Neck Sharpies: Pressure City

Submitted by Seth on May 10th, 2016 at 10:07 AM

Backed up near their end zone after a 4th down stop, with Brandon Peters under center, the white team is looking to catch the defense with some play-action. What they catch is a pretty simple blitz, an iffy matchup in pass pro that goes badly, and a true freshman running for his life in the endzone. Let's dig into it.

THE PLAY: A pretty normal Mike blitz that gets interesting in the details.


The MLB came up trying to time his blitz, then blitzed the frontside A gap. The SAM has the tight end (Y) in man to man, as do the CBs with their respective wide receivers, and the free safety is playing the deep cover. The WLB has a run gap, and the short middle zone (which ends up being the RB). On the other side the Rover (strong safety) is responsible for the fullback.

So this is a variant on the base cover 1 ("City" in Brown's 2013 Boston College playbook).


I think "TILT" means the SAM has the edge if the TE stays in to block, and the TE if he goes out in a pattern. But there was some weirdness here, because the T and A are going to end up in the same lane.

[After the JUMP: freshman going off script, two-gapping, or a DE option?]


Watch #4 Reuben Jones, playing Anchor (strongside end) on this play. He lined up over the tight end:


This is no different than what Wormley was doing during the tight end massacre of 2015. If the TE was blocking he'd be getting a face full of Jones. Instead the TE (Gentry) has to take a big outside step before releasing.


Then Jones hits the RT (Ulizio) on the outside shoulder. He's still got that "C" gap we suppose. But then..


he rips IN-side.


So what's he doing? Likely possibilities:

  1. This is a redshirt freshman who was moonlighting at MLB for much of 2016, and who went off script when he realized the OT was pass-blocking, and was thinking he would just take the fastest route to the QB.
  2. This is vamping within the framework of the defense—the Anchor does have the C gap on a run but once the FB stays in to pass block, the DE knows there's help outside and doesn't have to worry about it. B gap/C gap, whatever—MUST GET TO KORTORBAAK!
  3. This is the playcall: he's got the C gap on a run, and the B gap on a pass. FWIW examples of that in the playbook are legion:

I am going with #2 but could be convinced otherwise. In any event against the run, he seems to be playing the 'C' gap, and all this business about going into B happens after he's diagnosed it's a pass.


The offense has a six-man slide protection scheme:


When you are going play-action you nearly always end up in a slide protection, and when your play-action isn't fooling anyone, you've got the bad matchup problem and none of the good.

Slide protection is the zone version of protection (The man version is "BOB" for "Big on Big", which means you're blocking linemen with linemen and backers with backs). The tradeoff gave the defense a big-on-back matchup, which they won: the fullback, Khalid Hill, drew B gap responsibility, and Godin came in there hot, reading the token play-action for what it was, setting up Khalid Hill for the whiff, then running by him to get instant pressure.

Godin's not perfect; I thought Peters did a cool thing in WHOOP-ing that. But pressure up the middle is the worst pressure and Peters is forced to make his escape, barely outrunning edge pressure by Kemp to throw it away.

So I don't think this is blitz pressure, since if the MLB backed out the blocking would have been the same, i.e. the guard wouldn't have had the chance to do much to help Hill.

By the way it's possible Peters was supposed to pivot to the left on his drop-back (since Isaac is running that way) since the FB is lined up too far outside for this to be a dive. Also they had a false start—not the one the free safety was pointing at (I didn't see whatever that was) but right before the snap Pliska took an ass scratch. Also Ulizio had a tiny facemask or hand to the face that you'd expect to go uncalled.


This is organic 5-man pressure, not a particularly interesting blitz like I'd hoped. The Anchor going into the same gap as the tackle made it look cool initially, and since we've seen the DL doing some of these interesting non-gap-sound things before it's a thing I'll keep my eye on. Still, the biggest thing we learned is Khalid Hill isn't great at pass pro yet, or at least that was the main thing generating this pressure.

