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Strong Football by Coach CP

Strong Football by Coach CP: May 2009

This page has moved to a new address.

Strong Football by Coach CP

Strong Football by Coach CP: May 2009

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Miami Dolphins 4-3 Pt. 2

As mentioned in the first part of this series on the Miami 4-3 Defense, the short passing game in the West Coast Offense caused a great number of issues for the defenses. With a basic understanding of a couple of the fronts the 96 Dolphins 4-3 defense utilized, we shall go about understanding one of their coverages used to dominate the short passing game, "Cover 22". It is detailed below.

[Miami Base Cover 22]

(Sidenote: Click on the image to enlarge it. I would suggest opening it in a new window or tab.)

Cover 22 was is one of the first coverages listed in the Miami Dolphins 4-3 Defensive Playbook. It involves considerable pattern reading.

Corner Play
It utilizes outside leverage by the corner on the number one receiver to either side. This outside leverage is used to eliminate the possibility of the receiver getting an outside release, which would cause havoc for the safeties over the top who would be comprised by the potential distance between the sideline threat of #1 and any other deep receiver. When the corner "funnels" the receiver inside, he is also to sink with #1 receiver until another potential threat enters his Flat zone. Also, he is not all to cover any player under four yards until the quarterbacks eyes and shoulders indicate that the receiver in that zone is the new target. For instance, imagine the scenario shown below....

The squiggly lines indicate the drop the corner makes with the #1 receiver until the quarterback (not shown) makes eye and shoulder "contact" with the #2 receiver ("Y" or tight end) who is running the arrow route into the flat at a depth of 2-3 yards. Because of the shallow height in the route, the corner plays the #1, even though #2 is closer to the flat area. This area from the LOS to about 4 yards is often referred to as the "no cover" zone. The "no cover zone" is an area where the defense is willing to give up a short throw in order to cover deeper routes and make a physical play on the underneath routes, hopefully jarring the ball loose with a big collision. Also, if the Quarterback fails to put enough zip on the ball, the corner will likely have an opportunity for a big play interception.

The cornerbacks need to read "through" the #1 receiver to the #2 reciever and QB. If #2 goes flat, the corner needs to "feel" #1 and be ready for a curl, or perhaps a deep slant. Likewise, if #2 goes vertical, the corner needs to be ready for #1 to go vertical or sit. If he goes vertical, the corner needs to drop underneath with #1 until the flat is threatened. I'll save the #1 running a "sit" route for the end of this article.

Safety Play In The Miami 4-3 Defense

The safety aligns anywhere from 9-12 yards usually in cover 2, although this playbook specifically says 10 yards. The safeties will also align 3 yards outside the numbers. Note that the football field in the pro's is different from the college game, specifically the distance from the hash to the numbers. In high school and college ball, the safeties typically align 2 yards outside their respective hash.

The safety is responsible for their deep half of the field. This means they must stay deeper than the deepest. They need to be ready for any ball that is lofted over the head of a linebacker. They must also know the weaknesses in the defense. Understanding that the corner has the flat, there is a gap around 12 yards behind the corner on any given play. Also, there is a gap in the middle of the field (which would eventually lead to the Tampa 2, but that is for another article). The safety needs to read #2's route. If #2 goes vertical, he needs to read #1 for the same reasons listed above for the corner. If #1 goes vertical as well, the corner has a dillemna. 2 Verticals on his side probably dictates that there are at least 1 if not 2 verticals on the other side (the offensive play is call "Verticals, genius, isn't it?). That means the 2 safeties need to cover 4 deep routes. The underneath coverage players (corners and linebackers) should be helping with this problem. The outside linebackers force the #2 receivers inside to the safeties. The corners force #1 inside to the safety as well, compressing them. The safety then needs to sit on the top of most the players, and take away the easier throw, which will be the one to the inside, or the #2 vertical routes. He should have the athleticism to cover a throw to #1, and the ball will need to be lofted if the corners and linebackers are playing the receivers properly, creating a big play opportunity. As for the sit route, again, that will be covered later on in this article.

