[ED: Bump so hard. ]
FF 210 - Screen Package
FF400 - Drag and Follow
So this is what I had intended to do with the series when I started it: breaking down plays/concepts that Michigan runs and why they work, how to defend/attack them, etc. Today I’m going to break down a pass play that Michigan ran twice for first downs in the first half. This is a great play that isn’t necessarily innovative anymore, but it is still very prevalent both the college and pro game. It’s called the drag (jerk) and follow pattern.
What I will be doing today is going over this play and how and why it was successful twice against Illinois. I will also discuss how defenses scheme against it in order to stop it, plays to counter those defensive adjustments, and why Michigan went away from it when it was successful early.
The Play – Drag and Follow
This is a great play because it does two things. It gives both the QB and WR easy reads and it always makes the defense wrong, essentially putting them out of position.*
Note, I have done a fairly simple defensive alignment that isn't really that technically sound to face the run. It is an even front with the SS back. This isn't bad against the pass but against the run it would probably suffer. There are many different variations of D, and I some what change the D alignment to help prove my point. It is important to realize that the keys are still there though, I'm just attempting to teach as simply as possible, so the defense isn't always the same.
Notice the label for each receiver and the Zip presnap motion (into the formation) by the Z receiver. On defense, N is the Nickelback (don't hate me, hate the Lions) subbed in for the SAM.
The Read – Backside LB
The QB will read the backside LB (WLB).
If the he follows the drag route, it will leave the delayed follow route open in the space that that LB previous occupied. You see this the first time Michigan ran this play against Illinois.
The LB attacks downhill at the drag pattern leaving an opening where he previously was.
[ED: PGB - I took the liberty of adding each of these courses to the MGoHallofFame: http://mgoblog.com/content/user-curated-mgohalloffame. ED: bump.]
FF210: Screen Package
Whatchya know, I still exist. That’s right, I’m like either Santa Clause or the red M&M in that commercial. If you haven’t been here for more than a year, or worse yet, if you have a life outside of here, then you either don’t know or don’t remember about the series above. I’m formerly [name redacted] and am now a Space Coyote (deal with it, mostly because a Space Coyote from Space is awesome), and I’m going to do a slight continuation of the previous series. Heck, let’s call it FF210: Football Packages. Rather than talk about what the title suggests (wrong website), I’ll add this little section about screen packages. Other classes could include: blitz packages, coverage packages, bunch formation packages, etc. The fun could be never ending.
(Aside: If you’re wondering why the previous series seems a bit incomplete, like “where’s the defense?” it’s because it is incomplete. If you’re wondering why I didn’t finish it…yes. Also, I’ve been a bit busy.)
Lately there has been much confusion about screen type substances around these parts and I figured I would be a bit of a guest professor for a second and teach a few things. If you are looking for how to install a screen door, this is not the place for you, so I’ll just let Menard’s do that for you.
Not all screens are created equal. And as they are not all created equal, they are also not all designed to take advantage of the same things. There is a lot in common with many screen passes, but there are also key differences. There are lots of different types of screen passes, and I’m not going to cover them all. What I will cover today is probably the more fundamental screens. The discussion below will consist of what these screens are attempting to constrain (“constrain play” has become a favorite word around here), what the keys are to the type of screen, and how to successfully run the screen. Note, as I said above, there are many, many more screens out there that I won’t cover. There are also many variations of these screens that I won’t begin to touch. This is only meant to be an introduction to these basic concepts. The types of screens included are:
1. The ones where you throw to the WR, we’ll call those WR screens
- Bubble Screen
- Tunnel/ Jailbreak Screen
2. The ones where you screen to the RB, we’ll call those RB screens
- Slow Screen
- Crack Screen
Screens not covered: middle screen, TE screen, throwback screen, transcontinental (even though it’s a crowd favorite), etc.
Screens in College Football
In college football linemen can block down field at the snap as long as the pass play is completed behind the line of scrimmage. This is not the same in the NFL, but is a big reason why screens are so successful at the college level.
Wide Receiver Screen
Just because you’re throwing a screen pass to a wide receiver doesn’t mean it is in an attempt to do the same thing. There are two main types of WR screens that I will discuss, and each have very different keys and are constraints of different things. They are the bubble screen and the tunnel/jailbreak screen.
Better image with some play action
mgoblog bubble screen picture paged
This is essentially a run play constraint. The bubble screen is intended to strength the defense horizontally. It is an easy way to reach the edge without a clumsy pitch out of the shotgun. It is typically run to get defenders out of the box. It takes advantage of defenders peaking into the back field and reacting quickly and out of control to flow. Gap sound teams with safeties in the box with responsibilities in gaps will have trouble on bubble screens because they are not stretched horizontally and are focused on the play in the backfield.
