime or the Three Safety Scheme
Another way many DC’s utilize the Dime package is by using the extra DB in the middle of the field. The softest spot versus any two-high scheme is in the middle of the field, by aligning the extra DB as the middle hole player, the DC has effectively taken care of the soft spot. This scheme also allows the DC to get hands on the #1 WRs. By protecting the middle of the field, the defense can now be aggressive over the outside WRs. The LBs are still underneath and relating to their men, but the added value of a middle third player alleviate the stress on the safeties.
The one issue in this type of coverage is the QB draw. The Will must fold back into the “B” gap, while the Dime’s role is to be aware of the QB and insert himself into the box if the QB takes off. As stated, the Dime in the middle of the field is a luxury, and he can be late into coverage. Like in any Tamp Two scheme there must be a “pole runner,” or a someone that runs down the middle third to clean up any vertical that may seep in. The Dime assumes the “pole player’s” role.
Even though the defense is playing a Tamp Two style defense, the safeties must remain on the inside of the #2 WR running vertically. Where Tampa defenses get into trouble versus 2×2 sets is when offenses trigger the pole runner to open to the back and then run a post behind the dropping middle third player. By using Two-Read rules, both safeties will hold the vertical routes of the slots. The main difference between the Tampa and Two-Read is the pressing of the CBs. Press ensures the #1 WRs are getting hands on them and funnels the WRs back to the bailing safeties. Pairing match principles with a Dime Tampa scheme gives the DC the best of both worlds. A hard press on the outside WRs, two deep safeties of the slots (bracketed with the LBs), and a safe guard centerfield safety incase anything leaks to the middle.
Adjusting Tampa to Trips
Adjusting to Trips in a Dime Tampa scheme is easy. The Dimeback will align shaded to the #3 WR and will “kick” to the vertical of his route. To the boundary, the defense has a three over two advantage and will play the formation much like it would out of regular Two-Read. The frontside coverage is the same as it would be if it was a 2×2 set. The Sam and Dime will bracket the #3 WR. To relate this back to base coverages, the Dime is essentially the boundary safety in a “kick” coverage. Because of the added safety in coverage, the DS can now relate back to the #1 WR and protect against the quick hitting backside fade.
One way a DC can adjust Tampa to Trips is by teaching the Dime to play the #3 WR much like he would in Solo coverage. In Solo, the backside safety “spies” the vertical of #3 and only climbs if the WR does. This can add an extra man to the box if an offense is trying to run a QB draw or throw a screen on third and forever. The key in every formation is the LBs match and relate off their respective men. They cannot drop into space, rather go where their men take them.
Blitzing from Dime
Every package must have a blitz to go with it. This ensures the offense honors the scheme and doesn’t try and take advantage of the defenses soft spots. Using a zone blitz coverage and a cross-dog blitzing scheme, take a look at a simple, yet effective blitz from the Tampa Dime look:
Buck Tampa Cross vs. (10p) 2×2
The key to this blitz is the LB to the back must take him if he flares. Sending the Will from a hipped position will enable him to see the RB cross his face if he flares. This coverage adjusts to formation into boundary (FIB) by doing this. In the diagram above, the Dime would peel with the RB. Both CBs will bail and sink over top their units (#1 and #2 WRs) and the CS will work to the middle of the field. Versus a 2×2 set, the DS will sink into the curl. The Dime will always blitz to the same side if the DC decides to set the Nose to the field versus every 2×2 set (ensures cover down). If setting the Nose off the back, the Dime will need to adjust along with the secondary.
Buck Tampa Cross vs. (10p 3×1)
Like the 2×2 set above, the LB with the RB to his side will need to peel with the back. The rule versus Trips is if the Mike is gone the defense must “kick” the coverage. This sends the CS down to match the #3 WR. The “kicking” backside safety creates a man situation for the boundary CB. Essentially, the blitz stays the same even versus a Trips set.
The Dime package is a great change-up for third and long and end of the half situations. If a defense is running a 3-4 scheme, the transition can be seamless if practiced from day one. A DC can use the Dime package to his advantage by getting more athletes on the field versus heavy pass teams and situation. Though the package is susceptible to draws and screens, a DC can counteract this by teaching the players where their run fits are and using the extra players to his advantage. No scheme is perfect, but the three-down Dime package can be a useful tool in defending the spread.
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