If #2 goes flat, the safety immediately looks to #1, ready to rob the (1) post, (2) dig,(3) or curl route. If #1 runs vertically up the field, he needs to keep inside position. If #2 continues up the field, pushing vertical after running flat, and #1 runs vertical as well, the safety treats it like 4 vertical, as described above. In this case though, the #1 and #2 receivers switched rolls, so #1 is now #2 and vice versa.

Outside Linebacker Play in the Miami 4-3 Over Defense

The outside linebackers have hook to curl to their respective side. This is an area that is about 5 yards from the LOS to about fourteen yards deep. In this zone, the linebacker is responsible for "walling" or, according to this playbook, "Buzzing and Jamming" the #2 receiver on a vertical release. As described earlier, this will force the #2 receiver inside to the safety, and compress the distance for the safety. Also, it prevents the receiver from running down the middle of the field. If the #2 receiver breaks inside after running vertically up the field, the linebacker needs to be ready to carry the post pattern through his zone and alert the other linebackers of the deep threat.

If #2 runs flat, the linebacker trails underneath #1, ready to rob the curl route and make a play on any slant route. If #2 starts to run vertical, the linebacker needs to make a "wheel" call, allerting the corner that the corner needs to adjust to the wheel, and the linebacker needs to take the curl route. If, for whatever reason, the linebackers and corners have a problem with this, the coaches can teach the linebacker to follow the #2 flat receiver if he pushes vertically, and the corner then takes #1's curl route. This would mean swapping responsibilities in coverage. In essence, the corner becomes the linebacker.

If #2 runs vertical, as described earlier, the linebacker needs to glance at #1. If #1 is pushing vertical, then the linebacker needs stay inside and underneath the #2 receiver. If the quarterback throws this ball, he will need to loft it over and to the outside of the receiver, and the safety will be in a great position to pick the ball off.

If #2 runs inside and runs a drag route, the linebacker needs to be ready to let #2 go and alert the other linebackers with a "drag" call. Understand this as the no cover zone principle, as it will likely be shallow. If this is the case, the linebacker should be ready for a dig by #1 coming across his zone. If the linebacker heres a drag call from another linebacker, he needs to be ready for the incoming receiver after he leaves the middle linebacker.

Inside Linebacker Play in the Miami Over Front Defense

The inside linebacker has the duty of protecting the middle of the field, specifically working the strong hook zone. However, the direction of his initial drop is changeable, as the middle linebacker checks the #3 receiver, which may be the runningback. Which ever direction that player is aligned, or if they are in the backfield the direction of their route, will determine the linebacker's drop.

The linebacker is responsible for taking inside leverage and "walling" number 3 if they push vertical. This also applies to a tight end. If he works inside the outside linebacker and pushes vertical, the mike needs to take inside leverage on the route in a similar fashion to the outside linebacker's play vs #2 pushing vertical, as described above.

Normally, in cover 2, the inside linebacker is responsible for getting physical with any inside route (i.e drag) and knocking the receiver off coarse only if it will not take the middle likebacker out of his zone or won't make him overextend and get off balance. If the middle linebacker sees an inside route, he needs to alert the outside linebacker and potentially the corner who are in the direction of the receiver.

However, in Cover 22 for the Dolphins, this linebacker carries the crosser. That means he will lock on to the underneath route, unless someone gives him an over call, indicating they can handle the player without zone conflicts. This is a interesting coaching point, because it will eliminate this weakness, but at the same time it will make the overall coverage more vunerable to a post route, dig, or other inside route by #2.

