FF201: Day 2 - 3-3-5 Vs. Tight Formations

Submitted by Space Coyote on August 12th, 2010 at 4:32 AM

Football Fundamentals 201 - Intro to the 3-3-5 Defense

Day 2

A long, long time ago, when I lived in a Cleveland not so far away, I created a 3-3-5 Fundamentals diary because, well, I lived in Cleveland. Now I don’t, but I have come back from the dead and loving it, but don’t worry, because I’m much better than the Mel Brooks movie “Dracula: Dead and Loving It”. Anyway, a long time ago when I wrote that diary I was asked by Brian something along the lines of what I planned to do next. I told him, being keen on thinking more so than actually doing, that I planned on creating another diary about how to defend particular plays out of the 3-3-5.

Well, sorry, that kind of got put on the back burner. And I forgot to turn on the heat. And then forgot that I even put anything there. Then remembered, but then was too lazy so I decided to watch the first 4 seasons of Lost in about a one month time span. But now, NOW, I’m back, and I have a diary for you. And I plan on having a lot more diaries for you. And because six zero made a series with a cool game show theme I’m going to make a cool series with a less cool theme because damnit it’s about football and this is more than just a game or something like that. Anyway, this diary will go under my 3-3-5 Fundamentals mini-course. About three or four more diaries are planned to be added to this 3-3-5 mini-course. Soon you will be introduced to Football Fundamentals 101. I’ll explain at the end. As for now, this diary will discuss, as many requested, how to defend particular plays (more along the lines of formations) with the 3-3-5. The terminology is a little different, but most is the same. If you need a refresher on some of the basics make sure to check out the 3-3-5 Fundamentals diary. Ok, here we go.

E – End
N – Nose
T – Tackle
S – Strong Side Linebacker (Sam)
M – Middle Linebacker (Mike)
W – Weak Side Linebacker (Will)
$ – Spur
B – Bandit
C – Corner
F – Free Safety

Now what we are going to cover, in my opinion, will essentially be Michigan’s base coverages against these formations. Basically, this is when Gerg will do a lot of cool things with his hands, and the players, mesmerized by his hair, will just say “Ok, let’s just run base.” At least it works something like that I would only assume.

Today we will be covering what I call the heavy sets, in order: I-Formation; I-Formation Twins; I-Formation Twins Open; I-Formation Twins Over; I-Formation Flanker; Bone; Far Wing; Ace; and Ace Left.
For each formation we will look at: Run to Strength; Run to Weak; and Pass.

A Note on Diagrams:
Solid Arrows: Play goes there (Note: These are not necessarily blitzes, just the gap responsibility)
Dashed Line: Slow play in that direction (contain)
Red Circle: Deep Zone
Yellow Circle: Short Zone
Green Circle: Flats

I-Formation

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I-Formation Twins

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I-Formation Twins Open

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Now let's look how the 3-3-5 adapts to an unbalanced line:

I-Formation Twins Over

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And now let's see how it changes as formations get tighter:

I-Formation Flanker

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And tighter...

Wish Bone

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By now I think you’re starting to get the hang of it. Besides where the defense is aligned at the start of the snap, the responsibilities essentially always stay the same. Which is (Playside/Opposite Side):

E / T – C Gap / C Gap Crash
N – Opposite A Gap
W / S – B Gap / Contain
M – Playside A Gap
$ / B – D Gap / Contain

In fact, the nice part is that the defensive keys are extremely simplified as well:

E / T – Offensive Tackles
N – Ball
W / S – Near Back
M – Near Back
$ / B – Triangle (Tight End, near back, and ball. This means they must look through the tight end to the near back, while keeping an eye on the ball. In some defenses the linebackers have a triangle key through the guards to the ball.)
C / F – Quarterback

So, to look at the alignment for 3 more formations:
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This is the simplifying of the defense that T-Wolf and Gerg have been hinting at. The responsibilities are easier and the keys should be easier. The tricky part is recognizing the offensive formation and getting correctly aligned.

Even if Michigan goes to more of a 3-3-5 Strong look expect the same type of keys and responsibilities.

For my next part we will look at some spread type formations and how the 3-3-5 aligns to those. In the future we will also look a little at what is called a 3-3-5 Bear and some more of the “rules” that are to be followed, such as zone drops, boot rules, etc.

As for what else I hope to bring you soon is what I am calling Football Fundamentals 101. This will start off very fundamental and hopefully progress into being able to break down opponents film and or own film during the season. Before we can do that though we must start with the basics, and that’s what this “course” will be covering. That will be explained more to you when I post the first of FF 101 series.

PS. I'll work on formating a bit more when I get some time. Sorry, it's just really early right now. Other than formatting I would really like to help answer questions. If you have some, leave them. I'm really busy today so may not get to them right away, but there seem to be some other people that can help you around these here parts.

Comments

steve sharik

August 12th, 2010 at 7:41 AM ^

...a couple things:

  1. We will still play a lot of under and over fronts like last year.
  2. When we do go 3-3-5 we will be slanting or angling the DL.

