Thursday, March 10, 2011

Stopping the Power Running Offense with the 4-2-5 Part II: Double Tight I

In this part, I will look at run fits and alignments versus Double Tight I formations. These are not hard fast rules and techniques. These are not always ideal given the talent or distribution of your players. This is just a base to work from that works the majority of the years. If you want more detail on basic alignment, look at this post.


The call is TITE-2 SKY. The front can set the strength either way, the ideal situation is to have it set towards the WR side. However, you can't always count on that; motion will have jumping and shifting all over the place. The read side is normal, nothing has changed. The FS, SS, Corner, and front align like they versus regular pro-I. The away-side is where things change. The WS shifts to a tighter alignment (anywhere from 1x1 to 5x5; it really depends on the player) angled in 45 degrees. He is the force player. The corner is aligned 4-6 yards behind the DE. Finally the nose shifts to an inside shade on the guard versus the TE. (You could put the corner in force alignment and stack the WS behind the DE, all you would need to tag is TITE-2 Cloud)

The big change here is the play of the corner. The corner is pass conscious but as soon as he gets his read he is into the run fit. If you don't like your corners playing like this, you could personnel another backer/safety into the game or just run cloud on the back side.

The corner has a flat foot read of the TE. If pass shows he has him up and in. If he is out the WS will play him and the corner will gain depth. On run he is a fill player. He works inside out on runs to, and plays the cutback on runs way. You can't let the TE worry the corner too much, you need him active into the run fit. He is essentially a player that has linebacker type run fits, with corner coverage responsibilities. Again, find which player is best at this role.

You really have to get the corner confidence in this technique. You don't want the offense running the ball right at you, with the corner over a nub TE running backwards worried about a TE beating him on deep ball. However, if its third and long and the offense is still in double tight I, then the corner should know that he is not needed in the run fit as much, and can play more pass conscious


Isolation plays create an EXTRA GAP. To remain sound versus this play, the Defense will need to either have a player 2-gap or involve a secondary player in the run fit. This is where the corner playing cutback comes into the picture. When defending the ISO an important thing to consider is how the backers leverage the fullback. Brophy wrote an article about Bo Pelini's defense, and specifically the lever/spill/lever concept. This is one way to treat run fits. I have become a believer in the linebacker making good contact head up to across, and letting the other backer and cutback player, fill where needed. Carl Pelini mentioned the concept at clinic. He explained that offenses were getting better at scheming run-fits. To combat this his linebackers needed to change up the way they hit and leveraged fullbacks and other pullers.

In the diagram the Sam hits the fullback as close to LOS as possible. (If the backer cannot physically handle the fullback then cut him) The Mike will then fill off the Sam, and the corner will work to cutback. The FS will work downhill and fill off the linebacker. Finally the SS and WS will fold and play reverse to late pursuit. The FS and corner need to be aggressive about filling in the run. If the backers and D-line cannot stop the play themselves they should at least force the back to make a cut or two laterally, or cutback in the corner. Either way you want the FS/corner making a play on the back as close to the LOS as possible. If you allow the RB to get out of the hole and into open area at all, you corner/FS is stuck in an open field tackle situation. You are lucky to win those 70% of the time. Getting a tackle made close to the LOS is a higher percentage play.

A Side Note

Do you play the secondary this aggressively every play? No. You don't even do it every 1st down situation. You should do it a good amount of the time, but you need to mix in some more conservative pass coverages to keep the offense from play-passing you to death. In this particular call, the secondary should be alert to the game-plan, and that they need to be aggressive run players.


These fits apply to the counter GT and power plays. When planning for these types of plays, I try to simply them down into a concept for my players. So for simplicity I call these kick-seal plays. The PSDE will spill the ball (wrong arm the puller); he does not need to go to the ground just work inside the kick man. If this is done correctly the back will have to bounce the play a gap wider. Hopefully, the spill will deter the sealer and allow the backer to scrape off of the spilled kick player free to make the play. If the sealer works around the spill then the backer will need to fit up on him. The Mike needs to attack the sealer close to spill and rip across him. This action will turn the lineman's body and cloud the running lane for the back. The back will have to change direction to try to cut up in the small hole between the kicker and sealer or continue to bounce at an angle that's vulnerable to pursuit. The backs vision is clouded by having the backer rip across and turn the corner on the seal man.

The corner will work off the back. If he bounces or takes the inside route the corner needs to fly in there and fill. The back-side backer needs to avoid the double team on the nose. In circumstances like this I like this backer to work behind the double team and make the play in the backfield. (If the double team pushes the nose lateral, then the best thing for the Sam to do is work over the top.) Many times kick-seal scheme are stopped by the back side linebacker running through. Its hard for the offense to account for him. Ask O-line coaches that run the counter about it, they will tell you that the back side backer is the biggest problem for them.

On the backside of the D, the SS works to play reverse to late pursuit, and the FS will work and look for any cutback.


The linemen can't get reached or put on the ground. The tackle, nose and BSDE need to work laterally down the line. The SS sets the edge at a good leverage angle and forces the back to cutback or bounce outside at an angle vulnerable to pursuit.

The play of the PSDE on the TE is key. If the O-line works a full zone like the picture above he needs to push vertical on the TE and stay square on him. He works in this position until he sees the O-tackle release inside. When this happens he can become a c-gap player again. If the tackle keeps working with the TE on him, he needs to slowly work to the D-gap and let the backer worry about the back cutting back inside. The Sam has to be similarly alert to a full zone. He needs to work to a position behind the DE. if he sees the DE work inside to the C, he works around him and the TE and fills.

The FS fills the alley inside out. If the defense executes these assignments there should be nowhere for the back to go. Two players should be hitting the hole unblocked. If the TE happens to work down and block the Sam, then the DE will be free to make play along with the FS.


Again there are different ways to do things, these are the way I like to play the power running game. It part III I will look at defending unbalanced and 3-back running formations. If any of you reading want me to look at some other formations and plays leave a comment and I will try to fit it in.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Stopping the Power Running Offense with the 4-2-5 Part I: Principals

This is part I in a multi-part series. (Not sure how many yet.) In this part I will cover the basic principals to stopping the power running game with the 4-2-5. In part II, I will look at alignments and run fits/techniques versus double tight-I. In the part(s) I will cover unbalanced formations and adjustments like "Flip" and getting the safeties on the LOS to form solid fronts. (ie 4-3 under looks)

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.

Defensive Strategy

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.