Man vs Zone coverage, learn when to use one or both – Football 101

Anyone who has watched football has heard the terms: Man and Zone coverage. This article will try to explain what man and zone is and when/why one is used over the other.

Because Jacksonville’s base is a 4-3 defense (click here), that’s the formation below. Also, this is 101, so will keep it simple and focus more on what the DB’s do.

Zone vs Man.

Zone – The linebackers cover the intermediate zones, the safeties cover the deep zones and the Cornerbacks cover the flats. No matter the play or who comes into his zone, his job is to shut that guy(s) down.

Man is when a DB is to cover only one designated player. Jalen Ramsey mirroring Tyreek Hill could be a good example. Whether Hill lines up on the outside or slot, Ramsey is on him.

Zone takes smarts and good communication. If A.J. Bouye lets his receiver leave his zone, he has to trust that strong safety Barry Church knows to pick him up. We’ve all seen plays where the WR runs right by a CB and the safety is picking weeds. He wasn’t prepared to cover him.

When Ramsey and Bouye line up on the line of scrimmage across from the wide outs, and they stick to them white on rice, that’s man. Free safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. could be tasked with the slot (if there is one) or a third WR or a TE. Church could be assigned a running back or tight end. Sometimes two DB’s could be used on one guy (double coverage).

It’s important to know that once the ball is being carried or has been thrown, all assignments to go out the window and the DB/LB’s should go to the ball.

Teams can play both man and zone because they want the CB’s to play Man, but want the safeties in Zone. And in any play, the DB’s could show one look, but do another. But boy, they’ve got to be on the same page.

When to play man or zone

For teams with slow corners, it’s tough for them to play man against speedy WR’s, so they could be forced to play zone. Or a team doesn’t have two safeties good enough to cover a WR in their zone forcing the CB’s into man.

The play of the linebackers can also dictate. If the backers can shut down the center of the field, that can make the work of the DB’s easier and a coach has more choices.

If a team has decent DB’s and can pick, then they’ll decide on the play or the team. If a quarterback telegraphs, or doesn’t like to throw deep, or isn’t very accurate, they could choose man.

Say the team is KC who has speedy WRs and RB’s, and a QB with a great arm, it’ll have to be decided play by play. Needless to say, when a defense has to change back and forth, it can lead to mistakes and mental exhaustion. The DC and his assistants better be on full alert.

Above only addresses the secondary and not what happens with the linebackers in man and zone because this article would run 1500 words. Just know that how a team plays zone and/or man can be made easier if they have good linebackers.

Cover 1 simply explained – Football 101

Cover 1 is also called, safety high. The Free Safety is left at the top alone and the Strong Safety moves up like a linebacker. This is used for projected run plays or against dink and dunk quarterbacks. The Jaguars SS is Barry ChurchTashaun Gipson Sr. is the Free Safety.

As in any formation, there are pros and cons and are dependent upon the talent on defense. To leave a safety high, the coach must trust him to cover a huge area, but also trusts the ball never gets there because the front 7 doesn’t give the quarterback time to rip off a pass deep.

*graphic is generic only to show where players could line up on certain basic plays.* Below has two TE’s and two RB’s to show what looks like a run play, but the QB can pass to his TE’s or use the backs as receivers, too.

Cover 1 in a 4-3 defense

 

Teams usually play their CB’s in man coverage, (FS in zone) but they can change from play to play. The FS has the back half to cover and watches the QB so he knows what direction the ball is going. If the QB jukes him out, bad things happen.

The SS is lower in the box to offer run support, but he can still shadow a RB or TE depending on the call. Any of the linebackers could have a specialized blitz plan as well.

In fact, this formation is great to run blitzes from because it is known as ‘crowding the box’ if the SS creeps up even closer. Not only does it make a run play tougher, but it also takes away the short pass, except for the brave or foolhardy – take your pick. This is a good way to force a QB to throw deep.

