How To Defend The Spread Offense In Football

Defending the spread offense in football has become a difficult task. We have assembled what we feel is the best defensive playbook to get you on the path to successfully defending the spread offense at any level - Pop Warner to College.
We detail defensive alignments, responsibilities, stunts, and coverages out of the 3-3-5 stack.
When you think of defending the spread offense, your first thought is usually between the 20's where both the offense and defense have a lot of room to execute their respective attacks.
But what happens when your defense has to defend a spread look within the 5 yard line?, or what we call Goal Line Defense?
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.
These days you find a lot of spread offense teams at all levels of football using an empty formation. Defensively, teams find themselves having to decide whether to apply pressure by blitzing the quarterback or play a more conservative style of defense with more zone and less blitzing.
The following post shows a "50 front" odd defense against a classic spread offense look, twins/open or 'split' - two back - shot gun set. In a true '50' look, Will and Sam are line of scrimmage (LOS) players - some may call this a '3-4' look.
When defending a shot gun spread option offense that has both a run and pass threat, you need to apply enough pressure to 're-position' the line of scrimmage (LOS) against the run and at the same time, have solid pass coverage versus the pass.
In this article, I will present how we defend against a predominately pass team 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.
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When defending the spread option, the first thing we think about is what form of structure we want for our defense.  As all football progresses in cycles, what we are really defending is the triple option without a seal block.  The offense is trying to seal our LB by the action of the RB.  We choose to defend the spread attack using a 3-4 (5-2) defensive structure. We like this defense because it adds an extra athlete to match the athleticism of the offense. Read more by clicking the title above...
Three areas you need to be good at on the defensive side of the ball are:

  • Defensive Team Speed

  • Excellent Open Field Tacklers

  • Gap Responsibility and Pursuit Discipline
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