Don't let that get you down—cool blitzes are forthcoming rest assured. But here we got to see another way they use their base defense, which is the same defense that was their base last year, but with a tweak here and an option there.

Last thing: the SS was the guy coming across the field to pressure the throw. I will not get unreasonably excited about walk-ons just because their names are Glasgow. I will not get…


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May 10th, 2016 at 11:06 AM ^

Yep, I saw that, too.  T and A in a line...  Sad that's where we go first!


I thought I saw the Mike blitzing, but getting picked by the RG and pushed into the center?  If he didn't come up to the line and show blitz, does the RG get the DT and leave the QB clean?  If so, seems like all day to throw somewhere because Jones wasn't forcing a ton of pressure.  So would this blitz be part of the base package?

(Haha, I talk words like I know something - its all part of the ruse that makes me somewhat successful at work...)


May 10th, 2016 at 11:49 AM ^

Easily could of been a safety, or worse, a fumble in the end zone. Instead he avoided pressure and keep the drive alive, which I believe ended In punt that was downed inside the 20...very important play that speaks to his ability to limit mistakes by not getting panicked

Space Coyote

May 10th, 2016 at 11:16 AM ^

This was something I wanted to see more of within the framework of Durkin's playbook. I really like Cover 1 with a Rat because it protects you against a QB breaking the pocket and it takes away the short middle (also protects you against the screen game a bit). 

Thought Michigan could have used some somewhat similar looks - albeit a bit different due to the spread look on offense - looks against OSU to get guys in the box and firing off the edge to seal the play inside. Will be interesting to see if Durkin starts to implement those sorts of wrinkles with more time at Maryland to see what he would have eventually done here.

steve sharik

May 10th, 2016 at 11:18 AM ^

...slide protection is gap on the front side and man on the back side.

Starting from the back side, each OL has man over him and first uncovered OL blocks his playside gap. The RB is responsible for blitzers, prioritizing inside-out; i.e. an internal blitzer gets priority over an edge blitzer.

This protection is why overload blitzes have become so popular. In fact, it's why zone blitzes have become so popular. You ID the slide, overload the backside, then drop a guy out on the front side into zone coverage. (There are other ways to drop DLs, but the overall effect is the same.) This, in turn, is why you'll see one side of the OL pass protecting against air why an unblocked defender is sacking the QB a second or two after the snap.

Consequently, in these schemes it's up to the center and/or QB to ID where the pressure is coming from and adjust the protection accordingly.

Now, about "City." It's man-free, but employed a little differently. The Rover (Strong Safety) and Free do not predetermine who is dropping into the underneath zone and who is playing deep middle. They "banjo" the FB--the safety to the side of FB flow drops into man on the FB, the safety away from FB flow rotates to deep middle. Similarly, the Mike and Will "banjo" the TB.

However, with the Mike blitz, the TB is automatically Will's man. And with the FB aligned strong side and, more importantly, in a 3-point stance (which means he can't motion, only shift, and therefore must be set for a full second before the O snaps the ball--giving the D plenty of time to adjust the coverage) the Rover takes the FB and the Free plays deep middle.

Space Coyote

May 10th, 2016 at 11:51 AM ^

Looks like the LG (not sure who it is), taps his butt to indicate he's taking the gap inside of him rather than manning the DT. Hill should really be aware where the pressure threat is coming from but his first steps do him no favors and he immediately loses leverage on the blitzing LB.

You'd think maybe he missed the call, but it looks like he has his eyes in the right spot but his feet betray him. He's got to stay square early and the first step has to up, not out, so that he can maintain his inside leverage off his LG's butt, but he drops his outside foot as if preparing to block and outside attacker and never gets inside the blitzer and just completely whiffs the block. We'll chalk it up to inexperience at blocking from the FB level for Hill I guess (he also false starts, so really not a great play for Hill here).