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.

 

Blitz identification is crucial to NFL Scouts

NFL Scouting report

In our continuing series, we look at NCAA conference’s team/players blitz identification and when they knew it was a go, when the QB was in shotgun in an Ace formation. This is a crucial piece in drafting several positions.

This report shows who had good blitz identification on both sides of the ball, either to protect against it or know where they could.

First you see the Scout’s notes and then below, the explanation what it all means. I’ve changed this team’s formation name to Rainbow to protect the Scout and team/conference.

The numbers in front of the percentages indicate how many times over the 11 games that were scouted. A percentage without an amount of how many times something was done/attempted has no value. It also gives NCAA/NFL scouts an idea of how a team/player operates and their load.

3 Technique Vs. Rainbow (RB):
To: 41/57 (72%)
Away: 16/57 (28%)

Force Player Vs. Rainbow:
WLB: 42/75 (56%) 
SLB: 22/75 (29%)
WLB/SLB: 11/75 (15%)

Move Calls Given? No

Blitz Side From Gun (1 Back):
DBL Side Pressure: 11/83 (13%) 
Away From Back (From Boundary): 9/83 (10%)
To Back (From Boundary): 16/83 (19%)
Away From Back (From Field): 21/83 (25%)
To Back (From Field): 26/83 (31%)

Turnover Margin: +6

Defensive Stop Rate: 73%


3 Technique Vs. Rainbow (RB):

Is the RB the indicator where the pressure will come from?
Is the boundary the indicator? That’s what you need to know. ‘Hey, forget the RB…72% of their pressure schemes come when we’re on the hash, and they come from the boundary and play coverage to the field. Was their blitz identification good?

Or, they blitz to the side the RB is on, no matter if it’s from the boundary or the field. ‘We’re gonna blitz the LB who is opposite the RB’.

The other stat is something we need to know. Rainbow is that team’s base formation (10 personnel, 2 by 2 WR’s)…so when they’re in gun, where are they going to set their 3T at? To the RB or away? And that will dictate how they protect and where they set up the protection scheme, plus will give them an idea of which way to run their zone scheme runs.

Force Player Vs. Rainbow:

The Force LB is the LB who still has the B Gap responsibilities to his side in the run game. He may not line up over the B gap. He may displace himself out to halfway between the tackle and first receiver, or out even further, but on the snap of the ball, he sneaks a peak to the action at the LOS to see if it’s a run, and he’s gotta get back into a position where he can defend the B gap.

Blitz Side From Gun (1 Back):

A lot of times just based on hash marks, it’s the LB that is lined up into the boundary, because he has a shorter distance between him and his gap as opposed to the LB to the field.

The force LB is often identified with subtle movements. On the snap of the ball, he may take a jab step forward as he needs to get downhill quick to get back to the B Gap. He may end up in coverage, but his first responsibility is the B gap to his side. Did they execute blitz identification?

Move Calls Given?

A move call is something that New England uses in short yardage situations. Their Defensive Lineman will line up normally, then as the QB starts his cadence, you’ll hear a command from the linebackers that tells the defensive lineman to slide down one gap.

The intention is to catch a left guard off-balance and maybe you’ll get a cheap 5 yard false start out of him because he started a count too early because he was watching the defense move like the ball was being snapped, instead of listening to the cadence.

How a player and his team identifies the blitz goes to coaching. The NFL wants players that can do this (and coaches who can teach it well). It’s not just athletes they’re checking out.

Myles Jack switching from Outside Linebacker to Middle Linebacker isn’t simple.

Myles Jack switching to middle linebacker

With the retirement of Paul Posluszny, the Jaguars drafted Leon Jacobs and moved Myles Jack (wasn’t down) to middle linebacker. How he does could determine how Jax does on defense. Yes, it’s that big of a move.

Little is said about the nuances that come from switching from being a Sam to being a Mike. It’s manyfold. The first factor in this is the Jags must feel very confident that Jacobs can handle the SLB position.

Before getting into this, know that moving Jack to the MLB means they think they’ll be playing with a lead most the time. 65% of time, teams with leads play sub packages. Hence, the last thing a team would want would be Jack riding the pine 35% of the plays.

