4-3 formation, Cover 2 and other Defensive terms: Football 101

Jacksonville uses what is called a 4-3 formation. It employs four guys on the line called, Defensive Linemen, and four Linebackers. What formation a team uses, is determined by the personnel. In order for the tougher 3-4 to work, it needs a really good Nose Tackle and four superb linebackers. Most teams don’t have both.

Below is a base 4-3 Defense (under) in a Cover 2. This is a standard formation, for a standard play, usually on downs one and two against an average team. The defensive backs are in a Cover 2 (2 cornerbacks and 2 safeties).

To avoid saying generally and usually fifty times throughout the piece, please assume almost everything is a ‘usually’. This is about covering the Basics. Football 101. Just know that defenses use many formations that are based on down, distance and offensive formations, etc.

Going to put current names for positions to give you an idea of who plays where and why.

In case you were wondering, football diagrams always have the defense on top, so while it looks like the L should be R and vice versa, the players are facing the offenses; therefore, the diagram is correct.

Defensive Linemen (4-3)

*Both Ngakoue and Campbell do switch sides dependent on different factors*

The Right Defensive End is currently Yannick Ngakoue. DE’s are big guys, but also agile because the best ones can get to the QB and hit him, but also stop running backs.

Left Defensive End That’s Calais Campbell. Great ends like Campbell, can read the offense and know it’s a pass play and bull doze his way through the line to sack or break up the pass. He is a rare breed because he’s huge, bigger than most DE’s, but has the quickness of a smaller guy.

In a 4-3, ends are tasked with stopping the pass and harassing the QB. In a 3-4, the outside linebackers are predominately who do that because the ends (or at least one of them) is focused on stopping the run.

Defensive tackles (4-3)

There are two types: Nose Tackles and Tackles. They line up side by side.

Nose Tackle – Marcell Dareus and Abry Jones. NT’s are tasked with lining up based on the center.  NT’s are usually the biggest mamajamma of the starters. NT need long arms and superhuman strength, they set the tone, keep teams from running up the middle and force running backs to the edge. The Jags want teams to abandon the run and pass the ball because they have the best secondary on the planet.

In addition, forcing the run to the edge gives more time for the defenders on that side to get there to make a tackle. They’re also easier to see. When you have eight HUGE bodies on the LOS, a small RB can be tough to spot.

Defensive Tackle. Malik Jackson He takes on a Guard along with either a offensive tackle or the center depending on the play. The NT & DT work together to stop the run. Teams can and do swap out the NT for two DT depending on the play. In another article, I talk about techniques and that determines how these guys line up.

Linebackers

In a 4-3 defense, you have 3 LB’s, a Weak (Will), Middle (Mike) and Strong (Sam). LB’s can and do line up wherever they want depending on the play. For Jax’s base defense, I set it up on the offense in a 11 formation (1 RB, 1 TE). Each have certain roles: stop whatever type of body comes their way. Clog up the middle of the field, discouraging passes. Cover any passes that are to the middle of the field. In plays to the corners, back them up. Sack the quarterback.

Inside Linebackers (Will) and Inside Linebacker (Mike)

The Will  (Telvin Smith Sr. ) is usually smaller and quicker than the Mike and has better cover skills. He’s often going to get tasked to watch the slot, if there is one, but their job is to tackle any one with the ball in their hands.

Mike (Myles Jack wasn’t down) is the usually the run stopper and power tackler. DC’s (defensive coordinators) can use different skill sets to become a match-up nightmare. It all starts with the Fearsome Foursome (DL). Those men need to stuff/slow down the rush because if the Will is the ‘cover guy’, he’s not going to be great at stopping the run by himself.

*a MLB is referred to as Mike, but it is not the same as being the MIKE (read here for more info)*

Outside Linebacker (Sam), in a 3-4 there’s also a 4th guy, I call him Elephant, he’s their premier edge rusher. Leon Jacobs If you look below, you’ll see there is a TE in my typical offense. That is the strong side because there are more players on that side of the ball. If an offense uses two wide receivers on each side of the ball, the defense decides which side is more likely to be the “play” side and puts the Sam there.

Sams have two jobs: rush the QB and stop the outside runner. They typically are the LB that is the quickest with the best agility to bend under a reaching OT/TE.

Defensive Backs

The defensive players who cover the back field are called; defensive backs. They are the secondary line of defense, hence they’re also referred to as the secondary. DB’s are broken down into two types: corners and safeties. Cornerbacks tend to cover the corners of the field, the edges. Safeties cover the back and linebackers, the middle section.

Right Cornerback. A.J. Bouye. Jacksonville is blessed to have two CB’s so gifted. Shutdown corners rarely get the accolades they deserve. Players who make interceptions get the splashy news, but what’s overlooked is in order for an interception to happen, the ball has to be thrown to the player the corner is covering. The unsung hero is the guy who’s sticky glue taking away an option for the QB.

Left Cornerback is currently Jalen Ramsey The left CB lines up across from the Z WR. The Z is the quickest and fastest receiver and since he lines up closest to the QB and easiest to see, he gets a lot of action. This means his CB must be as quick and shifty.

In man coverage, if an opponent moves its WR1 or 2 to the other side, a CB will move with them. In zone coverage, he stays put and covers whomever comes into his area. A CB’s job is to not let the WR he is ‘covering’, to catch the ball, if he does, stop him quickly.

