3-4 Cover 4 - Zone Blitz Look vsThe Spread Offense

The following defensive package versus a spread offense (in this case, a 2x2 shot gun set) is a nice look and scheme when a defense finds itself in a long yardage situation (say 7 yards or more), especially on third down.
 
The perfect scenario in the diagram below would give us a right handed quarterback who likes to throw to his right side (based on the scouting report and film study), and the offenses right side being the field or wide side, and the left side being the boundary or short side of the field.
 
 
 
 
As you see in the diagram above, we're in a 3-4 - Cover 4 (Cover 4 is also known as: quarter, quarter, half's coverage) alignment defensively. For reference, we call our three down-lineman:

Ends ( 2 E's)
Nose Guard (N)

Linebackers:
Will (Weakside backer)
Mike (Middle backer)
Sam (Strongside backer)
Buck (4th backer, aligns opposite Will)

Defensive backs:
Corners (2 C's)
Free Safety (1 FS) 
Strong Safety (1 SS)
 
Against the 2x2 (double twins) formation above, the defensive line call is a:

'Slant' call for the 3 down lineman, meaning they are slanting into the strong side gaps (slant = 'strong', or to strength, and angle call = away from strength, or 'weak'). In this case, we are declaring the right side of the offense (left side of the defense) strong, based on the wide side of the field and the off-set back in the backfield.
 
In this particular call, a Zone Blitz is being executed by the boundary defensive end {E} on the right. During a zone blitz, the defensive lineman wants to take one aggressive first step to briefly engage or 'tag' the offensive linemen, then they need to open up their hips and get to the zone area they are responsible for on the call.  On this particular call, they are getting to the 'curl' area to the boundary. Since defensive linemen are not schooled on playing zone coverage, one particular pointer to emphasis is to explain to them not to cover 'air or grass' in their zone, cover offensive players who will likely catch the ball.

The linebacker call is a:

'Mike/Will Go', a 'controlled' blitz from the two boundary side linebackers that want to try and time the snap so they have forward momentum. I use the word 'controlled' because based on the down and distance of the play at hand, this could either be a run blitz or a pass blitz, and the last thing you want to do is run by a run play because you blitzed 'out of control'.

This is a critical coaching point, especially at the young levels, being able to teach defensive players how to blitz 'under control' based on the down and distance and more importantly, the real time read of the play... pass or run.

A blitzer is useless if they run themselves past an inside run play (especially to their side) or a mobile quarterback on a pass.

The defensive backs and linebacker coverage call is:
Cover 4 (qtr/qtr/half's):
 
This coverage is a zone coverage that instructs the defensive backs (2 Corners, Buck, Sam, F, and SS) to do the following:
 
Field Corner (C) 1/4: The field corner is sinking at the snap and covering the deep quarter to the field (sideline to hash).
 
Free Safety (F) 1/4: The free safety is sinking at the snap and covering the 2nd deep quarter of to the field (hash to middle of field).
 
Strong Safety (SS) 1/2: The strong safety is sinking at the snap and covering the remaining deep half of the field to the boundary.
 
Buck: Buck is a space linebacker to the field, and he has 'curl to flat' repsonsibility versus pass. Buck has to attack hard inside/out versus any quick screen, flair pass to the back, or bubble screen.
 
Sam: Sam is 'sinking into the hole' at the snap, basically a zone area right in the middle of the field, roughly 8-10 yards from the line of scrimmage. Again, instruct Sam not to cover 'air or grass', but to look to wall off crossers and/or receivers looking to 'sit' in his zone.
 
Boundary Corner (C): The boundary corner is a flat defender, meaning he is sitting in the flat and will more than likely be defending somekind of flat route by the #2 receiver. This corner should keep his eyes in the backfield and continue to backpedal (gaining depth) until a flat threat arrives. In this technique, it allows him to help the SS defend any deep sideline throw (fade by #1) and helps tighten the sideline window on a smash route combination.

Hopefully this package is something you can use in defending the spread offense.

Keep spreading e'm (or defending e'm)!

--Mark
 

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