If this linebacker also needs to be prepared versus trips sets. In trips, he will be moving to the #3 receiver as the coverage rules dictate. If #2 runs an outside route, lets say an "out" (clever, aren't I), and the #3 receiver runs an arrow into the flat, the Mike and the rest of the defenders should recognize this as a flood play. The Mike will move to the curl area then underneath #1. The corner would take the flat arrow route by #3, and the outside linebacker would cover the #2 receiver.
Smash and China Combination


The Smash and China are route combination concepts for the offense that are designed to outman the cover 2 or the Dolphin's Cover 22 based off working deep routes into areas the coverage should not be covering or would be significantly weak against.

["Smash" with ball thrown to "Z" (#1 Stop Route) vs Cover 22]

Smash is a combination that has #2 running a deep corner or post-corner route. The #1 receiver runs a "stop" or short hook route that stops at about four yards, and pushes the corner to the outside. Occasionally, this can be combined with a very shallow flat route by the #3 receiver. In order to stop this play, the defense must follow their rules. If #2 pushes vertical, the outside linebacker needs to wall him off. When the corner sees this, and he sees that #1 stopped, he needs to drop with #2 and help underneath. The safety takes the deep route, and can't be caught flat footed or guess on the first move. He needs to be ready for the break to the outside by the "Y" or #2. If the QB turns his should and head to number one, the corner needs to be ready to break on the stop route, along with the linebacker. The safety needs to stay disciplined and cover the deep route until the ball is in the air. If the ball is thrown to the #2 receiver running the post-corner, the corner needs to turn his hips and get underneath the ball. The linebacker needs to take a proper pursuit angle and the safety needs to be ready to break up the pass. Overall, as a defense, the group needs to understand the weaknesses of the coverage. Understanding the weaknesses will help in teaching the pattern reading concepts, because the defense will know how the offense will likely attack them in this coverage.
["Smash" with ball thrown to "Y" (#2 Post-Corner Route) vs Cover 22]

China is a similar concept. #2 pushes vertical running the corner or post-corner. #1 runs the stop, but as he is coming out of his break he almost turns it into a slat/drag route. This is used to stop teams that have outside linebackers who settle underneath the #1 sit route, because if they do the receiver will run right behind the coverage to the area between the outside linebacker and the middle linebacker. This gap will be increased vertically because the safety and corner are handling the post-corner route, so if a quick receiver runs this route, it can be deadly if the defense does not play it properly. Also, if the route is mirrored or run on both sides of a 2x2 set (2 receivers running the combination on each side) if the Mike is influenced (by #3) or chooses to help one side and the QB throws to the other, the offense has big play potential. Proper communication is critical to stopping this play. Players cannot be overly aggressive and must take proper angles. The corner has to help the OLB and the Mike by keeping an eye on #1 as he drops to prevent the deep throw to #2, as described in the smash route above.

["Smash" on the Left and "China" on the Right vs Dolphins Cover 22]

(Sidenote: The Mike is influenced by the flat route by the runningback. This is Smash to the left and China to the right. The #1 receiver, "z", catches the ball infront of the outside linebacker and corner who are caught off guard and he takes it to the house unless the free safety turns around. I forgot to draw his line. Either way, its a huge gain.)


I hope you guys enjoyed this article. It does not give full detail on pattern reading but it is enough to get by. I hope you enjoyed it. Of coarse, if you have questions, ask me or leave a comment.

You can read part 1 on the Miami 4-3 Defense by clicking here!

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Miami Dolphins 4-3 Defense Pt. 1

Please Note: Part 2 of the Miami 4-3 Defense is Available, Click Here For It

Dear Readers,

Following the 80's rage on the 3-4 and 46 defenses, offenses found ways to protect the passer and attack the opponent through the air with the spread of the "west coast offense" in the early to mid 90's. In order to defeat opponents that used this offense which threw short, high percentage passes first in order to open up the running game, the Over 4-3 (or Miami 4-3) defense came about. This will begin a 3 part series on the defense, starting with the 1996 Miami Dolphins Defense. This part of the series will include a few posts.
Before getting into great detail, an understanding of the base look is required. The Miami Dolphins 4-3 Defense looked like this:

So what do we have?