CB’s are fast, agile and must be scholars of the game. They’re in a battle of wits against the WR, and the QB. They anticipate what the play is, where the QB is going to throw the ball, stick with the WR who’s facing forward while he’s facing backward and within very tight rules of “no’s’. If you’d like t read more about corners, read here on standard, hard and soft press.

If plays get past the LB’s and the CB’s (yikes), the Safeties are there for mop duty. There are two kinds and they line up with the Strong Safety on the left and the Free Safety on the right.

As stated above, when the guys in front of them mess up, it’s up to these safety nets to keep the play out of the End Zone. The Strong Safety is the guy made to stop the run. He’s the bouncer. He’s got his eyes on the rusher and will move up to get him. Barry Church is our thumper.

SS play closer to the line. Occasionally they know a play is a pass and they will full on rush the passer. The types of attacks on the QB will be covered on another day as there are different ways. Since he’s bigger, he’s often teamed up with a LB to take on a receiving TE.

The Free Safety (Tashaun Gipson Sr.) plays further back, he is tasked with the deeper pass, either moving quickly to stop the WR who caught the ball already or break one up. He’s also the guy who reads the play so well, he calls out to his fellow DB’s what’s what.

While each safety has an expertise, stopping the run or coverage for a pass, both must be great tacklers. While the SS may be better at it, the FS is no slump. And while the FS has better hands and cover skills, the SS still must be a ball hawk, too.
Hope this was informative. Ask any questions below.

 

Run-Pass Option-Learn about RPOs: Football 101

I was asked about the emergence of the Run-Pass Option (RPO) with 21st century QB’s. Until very recently, we rarely heard about the RPO in the pros except for when Aaron Rodgers would do it in Green Bay or Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh.

I’d say the #1 reason we haven’t seen them much until recently has a lot to do with coaches. Run-Pass OPTION gives the QB a lot of power because he’s deciding where the ball will go, not always the coach. In read-options the QB hands the ball off or keeps it, either way, it’s a run. In play action, the QB fakes a hand-off for a run, but throws because it’s a pass play. Neither has the choice to run or pass.

Typically, in RPO there will be three options: the QB gives the ball to the RB, or he keeps it himself, or he picks one of two throws to make. This means the coach has no clue what’s going to happen until he sees the play unfold. Same for the team. Power given up.

RPO’s are practiced, they’re not like a QB sneak or he runs because it’s a busted play and he’s running for his life. RPO’s are in a team’s playbook, part of their offense. Which is why when teams use them, it’s not a one time occasion.

To make this simple, they work when a defender has both run and pass responsibilities (usually a MLB or safety). The quarterback reads what that guy decides to do; cover the pass or run, and then the QB does the opposite. This is a cat and mouse: see zone, pass, see man, run.

It’s vital the QB and RB give the same look no matter what. No tells. That’s also crucial. If either give a sign before the snap or right after they’re going to run or pass, then that LB/S cuts off the play. This works best when the receivers are spread out three wide, etc. The QB receives the ball, he sees that defender’s movement and makes a split decision. Until he does, that RB has to act like he’s getting the ball.

Can’t say this enough: While you need a good offense to pull run-pass options off, this is about the defense being fooled.

For a while, GB was really the only team that had a modern twist on the WCO because they had Eddie Lacy and Jordie Nelson. One-two punch. Suck up for the run, Rodgers throws a 40 yard bomb. Stay back because you think he’s going to pass and he runs. They were built for the RPO. Able to play WCO and a spread, plus a QB who could do it all with weapons teams feared.

When Rodgers was first doing these, he often kept the ball himself because that is an option in this. However, as time went on, coaches saw that the same principle that allowed a QB to keep the ball worked for his back, too. So, why sacrifice your QB four, five times a game when you can let your back do it?

If he runs, the QB is going up the gooch. The OL blocks for a run no matter what the QB does. That’s crucial. That helps the QB if he throws because the defense is caught off guard thinking it’s a run play. However, this is the NFL, their off-guard lasts a second, so no matter what, the QB needs to dump the ball quickly.

Why are we seeing more of these? I’m no expert, but it’s young guys coming from college systems where they often ran these. They’re used to doing them and…going to say young, again because what happens after you run the ball? In college, the QB often is the one who runs after reading the defense.

Some coaches are smart and use college plays/schemes to help their new signal callers to make the jump. The thing is, often these plays work. If you’re a QB who came from a spread system where you threw a lot and do the same in the NFL, the defense is going to back up. Run-pass options are based on getting defenses to keep an even number on the line, so you can run the ball. If they don’t believe you will or can throw deep, then it makes it a lot tougher to use RPO’s.

Will we see Bortles do them this season? Yes, he did them this pre-season. Teams have to fear the run (and should fear the QB could run, too), plus that RB needs to get out the way the instant he realizes he’s not getting the ball, sounds simple but it requires him to know where he’s out of the way.

As far as the coaching side, Nate Hackett is a fairly open guy, he seems like he’d have no problem allowing Bortles to do this.

Remember, the run-pass option is about the QB deciding where the ball will go and defenses being tricked into thinking it’s one thing and he does another. If the defense doesn’t think they have to worry about your run game or passing game, RPO’s become useless because the defense will force you into your weakness.

NFL Injuries – Why the increase? Read this doctor’s opinion.