Running the bubble screen will:
Running the bubble screen will open up lanes in the middle of the field as defenders must flex from sideline to sideline. This will give gaps for RBs/QBs on Zone Reads, RB power, and QB draws. This also opens up the deep middle of the field by often forcing safeties to play off the edge of the line rather than in the box as linebackers or OLBs out of the box to respect the sideline threat more. This makes it much more difficult for defenders to play both the run and the pass. If run correctly it will leave a WR one on one on a corner in space, or better yet, with both corner taken out of the play and a score up the sideline.
When to run it:
Typically you run it when corners aren’t pressing. If corners are pressing the pass can become very dangerous. More importantly, you run it when safeties and LBs are shaded too far inside in an attempt to play both run and pass. The danger: make sure the corners respect routes enough to not quickly jump the bubble.
How to run it:
It’s not as simple as just taking a snap and winging it out there. As I have been told before, a QB throwing a bubble screen is kind of like a short stop turning a double play as far as the importance of footwork, body position, grip, and not rushing.
Most of the time in the backfield there is some sort of zone read action. This means that the play looks like a zone read it terms of what the running back is doing. The process of the QB adjusting the ball and throwing means that an actual playaction is really necessary. What is so different about the bubble screen is that it doesn’t typically require linemen to block for a “screen”. The linemen also carry out the zone read play. This causes LBs and Ss to flow down to play the zone read, leaving the WR open on the edge.
The blocking WRs come off on the snap as if they are running routes. His job is to take the nearest threat, which is mostly the man covering him. As they converge on the man covering them, they square their bodies and force and get their backs to the sideline, blocking those covering them to the inside and leaving a lane down the sideline. If the defender does manage to get outside, continue to drive him to the sideline (this isn’t O-line blocking, there is a lot of space and the ball carrier will run off the blockers butt to the hole in the defense regardless). In most cases the WR blocks the man head up on him (or the man that appears to be covering him). In some cases the WR will crack down on the defender covering the screen receiver. It all depends on how the defense plays it at the snap. The reason that the WR usually blocks the man covering him is because it causes traffic for the inside cover guy to have to get through. You can, in essence, block two guys with one blocker, leaving a seal down the sideline. Some people crack the inside guy and hope the outside cover man follows inside, but you run the risk of the outside guy reading the play and blowing it up. All these decisions must be made based on the defenses alignment.
Oregon. The first one suffices (some of the others aren't really bubble screens). Note that they double the near man to the second corner. The second corner jumps outside and the WR kind of just blocks him straight up, making this play a first down rather than TD. This can be done with 3 or 2 WRs.
[Ed: others after the jump.]
Sorry for the long absence. Anyway…
FF 101: Day 5 – Receivers
Receivers come in many shapes and many sizes, from 6’6”, 270 pound tight ends to 5’9”, 160 pound slot receivers. Regardless of size though, one thing is ultimately fundamental to the position: catching the football. For some this sounds easy, for others who feel like they have hands of stones, even this doesn’t sound easy. This is complicated by the fact that a receiver is also responsible for running crisp routes, which sometimes include defeating a defensive player at the LOS jamming them, diagnosing the defense, and then catching the football, all the while knowing that there could very well be someone running on a collision course the other way trying to destroy you.
Receivers are typically known as divas, always seeking attention, but then there’s Jason Avant. Personality isn’t a trait that runs through all these players, some just focus on the fundamentals and go about business. So let’s attempt to understand these fundamentals rather than simply seeing all the negatives attributed to receivers.
I could write in every single one of these that an efficient stance leads to a purging of false steps. A false step essentially means taking unnecessary steps before the actual start of the route running. For a receiver this usually means picking up the front foot and moving it forward or picking up the back foot and moving it backwards. Neither should happen, as the receiver should be able to push directly off his front foot. To remove this annoying phenomenon known as false steps, an aggressive stance is desired.
Feet: Feet should be staggered, much like a sprinters. I personally prefer the inside foot to be forward (as do most coaches, though this isn’t necessarily consistent) because it helps in releasing from a jamming defender. There should be about three feet between the front and back foot, with the majority of the weight on the front foot. The amount of weight can be described as “pushing the front cleat on the toe through the ground.”
Knees: Knees should be bent and ready to explode.
Upperbody: The upper body should be leaning slightly forward in order to quickly explode out of the stance.
Hands and Arms: Again, my personal preference, but hands should be up at chest level with arms approximately at 90 degree angles. The reason I prefer hands up is to help defeat a jamming defender.
A lot of people hear about receivers running good routes but don’t really know what exactly that means. Well, let’s take a look at it to help you understand what exactly is taking place in these “good routes.”
Part of good routes is actually understanding what the defense is running. At the snap of the ball the receiver also needs to recognize zone or man coverage. If it’s zone he has to quickly recognize what kind of coverage so he knows where the gaps are in the defense. All this has to be done on the same page as the QB. But to properly do any of that, a few other things are important as well.