Cover 1 in a 3-4 defense

Why would a defense want a QB to toss it beyond 15 yards? Because they don’t think the quarterback has the arm to make those throws or maybe he’s uncomfortable doing them.

Cover 1 can give quarterbacks a noose to hang himself with. It also can make a team desperate. They can’t run and the short pass is gone – a powerful tool to use if you want to set up a QB, too.

An example would be If Jacksonville has been taking the short pass away all game, but now wants the QB to throw short, especially in the red zone because they know he’ll target that open guy. So, they play one receiver loose, and then jump in front and have a pick or at least a knock down.

This doesn’t work against good quarterbacks, because he’ll read what’s going on, but it works great against “less than'” quarterbacks.

In addition, the SS can act like he’s playing Cover 1, but drop back into Cover 2. The Jaguars do this often because Church is really good. Or he can do the opposite, show Cover 2 and at the last possible moment, move up to Cover 1.

The bottom line is, when a team has a secondary (and linebackers) as good as ours, it gives the Defensive Coordinator a lot choices. They can play different coverages without losing a beat. The beauty is when you’re so versatile, because you have fantastic talent, there’s little an offense can do against a secondary like Jacksonville’s.

 

Cover 0 simply explained, rarely used – Football 101

Cover 0 is the defense is playing man coverage on every eligible receiver. In the Nickle defense, all 5 DB’s are locked in on a WR/Slot/TE/RB. Whatever the offense sends out, the defense is covering man on man. If it’s base defense, then one of the linebackers will likely latch on to the RB/TE.

The 0 formation can be a powerful tool against a poor O-Line, a quarterback who can’t scramble and/or panics easily, or it’s an obvious run play. With it being 5 on 5 from the secondary, it’s 6 on 6 along the LOS with one of their 6 being the QB that the defense is chasing.

Its downfall is if a Defensive Back blows his assignment and his receiver beats him, you can have an easy TD. They’re also susceptible to crossing patterns and any route that the QB can dump the ball off quickly.

If the OLine actually holds up, or the QB has some good scrambling skills, he can dump off a deep pass and there’s no help deep, or if the QB is a dangerous runner he can make the defense pay, too.

A team needs a great defense like Jacksonville’s to pull this off. Not only does it take at least two good pass rushers like Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue, but the corners need to be close to Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye, good. They not only must have the speed to follow on this man play, but know which eligible receiver to cover.

The upside is, it stops the run and terrorizes mediocre quarterbacks. They’re running for their lives or panic and dump the ball off too quickly for a bad pass. This formation, is also known as, crowding the box.

The entire idea is to stop the run, sack the quarterback, or take away the short interior pass.

Good quarterbacks/OC’s can pick a part a defense that tries this too often. This coverage is for special circumstances only. It could be third down, the offense is on the 40, and they need seven yards.

As in any coverage package, a defense can show the quarterback one coverage, but change it at the last second. On this, one or both safeties could drop back at the last second if they think the quarterback is going to try a pass. Defenses often show man and switch to zone, or  the opposite. All of it is part of the chess game.

This graphic showcases the man on man function of each of the DB’s locking on one of the receivers. It also shows those not  in man coverage are rushing the passer (they can also stop a back in a run play).

Cover 0, Nickel formation

To note* sometimes a player will be a “spy”. They are to watch a certain player no matter what their assignment was. You hear this term often in reference to spying on a mobile QB. They line up like above, but instead of covering, say a slot, they’re actually keying in on the QB to make sure he doesn’t make a run for it.

Front 7 Tips – Football 201 from an NFL Scout

NFL Scout Report on front 7 tips

PART I. We’ve all heard about NFL Scouting, how do they make reports? What is in them? We’re going to give you answers with a real Scout’s data and his input. This installment is on Front 7 Tips.

I’m not going to reveal the NCAA conference or who the Scout made his reports for, but it covered every snap against ten teams and how one team and its players performed. I’m going to use the letter, “P”, as fill in when a team’s name was used or a player’s number.

