FF101: Day 3

Submitted by Space Coyote on August 18th, 2010 at 5:17 PM


Previous Classes

FF 101 - The Fundamentals: Syllabus & Day 1 (Overall), Day 2 (Offense)

FF 201 - 3-3-5 Defense: Day 1 (Advantage/Disadvantage), Day 2 (Against tight formations)


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. 

Basic Coverages

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)


Basic Blitzes

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:

Sam Strong

Mike Weak

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:

Zone Fire

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).


Space Coyote

August 18th, 2010 at 7:02 PM ^

FS: Fling (inside), Flung (outside)

Corner: Cobra (weak), Killer (strong), Corners (both)

Both safeties: Fast (outside), Staff (inside)

7 Man: Swarm (LBs Open gaps), Swim (LB basically toward weak), Swam (LB basically toward strength), Triple (LB basically pinch).

There are also more 6 man blitzes with each of the linebackers that include stunts, but I really think it's best to wait on those maybe.


August 18th, 2010 at 6:20 PM ^

Nice diary.  Nothing new here for me other than the naming conventions, but I think it was a good intro for those who maybe didn't play high school ball.


I look forward to more of your "intricate" explanations.

steve sharik

August 18th, 2010 at 11:05 PM ^

Edit needed: Cover 2 is not a.k.a. Man Under.  Cover 2 is a pure zone.  Cover 2-Man is 2-deep, man-under.  I know you stated the difference, but there is great opportunity for confusion.  They are not varities of the same coverage, they are two different coverages.  I suggest a diagram for Cover 2.

Space Coyote

August 19th, 2010 at 12:13 AM ^

But I see where confusion could come from.  I was saying it's Cover 2 - Man Under, but as I put it Cover 2 (Man Under) and in previous threads things in () meant aka, I see how that can be confusing.  I will make an edit to reflect both a cover 2 zone and cover 2 - man under.

It shouldn't matter too much though, the offense is getting an illegal procedure penalty on almost every single play for not having 7 people on the line...

Still, edit made

big sister

August 19th, 2010 at 12:18 AM ^

Again, good job. The diagrams really make it a lot easier to understand. Now I know the different defensive arrangements and the coverage schemes. Even when I used to play Madden I would just pick whichever random one sounded good to me or was recommended haha. Personally I like your terminology but that's just me.
Also, question: what does "tech" mean (like 3-tech, 4-tech)? Does this have to do with the defensive lineman's position on the line and where he's lined up relative to the offensive linemen? Forgive me if this is completely wrong.

Space Coyote

August 19th, 2010 at 12:25 AM ^

If you recall on Day one I had a diagram displaying the defensive gaps and a numbering system.  That numbering system, to put it simply, basically alluded to counting the offensive linemen's helmet's and shoulders, starting at zero from the center's shoulders.  Those numbers are the defensive lineman's technique.  So a 3-tech is a 3-technique which is the guards outside shoulder.