Drive: At the snap there should be no false steps from the receiver. This is described above. The reason false steps are so detrimental here is for several reasons: 1) It hinders the timing between QB and receiver; 2) It allows the receiver to be jammed easier; 3) It doesn’t allow the receiver to quickly close the distance between himself and the defender. Closing this gap forces the defender to open his hips away from the backfield, making it hard for him to react to routes the receiver is about to run. The keys to the drive portion are exploding off the LOS, maintaining a good body lean (so that the receiver can run “normally” in a straight line, yet still break down and run other routes), and closing the distance between himself and the defender.
Route Expression: Receivers must drive in and out of cuts. This means they must get up to full speed as soon as possible after making cut and going into a cut. In order to do this, at the break point a receiver is taught to snap his chest down over his toes and lower his butt. The receiver should also keep his head and eyes up and focused through the defender to maintain good balance and prevent the defender from jumping the route. It is also important to keep the arms pumping and within the body's framework. Receivers often hold the arms out or lower them, which can give easy clues to the defender.
Lastly, and probably the most common of all poor route runners, is fading on routes. A cut at 90 degrees is a cut at 90 degrees, not slowly changing to 80 degrees. Don't start fading toward the end zone. It is essential that receivers do not fade. I can't say that enough. You will hear coaches preaching it constantly at every level.
Numbers are assigned to different types of routes. These numbers are used for play calling and other aspects of the game. The picture below should which number is what route, odds are toward the boundary, evens are toward the ball.
There are obviously more routes available, such as a wheel route for example, but these are the main ones.
So he’s done all this stuff with running routes, but he still hasn’t caught the football. Everything that has already been discussed is pointless if he doesn’t catch the football. So how do you catch a football? Well it sounds kind of easy when you go out in the back yard and do it with your kid, but there are many things that experienced people don’t even think about.
There is the obvious: catch the ball with your hands. But first you need to catch the ball with your eyes, meaning you need to locate the ball. Then as the ball approaches you are told to catch the “fat” of the ball. But in a game a receiver isn’t simply standing there waiting for the ball to fall into his hands, he must attack the ball in the air, and absorb it as it hits his hands. If the ball is above the numbers, press the thumbs and forefingers together forming a triangle. Below the numbers press your little fingers together, forming a cup for the ball.
How to catch a ball:
How not to catch a ball:
For tight ends it is very similar to the offensive linemen I detailed earlier.
(Edit: I tried to find a picture of Carson Butler blocking, but for some reason I couldn’t find anything…)
Blocking in space is much different however. If WRs block it turns ten yard runs into touchdowns. Michigan was always very well known for teaching their WRs to block down field. Stressing this is vital to the success of any offense. It really isn’t as much about skill as it is about desire. There is some keys to blocking in space however, so we will still discuss them.
The first is that a receiver shouldn’t break down to block until he is about 2-3 yards from the defender. Once this distance has been established, it is important that the receiver break down so that he can mirror the defender. He then should strike the defender in the breast plate with his palms while fitting his fingers under the defender’s armpits. The goal is to have the receiver’s helmet below the defenders to gain leverage and then drive the defender. Because these aren’t typically offensive linemen blocking, usually the receiver’s are taught to use the defenders momentum to the blocker’s advantage. This means if the defender fights one way, fight pressure with pressure and force him to overrun the play.
You'll find a lot of good WR blocking in this awesome Tyrone Wheatley Tribute from Wolverine Historian. (EDIT: Can't really see much blocking from WR in this video. Sorry)
EDIT: Good WR blocking on this Brandon Minor from the game that introduced Minor Rage to the world and Penn St.
So playing receiver isn’t as easy as playing catch with your kid. I’m not saying it’s the hardest position on the field, but it’s far from easy. There are a lot of things that need to be recognized very quickly and there are fundamentals that need to be done very precisely. On top of this, focus needs to be consistent, as does desire, whether the ball is coming his way or not.
Just be happy it’s not you crossing the middle of the field with your QB setting you up to get your block knocked off.
FF101: Day 4 – Offensive Linemen
Offensive linemen are the men that do the most and get the least credit. Not many kids grow up dreaming of some day being a starting left guard, and it’s sad that that’s the case. Offensive line is the most underrated position in all of football, both in terms of the recognition they get and in terms of enjoyment due to a stellar combination of physical and intellectual responsibilities. There is the obvious when it comes to offensive linemen: they stand several inches away from another hulk of muscle and run into them like two rams.
(Sorry for the advertisement beforehand, but the narration of this is oddly appropriate for offensive linemen as well).
However, the intellectual part of the game cannot be lost with offensive linemen. Defensive fronts constantly change, blitzers show and back off from all possible angles, and as an offensive lineman you now have to prevent the defense from doing what it’s trying to do while successfully allowing your team to do what it is attempting to do. It truly is one of the most overlooked positions in football, but its purpose and necessity for the success of a team cannot be ignored.