When I read his first Front 7 Tips report, some of it was like looking at Greek, so I asked him to explain. His answers inspired me to start this series. Below is one page of analysis and then the explanations for each number. This is football 201, so I won’t be explaining as much as in the Football 101 series.
Tips:

  1. G Front team
  2. Will flip front on RB shifts
  3. Rock and roll safeties
  4. Will reduce in a ‘okie 4’ look
  5. Will show a muck-luck line on 3rd down
  6. Will flop fronts to TE motion/shift
  7. #P is a true N, strong, no feet
  8. #P is more athletic than P, more of a gap player.  Wreaked havoc against P in zone game when 4 hands didn’t get on him
  9. N/3T are cross-trained
  10. Will loop blitzers on 3+L
  11. Will run line games while #P is mugged
  12. DE’s are fast, speed rushers, will need help on 2+L, 3+L
  13. Will drop out of dbl mug look, double mug will look like a bear/pinch front
  14. #P will try to come across your face, but doesn’t always bring his hands
  15. LB’s and DE’s can be influenced in the zone game
  16. #P, if plays??, natural bender, disengages well.  P fan protected him when lined up over LG/LT.  When lined up on right, used TE and RB to chip.  Kept sliding protection to him. Also has ability to get his hands up in quick game. Will line him up to weakside as often as possible. Has had a lower leg injury.  Status unknown
  17. P and P went 5 against them and middle of field was open for all crossing routes and QB draw
  18. Against P, ran a lot of bomb/attack/wrap vs. Gold
  19. Will green dog the RB
  20. Showed P some true Okie fronts

After #1’s explanation, is a graphic for readers who are between 101 and 201. Obviously, below is just for you readers, it’s not needed for the pros. Hope you find how above translates into below to be informative.


Front 7

1. G Front teams: In a 4-3 base defense, typically the 2 interior DL are lined up in a 3 Technique (outside shoulder of the Guard) and in a ‘shade’ look (opposite shoulder to where the 3T) is. If they’re a G Team, that ‘shade’ now moves into what we call a ‘1 Tech’. He is now lined up on the inside shoulder of the guard.

Now it may not make a difference on some plays, it certainly has a few effects:

1. Changes the count in pass protection. It frees up the center to go opposite the nose and help clean up on the other side if they choose.

2. It changes the angle at which he gets blocked. If the center is looking to double team him with that guard, it changes how he’s going to approach that block and how it’s all going to time up. The guard needs to get his hands on him sooner because the Center is gonna be a hair late to get there to help.

3. If the nose lines up as a G, there’s more of a chance that he will slant (stunt) across the guards face and get into the B gap. This would mostly happen when there is pressure coming into the A gap from the 2nd level.

2. Will flip front on RB shifts: in a 4-3 base defense (the Denver Broncos are an odd *okie* 3-4 front team, but we still use the shading system that is used more in 4-3 defenses), there are different ways to designate where the 3Tech is going to line up and where the Nose is going to line up. Sometimes it’s set to where the TE (Y) is lined up.

Sometimes it’s based on hash marks. And sometimes, especially in 11 personnel 3rd down shotgun situations, the RB is the indicator to where the 3T will line up. Sometimes it’s opposite the RB, sometimes it’s to the RB.

Often teams will shift the RB to the other side to see if they can get the front to ‘flip’. Basically, that’s the old, ‘move move move’ thing where the defense either slides over, or the 3T moves real quick over the other guard. If they don’t move, you know you’ve got them locked into a front.

In this case: 1. When you move the RB and they flip the front, you know EXACTLY what front you’ll get, and you can dial up the exact run play that you want. 2. Moving the RB changes how the protection is going to change. If they flip, you can get them into exactly the front you wanna protect against.

3: rock and roll safeties. In basic 3 deep coverages, 1 safety has the middle 3rd of the field and 1 screws down to differing areas of the field depending on what the rest of the defense is called. Having rock and roll safeties just means that both guys can and will do both responsibilities, therefore making the qb’s presnap read even more difficult.

