Thursday, August 1, 2013

I can't believe I have to write this....

To the person who posted the racial slur in the comment section of the Green Bay Packer's Nickel package post. Football player is a label that transcends all other labels: race, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, etc. If there was ever a place that most embodies Dr. Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech it is on the football field. You are judged by your play. I have said many times to my players "Whoever you are, put it on film.". That is how football players are defined. I have erased your comment. I have changed the settings on comments to insure that every comment is now approved before going up on the site.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Torch: Lighting Up the Offense with a Read Twist

Twists can be used to great effect in disrupting an offense. Unfortunately, twists can also create gap control/pass rush lane issues for the defense. When a twist is called to the right place at the right time the result is defensive success. The challenge is getting the twist to the right place the highest percentage of the time. One solution is to have the defensive linemen read the twist to determine who will penetrate and who will loop. Torch is a read twist by the interior defensive linemen. TORCH stands for Tackles Read the Center. The DT's can be aligned in a heavy 3 and 2i, 2 head up 2's or in 2 inside shade 2i's to run the twist. Both DT's step initially inside and read the block of the center.

The rules are:
  • If the center blocks away from you - Penetrate
  • If the center blocks toward you - Loop
Here the center is blocking toward the Tackle and away from the Nose. The Nose reads the center blocking away and continues to penetrate to the opposite A gap. The Tackle has the center blocking toward him and will use his hands on the center then loop over the top of the penetrating Nose.
Here the Tackle reads the center away and penetrates. The Nose reads the center blocking toward and loops.

Torch is an effective pass rush stunt. 

When the center pass sets toward the Nose the Tackle becomes the penetrator. This is a 1 on 1 inside pass rush against the guard for the Tackle. The initial inside step by the Nose holds the center's attention and prevents help by the center on the penetrator. Our Tackles beat the guard's block in this situation a percentage of the time. The rest of the time the Tackle's penetration disrupts the QB's footwork. The QB has difficulty stepping up into the throw when the penetrator is on the midline. If the QB does not attempt to step up, the contain rushing DE's have a great opportunity to collapse the pocket. Often the QB's most viable option is to slide in the pocket away from the penetration.
 The QB feels open space to step into a throw or to use as an escape lane. As the QB slides into the open space the Nose loops into the same space and pressures the passer.
When the center pass sets to the Tackle typically the offense is in some form of slide protection. The Nose now has the 1 on 1 inside pass rush. The Tackle will loop and apply late pressure on the QB as he slides in the pocket away from the penetration.

Torch is also good against the run.
Against power the center will always block back away from the play. Therefore, the looping DT will always be looping into the play. The play side offensive tackle is combo-ing to the backside ILB and is not looking for a looping DT. We have also had success against power with the penetrator disrupting the path of the pulling guard. Torch is similarly effective against any other gap scheme play with down blocks and a puller (Counter, Trap, Pin&Pull Stretch or Toss, the Wing-T, etc.) 

Against zone blocking the center will block play side. The penetration forces the running back to cut back directly into the looper. 

Torch is effective vs. the run and the pass. The negative is the investment time to get good at running it. One simple drill we use to teach Torch requires two DT's, a coach/player , two garbage cans, and a hand shield.
The coach lines up as the center holding the hand shield. The garbage cans stand in as guards. The Tackle and Nose react to the movement of the hand shield as the ball. The DT's take their initial step then either penetrate or loop. In the first reps of the drill, I tell the DL where I am going to step. They know pre-snap if they are a looper or a penetrator. The focus on the reps where the DL know what is going to happen is the technique of the twist. Both DL must focus on get-off. When DL are first taught the Torch concept in install meeting they often equate reading the block with slow off the ball. We work hard to make sure they react to the ball and re-establish the L.O.S. on their first step when Torch is called. The other coaching point for the penetrator is to get to an aiming point in the opposite A gap. For the looper the key is to shock the hand shield and use great block shed technique before looping. The center is stepping toward you to block you. You must shock & shed before your loop. 
Once we get everyone reps where they know pre-snap what they are going to do, we transition into the DT's  not knowing where the center will block. The DT's must now react to the center while maintaining great technique as in the early reps. I like to put a player at center on these reps. The drill is simple and very rapid fire. Every DT can get a bunch of reps in a 5 minute period of practice. 

Our defensive tackles have taken a great deal of ownership in Torch. I think they feel it is "THEIR" call in the same way a linebacker feels about a blitz. Torch is a nice addition to your arsenal if you are looking for a way to twist to the right place more often.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Equipment Review

This past season we used our new pass rush equipment. We purchased a set of 4 Rogers Titan pop-up dummies.