Dr Sullivan explains sports injuries

Every year when athletes report to training camp, they feel they are ready to begin a great new season. A few days in, the injuries begin to mount.  Why with all the safety initiatives seen implemented in recent years do severe NFL injuries continue to rise? Several studies are underway to try to determine a reason.

Everyone has an opinion: artificial turf being used instead of natural grass, change in off season training programs implemented by the last CBA, decreased number and duration of practices in general permitted in both the preseason and during the season. If you ask fans it is because the teams strength and conditioning staff need to be tarred and feathered or run out of town on a rail.

 

Could parents be the key to NFL Injuries?

One issue that has not been looked at as much is the early specialization by athletes. Parents used to spend their lives running their kids to practices. Baseball in the summer, football in the fall and basketball in the winter and perhaps track and field in the spring.
This was a lot of work for parents and the kids, then a move to pick a single sport earlier was initiated in the late 90’s. Parents tried to decide what sport their child should excel in and rather than let them play all sports and decide for themselves. This lead to year round leagues for football, baseball, basketball and hockey.

Several studies are currently underway across all professional sports to try to determine if the trend to specialize early is actually leading to the increase in serious injuries being seen in recent years. One study has shown, there is a 77% decrease in the number of athletes entering college on a scholarship to play a particular sport who participated in more than one sport since 2005.

While injuries from participation my have decreased on the field, the benefits from multi-sport participation is lost. Improved conditioning and dexterity of the body overall is gone by the early specialization.  Over use is a concern, but lack of is, too. Players who engage in football exclusively starting at an earlier age, are 10 times more likely to suffer a serious potential career ending injury than athletes who played multiple sports thru high school and college.

Picking only one sport may lead to more NFL injuries

While injuries are a concern to everyone, and trying to make a sport safer is a great goal, the trend to have a student athlete pick a sport early to concentrate on, may or may not increase their skills for future success. Most athletes polled in the NFL and MLB stated that early concentration on a single sport actually was a detriment to their long term career due to increased incidence of serious injury.

Overall muscle and movement dexterity developed in athletes who participate in multiple sports is lost on single sport participants.  What I mean by this is reaching up to catch a pass is a different subset of muscles than the muscles used to bend and scoop a ground ball off the turf.  Different muscles are maximized in different sports.

More investigation needs to be done on this subject, but they may be onto something. I encourage my parents to let their kids be kids and to play all sports they are interested in.  Youth leagues are great and maybe the kid will find they like and are better at a sport than the one their parents decided they would be great at.

Hopefully a definitive answer to why NFL injuries is occur is found, I think since it is a multisport issue, returning to playing multiple sports might actually decrease the serious injury rate and also produce better athletes for all sports.

Defensive Tackles – Read what an NFL Scouting report looks like.

defensive tackles

In this NFL Scouting series, we will cover each position group, giving you insight into what NFL franchises look for. The real report I based this on, had pictures of the player(s) in various movements, with comments about each. You may want to read the companion piece on the Offensive Line to see their counterparts.

To keep anonymity for the Scout, I’m only using the words, no photos, or the handwritten notes used. Scouting defensive tackles does give you a glimpse into what happens in their world.

When scouting defensive tackles, not only do scouts put together these analyses, but visit games, watch film, analyze them at the combine, any bowls and often host them at their facilities. DTs include nose guard/tackles, basically (but not always) anyone who plays the techniques between 0-5.

Scouts go in-depth and beyond what the average fan would consider. Scouting defensive tackles gives the reader a chance to see inside the minds of what NFL general managers are looking for. Hopefully, this will help you watch the game with more detail and talk with knowledge.

Players break down film, do whiteboard work, talk to coaches, etc. The actual report below is based on a player, it had notes and photos showing:

Defensive Tackles TYPES

  • 4-3 1 Tech
  • 4-3 3 Tech (versatility?)
  • 3-4 Tech (versatility?)
  • 3-4 NT

Movement

  • Bend
  • Ankle flexibility
  • 2 gap (lockout & press) vs 1 gap
  • strength to anchor?
  • left & right side of the ball?
  • disruptive?
  • motor
  • strength & POA hand tech

How do they scheme him? (Chip, Double W/TE, etc?)

When it comes to defensive tackles, the amount of data they want on them is impressive. For most fans, the “big uglies” just stand there pushing. (POA=Point of Attack) There’s far more to it. For each bullet below, will be notes on each. Scouts looks for:

  • Stack & control blocker w hands
  • plays under pads
  • uncoils
  • pursuit/range/chase speed
  • short area burst to close
  • zone blitz pass drop
  • counter technique
  • drive-bys(pocket)
  • can he play crossfire vs the cut?
  • can sift through trash (to get to ball carrier?)
  • has to win early? Or work to QB?
  • can get washed at POA
  • segmented as a pass rusher
  • can he anchor/hold edge
  • natural/fluid movements to QB
  • can only win inside
  • leaves a lot of sacks the filed
  • more a rusher than a sacker
  • gives up gap integrity
  • tackle in space/tackle power
  • chase/hustle

Power Rush

  • anticipation
  • take off
  • leverage/explosion
  • push the pocket/press
  • inside stunt/loop/twist

Speed Rush

  • edge
  • anticipation
  • burst
  • speed
  • flexibility
  • quickness to bend corner
  • close off blocks
  • outside stunts