4: okie 4. True odd teams that are playing nickel, be it big nickel or regular nickel, will have a true bulldozer at NG, and 2 5T’s to rush the passer. Okie 4 is now where the NG and one 5T are lined up regularly, but on the other side, that 5 will reduce down into the inside shade of the tackle, and the WLB is walked up on the LOS.

5. Muck luck lines are what a lot of teams do on 3rd and long. They don’t particularly line up. They’re all standing on the LOS and at the snap, some will rush, some will drop. What this does is cause issues with the count for the QB as he can’t declare who the Mike is, therefore the lineman have trouble communicating who has who.

The Kansas City Chiefs run a version of okie 4. The Oakland Raiders used to, I would imagine they’re gonna be more of a Tampa 2 team now because that’s Jon Gruden’s baby. It also has very Belichickian principles to it.

6. TE motion to fronts. Same as shifting RB’s. Same concept.

7-9: true NG’s are road graters…farm strong guys who can battle a double team. They have to be thick on the bottom, and their ass better be massive. It’s a dirty work job. Bring your hard hat and lunch pal. 3 techniques are a slimmed down version of the NG, who are much more athletic. They don’t need to be quite as strong, but they need to be able to move their feet.

Their job is to be more of a disruptive force in the backfield. A lot of teams cross train their guys because college offenses run plays so fast that you can’t ‘flop’ your front.

10. Looping blitzers are self explanatory. Their goal is to not only come, but to get 2 OL blocking 1 blitzer and get the other blitzer a clean run through the backfield.

11. Line games: line games are like blitzes, only they just include D lineman. We see a lot of Tex and exit stunts. On a Tex stunt , the 3T will go across the face of the tackle, and the DE will loop around him hoping to get a free run to the qb. Similar to looping blitzers. (*editor note, I wrote about Jacksonville’s DL and their games=55 sacks.

12. DE’s are fast, speed rushers, will need help on 2+L, 3+L. Self explanatory.

13. Mugged LB’s: a lot of teams mug their backers. All it means is that their MLB will line up over the center on the LOS and he may come or he may back out. But again, in the count, he has to be counted in.

14. Bear front. This is a true 3-4 defense, only instead of a Nose and two 5T’s, now you have a Nose and two 3T’s. This is a fun stopping defense especially interior running games.

15…influenced backside DE’s and LB’s: these are guys who get nosy and try to chase down plays instead of staying home on the zone read stuff, or their backside responsibilities.

16 & 17 are about a player and explained

18Bomb, Attack, and wrap: these are 3 types of blitzes. Bomb is 2 LB’s going through both B gaps. Attack is 2 LB’s going through the A gap. And wrap is either a double A gap stunt or an A and B gap blitz to the same side. The trick is that this is a loop blitz. One guy goes first, and the other comes off his ass into the other gap.

19...Green dog the RB: this is something certain defenses use if the RB stays in on protection. If the RB stays in, the LB who has him, reads that the RB is staying in, so he now has to blitz. But he’s gotta make sure the RB is truly staying in for protection. But if he stays in, the LB picks a lane and attacks.

20True okie is just the old style 52 defense. It’s an odd front with two OLB’s on the LOS. A lot of teams have gotten away from this true front because they’re playing more nickel defense, and that OLB has been replaced by a Nickel Safety/Corner.  This is where okie 4 comes into the mix.

Big Nickel, Regular nickel, learn the difference: Football 201

big nickel formation

Coaching defense in the era of 11 personnel, the rewards of throwing the ball down field, and the proliferation of the fullback has forced defensive coordinators to make nickel defense as big a part of their game plan as their base defense.

For argument’s sake, nickel defense will line up in some sort of 4-2-5 look.  The 5 in back are who we should spend some time on, as well as touching on who the 4 and 2 are (as opposed to base defense).

big nickel formation
Teams that play “Regular Nickel” are playing with 2 safeties, and 3 corners.