I don't forsee us playing 3-3-5 with no line movement and no blitzes.

truewarrior25

August 13th, 2010 at 5:44 AM ^

Your absolutely right steve... I have had the opportunity to work with Rocky Long(D coordinator at San Diego State) who runs a 3-3-5. It's important to note that there are MANY variations of it. It's really just a way of getting a personnel grouping onto the field that maximizes your talent. At SDSU they run a 3-3-5 which consists of your 3 DL(DE, nose,DE), 3Lbs (Sam, Mike, Will), 2CBS, 2 Warriors( two safety type players), 1Aztec position( Lb/safety hybrid) who actually plays over the top.... The defense has a vast amount of presnap movement and always has players blitzing... It is the only way this defense can be effective. Often the sam or will roll up and come off the edge. His vacant spot is simply replaced by the aztec player. In all my time with coach long I have never seen them simply align in a 3-3-5 stack and simply drop into a cover 3 with nobody blitzing.... Pressure is always coming and can be extremely difficult to pick up. This defense can give pass protections some serious fits. This is an attacking style defense which should force turnovers but is also succeptible to the big play... Should be fun to watch! Go blue!

RichRodFollower

August 12th, 2010 at 7:46 AM ^

Based on what how I'm looking at your diagrams:  Can we expect to see our corners playing almost ten yards off the line of scrimmage consistently?  I don't have the tactical football mind of some, but I am concerned about that quick pass out to the WR that always seemed to go for a first down last year.  Thanks...

steve sharik

August 12th, 2010 at 7:54 AM ^

...we play press and bail technique with the corners, the quick hitch is open all day long against Cover 3.  (Even then the hitch is there but press alignment tells both QB and WR pre-snap not to throw a hitch.)  Hopefully when we play vanilla Cover 3, we play our corners at 7 yards and in a controlled backpedal so they can tackle the WR before he can get YAC and hold them to a 6-yard gain, best case scenario.

Space Coyote

August 12th, 2010 at 8:54 AM ^

It is important to note that this is just a base set.  Most teams base set would be something like a cover 2, which has it's own weaknesses.  We won't actually be running this every down.  That being said, yes, the corners will be at around 7-9 yards deep, however, because they are already at this depth it is not required for them to "bail out" to get to their zone.  Seeing anything quick they should be able to immediately break on it with out as much fear of getting beat deep.  Also, the Spur and Bandit are highly responsible for the flats in this case.  They typically stand about 3-4 yards off the last offensive player on the line (tackle or tight end) and 3-4 yards off the line of scrimmage.  Because they have D-Gap responsibility in the run anyway, they can afford to commit to any action going quick outside.

steve sharik

August 12th, 2010 at 9:14 AM ^

...like Spur/Bandit for a long time, and they are "run first" players.  On run action to their flank, they must close and not just take away the outside, they must also close distance so the ball carrier must radically change direction, either with a sharp cutback or a severe bounce outside.  Either way, the Spur/Bandit must pop his feet at the snap to read his keys, which are EMLOS (end man on the line of scrimmage) to near back.  Upon seeing the high hat of the OT, he can then buzz to the flat.  The read steps (popping of the feet) will not allow him to get to the reception point on a quick hitch or out.  To take away either requires that they spend a lot of practice time getting in the throwing lane.  And if they do that, then the slant is wide open.

Space Coyote

August 12th, 2010 at 10:08 AM ^

I stand corrected.  I haven't personally run it, all I've gotten from it is chalk talk and papers and stuff, and what they say can be done often differs from reality.  The keys are the same as I listed, but the experience running it is something I can't contend with.  Thanks for the input and answering any questions you may answer, it's a big help.

stubob

August 12th, 2010 at 10:07 AM ^

Thanks for the great work, it's enlightening to see it without 22 bodies flying around at once.  But I'm a little worried.  Pretending the offense does a zone blocking scheme from the I-formation in the first diagram, LG blocks N, C block M (downfield), RG blocks S (downfield), and RT blocks T inside or outside.  That leaves the FB and Y looking for someone, either W or $.  Any way you look at it, there's a lot of ground to be gained as the second level moves around to get into position to make a play.  The strength of the defense isn't up the middle, but the assignments look like that's where they're moving the play.

It looks to me like you're left with B, W and the two C's to make a play.  As we saw last year, if those guys move too quickly in the wrong direction, there's not much left to stop them (I have nightmares of Pryor running a zone-read).  I get the idea that every player has a lane assignment, and that helps them understand what they will do, but it just looks like the offense has an advantage based on the number of players on the line.

What's the advantage to moving the N away from the play?  It seems like he's making the blocking easier for the O-line by not being in the A-gap right away.

Kilgore Trout

August 12th, 2010 at 10:49 AM ^

From my amateur perspective, this looks more like 3-5-3 in practice than 3-3-5.  Not that it really matters, but that makes more sense to me to think of it that way.  So there are 3 guys on the line who are always going forward, 3 guys in the back who are always in coverage, and 5 guys in the middle who do a little of both, depending on the play. 

HailGoBlue86

August 12th, 2010 at 11:29 AM ^

Great post thanks for sharing this. I can just imagine what a athlete like Josh Furman could do in the future playing the spur or bandit coming off the edge on blitzes or shutting down tight end and slot receiver routes in the flat.

ituralde

August 12th, 2010 at 2:21 PM ^

The way they have been talking about it, it sounds that you are going to see Craig Roh in more of a hybrid DE role.  What would that then look like under that situation?

I had thought you'd have the DE lined up outside the RT, the NT shifted at C/RG, T at LG and Roh outside the LT.  What would the rest of the defense look like in that instance?

Moleskyn

August 12th, 2010 at 5:10 PM ^

I can never keep these straight. Who are the guys likely to play these positions for us this year? I know it sounds like Roh is going to play one of them, along with Kovacs?