Moves

  • club
  • rip
  • swat
  • spin

Mental/Body

  • snap count anticipation
  • instinct – feel schemes
  • read & react – awarness
  • on field alertness – screens/draws/etc
  • dip shoulder
  • pad level/plays high
  • exposes chest in run
  • contact balance
  • can bend and dip
  • short area quickness
  • clear hips
  • hand strength/speed/activity/tight moves
  • hands to shed
  • initial quickness
  • lateral movement/redirect
  • strength to constrict the block – tm
  • knee bend
  • close speed
  • range outside tackle box
  • slide/skate
  • ankle tightness
  • first step/feet quickness
  • clears feet
  • heavy feet

Does he:

  • win early or late or both
  • play within the scheme vs free lance
  • anchor hold vs double team
  • natural bender
  • can get skinny to split double

Below are notes from a scout concerning several players.

  • explosive, high motor. Hits like brick shithouse. Low center of gravity, but plays high. Uses upper body strength. Is a closer in pass rush.
  • Strong grip, but doesn’t hand fight at all. Plays pretty low. Very quick in the box. Can take on a double. Needs a fair amount of technical work done.
  • Sheds blockers, low at point of attack. Stout, and fairly quick. Against a pulling guard, he’s a truck. Good awareness. Not quite sure on his hand strength and strike. Can play a little high. Not in love with his game/frame.
  • Strong bull rush. Sheds blocks, ok. Explosive off ball. Decent COD (*editor note-change of direction). Very agile and nimble. Need to see more games. He wasn’t blocked against much.
  • Explosive hips, off the ball and very quick laterally. Finisher. Strong. Knows how to use hands. Nice COD. Splits doubles, disruptive player.
  • Raw, athletic, strong motor. Tendency to play high and can’t really tell his level of physicality. Definitely a 1 gap DL.
  • Quick off the ball. Strong bull rush. Goes through OL to get in backfield. Sheds blocks well. Not a fancy player. Failry quick in the box. Skinny, needs to add weight. Powerful lower half. Flexible legs (was a HS kicker). No pass rush moves shown. Kid is a thumper.

Hope the above helped you look at the big uglies with more appreciation than being bulls in a china shop. As always, you can comment below or send a twitter DM to @DenverBroncosZ for any questions.
Thanks for reading!

Front 7 Techniques, learn about them here – Football 201

Most fans think, Nose Guard, Defensive Tackle, Defensive End and Linebacker when Front 7 is mentioned. However, Front 7 techniques are what determines who plays where and how. 4-3 and 3-4 defenses have different philosophies when deciding who to man their teams with.

Since a 3-4 uses three defensive linemen, they’ll use two linebackers or dual positional guy to play on the outsides of the DL to create more of an even match-up. Therefore, what they look for in their “front 7” will be different than in a 4-3.

A 4-3 uses four DL, and typically only one LB because they only use three, not 4 like in a 3-4. If a team uses a 12 personnel (1 RB, 2TE), they need to be blocked, hence seven players, nine spots.

defensive line techniques

Teams don’t use a 12 man front often, and certainly not part of their standard offense, so defenses won’t want to waste a roster spot on a guy who may only play a few snaps a game. Therefore, franchises want guys who can play two different techniques when the needs arises. When bringing in new players, they also decide who best fits what they have already. Chicken or the egg.

Front 7 guys can line up head up, off or inside a shoulder of a C/G/T. When they are off to either side, that’s the odd numbers, except when playing across from the TE, that’s 7 technique. To add more confusion, a player can be in an even position and be an I, like in the diagram below.

Here’s the explanation of the types of defensive linemen, where they play and body type. Remember, 3-4 and 4-3 look to different types, but both change players based on the play.

Front 7 Techniques

0 Technique-

A true NG in a 34 defense. Needs to be country boy strong (or Poly Power guy) and eat up 2 blockers and not get moved.  Athleticism is overrated at this position. The job isn’t to make tackles, it’s to allow the LB’s free to roam and stop the run. Squatty body, big ass, thick legs.

1 Technique-

Similar to the 0 Technique. He is lined up on the inside shoulder of the guard.  He needs to be able to eat up both the center and guard on run plays.  If he can split the double team and take the tackle in the backfield, great. If not, he shouldn’t be moved off the ball and eat up blockers. Also needs to have the ability to slant across the guard’s face and get into the B Gap.  This requires a little more athleticism than the 0 Technique. This is something that happens during both blitzes and line games. Squatty body, big ass, thick legs, more athletic than the 0, but better be able to eat up blockers.

3 Technique-

This guy is not only strong (Not as strong as the 1T), but athletic. Lines up on the outside shoulder of the Guard. Must be able to beat double teams by using a variety of techniques. Need both quick feet and quick hands. This is a rush the passer guy, but needs to stay gap sound and make sure to stuff the run. Must be violent with his grip and able to disengage from the G/T, also able to cross the face of both the Guard and Tackle. He is the most violent player on the field. Needs to be a quick twitch player.
Screen Shot 2018-08-20 at 11.07.05 PM

5 Technique-

Pound for pound, this is probably the best athlete on the field.  This is guy rushes the passer, sets the edge, and disengages while having a variety of pass rush moves. Must be able to convert speed to power, power to speed on his rushes. If 5 Techs are only a speed rusher, after about 3 games of film, he will be stoned by Tackles. They will set deeper and then get their hands on you and you’re finished.