This allows the defense gets its best “cover” guys out on the field while still being able to have 2 high safeties in the back end.  Every coverage a defense has in its playbook is in play with this personnel. The issue though is they have forsaken their run defense when they take the Sam linebacker out of the game and replace him with a corner.

Some teams have resorted to pulling the Mike out for a corner, and leaving the Sam in the game to hedge on the run game.

If Down and Distance indicates that a run play is a threat on 2nd & 4 with 11 personnel and a team likes their “regular nickel” against this particular matchup, a team may be tempted to hedge its bets and leave the Sam in and hope they can cover up his warts as a pass defender with their back 5.

big nickel formation

There has been a movement with teams to play “Big Nickel”.

Basically, instead of having 3 CB’s and 2 Safeties, teams flip it and have 2 CB’s and 3 Safeties on the field.  What this says to an opposing offensive coordinator is “we are gonna play nickel defense against your 11 personnel group, but we will not hand you the running game on a platter”.

The 2 positives of playing big nickel are

1: getting the Sam LB out of the game.  He is typically the worst pass defender, so he’s a liability in the pass game, and he can’t carry the TE (Y) on deep over routes unless he’s an All-Pro-caliber Sam LB.

2: This is hedging the bet against the run game by putting a 3rd safety in the game. This is a guy who does not mind becoming a box player if he reads run.  He also is a better candidate to blitz than a CB would be.

Teams that play “Big Nickel” will typically play it on normal Down & Distance (where the threat of the run is greater) and on 3rd & Long will look to play “Regular Nickel” or just straight up “Dime” (6 DB’s) defense.

However, there is a bit of a downside to playing “Big Nickel”. Typical 3rd Safeties are not going to be able to cover a regular S (slot) receiver man to man. They can get eaten alive by guys like Cole Beasley on shallow crosses and all the quick game routes these types of receivers will run.

To give the 3rd safety help, teams have to either help him with giving the LB’s some coverage responsibility so the 3rd safety can cheat and get deeper. They can also flip it and give him help by playing the Free Safety behind him, therefore allowing him to sit and squat on the short and intermediate routes.

Either way, a DC is really stressing out the coverage on other players to try to help the 3rd safety. In addition, the combination of coverages you can now play are reduced as opposed to when you’re playing “regular nickel”.

As with everything in defensive football, the game is to always hedge your bets and play the scouting report and film evaluation. There is no perfect defensive scheme, so there are times when teams just have to pick a poison and then make adjustments as each play happens.

Sacksonville lead the league because their 4-3 defense had all the pieces. Football 101

In our Football 101 series, we’ve talked often about a 3-4 and 4-3 scheme and the many formations/concepts that teams use based upon them. Jacksonville uses a 4-3 (four linemen, three linebackers).

There are equal pros and cons to both systems and each are dependent on talent and coaching preference. When a team has four defensive guys on the line, it’s much easier for players like DT Calais Campbell to get to the passer because it’s more a 4 vs 4 match-up and the T/E (tackle/defensive end) can team up or run alone and often ignore the center.

In addition, by having four, not three, guys on the line it opens up more “games”. The T/E can look as though they’re attacking a specific T/G (guard), but they switch. Or, they act as if they’re alone, but they team up to remove the T/G. Or a DT looks as if he’s going through the B gap, but he drops behind the DE and hits the C. It’s all about gaming the other players.

offensive line gaps

defensive line techniques

4-3 Defense with a Middle Line Backer coming up to help stop the run.

If you have four DL who are smart and fast, they can get to the QB before he has a chance to release the ball and splat, you have 55 sacks. The OL can win the match-ups IF they can get their hands on the guy across him, but facing 4 DL who can change the gaps they attack and hide the techniques, you’ve got to have a QB who dumps the ball quickly.