When I first started coaching I went to an offensive linemen class put on by the former offensive line coach of the Buffalo Bills during their great super bowl runs of the early 1990s. Afterward I was able to strike up conversation with the man and he actually walked me through many more intricacies of the offensive line one on one. I later got to actually coach with him. I owe much of my knowledge of the offensive line to this man as I had never played it before. I also owe him my Alan Ameche Story (shameless plug here), which is one of my favorites, that I told randomly a while back.
Anyway, long story short, he was teaching me how to properly get in the 3-point-stance. The best way to coach is to be able to do it yourself. So we are going over it again and again and I finally get the stance right after a while and he asks me “Are you comfortable.” In response, I, being new to coaching and this being a man that knows his stuff, shyly reply “Yes.” He slaps me across the back of the head and yells “You’re a gosh damn liar!” I was in shock and a little nervous. Honestly, I did not know what to say or do. Finally he continued, “But everyone is, they all say yeah. But if we were so comfortable standing like that then we would walk around like that and have conversations standing like that. It’s not comfortable. It’s extremely uncomfortable! It’s your ass wanting so badly to get out of that stance that makes it so great!” And so I give you the 3-point-stance.
3-Point Stance: The 3-point-stance is the most common pre-snap stance of offensive linemen, though it may not be for much longer as more pass heavy teams begin to favor a 2-point-stance. Regardless, we will first cover the 3-point-stance. (Important note: This is a very different 3-point-stance than for fullbacks, defensive linemen, etc.)
Legs: Flexed at the knees, somewhat like doing a squat.
Feet: Feet need to be about shoulder width apart, maybe a little more if he’s a bigger fellow. It is important to note that he should not stand too duck footed (toes pointed out). It will feel much more natural to stand with his toes pointed out with his feet spread apart as they are, but it will lead to a lack of balance and power. His toes should be pointed essentially forward. Therefore, it is common to tell people just learning the stance to kick out their heels, and that should help. Other than that, if an offensive lineman is a position other than center, his feet should be slightly staggered with his outside foot being planted somewhere between the instep and heel. He should not go beyond the heel as this will lead to being off balance. The weight should be placed firmly on the soles of his feet. His forward foot should be flat (you don’t get much power playing from your toes) and the heel of his back foot should only be about a quarter of an inch (about 2/3 of a cm for you metric people out there) off the ground.
Feet and footwork are of the utmost importance for offensive linemen, it is important that that is not overlooked when teaching.
Hands: The first hand I’ll talk about is the down hand. Typically the down hand is the hand away from the ball (this usually leads to better balance for being able to both pass and run block). To start, it should be dropped essentially straight down from the shoulder just inside your knee. There should not be much weight on this hand. The down hand is simply used as a guide. A common emphasis when coaching is that the offensive lineman should be able to swipe the grass in front of him without falling forward, backwards, or to the side regardless of the direction the hand is swiped. The offensive lineman should be able to pick it up and set it back down without any shifting of balance. The weight should be on the soles of his feet. In the old-days (at least my dad tells me) the knuckles of the offensive linemen used to give away run or pass because of the amount of weight put on the hand. This tip off should not exist.
As for the off hand, anywhere from the wrist to elbow should be rested calmly on the inside of the thigh. Weight should not be applied to this hand as it is necessary to use this hand to quickly attack defensive linemen.
Other: Back should be straight to slightly arched back, head should be up. Make sure the butt isn’t too high as this will lead to poor balance. It is also important that offensive linemen do not tip off the play with their eyes, head direction, feet direction, or lean.
(I don't know who that guy is, but he has good form)
2-Point-Stance: Very common in today’s pass oriented offenses. What is lost from leverage is made up for by being able to quickly go to a pass blocking stance. The knees and feet do not change much from the 3-point-stance. The big difference is the back is more upright and the head a little higher. Hands or wrists should be rested on inside of thighs.
As most of us are aware, there are two different types of blocking schemes: Base and zone blocking. The distinction will be made below, along with some other blocking types.
In a zone blocking scheme the offensive linemen block a space rather than an actual man. This can have extremely good results, as defensive linemen stunts and what not are somewhat negated. This can also have negative connotations when you’re Texas, you don’t have a good power run game, and Nick Saban puts his DTs heads up on the guards with the linebackers stacked. It can also hurt when you’re playing USC in the Rose Bowl without developing a successful counter play to slow the defensive flow to the ball. Anyway, the two types of blocking in this scheme depend on if the offensive lineman is covered (a defensive man is lined up directly over top of the offensive lineman) or uncovered (no defensive linemen directly in front of him). When a offensive lineman is covered (or the defensive player is shaded away from the play side) the lineman blocks directly to the second level (LB level). When the offensive lineman is uncovered (and there is a defensive player in the gap toward the play side) then the offensive lineman reach blocks.