The pop-ups have been great and held up very well. They are by far the best pop-ups I have ever used. Buying the set of four has allowed our defense to expand our arsenal of pass rush drills. Other position groups like the DB's are putting them to work as well. We throw to the pop-up as if it is a receiver and the DB breaks on the ball. This allows us to work very aggressive drills even without pads while limiting the risk of injury. We also purchased the attachable QB arms.

I was skeptical of the QB arms. I have not had good experiences with this type of product in the past. However, I have been pleasantly surprised with the arms. The attachment to the pop-up is sturdy and has had no problems with sagging (which was a problem with other arm attachments I have used in the past). The durability is good and the arms held up better than expected throughout the season. 

Next, season we are adding the bullet arms.

I have a bunch of pass rush drills that I can't wait to try out with the bullet arms. If they work out as well as the pop-ups they will have been a good investment.  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Simple Adjustable 4-2-5 Zone Blitz vs. Spread Offenses

The 4-2-5 has evolved from two places the 4-4 and the 4-3 nickel sub package. The 4-4 background of the 4-2-5 provides great solutions for loading the box to stop the run as well as dealing with two back formations. When dealing with spread formations however, it is often helpful to draw on the 4-3 nickel roots of the 4-2-5. The following zone blitz comes directly from traditional 4-3 thinking.

Blitz terms defined:
Boss - Backer or SS blitz
Boss Back - Backer or SS to the back blitzes
Boss Bob - Backer or SS opposite the back blitzes

Coverage Terms defined:
Back Spin - Safety to the back Spins down to the Seam
Bob Spin - Safety opposite the back Spins down to the Seam

This naming system is built similarly to the TCU concept of building sentences.

G tells the Nose to align in a 2i

Tag - Tackle move to A gap

Boss - The Backer or SS aligned to the back blitzes. In this case the SS is the blitzer. The SS must make a "Fire" call to tell the End to his side to go inside. The Backer who is aligned away from the back has the Seam.

Back Spin - The high safety to the Back spins down to the Seam. The high safety away from the back has the middle 1/3

Spin - tells the Corners to play Tight 1/3 technique and the Mike to play the 3 Receiver Hook drop

Here is the same blitz vs. a 3x1 formation.
The only adjustments are the alignments of the inside linebackers. The Mike must widen his alignment to handle the 3RH drop. The Will can tighten his alignment to the core with no split #2 pass threat. The Will can now defend the open B gap opposite the blitz.

If the back is aligned to the Backer (Will) the backer is the blitzer and the SS is a Seam dropper. The Will backer must make a "Fire" call to the end to his side telling him to go inside. The high safeties know the spin is going to the back. The Weak Safety spins down to the Seam while the Free Safety rotates to the Middle 1/3.

In this example the blitz is now being run opposite the back (Bob = Blitz Opposite the Back). The Backer is opposite the back so the Will blitzes. The SS is aligned to the back making him a Seam dropper. The high safeties spin opposite the back.

Other situations that must be addressed with this type of variable blitz are:
1. Where is the blitz coming from if the offense does not have an offset back (pistol or under center)?
2. What to do if the offense moves the back? Can we reset the blitz or do we lock it on?

The Boss concept can also be used vs. TE sets.

In this example the blitz is being run to the Y or TE. All of the rules remain the same.

The naming structure of building sentences is designed for a wristband driven defense. This system allows the defensive coordinator the flexibility to have multiple variable blitzes on any given wristband. The Boss blitz can be used to bring pressure where ever the defense wants to bring it with a simple tag word.

Monday, February 20, 2012


What clinics have you attended/do you plan to attend this off-season? Have you seen any speakers that you really liked? Leave a comment.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Superbowl Preview Part II: New York Giants Blitz Package

Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell is not known as a blitzing coach. New York tends to utilize a four man pass rush but the Giant playbook does contain some nice blitzes.
Here the Giants are in a 4-2-5 Nickel personnel group running a weak side overload blitz.
  • LDE-Contain Rush
  • RDE-Loop to opposite A gap
  • LDT - Jab to A gap, Rush B Gap
  • RDT - Work to Contain Rush
  • Mike - Align in A gap, pop out an Man cover TE
  • Will - Align in A gap, rush A gap (Key blitz the RB)
  • S - Rotate pre-snap, Edge Blitz (Key blitz the RB)
  • S - Free
  • Corners & Nickel - Press Man
The key blitz concept by the Will and S is used to allow for both a 6 man pass rush and Man Free Coverage. Traditional 6 man blitzes require man to man coverage with no safety help because the defense must cover the 5 eligible receiving threats with the 5 non-rushing defenders. Most man free blitzes are 5 man rushes with 5 defenders in man coverage on the 5 eligible receivers and 1 free defender (commonly a safety) helping the man coverage players. The key rush allows the Will and Safety to share the responsibility for the RB. Whichever defender the RB steps to block has him in man coverage while the other continues to pass rush. Here is video of this blitz from New York's week 5 game against the Seahawks:

