How to Defend A Spread Passing Attack

I will present how we defend against a predominately pass spread offenseteam that runs just some zone read. The first thoughts in my mind are down and distance and where the ball is on the field. Our calls will change as the field become shorter, the score of the game and time left on the clock. I classify my thoughts in four general categories: A. Five in the box , B. Five and a half in the box, C. six in the box and D. seven in the box. We are a base Eagle team, so we will work from that front.
A. Boundary Cover 2 - We make this call when we are certain that our opponent will pass. This is a basic cover 2. We will jam #1 to the inside and #2 to the outside. We call this making an hourglass and we funnel everything to the safety. If #2 goes vertical our Cs will drive for depth. Our OLBs are jamming and carrying #2 vertical until they get a smash or an under call. They will then break off and play the hitch or under call. Our Mike backer plays the middle cylinder looking for #3 vertical or any crossers.
Cover 2
B. Boundary Cover 4 - The next thing we do is play a boundary cover 4. We will tell our OLBs to split the difference between the offensive tackle and the WR. The OLBs are at LB depth, about five yards deep. This might be a third and five call with the ball on the minus side of the field, lots of time on the clock and a close score. The OLBs are reading the OT now and we expect them to able to make plays in the box in the event of a run. If the OLBs are too far away he can give a clobber call to the DLine. This puts the DLine to the side of the clobber in the A Gap and the B gap. Only the OLB to the side of the RB is allowed to make a clobber call. This helps in case the QB decides to run. We also like to blitz from this look and will generally blitz to the offset RB. If the RB would change sides so would the blitz. The reason we like to do this is because most teams will send their center away from their RB or to a shade. We usually will set the shade away from the blitz and the RB. This gives us better odds that the center and the other big guys will be on that side. The Mike LB looks for screen/Draw. CBs have #1 M/M and the remaining safety has #2 to the side of the blitz M/M.
Cover 4
Safety Dog
C. The next thing we do is play an Eagle cover three front. We play two types of cover three. Regular cover 3 as we all know it and a Cover 3 Jam where we jam the #2 receivers to prevent them from going vertical. We will come off and play regular cover three if we get an under or smash call from our corner. We also like to angle our line away from the back so the LB to the RB side can play slower to the zone read. He would have the QB if he pulled the ball. This call is a good compromise when it is third and 5 and in four down territory. We would also think about a zone blitz at this time.
Cover 3
Zone Blitz
vs. Trips
The Sam, FS and Corner are all playing Cover 4. The Rover will take #3 if he goes vertical. The Backer will drop hook to curl. The Mike will drop straight down his hash if he is into the boundary.
D. Seven in the box. This would be a third and two call against a pass oriented team or a first and ten call against a team that is intent on running out the clock and we are behind.
We will call Double eagle and line up the way we did in the last article. The corners have #1 and the safeties have #2. In the event of a pass the LBs will drop for depth and width creating a wall not allowing anybody to cross their face.
It is my philosophy and the philosophy of many DCs to play as many in the box and still be successful. We also try to disguise as many coverages and blitzes as possible.
Jerry Gordon is currently the defensive coordinator at Potomac Falls High School in VA. He has previously coached on the staffs at Northeastern University, University of Massachusetts and Yale University. Jerry has also had articles published in Gridiron Coach Magazine and Personal Selling Power magazine.
He can be reached at: [email protected]

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