If he is only a power rusher, he can be taken out with the help of a TE because there’s no threat of him going around the tackle. If he can do both, he’s getting a big pay check. He must be the guy who gets home to the quarterback and finishes first, not the guy who gets there late and is finishing off the tackle.

Not only can he rush the passer and make sacks, he also must set the edge for the run game. That is all about funneling everything inside where more player are there to to take him down, keep the back away from an open field. He should line up on the outside shoulder of the T.

7 Technique-

This is the DE who lines up either heads up or on the inside shoulder of the TE. Needs to be quick, twitchy, and able to get his hands on the TE to re-route/disrupt his get-off in the pass game. This guy lines up opposite the 5T.  Also needs to be strong enough to defeat double teams of the Tackle/TE while setting the edge. Not a glamour position.  Still need that edge set.

9 Technique-

These are the fastest of all the DL.  They are also the best twitch players on your team. They have one goal in mind…get to the QB. They can also stop the run on the way to the quarterback. He guy may be smaller, but needs a host of moves (similar to the 5T) because he can’t only rely on speed to get to the QB on the edge. He needs to use a spin/rip/swim move to get home. He is your “specialized pass rusher” who plays a lot on 3rd Down. Very little concern for the run game.

Hope this helps build your football knowledge. As always, you can comment below if you want more help, or send a DM to @the_teal_zone Thanks for reading!

Why can Special Teams be such an issue?

Joe DeCamllis Special teams

When Special Teams Coordinator Joe DeCamillis went to Jacksonville and kicked ass here, it rankled Broncos fans. Their thoughts were, well, why couldn’t he do that in Denver?

Below was how Special Teams worked, going forward the change in punting rules will affect team rosters. Read here for more info on that. Also, keep in mind that every time a new Special Teams Coordinator is brought in, the returning ST players have to learn new language. That doesn’t help, either.

1) Special Teams Squad –

The STC is given the leftovers from the offense and defense. I say leftovers because you don’t see the likes of Jalen Ramsey and Marqise Lee on ST. Except for the kicker, punter and long snapper, many ST’s are made up of guys used for depth on O and D. GMs often aren’t drafting high a returner. Nor are they paying big bucks for vets. Too often, the stars in college aren’t picked up because they only have one talent.

2) TALENT –

This is separate from above because when rosters are made up, the O and D line coaches pound the table for more guys because they’re often hurt. This means a team could have 20 or more guys who play on the line. Often these same 20 are who’s active on game day. Who’s going to keep up with returners to block? Or run down their opponent’s returner if most of the ST guys are big and slow? This is often why teams have more DBs and TEs then they use -ST work.

3) GM/HC –

If you’re a team with a Defensive Line coach who’s been there for years and is strong willed, how much power to be heard do you think he has over some new coach? If you have a GM/HC who doesn’t see ST as any kind of priority, then one or both won’t set up the roster with them in mind.

4) TIME –

How much practice time do you think O and D coordinators want to give up to ST? These STC rarely get to pick their squad, and then don’t get much practice time.

5) GAME DAY ROSTERS –

ST could “practice” all week with their 13 or so guys and then the OC or DC decides not to dress one or more guys than the STC planned on. Now he’s stuck having to go to Plan B. Go back 1. Since ST rarely get starters, guess who is most likely not to dress out? Guys on ST.

I’m going to add something in here that also has a bearing on why some STC has been a swinging door: quarterbacking. If a team has an offense that can move down the field, and not have to punt almost every possession, there’s not as much pressure to make sure he starts with positive yards. Which leads to the defense needing less time on the field so the offense can have more chances to do something. This makes field position crucial.

To summarize, DeCamillis does well in Jacksonville because the GM and/or HC gave him more talent, time to work with them and less pressure to outperform the average.

Two gap vs a one gap formation – Football 201

This is 201 because I’m not going to explain certain terms, concepts, etc that were covered in 101 articles so this can be kept shorter. At the bottom of everything, is having the right talent to fit what you want to accomplish.

Jack Del Rio couldn’t do much in his 4-3 scheme because he didn’t use them in the best way for their talent. Which leads us to Wade Phillip’s and Bill Belichick’s “new” gap defense. Which really isn’t new, because it’s about giving offenses the same old school look, but slanting a DL into the 1 gap.

Technique Numbers

Football is ALL about disguises. A 1 gap formation is dependent on this.

It can look like a traditional 34; however, often five guys are used on the line. Why? Math. Three players having to attack two gaps against five guys defending them. It’s really tough to find three players all with the same talent to truly take on double teams. So, the solution? Make a hybrid system that uses the best of the 34 (four linebackers able to wreak havoc on QB’s and RB’s), but use one (or more) to shoot the gap.

How you blitz/rush is all about the outside guys. A 7 or 9 Technique guy-Sam or “Elephant”. 

I saw this term for the best edge rusher on the team and it fits. They’re big, fast, scary, mean and don’t forget…they’ll gore you. Not sure if this is why he used elephant, but I’m saying it is :).

A 1 gap defense is about showing seven and the offense guesses where they were going because they all have dual talents. This odd man line-up leaves QB’s (and OL) guessing if they are seeing a two or one gap. The drawback is stopping the run. Often the 5 techs are very good at taking on double teams and getting to the passer, but stopping speedy backs coming up the middle, not so much.

