People new to the idea of using a 5 man secondary are skeptical, because it seems like it would be difficult to stop a power running team that uses bigger personnel. At times being smaller can put the D at a disadvantage, however, with proper game-planning and practice the 4-2-5 can become an excellent defense for stopping the power run.
I am going to cover some principals and show alignments with run fits versus different schemes. There are so many scenarios and play variations in football it would be impossible to cover them all. Understanding the principals and their applications to various formations in plays will put you on your way to using the 4-2-5 versus power running teams.
1. Align Properly
This is the most important aspect in defending any offense. It is important that you not only align soundly, but align in a manner that the offense is not sure what you are doing.
2. Spill and Overlap
When using a defense based on smaller faster players, you have to keep the ball moving laterally. Having the DE's wrong-arm plays is a must. You could try to squeeze or box pulling plays, but if you run into a team stronger than you, big holes are going to open up.
3. Attack the play before it develops.
There are many things that go into this. If I had to break it down into separate parts, I would say:
-Be Aggressive about getting people to the point of attack. (Be willing to play the secondary on the run more aggressively.)
-Don't let the back hit the hole running full speed. (This is why the spill and overlap concept is a big part)
- Force the back to either dance or make a quick decision into a free defender.
4. Play to win the down and distance game
The other principals are developed from this one. You ideally want the offense to go 3 and out. That can be difficult versus many of these offenses. The power running offense is predicated upon keeping the chains and clock moving. Before I get into the Down and Distance strategy for the defense, I will first look at the strategy for the offense.
Power Running Strategy
On first down the offense is happy getting 4 yards and into a second and medium situation. If they happen to get into a second and short situation they will be really happy. Second and short is the best down for the offense; this is where they will use play action passes and other plays with big play potential mixed in with enough running plays to keep the defense off balanced. If the offense ends up in 3rd and short, they are comfortable running any of their base plays. They feel they can get 4 yards at will with this offense. What they want to avoid at all costs is the dreaded 3rd and long. In this down they can't consistently rely upon their running plays to get the necessary yardage, nor can they utilize their play-action passing game effectively. The options they are usually left with are: 5-step passing, Sprint out passing, screens, draws, and a maybe a spread package. These things are outside the comfort zone of their offense. In short, the power run offense tries to avoid 3rd long more than other offensive systems.
The goal of the defense should be to get the power running offense into a 3rd and long situation. How is that accomplished. Simple by getting the offense to gain 2 yards or less on 1st and second down. OK, its not that simple, but that's the general idea. The best thing the defense can do is get the offense to gain 2 or less yards on 1st down. This will put the offense into second and long, again this is a down that the offense wants to avoid, because it makes 3rd and long a real possibility. The offense has pressure to move the ball on second and long.
The general point is, you want pressure on the offense on 2nd and 3rd down. To accomplish this, you have to be aggressive on 1st down. This is the down to be aggressive versus the run. Most power running teams are not going to go for a pass or play pass on 1st down (unless they feel its high percentage). Because an incomplete pass immediately puts pressure on the offense. They don't want to pass unless its high percentage.
The goal of the 4-2-5 versus power running teams is to get them into a 3rd and long situation.
5. Play to get 3 and outs early in the game rather than later in the game.
This is especially true if you have a decent offense on your team. If you get them to go 3 and out on its first 2-3 drives, while at the same time score 10 or more points, then you have put them in a bad position. 1st, they won't have enough plays run yet to be sure of their adjustments. 2nd, they will not be controlling clock, which is a big part of their scheme. 3rd, they will be playing catch up with a ball-control based offense. If they are down by 10 points or more, then they are gonna have to play more aggressive themselves, this usually leads to turnovers and even more mistakes because they are stuck doing something that they are not as comfortable doing as they are in the running game.
In the next part we will look at the application of these principals by using alignments and techniques versus the double tight I.