Wednesday, June 23, 2010

3x1 Formations- Defending the Open Side

In my original post on Split-Safety coverage I outlined a simple system in the 4-2-5 for handling trips formations. The base adjustment is solo. This coverage locks the away side into solo coverage and allows the read side to defend the trips with a variety of options. This is the preferred way to defending the trips side of the formation. However, like any coverage, if you sit in it too long the offense will eventually attack the open side. Solo coverage is most vulnerable to the single receiver side. That is where special coverage comes into play.

Special is designed to create games and options on the single WR side. In this post, I will cover some of the coverage options that can be used have to defend routes to the single WR.


The first and most basic coverage to the open side would be "bracket." This coverage allows the WS to be in a position to aggressively force the ball on the run and take away the quick and intermediate routes of the #1 WR on pass plays.

The corner is man to man soft over #1. His rule is DGBD...Don't get beat deep. He has #1 and he needs to be able to defend the fade, post, corner, and skinny. The WS upon reading pass needs to work into a trail position on the WR. From this position he is man to man on any inside, outside, or stopping route by the WR. The linebacker will have the back man to man.

During the release phase the WS must work into a trail position. Versus a comeback route the WS should be in the proper position to take this route away.

Also, Versus a post, the WS and corner should have the WR on a high-low with no place for the QB to put the football.


Trail Coverage is the reverse of bracket. The corner will align outside and deny any outside releases by the WR. After the initial release the corner will work in a trail position, and is responsible for any quick, intermediate inside/outside cut bt the WR. The WS is soft man over #1 with DGBD responsibility.

This is a great change up and can easily be mistaken for solo coverage. This will be confusing to quarterbacks. Trail coverage on the dig route looks like this.


The final option I will discuss will be simple 1/2's coverage. 1/2's coverages is a great change up on the open side. It changes up the run force to that side, allows the corner to sit and have interception chances, and keeps the backer from having to run with the running back to the flat. The only situation where the the backer would have the back man to man is on a deep release. I am not going to go into too much detail here, there is plenty of discussion and videos on playing halves coverage. Brophy especially has some good resources on running this coverage versus, multiple sets.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Defending Tight Bunch Formations

Bunch formations cause problems for defenses that are not prepared for them. When receivers reduce their splits in respect to one another it usually means that some time of pick or exchange route is about to occur. The split reduction is problematic for the defense for multiple reasons. First, you can't run press-man on both WR's. Alignment won't allow you to. Also, to run straight man against reduced splits is suicide. The offense will pick you off and open-up a WR to the inside or outside. Because of this threat, defenses have to stay in pure-zone or combo-man coverage.

The blitzology blog had a recent post to deal with these types of sets. The coverage techniques that are explained are excellent and identical to what I would do versus those particular sets. Especially the coverage that is explained about wide bunch. In 4-2-5 terminology we call this coverage "TRIO" and man the SS on the #2 WR and play blue coverage on the #1 and #3 WR's with the corner and free-safety.

However, versus tight-bunch formations this coverage adjustment is not as sound. The tight-bunch formation is displayed below:

This formation can be used to attack you with the pass just as easily as the run. The formation is very similar to a formation with a TE and two wing backs to the same side. So the first priority to defending this set is to align the defense in a way that prevents it from letting the ball get to outside. If you play normal "trio" coverage versus tight-bunch formations, you are not going to have a player in a position to force the ball inside. This concept is paramount versus this formation, because it is so easy for the offense to wall-off the interior players.


The adjustment of choice is "3-way". (This is a different use of the term 3-way then what I discussed in a previous post in respect to what Buddy Ryan called 3-way ). 3-way coverage seeks to allow for combo man principals to be in place, while at the same time establishing a force player to leverage the ball back inside. 3-way alignment looks like this.

This alignment puts the defense in a good position to play the run or the pass.


Versus the run 3-way places the SS in a position to force the ball inside. The corner is assigned play-pass responsibility, and the FS is a flat-foot read player that plays the alley aggressively. The backer is cheated over to help on the outside running plays. The end also solidifies the integrity of the defense by forcing one of the bunch WR's to block him on an outside run. The defense has 4 immediate players to defend the run against the 3 WR's the offense has to block. The offense has to leave one player unblocked on any outside running play. (The other posibilities are option (not a big problem, because the SS is in position to play the pitch) and the chance that the OT can scoop the backer. If this happens coverage adjustments are the least of your worries.)

If the Z WR blocks out on the SS, then the offense is in a lose-lose situation. They have to decide which player they want to team-off on. Either the FS or backer is going to be cut loose.


Against the pass the rules are easy. SS has the first man to the flat, if no attacks it, he sinks under the first WR outside. The Corner has the first deep route outside, he is going to pedal on the pass and read the WR's. The FS has the first man deep inside, his technique is essentially the same as the corners. If a deep receiver does not show in or out, then they play a "zone it" technique and help their partner. The diagrams that follow are examples of how the coverage will work versus various route combinations.

3-way coverages is simple to execute because it works off other coverage principals that are part of the 4-2-5 Defense. Other defenses can integrate this coverage into their schemes. The number one concern with implementing this coverage, is the ability of the force player (SS). This player needs to be strong enough to force the ball inside and agileenough to run with a wheel route.