This is where ILB’s are supposed to help out. If a team is weak there, safeties will need to creep up into the box and lower the boom.

Teams who have the 5 tech guy who can play like a Sam and be the bookend to the elephant can play 1 gap. Equaling lots of QB’s on their asses.

Hard Press Coverage is an art form: Football 101

There are two forms of press coverages: hard and soft. In a second article, I’ll address soft coverage.

*To note, this is Football 101, so it’s a simple explanation and everything comes with a usually or typicallyso insert it in most things written.

The hard press starts at the line of scrimmage. The wide receiver (or tight end) and cornerback face each other with little space between. Once the ball is snapped, the CB has five yards past the LOS to push, slap, and bump the WR/TE, after that it can be called defensive pass interference in the NFL.

CB’s will watch the WR’s hips and keep his feet constantly moving, while shading towards the inside (if needed) because the goal (usually) is to keep the WR from making a break towards the center of the field. If he’s got the inside edge, he’s using his hands to prod, slap, and jam the WR while keeping his inside leverage.

The CB wants to jam his guy towards the outside so it gives his safeties more time to assess the play, makes it a harder throw for the QB, and is easier to push the WR out of bounds if the ball is caught. This is why he’ll often line up on the WR’s inside hip, this helps keep the WR from turning in.

This type of hard press is an absolute route killer, which results in one less open guy. It’s most effective on short routes and why having a good slot cover is imperative. Jax needs D.J. Hayden and Tyler Patmon to step up because they play a lot of nickel and the slot is key.

Smaller CB’s can struggle against big TE’s if their form isn’t perfect. A CB with long limbs can keep his hands on the WR while maintaining enough space to move and make plays on the ball.

The key to winning this match-up is: the hips don’t lie. CB’s should follow the hips, not the eyes or shoulders of the WR. Only the very best WR/TE can have their hips pointing in one direction and then break off in a another suddenly.

Chad Johnson was one of the best at these agile moves. Julio Jones is among the best at using his strength to break the jam and streak down the field. They are few and far between. This is why WR’s (especially the raw) struggle running routes against seasoned CB’s. Their hips don’t lie.

If this dance lasts past five yards, the CB is no longer jamming his guy anyway he can, he’s now running hip to hip (with some bumps and sneaky slaps) with the receiver. Good press guys will slap the hand as the WR is catching the ball. As long as contact is at the same time, it’s not a flag. This ritual between the two isn’t for the weak, it’s all mind games, athleticism and focus.

CB’s who can back-pedal, shove, bump, herd his guy at the same time and keep an arm free to intercept passes, are ones who often ones who make All-Pro and Pro-Bowls.
The next type of coverage is soft press, which will be covered in a separate article.

This film clip shows Jalen Ramsey as the guy who does it all.

Rugby tackling techniques could help NFL players adjust to new helmet rules

rugby style tackling for the nfl

As most know, the NFL changed the rules on how players may tackle each other – a player can’t lower his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent. rugby tackling techniques help NFL players adjust to new helmet rules
Not sure about y’all, but I’m wondering how it will affect the players and the game from beyond the LOS. We know the linemen will have issues, but what’s the ripple out affect? From reffing to the play level. I asked a coach (who wants to remain anonymous, like the scout) what he thought about the change.

“I think everybody who has listened to football and interested in football needs to understand that things are changing right now,” Carroll

Jules: Could how the linemen play increase, rather than decease, injuries because they’ll now be playing differently. Could see them standing more up and less squatting.
Coach:  don’t know how this will effect injuries. I couldn’t even speculate about head injuries. What I can say is that I’m concerned about making players think, especially defensively.

The league and this stupid competition committee that is run like a political party with the stark difference being that there’s never any changes as to who’s on the committee have made playing both offensively and defensively very difficult. The head rules are going to make guys think. And if they’re thinking about it, they’re gonna get hurt.

They’ve now changed the kickoff rules to where you have to have 8 guys up front on KOR. All this will do will increase returns because most teams are going to kick it to the 5 yard line and bet that with not enough blockers in the back end of the return, they’ll be tackled inside the 25.

The change to the catch rule leaves some pretty large loops. There are going to be an increase in fumbles that were immediately ruled last season as incomplete passes. Defensive coaches are now more than ever telling their guys ‘dive on the ball if it’s even close’. What does diving include? It includes your head! The exact thing that they’re trying to protect, they’re now exposing!

Jules: With the O-line spending more time thinking, could sacks increase? That split second making the difference?

Coach: I don’t know that this will allow more sacks, because the defense is also put at such a disadvantage as well. From a competition standpoint, it pretty much evens out, especially on the line of scrimmage. If they’re going to call it the way they’ve talked about.

I think that the passing game has become so much geared towards the offense regarding rules (and there will be a re-emphasis on calling pass interference this season) that it’s pretty difficult to play in the back end of the defense. Yes, as football players, the first thing you’re taught is to keep your head up.

A form tackle is made with the core and middle of your body, not your head. But players are so good now and so elusive that it’s almost impossible to bring down a skill player using a ‘form tackle’. That’s where the head becomes involved. This is where the league has totally contradicted itself and is going to turn the helmet rule into another edition of the catch rule.