Reach: (Also a base block) When an offensive lineman attempts to reach the outside shoulder of a defensive player, and thus blocks him back inside.
In base blocking the offensive line reads the defensive front and communicates appropriate blocking schemes to successfully run the called play. Important note: If there is a split down the middle of the diagram and two blocking types on this diagram on each side, this means that these two blocking styles do not work on the same play).
Double/Combo: The difference is that a double takes the man that is blocked and drives him into the LB, whereas the combo is initially a double, but then one blocker releases to the LB. The man that releases is determined by the direction the LB takes. If the LB runs inside, the inside player (guard in this case) releases to the LB, and vice versa.
Down: When an offensive lineman heads directly to the second level and blocks the linebacker inside.
Drive: A drive block is when any blocker takes the defensive player over top of him and drives him the either out of the hole or simply backwards, away from the play (This can be seen in the diagram for Trap/Cover).
Trap/Cover: A trap play sucks the defensive tackle into the back field by sending the two offensive linemen nearest him toward the LB. This typically baits the DT into thinking they messed up, when suddenly a trap blocker (typically the opposite side guard) pulls tight to the line of scrimmage (as tight as he can) and kicks the DT out of the hole. For this to work however, the defensive man over top of the trapping guard must be covered so that he doesn’t also explode into the backfield. Thus, the center typically covers for the trapping guard. A cover block typically also happens for any pulling plays.
Step/Cross: These two blocking combinations are very similar. Both involve the outside blocker to, in essence, cover block for the (in a way) pulling inside blocker. On the step, the pulling blocker pulls up toward the linebacker, blocking him back inside. On the cross, it is identical to a trap, however, the player being trapped is now the end with the outside man (typically a TE or Tackle) covering for the puller.
Fold: Rather than trap the DT, sometimes it is preferred for the guard to be a lead blocker for the TB. This usually happens in single back type plays. What happens is the C cover blocks for the G, pushing his man as far out of the hole as possible. The guard then slides right off the centers butt and shoots up toward the second level, essentially becoming a lead blocker (and get your mind out of the gutter, I know it sounds dirty, but come on, this is football!).
Pull and Reach/Lead: Pull is when the guard “Pulls”, or swoops around the offensive line and blocks someone on the outside. A pull and reach is when the play side guard pulls around and does a reach block on the end. A pull and lead is when either guard pulls (in this case the far guard) and blocks the first off colored jersey (defensive player) he sees (typically on the inside).
Pull and Kick: Much like a trap block, this happens when the guard pulls and kicks out the end, creating a seem right off his butt (ha ha, dirty joke here).
So now you have learned the stance of an offensive lineman and the basic blocks. In the future, on the next cycle, we will look at what to specifically call some of these combo and double blocks. We will also look at chop blocking and more what you are looking for in the people that play each offensive line spot. Hopefully even further in the future we can start to look at specific blocking schemes against particular fronts.
Up next we will be looking at the receivers, which includes wide outs, slots, and tight ends. Hope you are enjoying the courses and I’ll see you next time.
Football Fundamentals Vol. 3 – Defense
Perhaps even more basic than the previous class, but necessary nonetheless. I would also like to thank everyone who has given their input. I may or may not switch the terminology I use, but if you make an appropriate case I will definitely consider it. Thanks for all the input. And again, I will try to answer questions either by editing the class (diary), in which case I will inform you with a reply, by the reply itself, or in future classes.
Today in class I will discuss some of the basic ideas for defense. We will look at the mindset of defensive players, briefly at some of the positions, some very basic base formations against basic balanced alignments, several basic coverages, and finally some basic blitzes. Basically, this is going to be very basic. The bass in the songs of Ace of Bass is very basic. Base bitches, bass (sic).
Remember when I said the killing comes later. It’s later. But this isn’t just like road rage GTA-style killing. This is calculated, intelligent, Dexter type killing. Defense is brutality, force, voracity, pressure, hitting, destroying. You don’t slowly drug the other team into a comatose-type sedation as you do on offense, you violently strangle them, you bluntly beat them with a hammer the size of 6’2” 256 pound boulders, the whole while starring them in the eye. Defense instills fear, but ok, you all get that. That’s what typically defines defense, but it’s only part of the truth.
The other part is purely reactionary and calculated intelligence. You play odds makers and hope, - no, not hope - know you’re going to come out on top. You blitz the A-Gaps, you press the corners, you switch to a 3-3-5 against Purdue (ok, bad example). Defense is, by necessity, reactionary. You can only dictate so much. No defense plays not to lose, or to bend but not break, that is a myth. Every defense plays to shut down the offense, some better than others though. The goal is to mitigate the offense as much as possible, the shut them down to the best of your abilities, and sometimes that just results in “bend, don’t break.” The goal is to impose your will without going beyond your abilities. Make it is instinctual as possible, allow quick reaction, and force the offense out of their game plan.