Often when teams go from base to nickel, they usually sub a DB for the SAM. Since Jack is a hell of an athlete and strong enough to hang with tight ends, plus stop the run, they want to keep him on the field as much a possible.

How will moving change how he plays?

If a player is the Sam or Elephant, not only does he have a different responsibility, but how he sees the field, reads the entire offense, changes. Not only is he viewing plays from a different perspective, but his timing is affected, as well.

In a 4-3 defense, the SAM is a bit slower, but stronger. They time their first step, their tilt to arrive at the quarterback or whomever is on the edge to hit him with maximum force and the right height. With so many rules in place, they’re like a pitcher trying to throw a strike in a small area.

What they think, how they react is stems from the C gap. Quick twitch guys.

Moving inside changes everything. Besides making them cover Y’s/TE’s requiring them to cover more area, they also have to stop the run up the middle if the back gets past the tackles.

OLB in a 4-3 predominately tackle backs around the edge where speed is a big factor. When backs power up the middle, one arm tackles won’t get it. Their shoulders need to be squared up. They’re also looking at the play with more bodies in front of them.

4-3 defense (under)

The first step they take instead of barreling toward their target, is now one that requires a different technique and the ILB is who quarterbacks are looking to exploit with ins, slants, etc. Hence, he needs to be smart.

The short passing game goes through the ILB. Stink at stopping them and it’s going to be a long day. While a Mike has the DL to help stop runs up the middle, they’re often alone in the passing game. Sure, the safeties can and do move up, but if they’re involved, often it means the ILB didn’t do his job.

Fans should understand that it will take Jack a little while to nail this position because he needs to retrain his muscle memory on how to react to each play. Most likely, quarterbacks will throw in his area to challenge this. Don’t be surprised if he’s a little inconsistent until he’s had a few games under his belt.

Over/Under defense, learn more – Football 201

This article goes further in depth about over/under defense then a previous  one vs two gap defense. Even though that article is a 101, it covers more about gaps.

Back in the day, over/under defense was the old 4-3 front. If the front was over, the 3 Tech would line up to the Y. If it was an under defense, the 3 Tech was lined up away from the Y.

Some Okie (traditional 3-4) fronts have turned into Okie Over and Okie Under to accommodate the 1 gap pressure schemes. This means the N is now shading to and from the TE.

This defense makes the count in pass protection tricky. When a QB sees a 4-3 front, it’s really easy to count how many guys are on each side of the ball, but also helps the OL with declaring the MLB (MIKE). This helps the OL start to sort out who’s got who.

Same thing in the run game. However, when a defense lines up odd, the QB has to wonder, “are they now in a 1 gap or are they gonna play it straight up and 2 gap us?” The running back is looking at this, too. Experienced QB’s will help teach their backs how to read this.

The goal of over/under defense it to make the accounting process for the QB difficult on 2 levels.

Okie 4 defense formation

1) he can’t accurately count how many guys are on each side of the ball and
2) there can be confusion between the C and QB on who the Mike is, leading to protection miscommunications between the OL and RB.
Okie Under

Okie Under can put new QB’s out of their depth in trying to read what these defenses are doing.

The best team to use the Okie Under to perfection was Denver’s defense in 2015. They rarely blitzed, it was all 3 and 4 man rushes, but it was the speed of DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller that didn’t give QB’s time to breathe, nor did OL’s know who to block.Okie Over defense formation
The same odd man formation works in a 4-3, as well. This is why rookie O-Lines, especially with new tackles and slow processing QB’s can get slammed. To counter this, I think is why we’re seeing more RPO’s.
4-3 defense (under)
Jacksonville will be seeing 4-3 defenses this season who will shade their N away from the TE like above. The issue Blake Bortles and Nate Hackett face this season is the starting TE is new.

They practice against a 4-3, so 43 over/under defense won’t give them fits. Plus, this season the OL are a veteran bunch
4-3 Over defense formation
Where’s the pressure coming from above? Will it be a one or two gap and who is Mike? While the 4-3 Over looks like an easy read, it isn’t because any of the three backs can be Mike. A QB needs experience to know who is Mike, what look the defense is giving and also figuring out what the safeties are actually doing. This is why the longer they play, the better they get at the mental side of the position.

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.

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!

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.

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.

 

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.