The helmet rule could affect every single position on the field. It will absolutely affect how a tackle sets, it will put a premium on more athletic lineman, which isn’t exactly a bad thing, but it really makes being a 6’2’’ Left Guard a pretty hard position because if shorter than either the 3 or 1 techniques, his head will be highlighted in the block whether he wants it to be or not.

Jules: Or like a Barry Church vs a Rob Gronkowski, it’s often tough for a “fair” match-up and flags can go both ways.

Coach. Exactly, there’s a 1,000 examples. These aren’t robots. They’re human bodies with brains. Something the competition committee still can’t grasp.

I think offenses will have some adjustments for the quick passing game that will help the OL out. I would be more concerned about the run game, especially the old G scheme runs if I was an OC.

Which could mean you’re going to see more zone type run actions (which is already happening anyway) because that’s what college players are more used to as it is. But I certainly think that your short yardage/GL game plan is absolutely in a different place this year than it was last year.

Jules: what happens if a team’s run game gets stifled, will that change a team like Denver’s run-first scheme in a bad way? Put more on the shoulders of the QB to carry the offense? If so, would that help a type who relies on the quick release?

Coach: You’ll see more zone scheme stuff, which plays to more to that kind of QB’s ability. Teams won’t abandon the run game, it will be a slow shift towards getting the ball in your best athletes’ hands as fast as you can. I also think the NFL is entering the age where teams are absolutely going to have to cross train their RB’s to also be able to line up in the slot and play at the very least as an inside receiver, and be a threat.

I’m not saying LF is going there, but I do believe that the Patriots are on to something with that, have been on to it for a while now, and I think the league is now trending that way.

For years and years we’ve cross trained all OL so a lot of them have position versatility. We’ve done it with TE’s lining up as WR’s. The defense answered that by playing big Nickel. Now the offense is throwing the versatile backs out there, and it causes the defense to hesitate as to what personnel to line up in.

Jules: Some coaches have said they’re not going to worry about the helmet rules until they see how they’re called. While Carroll says it’s a very big deal.

Coach: With limited practice time in pads actually hitting each other, it’s not helping young players with some of their bad habits, especially tackling habits. If teams can’t get pads on guys to block and hit, it’s really hard to change much at all.

Dan Quinn and Pete Carroll are visionary because they have talked about getting all the defensive coaches in the league together to make a teach tape on how to use the rugby style tackles. I don’t know that it will happen, but I think it would be beneficial for everyone involved on the defensive side of the ball.

Jules: Pete had a rugby coach come in years ago to help the Seahawks, could we see more of that? The Jaguars’ defense was built by a Carroll disciple in Gus Bradley and now he’s in LA with the Chargers. I don’t recall either D-Lines taking big injury hits last season.

Coach: Other teams have introduced it. They just don’t broadcasted it. I know it’s something they do without pads on during OTA’s, which inherently means it’s a less violent type of hit. So yeah, I guess that is a possible answer to the helmet rules, but like Vance said, we don’t know yet.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HihjPApzCg

 

rugby tackling techniques help NFL players adjust to new helmet rules

rugby tackling techniques help NFL players adjust to new helmet rules
rugby tackling techniques help NFL players adjust to new helmet rules
rugby tackling techniques help NFL players adjust to new helmet rules

Identifying Mike: Football 101

We’ve all seen quarterbacks gesturing wildly at the line of scrimmage, or directing guys to move around. Many fans believe the quarterback is changing the play; however, more times than not, he’s identifying MIKE. He wants a defense to tip their hand based on what he and his offense does.

What is the Mike?

He’s often an inside linebacker, but also the indicator of the scheme the offensive line should use to block. There are two types of inside (middle) linebackers (ILB). Will (weak side) and Mike (middle). It’s confusing, but it’s about the role one fills during a play. There’s also a Sam (strong side LB) who is typically an outside LB, but can line up anywhere. In a 3-4, there’s also a 4th linebacker, the Edge Rusher.

What’s to remember is just because a LB is labeled W, M, S or ER, doesn’t mean that’s where or how he always plays.

There is a double reason in identifying Mike. First, the QB wants the OL to have an even match-up. Offenses don’t want the defense sending four guys to the right of center and they only have two men to block them. If he sees this, he will call out the LB’s number further to his right. That’s who the center and line should change their gap assignments for, or at least keep their eyes on.

Identifying Mike changes the gap assignments and the protection.

offensive line gaps
Secondly, what’s the #1 rule in offense? Protect the QB. It doesn’t matter if it’s a run play because someone, like a Calais Campbell, could get to the QB in a shotgun position before he can hand it off to the RB. Not just him, the whole line could blitz and the RB is getting slammed, too.

In a typical one back set (see diagram below), the offense will want to give the same look, so defenses don’t know if it’s a run or pass play. The defense is also trying to disguise where they’re sending pressure from. They don’t want to tip their hand who has what assignment. QB’s will often try to assess this by letting the play clock run down hoping the LB or safety will move or give a “tell” so he knows what the protection should be.

Let’s say the SS (Strong Safety) is creeping up. The QB (or OL) determines that it’s actually the S who’s Mike. This lets the OL know what gap to fill, also the TE and RB because that’s where the any blitz/rush may come from. As was covered in two separate pieces on one vs two gaps and over/under, it’s all about disguises.