Positions are grouped into three. In the future I will delve further into each group to further explain responsibilities.
Defensive Line: Defensive End (DE, E); Defensive Tackle (DT)
Defensive Tackle: Defensive Tackle (DT); Nose Tackle (NT); Defensive Guard (DG); Nose Guard (NG)
Line Backer: Outside Linebacker (OLB); Middle Linebacker (MLB, Mike, M)
Outside Linebacker (OLB): Strongside OLB (SLB, Sam, S); Weakside OLB (WLB, Will, W, (sometimes referred to as Jack or J in 4 LB set);
Defensive Backs: Cornerback (CB, C); Safety
Cornerback: Corner (C); Nickel Back (NB, N);
Safety:Free Safety (FS, F); Strong Safety (SS, $); Spur ($), Bandit (B)
Note: In Day 1 I was asked the difference between NT, DT, NG, and DG. I was going to discuss it during the defensive line unit class, but I’ll start here. Basically, defensive tackle is any interior lineman. However, in the past, when many teams ran 5-3 defenses and the such, there was more to the distinction. Defensive tackle was typically that interior lineman that lined up over the tackles, defensive guards over the guards, and Nose over the nose of the ball. As defenses began putting fewer people on the line of scrimmage, convention lead to DT being the most common. Today, usually a team still has a Nose (NT) and a DT. The DT will typically line up around the 3-tech, maybe a 5-tech, while the nose will be in a zero or 1-tech. I can get into it more in future classes.
Basic Base Alignments
I will get into more nickel, dime, over, under, etc. alignments in the future, along with 46 defense and the such. Today I will just cover base defenses (the most commonly run basic (meaning: No blitzes) defensive alignment for a given team against a base offense). At some point I hope to show the most typical alignment for each defensive alignment against particular offensive formations, but that's for a whole different course.
3-3-5 Defense – Refers to a defense with 3 down lineman, 3 linebackers, and 5 defensive backs. Can also be interpreted as a 3-5-3.
4-2-5 Defense – Refers to a defense with 4 down lineman, 2 linebackers, and 5 defensive backs.
3-4 Defense – Refers to a defense with 3 down lineman, 4 linebackers, and 4 defensive backs. This is where the Jack terminology could come into play. Rather than having two MLB, the weakside MLB would now be Will, and Will would be Jack (this is the same for the 4-4 defense, for now I'll refer to them as shown below though)
4-3 Defense – Refers to a defense with 4 down lineman, 3 linebackers, and 4 defensive backs.
4-4 Defense – Refers to a defense with 4 down lineman, 4 linebackers, and 3 defensive backs.
Most of you will recognize these simply from video games, but these are the most basic of coverages. Essentially, in these basics coverages, what the “Cover” stands for is the number of players going into a deep zone.
Cover 0 – Everyone is lined up in man. This means that there will most likely be some sort of “bracket coeverage” on either the outside or inside receivers. This is where two players cover one guy, usually with one guy high (or in front of the offensive player) and one guy low (toward the quarterback).
Cover 1 – The free safety plays center field.
Cover 2-Man Under – The safeties cover what is called “halves”. The corners cover “flats” which is the areas essentially near the line of scrimmage, away outside of the offensive line. This is of the man under variety, though zone can be just as, if not more, common.
Cover 2 - Zone - The safeties still drop into deep halves, however, now the corners and linebackers are playing in a zone as well, covering the flats, the curl (the zone type covered by the two OLBs) and the "hole" (which is, in a way, the hole that naturally appears between the two safeties and is covered by the MLB). You will see curl and zone coverages more in the future.
Cover 3 – The deep zones are now called “thirds.” The FS is again in center field, and the corners take the two outside thirds. The strong safety sneaks up into one short zone/flat, and the opposite outside linebacker takes the opposite side.
Cover 4 – The safeties and corners are in deep zones called “quarters.” In fact, sometimes this coverage is simply called quarters.
In future classes (probably beyond FF101) we will look at the advantages/disadvantages of particular coverages. For now, I leave you with learning defensive coverages (via Smart Football, via Ron Jenkins)
There are a ton of blitzes in a complete blitz package. Today we will only look at some basic ones and give a nice naming convention as well. Terminology may again be different than others, but I feel this terminology will help readers easily remember types of blitzes.
Note: I’m only diagramming the blitzers and appropriate down linemen. This is because the other players can be running a varying coverages as seen above.
If just the linebackers name is called, he blitzes the open gap directly in front of him.