In "Base", from left to right, we have a 9 technique End, 3 tech Tackle, a 1 Tech Tackle, and a 5 tech End. Compare this to "Base 7", which moves the former 9 tech in base to a 7 technique, and the Sam goes from a 50 tech (or 5 tech as their playbook calls it), to a stack position on top of the end. The subtle change from a 9 tech to a 7 tech and a stack End/Sam combo changes the gap responsibility of these two players. Instead of playing the "D Gap to Alley", the End must control the "C Gap to Alley". What does that mean?

Playing inside shade on the tight end (7 tech) means the defensive end likely has to switch his down hand and back leg from the inside to the outside (hand/leg closest to the tight end). Also, stealing this detail from someone at (name yourself and I'll give ya credit), the inside foot thus being up in the 7 technique puts the defensive end in a better position to hold their ground if the tight end was to down block on the end.

This technique could be rather tricky for a defensive end who likes to play on the edge at the 9 technique. The 9 technique is supposed to own the outside half of the offensive EMOLOS (usually the tight end). A lot of teams will put a smaller defensive end here with speed. A player like this can quickly rush the passer, maintain outside leverage on an outside fast flow run (like Stretch), and close the distance on a fullback and tight end down block, while also putting the end in a good position to wrong arm any kickout block, forcing the play to the outside. Furthermore, this player is not used to the double team by big linemen, if anyone for that matter. Compare this to the 7 technique end, who is not playing in space, must take on a down block or double team, must split or hold the double team at the LOS, and must not get reached by a tackle. Quite a different ball game.
(Sidenote: Please understand that I'm not saying the 9 tech in this defense is in a great position to take on a kick out, its just something he doesn't have to do in a 7 tech very often.)
And this is all for the defensive end! Now imagine the difference for the Sam linebacker. The SAM linebacker, when playing in "Base" with a 9 technique End, owns the C gap. The Sam has to play an offensive tackle and scrape to the alley on any outside play. That means he has to close the window in the C Gap, and once the offensive play bounces outside with little to no likely hood of a cut back into that gap, he must be ready to help the end by approaching the ball carrier from the inside out. Again, contrast this against "Base 7", which means the Sam now takes the responsibilities of the former 9 technique defensive end. The sam now has to wrong arm kickouts, cannot get reached, and likely make a play in space.

So... why?

More exactly, why have two base defenses that changes the whole fabric of your perimeter defense to the strong side?

There are some advantages to running both schemes. These are just a few, if you can think of more, leave a comment, I will name a few since its nearly 3 AM. One (1), better pass rush lane off the edge. Two (2) lets say you know you have a playmaker at defensive end who knows how to play in space, but gets burnt out quickly or tends to be a little bit to aggressive. A great switch up to this is "Base 7". You take out that 9 technique end and put in a slightly undersized 3 technique, or a larger end on your roster who can take on the double teams but may not have the athletism or attributes to play on the edge consistently. He can help you protect your Mike linebacker though, which takes us to number three (3). The Mike is free to roam to the playside in "Base 7". Okay, yes he still has to take on any junk your DL allows through (which, if they're worth their weight in salt, won't happen as they make a pile or they'll split the double team and make the play themselves), and take on the A Gap. In "Base", the Sam can take on blockers in space, which can be an advantage if their line is poor or your Sam has a great block dominating ability. Also, unlike with the 7 technique, the Sam won't face a double team at linebacker depth, which could mean its easier to defend the C gap. And finally, the 4th advantage of running both schemes, (4) if we get power to the strong side of the formation, the offense will be in a bind versus a 7 technique, compared to a 9 technique which they are salivating for.