The Center, RG and RT will aim right and the C may line up across from the DT instead of the NT, or shade him. Of course, he could stay put and the tandem of G/T slides instead. The bottom line is the OL now knows who could be coming through and which guys they need to block.

defensive line techniques
will is mike
In the hypothetical play above, there really isn’t a weak side because the field is balanced. The defense decides to play their Will on the TE side because they think the Y is a dummy, or he’s there to help block the Edge. The QB also decides the W is Mike because pre-snap he sees the SS creeping up, plus the LCB is playing press.

While CBs don’t often sack the QB, they can’t be discounted playing at the line of scrimmage, so he determines between the safety and the CB, he needs more protection from that side. Hence, the Will is Mike.

Once he’s identified, the QB yells out his number (LBs #’s are in the 50’s), so you’ll hear, 56 is Mike, 56 Mike. The OL changes its gap coverage so the C is lined up across from the Mike, not the NT making it 5v5. Or not.

That’s the funny thing about football. The Center could stay put, but keep his eyes on the Mike as needed while the G and T move over. He then moves where he’s needed. He could also call one protection, realize after the snap, he was wrong and swap. What’s key is the OL knowing where to look and who to block.

The story doesn’t end there though because defenses could have a LB act as if he’s Mike, but once the ball is snapped, they change responsibilities.

With rookies or first time starters, teams like to confuse the QB by doing the above. He’s only seen a “look” from this year or the last on film, so they will show him one they haven’t used. If there’s an OL or RB who hasn’t been around for a while, they won’t be able to tell him.

Yes, O-linemen can and do change plays based on protection, provided the coach has given them that responsibility. The Jags have a few veterans and with a former O-linemen as a HC, he no doubt allows it.

Based on his pre-snap read, and the play that’s been called, he or the OL, could yell kill, kill and the play is changed to Plan B. Every snap has a back-up play if this occurs. Most often it goes to a run if there’s a back. However, some QBs will yell kill, but they didn’t really. This can get a defense to relax or prepare for a run and the QB passes.

Football is ALL about disguises, stunts, fake-outs

 In summary, a good QB and his trusty wingmen, will diagnose the protection correctly by identifying Mike and he lives to see another day.

 

NFL Practice Squad Rules – Learn who is eligible

NFL Practice Squad Rules

  • Each team is permitted to have 10 players signed to the practice squad.
  • They do not dress or play in games unless added to the active roster. They simply practice.
  • They are paid weekly.
  • They can be released at any point in time.
  • They can be signed by any other NFL team, but have to be placed on that team’s active 53-man roster (receiving 3 guaranteed weekly game checks).
  • He cannot be signed to another team’s practice squad unless he is released by the initial team.
  • He cannot sign with a team’s next opponent unless it is done prior to 6 days before the game or 10 days if his team is currently on their bye week.
  • If moved/signed to the active roster he will receive three weekly pay checks even if he is cut prior to those three weeks.
  • If released, the player has to clear waivers before signing with a new team, or the practice squad of a new team.

Eligibility

Per the CBA Article 33
(a) The Practice Squad shall consist of the following players, provided that they have not served more than two previous seasons on a Practice Squad:

Players who do not have an Accrued Season of NFL experience; and

Free agent players who were on the Active List for fewer than nine regular season games during their only Accrued Season(s).

An otherwise eligible player may be a Practice Squad player for a third season only if the Club by which he is employed that season has at least 53 players on its Active/Inactive List during the entire period of his employment.

(b) A player shall be deemed to have served on a Practice Squad in a season if he has passed the club’s physical and been a member of the club’s Practice Squad for at least three regular season or postseason games during his first two Practice Squad seasons, and for at least one regular season or postseason game during his third Practice Squad season. ( a bye week counts as a game provided that the player is not terminated until after the regular season or postseason weekend in question.)

Salary

  • For 2018, the minimum a player will make is no less than $7,600 per week, which equates to $129,200 for the season if he is on the squad for each of the 17 weeks of the season.
  • If a practice squad player is signed or activated to the active roster, he is guaranteed three weekly pay checks at $27,352.94, which is a total of $82,058.82.
  • There are no limits on how much a team can pay a member of the practice squad, and some teams pay better than others to try to retain the players.

International Practice Squad Player

The AFC North teams and the NFC South (again) have an 11 players, one international player on their practice squad, as part of an expansion of the International Player Pathway program.

  • The NFL assigned the player
  • The teams asked for a few players
  • He counts against the 53-man roster if he was signed to the roster
  • Any player who got cut after camp still must go through waiver wire

 

Offensive Hole Numbering System – Football 101

What is an offensive hole numbering system? Why are they used? It starts with technique and knowing an assignment. Then it’s included in play calls.

A RB and O-Line need to be on the same page, so that the line knows who to block and the running back, tail back, or half back, knows what “hole” to shoot through.

  • 0/1 are off the centers hips
  • 2/3 are off the outside hip of the guard
  • 4/5 are off the outside hip of the tackles
  • 6/7 are off the outside hip of the tight ends
  • 8/9 are off the outside hip of a Linebacker.

Plays run through the 0/1 holes are usually dives and traps
Plays run through the 2/3 are dives/isolations
Plays run through the 4/5 are called off tackle plays, and can be isolations/powers/leads
Plays run through the 6/7 are usually powers/leads
Plays run at the 8/9 hole are usually sweeps