A team with a dominant OL who’s savvy, they can win the match-up, provided the QB is helping. In a 4-3, there’s often one less linebacker to come screaming around the edge, so you’ll generally see 4-3 teams have their T or E be their sack leaders and not a LB. Plus, they’ll tend to have more players get them.

In a 3-4 defense, there are only 3 guys to take on 5 which is why they don’t get as many sacks, they’re focused on plugging the gaps and stopping the run. The sacks are left to the rest of the team, predominately the edge rushers. Which leads us to…

When you have three up front, it allows two (or more depending on the play) to rush the passer from the C gap, or even the D. Almost every play, that’s what they’re doing, making a bead to the QB. This works like a charm if you have two guys who are both menaces.

If only one side is a true threat, then you can put two guys on him, and now your five OL can easily take away their front three. If you have a good blocking TE, all the better.
Jacksonville had four DL who kicked butt because they also had a good edge rusher and when you have 5 on 5, the defense has the advantage because those guys are quicker.

The downside to a 4-3 is if the DL isn’t stout, the team is left with one less linebacker to stop the run, pass, or rush the QB. QB’s who can get the ball out quickly, and can read the field well, can eat up a 4-3 defense.

However, if they can pressure the QB to dump the ball quickly, they can force him into bad decisions. He wants to avoid being sacked, so he tosses the ball too quickly to the wrong guy. Which is why Jax had 21 interceptions.

When a 3-4 team lacks two pass rushers, things can get ugly. QB’s have time to be creative and target the open guy.  However, if they do have two good rushing LB’s, offenses can’t bunch up because they need all hands on deck to block. When that happens, when the focus is on stopping the guys coming from around the tackles, the ends or sometimes the Nose Tackle has a free lane to the QB.

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.

 

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!

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.

Off man/standard coverage simply explained: Football 101

“Off man” coverage begins seven yards back. Why is off man in quotes? Because there really isn’t such a thing as off man coverage. Corners standardly line up this way. When they’re up on the line, that’s press. I’m guessing people started saying off man because the corner isn’t on his man and wanted to give it name besides standard.

As explained in the hard and soft press coverage articles, both begin close to the line of scrimmage. Hard is all about jamming the WR with the hands and body, while soft press is more about using body positioning to disrupt the route. Touch them after five yards and you get a flag. Both are used in man coverage.

*to note: this is Football 101, so things are explained simply and in basic terms. The words, usually and typically can apply to most sentences. Also to *note, WR or TE applies. Finally, there is a whole series of Football 101, if you have questions about formations, terms used, etc., we most likely have it in an article. Use search to find it or go through the Football 101 page.

Standard coverage is seen more in zone defense. He needs space because while he may be tasked to mirror one guy, he has to cover anyone who enters his zone. At any point in time during the play, another receiver (WR, TE, or RB) can come into the zone and it is the CB’s responsibility to pick it up.

In some ways, playing press is easier than zone because you only have one guy to cover. This should mean you’ve watched countless hours of tape on him and know how he runs, his and his quarterback’s tendencies. The downside is it’s tiring. The CB’s are running, backpedaling, and shuffling every single play.

Playing zone and “off” coverage allows CB’s to cover less ground. If they’re seven yards back, they’re watching the play develop in front of them. If they have a deeper zone then there’s usually not as much back pedaling at the snap.

The goal is to keep the play in front of them. If the WR gets within his cushion, the CB will break from his back pedal and begin running into his deep zone while covering that man. If the play is on the other side of the field, then his job is to begin pursuit.

This means, give up the short hops, but stop the intermediate to deep passes. If a team has really good inside linebackers who can cover, the CB’s job becomes easier.

Mentally, zone is more exhausting because the CB is watching several players at once. If you’ve got a team who likes the spread (using four or even five receivers), the CB could have three men to watch (plus the QB’s eyes).

In those cases, it’s impossible to have both (or three) CB’s play man press because someone(s) is free to roam. Guess the wrong guy and you better have great safeties to mop up (we do). However, generally once safeties are needed, you’ve got a big chunk play.