 The Seattle pass protection has 6 blockers for 6 pass rushers but the Giants still have a free rusher. How?
The Giants attack the protection first using a deep safety in the pressure. The offense does not readily identify Safety Dion Grant as a blitz threat allowing the Giants to create a 4 on 3 pass rush to the right side.

The Center becomes the most important player in the protection. If the Center helps to the defensive right the offense can pick up the pressure. The Giants maintain their 4 vs. 3 advantage by manipulating the blocking of the Center. By walking the Mike up toward the A gap, New York presents an immediate gap threat to the Center. To prevent the Center from helping to the blitz side once the Mike drops out the left DT jabs to the A gap. Now the Center feels an A gap threat and looks to help the Guard with the Left DT. Once the DT feels the help from the Center, he works back to the B gap. Because the Center is occupied the looping DE is left unblocked.
The pressure has added effectiveness because the blitzing Will linebacker engages with the right guard. The running back and guard end up blocking the Will leaving the Safety off the edge unblocked.
 Look for Perry Fewell to dial up a limited number of well designed and well executed blitzes vs. the Patriots in the Superbowl.

Be sure to check out the Patriots Superbowl blitz preview here.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Superbowl Preview: Bill Belichick's Blitz Package

Here a simple and devastatingly effective blitz concept employed by the Patriots in the AFC Championship game against the Ravens.

Normally I diagram the pressure before linking to video but I encourage you to watch the sack first. Why? Because this sack makes you scratch your head and ask how does a defender, walked up into the B gap, get a free run in an NFL game? Here's how:
The Patriots align in a Dime personnel grouping with 6 defensive backs vs. the 5 wide receiver set by the Ravens.
  • Ends - Contain Rush
  • Tackles - Align head up and rush the A gaps
  • Corners, Nickel, $, FS - Man to man coverage
  • Mike & SS - Read Blitz B gap
The Ravens have five potential pass blockers. It doesn't take great mathematical abilities to realize that if the defense brings 6 rushers there will be a defensive player unblocked. New England gets a free rusher while only rushing 5 by having the Mike and SS execute a read out blitz based on the slide of the protection.
The SS is reading the block of the Left Guard. If the LG blocks the DT the SS blitzes and is unblocked. That is both what is diagrammed here and what happened in the video clip. The Mike is reading the guard to his side as well. If the guard is stepping toward him he will drop out, looking to cover the hot route from the opposite side. The Mike knows where the hot route is coming from because the protection and hot routes are linked. The offense can pick up 3 rushers to the defensive right of the center with 3 blockers.

The Center can handle the A gap, the RG has any B gap rusher, and the RT can block an edge rusher. The offense knows it can block 3 rushers and therefore doesn't need to throw hot on the defensive right. On the defensive left however, the offense must throw hot because they can only block 2 rushers with the LG and LT. A third rusher to the defensive left cannot be accounted for by the protection. Therefore the Mike knows if the guard steps to his side the hot route is to the other side. What would have happened if the LG stepped to the SS instead?
The SS would have dropped out and cut the crosser from the opposite side. The SS knows if the Guard is blocking toward him the hot route is coming from the other side of the formation. The Mike would then have the free rush in the B gap.
Another factor in the success of this blitz is the Patriots utilization of a Dime package instead of a Nickel. The Patriots could have easily used an ILB in place of the SS and played a 4-2-5 personnel instead of a 4-1-6. The job of the SS position on the call is to blitz or cover a hot route both tasks a linebacker is capable of executing. The beauty of using a Dime package is there is only one linebacker (Mike). The offense is more likely to slide to the Mike linebacker than toward a SS. Bill Belichick is manipulating the pass protection by exploiting the offense's expectation of the SS's role on defense. A SS should be covering a receiver or a zone not walked up into the B gap to blitz.  
Where else can you find this pressure concept? In the Alabama playbook of former Bill Belichick assistant Nick Saban.
Simple effective blitz schemes like this are just one of the reasons Bill Belichick and Nick Saban have their teams in the championship hunt every year.

Be sure to check out a preview of the Giants Superbowl blitz package here.