4-3 Defense versus the I formation Power Play

This leads to the "Power" or "Power-O" dillemna. Power causes a lot of problems for the 4-3 Over defense, particullary the breed in the mid 90's. With a 9 technique, the end, while he may force the play to the outside as he spills the fullback, has a lot of area to cover. In order to prevent the offense from hitting the gap between him and the 3 technique tackle, he has to recognize the play immediately and properly blow it up at the right time. If he doesn't, power will likely be an effective play against this defense.

[Miami "Base" Cover 2 vs I Formation Power Play]

(This picture shows how the 9 technique (Bull in this case) takes on the full back but leaves just enough of a seam for the running back to hit through the hole. Though it would be congested, thanks to the ability of this play to hit surpsingly quickly, the runningback would spring it to the secondary support at the safety level)
The offense will try one of two things with power versus a 7 technique. (1) Let the End go and try to kick out the 7 tech, which out numbers them as he will still spill it to the outside with a wrong arm technique, and there our Sam will wait (because the guard will likely get caught in the trash caused by the fullback and 7 tech). (2) (most likely) They could double the 7 technique with the tight end and tackle, letting your 3 tech take on the guard by himself, (great matchup) or they could double the 3 technique, and the let the tight end take on the 7 technique (if your playing a strong linemen like mentioned earlier, also a great matchup). With the pulling backside guard, the Mike will step briefly to playside A, see the puller and fullback, and make is way to the C/D gap, where the Sam will be spilling the play to the outside. The Mike should have a free run (if your 7 tech holds the Tackle/Tight End double team fairly well) where he could potentially make the tackle, and at worst be in a great position to take on the guard with a rip move working to the ball carrier from the inside out and forcing him to the sideline. Notice in the picture below how much further the ball carrier is forced to go outside, to the hard secondary support, which is the corner who has force or contain. Finally, If my history proves right, that Mike should have been Zach Thomas, who I believe was a rookie and a pro bowl alternate that season even though he was a 5th round pick, and very undersized and relatively slow.
[Miami "Base 7" Cover 2 vs I Formation Power Play]

(Sidenote: For those who are wondering what exactly allows the Mike to forgo his A gap responsibility versus Power Strong Side out of this defense. When the backside guard pulls, the Backside B gap disappears with him. Thus, the Nose (N) or 1 Technique Tackle, who has backside A gap, covers all that space from the center to the weakside tackle. The Will linebacker thus "bumps" his gap forward, as does the Mike. Once the Mike sees the pull, he should make his intentions clear with a call (i.e. pull, bump, slide...) to the Will, or Hawk (H) in Diagram, incase he doesn't see it. The Will/Hawk will then flow to the playside A gap ready for potential cutback, and Mike will follow backfield and guard flow to the ball, which will take him past a guard/tackle double team on the 3. I leave the blocking line out, but they would be forced to go to the Will/Hawk in this synopsis.)
Okay guys, I hope you enjoyed this first piece explaining the base defenses of the Miami Dolphins and what their differences were, and the reasons behind running both of them. There are more intricacies than what I listed based off coverage or other factors. If you want to discuss, feel free. I'll comment back. If you have a question about a different aspect of the front, comment.

You Can Read Part 2 Here

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Black Defense

Dear readers,

This blog started as I continue my research on the darkside, aka defensive football. Understanding that teaching fosters one's learning, I decided to do a blog that will help me understand the "other" side of the ball.

As for the reasons for the title, add black to my team's primary color (blue) and it equals a heck of a lot of pain for the opponent. When I envision a terrific defense, I see one that makes an offense bleed and scrape to get every yard. I see ball carriers getting beaten before they get past the line of scrimmage. That is a menacing defense for me.

Finally, I hope you will stick around and we can share with one another. I plan on learning way more from you guys in your comments and critiques than I do from my research. I will focus primarily on the 4-3/4-4 looks, since that is what we will primarily run this year. But that doesn't mean I won't post other things that perk my interest. If there is a subject you really want to discuss on here, shoot me a comment or message on this thing.

Coach Pete

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