Sometimes, one section of the field plays man while one or two play zone. This can occur if a team has only one top talent like the Bengals with A.J. Green. They can put their best CB on the star WR and the remainder of the defense can cover the rest with either zone, man, or a combination of both.

If they’re running a combo scheme, then as the WR runs his route with the CB on his tail, he’ll end up double or tripled covered as he runs through other defender’s zones. This can be an effective way to shut a star player down. Just look at how Jalen Ramsey took care of A.J. Green in 2017.

If a team’s best CB can’t hang with a wily and speedy devil like Julio Jones, then the CB1 may decide to play standard man because he wants the space to turn quickly. Jones could knock a man down and blow the doors off before he realizes what’s happened if he plays him on the line. Not to mention, Matt Ryan isn’t a schlub in fitting a ball in.

Which brings us to another reason a CB may want to play back: the quarterback. Some QB’s love their dink and dunk or have a tendency to stare the receivers down. This means, why play press man when you can just watch the QB and jump any route? Squat like a toad, dare him to throw to the open guy in front and break up every pass he telegraphs.

http://www.nfl.com/m/share?p=%2Fvideos%2Flondon-games%2F0ap3000000849709%2FJalen-Ramsey-snags-diving-interception

Bad quarterbacks can make throws look good because of the space; however, once a defense gets a read on the QB, it’s often curtains. Routes get jumped, balls get batted, intercepted and a bad day ensues.

On the flip side, really good quarterbacks love zone coverage if they’re playing average defenses. They use their eyes to sell everything, but where they’re going, and good Offensive Coordinators will use that like a dream. Not to mention, that space gives them room to lead their receiver…right into the end zone. Even good defenses can get lost on occasion (see the SF game). Which leads us to why every team does use trickery.

Often, corners will line up as if they’re in zone in a standard formation, but actually they’re playing man press or the reverse. They’ll use this based on the QB, receivers and who they’re playing. It’s always about the art of illusion. We have a few articles on the different formations that can be used that apply to where the DB’s play, just search in Defense Formations.

In summation, playing in a standard “Off man” coverage (seven or more yards back from the LOS), gives the cornerback more choices and more room to make them. When to do so is based on the defensive play, trickery of the defensive coordinator, the skill level of the quarterback and receiver.

Soft press coverage, the art of the cornerback: Football 101

While hard press coverage starts at the line of scrimmage with physical play, soft press coverage begins at the line, too, but the CB is more shadowing them. Back pedaling, shuffling, but not jamming with the hands.

*to note: this is Football 101. Things are simply explained and typically or usually could apply to most sentences. In addition, while I may write WR/receiver, it applies to any player who catches the ball past the LOS. Once the ball is caught, press is out the window and it’s now about tackling.

Press coverage is all about getting in your opponents’ heads, disrupting routes, removing a receiver from the play, and batting or intercepting the ball.

Two items hard and press share, is the CB is still watching the receiver’s hips, cueing off them and wanting to be inside the target. In soft, it’s important the feet are lined up square against your opponent at the LOS because the back-pedal won’t be worth much if you’re crabbing sideways, plus it affects balance.

Soft is used because it gives the CB more space to be reactionary. A slippery, quick WR can burn hard press with a double move, etc., but in soft, the CB is backing up while watching the receiver to decide where he’s going.

Having that little space between them gives him room to turn quickly if he’s burned and get inside his man, or jump a route if he sees where the QB is going.

As in hard press, the same rule applies, you can only slap, poke, jam within 5 yards of the LOS without drawing a flag. You can however, use your hips, shoulders to bump them and slap their hands right as they catch the ball.

Here is a clip of AJ Bouye before he joined the Jaguars, you can see him play soft press against the Chiefs and Travis Kelce. Watch how he lets him get in front and uses his arm to reach around and bat the ball down.

This took guts and confidence from Bouye and shows why he’s among the best to do it, although woefully under-appreciated.