Next, a couple terms:
Strong – The blitzer(s) go to the first open gap (where no defensive linemen is positioned prior to snap) toward the strong side (usually toward tight end, always toward Sam)
Weak – The blitzer(s) go to the first open gap toward the weak side (usually away from tight end, always toward Will)
We'll start off with single player blitzes:
There would also be a Will blitz, and a SS blitz (which I call a money blitz because the SS is sometimes diagrammed as $. For ease, we'll just stick with SS blitz. I've also heard it called sting/stung).
Note: There are also calls for linebacker blitzes in gaps filled by a lineman (the lineman stunt out of the gap). Those will be discussed later. Now, some terms for two man blitzes:
Pinch – The two blitzers go to the first open gap toward other blitzer.
Open – The two blitzers go to the first open gap away from the other blitzer.
SAW (Sam and Will) Pinch
MASh (Mike and Sam) Strong
WAM (Will and Mike) Weak
MASS (Mike and SS) Open
And now Nick Saban’s favorite zone blitz:
Note: Some people don't like the MASh/MASS combo because they sound so much alike, but usually the defense is communicated via hand signals from the sideline. I prefer to have all my defensive players look toward the sideline to read the play rather than huddle, but if a defensive huddle is necessary, it is vital the captain of the defense can clearly distinguish these two to his team.
Two other 2-man-blitz types (these made more sense at one time, and WARNING: I haven’t heard them used before from many others so they aren’t really universal, but to be fair, they aren’t really that common of blitzes):
American – Sam and SS. This is because the SS is often seen as $ in diagrams. American money is “strong money”
Canadian – Will and SS. Opposite of above.
When I discuss the defensive linemen group I will talk more about their technique during these blitzes.
So that’s so very basic defensive stuff. Take all that, don’t just memorize it, learn it, and then think about having that have to be second nature while you react to moving parts on offense and 300 pound people trying to not let you do what you’re diagramed to do. Yeah, playing defense is far from easy. Now imagine playing offensive line with all these blitzes coming at you. Imagine playing QB and having to diagnose all these blitzes and coverages. This is what makes the game so much more difficult than it appeared in FF101 – Day 2. There is a lot to learn for some of you, and we still have a long ways to go. I hope your still enjoying yourself.
Next up we will be looking at some offensive position groups. I will probably start spreading these out a little more now as things get more complex and we discuss things closer to what would be called “intricacies.” Again, if any coaches out there want to help answer questions, feel free. If anyone has any questions for me or another coach, please ask. Either they will be answered as a reply, edited into the class (diary) – in which case I will let you know – or will be discussed in future classes.
Also, I did my diagrams with a gray background instead of white, let me know if you like that better, worse, or about the same (bet you didn’t know you were getting your eyes checked during class, it’s like the second grade all over again).
FF 101 - The Fundamentals: Syllabus & Day 1
FF 101: Day 2 – Offense
Major Edit: I modified some of the formation names for more simplicity and universality. Let me know if any more questions arise.
Author’s Note: If you played football, whether in real life or video games, you may already know a lot of this. Hopefully this won’t turn you off from the course too quickly.
This day in class we will look at the mindset and philosophy it takes to be successful on offense. After that I will discuss deeper in depth the positions, the breakdown of their positional units, and some further terminology to help you get acclimated with formations and play calling. We will end with a few simple examples.
“We have an offensive concept, an overall season plan, and strong beliefs about techniques and strategy. But we also copy what others have done successfully and adjust our plan from week to week.” – Joe Paterno.
Offense is very different than defense – obviously. On defense you rely on eliminating space with the help of the boundaries, you react, you pay for errors and try to hide weaknesses, and you stymie the unexpected (by the way, all generalizations are false, including this one, but you get the idea). On offense you attack, you strike, you surprise, you thrive in space and exploit errors and deficiencies. There are things that the two have in common though such as speed, adaptability, opportunity, utilizing strengths, having balance, and execution. Execution: probably the most important aspect of football. This is the mindset of offensive football, an approach in which you play to win, win, win, humiliate through finesse and raw toughness and everything in between. Offense is a different species, and there are many different breeds of said specie. The goal is always the same though, to degrade and exasperate the opponent and to score touchdowns. The killing comes later.
Obviously philosophies defer greatly. Philosophies depend on offensive talent and personnel as well as defensive talent and personnel. Some things remain fairly constant across philosophies though. Finish every play, every route, every run, every block. When you’re a receiver don’t take plays off, stretch the ball horizontally and vertically. As a running back, help out your quarterback by blocking and running well and help out your lineman by being patient and explosive. As a lineman, get to your spots and block through defenders. No matter the case, execute the game plan and the offense should succeed.
Positions can be broken up into three groups, with small subgroups included.
Offensive Line:Offensive Tackle (T), Offensive Guard (G), Center (C)
Backfield:Quarterback (QB), Running Back (RB).
