Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Recognizing Defenses, Part I

One of the things we'll work on with our offensive players this year is recognizing the defense.

In our offense, we have very specific blocking assignments for every play. Defenses can complicate these assignments by lining up in ways that our players don't expect. If the defense creates confusion about who is supposed to block whom, they've gone a long way toward ruining the play we are trying to run.

Some offenses use 'zone blocking' on the offensive line, which means the players don't have a specific defender they are blocking. Zone blocking requires blocking a specific space on the field, as opposed to a specific player. I think zone blocking is great if you have four or five great big snowplow linemen that can overwhelm your opponents.

We don't do that. We try to prepare our players for the most common systems they will see, and give them specific blocking assignments for those systems. We also execute certain procedures in the backfield designed to influence key defenders. We think that gives our blockers better opportunities to make good blocks. We believe that we end up with better blocking execution when players have very specific tasks, when they've been taught how to accomplish those tasks, and when we do everything we can to make those assignments achievable.

For the 3rd grade teams in our league, defenses are limited to five or fewer players on the line of scrimmage. Even given that limitation, last year we saw a 5-4-2 Oklahoma; a 5-2 Monster; a 5-3; and a 4-4... in the first four weeks of the season. For 4th grade, no such limit exists, so we are expecting a greater variety of defenses.

I believe that we will face a 5-4-2 Oklahoma; a 5-2 Monster; a 5-3; a 3-5 Stack; perhaps two different styles of 4-4 defenses; a 6-3; a 6-4; a Wide-tackle 6; and a Gap 8. I don't think that we will see the two popular NFL styles of defense, which are called 4-3 and 3-4, or a 7 Diamond Goal Line defense, but you never know. With two teams having eight games each, I wouldn't be surprised to see a dozen different defenses.

With all that, it seems like zone blocking would be the way to go, wouldn't it?

But with good defensive recognition, we can simplify every one of those defenses (and probably others I haven't named) to fit into one of five styles:

8 Odd
8 Even
7 Odd
7 Even
Goal Line

The number in front of four of the styles, 8 or 7, indicates how many primary run defenders are lined up on or near the line of scrimmage. The Odd or Even designation describes the number of linemen at the line of scrimmage.

If there are seven or eight or more down linemen (players crowding the line of scrimmage) the defense is a Goal Line defense. We will see some of those this season, especially in short yardage situations. The Gap 8 and 7 Diamond are Goal Line defenses.

So how do we recognize any other defense as one of the other styles?

Most defenses have two defenders that are furthest outside of our offensive alignment. They are typically called cornerbacks, and are part of the defensive backfield. Any of us can usually pick out those two guys.

Then we look furthest back from all the other defenders, at the safeties. If we see only one safety, we knows the defense is one of the 8's: (Eleven defenders, minus the one safety, minus the two cornerbacks, leaving eight primary run defenders.) If we see two safeties, we knows that the defense is a 7. (If we see three safeties, we are either WAY behind, or we may have a 5-2 Monster - more on that in Part II of this article.)

Likewise a quick count of the players with their hands on the ground can tell us if the defense is Odd or Even. If the defensive ends are allowed by their coaches to stand up, there will still be some number of players to the inside of them with their hands on the ground. If that number is two or four, then the alignment is Even. If there are three such down linemen, the alignment is Odd.

So with two quick reads, any player can determine what style of defense our opponents are playing. Two safeties gives us a 7, while one safety means an 8. Then we determine whether the number of linemen are an Odd number, or an Even number, and we're all set.

So as it turns out, a 4-4 defense, or any six-man line with one safety is an 8 Even.

Both the 5-3 and the 3-5 Stack are 8 Odd.

The very popular Oklahoma (5-4-2) is a 7 Odd, as is the NFL 3-4 defense.

The NFL 4-3, and an old-fashioned 6-3 (named for the six linemen, the one middle linebacker and the two cornerbacks) are examples of 7 Even defenses.

For visual learners - assuming you've read this far - here's a video on YouTube that shows this same thought process: Recognizing Defenses, by Coach Jim Adam

In Part II of this article, I'll try to break down special and unbalanced circumstances, and how we will treat them.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

2009 Football Signups Approaching!!!

Parents - 2009 football sign ups start May 30th and continue through the summer. Please register early so we can start to get a headcount for numbers.

FCCJC Sign Up Page