Running Back: Tailback (TB), Fullback (FB), Halfback (HB), Wing (W/WB)
Receivers: Wide Receiver (WR), Tight End (TE)
Wide Receiver: Wide Receiver (WR), Split End (SE), Slot (SR), Wing (W), Flanker (Fl)
Tight End: Tight End (TE), H-Back (HB/H)
So most of you knew most of this and all I probably did was confuse you more. Anyway, to clarify, a split end is a lot like tight end playing wide receiver, and a h-back is a lot like tight end that isn’t on the line of scrimmage (LOS), a wing, or wing back, is either the third RB in the back field, the third receiver in a single back, single TE formation, or the forth receiver in a single back, four receiver set. Flanker is like a wide receiver, typically off the line. I will get more into their specific functions, attitudes, and goals when I break down their individual units.
For now, I will introduce some terminology that is common in football play calling and position play calling.
2: Wingback (at times considered Z receiver (see below))
3: The Fullback
4: The Tailback
This comes into account when calling plays, such as a 34 Trap (‘3’ means the fullback running to the ‘4’ hole. The weakside guard does a trap block) or 47 Sweep (‘4’ stands for Tailback running a sweep to the ‘7’ hole) for example.
X: The WR that is on the LOS. This usually means this is the split out that is away from strength (typically denoted as the side with the TE).
Y: This is typically your TE, or the last man on the LOS toward the strength side.
Z: Typically your flanker, or the receiver that is off of the LOS. This can be toward strength or away, near the offensive linemen or far from them.
W: This receiver usually subs in for one of the RBs on 4 receiver sets. Also considered different nomenclature for the Z-receiver on occasion.
I was asked a question about eligible receivers which I will attempt to explain here and supplement a little below. On every play there are 5 eligible receivers (6 if you count the QB for plays such as throw backs). At least seven players must be on the line of scrimmage. More can be on the line of scrimmage but it decreases your number of eligible receivers.
The eligible receivers consist of anyone lined up off the LOS and the two players furthest outside that are lined up on the LOS. Technically then, if 6 guys were lined up on the LOS to the right of the center, and none were on the LOS to his left, the center would actually be an eligible receiver because he is the last person to the outside on the LOS.
Most problems occur from: a) the tackle lining up in the backfield, making it so only 6 players are on the LOS; or b) if an extra person is on the LOS, either the extra person (who is lined up inside the outer most person on the LOS) to become ineligible or causing someone who is supposed to be eligible to be ineligible because the 8th person on the LOS is outside the person who is supposed to be the last one on the line of scrimmage.
The formations below are very basic in nature. On Friday through Sunday you will see some formations more complex than these. This is simply to get you acclimated with my personal terminology. (Note: any player with a letter is an eligible receiver)
*Strong - When the FB is offset toward the TE. Sometimes known as King.
*Weak - When FB is away from TE side. Also referred to as Queen.
Some teams prefer to call strength (i.e. left or right) based on the location of the Y receiver, typically the TE. However, I find this can cause confusion. In my play calling I tend to call the strength the side with the greater number of eligible receivers. Therefore “Twins I Left” means the twin set (where more people are) is to the left. Important to note is that this is not always the same as defensive strength calls.
(Another way of playing by some teams is just have a single call, such as “I-Formation” and then say “Flip” when going from “Right I” (their version of “I Formation”) to “Left I”. I still prefer my own method as I find it to be clearer in nature.)
There are also some more receiver-heavy formations.
There are some similarities in shotgun play calling, though some nomenclature is a little different. A few examples are given below.
Flex = Receiver positioning
Gun = Shotgun
Right = Position of running back
Very few plays are diagramed below. The goal is simply to get you acclimated on how plays are called, and what the meaning behind the play call is. In this set I won’t show detailed blocking for certain defensive alignments for simplicity.
Note: I Right 34 Trap should read "I Right 32 Trap" as the fullback goes through the 2 hole
For simplicity of the play calls, some pass plays simply go by names. For now I will just go over these type plays, in the future we will look at more complex plays/routes.
This is all an art form, from the necessary dialog of calling a play, to the picture that is painted prior to the implementation of the actual actors playing out their roles on stage. Offensive football is a treat to watch because of small intricacy adds up into something so grand as to make it so 11 people cannot even bring down a single person. It can stand for so many things, the strength and intelligence of humanity, as a metaphor for the power of cohesion, or it can just be seen as football. People love points, and I can’t blame them, but it isn’t where the beauty of the sport begins, but rather where it starts. In our next class we will begin our look at defensive football. Have a good day.
Note: In the near future I will try to figure out some way to have an add-on that will include a whole bunch of formations rather than just these basics. Whether I put it on a download site to as a .pdf or power point document, or if I should embed all the formations (which is a ton, and that’s just scratching the surface) on a simple blog post, I don’t know yet. I would like to hear suggestions or preferences if there is any demand for such a thing (and maybe how I would go about doing it). Either way, for a basics package to be complete so that communication can become more fluent on the board, I think a package such as this is necessary.