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Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Eagle Defense

• Used Primarily vs 2 backs to stop the run


• Basic alignment vs Pro Set
– Eagle Family/Pod
• Rush End (R), Eagle Tackle (T), Eagle LB (E), and Strong Safety (SS) align to the call
– R = 7 or 5 tech; T=3 tech; E= 30 tech
– Bubble Family/Pod
• Defense End (DE), NT (NT), Inside Linebacker (B), and Sam LB (S) align opposite the call
– DE = 5; NT= 1 tech; B=30 tech; S=9 tech
– FS aligns to the wide side or strength when in MOF
– CB alignment strategy not specified. Could be
• Field/boundary
• Left/right
• Eagle pod/bubble pod

2 x 1 Eagle to Field

TB

QB Z

DE N T R
S B E SS
FS C

C
Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden
Coverages
• 3 zone coverages are used primarily (non-blitz or pressure)
– 3 deep with 4 under (Cover 3)
– 2 deep with 5 under (Cover 2 and 7)
• Cover 7 has the SS playing the curl with the FS and the CB away from the call as the half players. Sam is the flat player away from the
call
• Cover 2 has the SS and FS as the half players
– Quarter-Quarter-Half deep with 4 under (Cover 4 and 5)
• Cover 5 has the SS playing the curl/flat to the call side with the FS and C as quarter players.
– SS aligns over detached #2
– CB and FS play with inside leverage and align 8-10 yards
– Boundary CB aligns 10-12 near the hash
– Sam “walks” vs a detached #1
• Cover 4 has Sam playing the curl/flat to the call side with FS and C as quarter players.
– Sam aligns over detached #2
– Field CB and FS play same as Cover 5
– Can play SS near LOS like Cover 2 Invert w/ CB ½ player - called “cheated half” or align traditional with SS as deep half player
Cover 4
Cover 5
TB TB

H H

QB Z QB Z

X X

S DE N T R R T N DE S
B E SS C E B
C
FS C FS
C SS

Cover 7 Cover 2
TB
TB
H
H
QB
QB Z
Z X

X
R T N DE S
R T N DE S E B C
C
C SS E B

FS C SS FS
Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Setting the Front

• 5 Calls are used to set the front.


• The Eagle family goes to the call and the Bubble family goes opposite
– Field sets the Eagle family to the field
– Short set the Eagle family to the boundary
– Strong sets the Eagle family to the passing strength
– Weak sets the Eagle family away from the passing strength
– Split sets the Eagle family away from the Tight End

• Coordinating Coverages
– Coverages are called separately
– Odd numbered coverags (3, 5, 7 are used when the FS and SS are aligned to the passing
strength)
– Even number coverages (2 and 4) are used when the FS and SS are opposite each other
Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Fronts and Recommended Coverage Calls

• Field Eagle 5
– Sets Eagle to field regardless of formation - good for zone blitz
– Utilizes boundary as additional defender

TB

QB Z

DE N T R
S B E SS
FS C

C
Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Fronts and Coverage Calls


• Strong Eagle Cover 3
– Recommended when in the middle of the field as a replacement for Field Eagle 5 because of better
coverage away from the Eagle
• Strong Eagle Cover 5
– Best for matching numbers to the offensive’s passing strength regardless of position on the field

TB

QB Z
X

S DE N T R
Strong Cover 5 B E
SS

FS C
C

TB

QB
Z
X

Strong Cover 3 SS
R T
E
N
B
DE S

C FS C
Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Fronts and Recommended Coverage Calls


• Short Eagle Cover 4
– Eagle family set into the boundary with ¼ - ¼ - ½ coverage
– Can play “cheated half” on short side to get another defender in/near the box.
– Good for zone blitz regardless of offensive formation
• Short Eagle Cover 2
– Eagle family set into the boundary with 2 deep coverage

TB

QB
Z

Short Cover 4 SS
R T
E
N
B
DE S

FS C

cheated half
C

TB

QB
Z

Short Cover 2
X

R T N DE S
E B C
C

SS FS
Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Fronts and Coverages


• Weak Eagle Cover 4
– Set Eagle away from passing strength
– Assured of ¼ - ¼ - ½ in the middle-of-the-field
• Weak Eagle Cover 2

TB

QB
Z

Weak Cover 4 SS
R T
E
N
B
DE S

FS C

cheated half
C

TB

QB
Z

Weak Cover 2
X

R T N DE S
E B C
C

SS FS
Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Fronts and Coverages


• Split calls require a dual call because you can not predict where the eagle is going
– Even coverage when SS goes opposite passing strength
– Odd coverage when SS goes to passing strength
– Allows defense to always align Sam to TE side
• Split Eagle 4-3
– Conservative call

TB

QB
Z

Split Cover 4 R T N DE S
SS E B
FS C

TB

Z QB

Split Cover 3
X

R T N DE S
E B
SS
C

C
FS
Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Fronts and Coverage Calls

• Split Eagle Cover 4-5


– Provides ¼ - ¼ - ½ coverage making sure TE is covered by Sam

TB

QB
Z
X

Cover 4 R T N DE S
C E B

FS C
SS

TB

QB Z

Cover 5 S DE N T R
B SS
E
FS C
C
Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Front and Coverage Calls

• Split Eagle Cover 4-7


– Provides good run support
– Plays hard corner vs twins (passing strength away from TE) and quarters to TE when TE is to
passing strength.

TB

QB
Z
X

Cover 4 R T N DE S
C E B

FS C
SS

TB

QB Z

Cover 7 S DE N T R
SS
B E C

C
FS
Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Fronts and Coverage Calls

• Split Eagle Cover 2-7


– Assures Cover 2 and provides good underneath pass coverage

TB

QB
Z

Cover 2
X

R T N DE S
C
C E B

SS FS

TB

QB Z

Cover 7 S DE N T R
SS
B E C

C
FS
Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Summary of Fronts and Coverages

Call Front Coverage

Field Eagle to Field 5

Strong Eagle to Passing Strength 5 or 3

Short Eagle to Boundary 4 or 2

Weak Eagle Away from Passing Strength 4 or 2

Split Eagle Away from TE 4-3, 4-5, 4-7, 2-7


Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Common Alignments vs 21 Personnel with Passing Strength to Field

Field Eagle 5
Field Eagle 5 Strong Eagle 5
Strong Eagle 5 Split Eagle 5
TB
TB
H
H

QB Z
QB Z
X
X
S DE N T R
DE N T R
SS
S SS B E
B E
FS C FS C
C
C

Split Eagle 5
Short Eagle 5 Short Eagle 4
Weak Eagle 5 Weak Eagle 4
TB TB

H H

QB Z QB
Z
X X

R T N DE S R T N DE
SS E B SS E B S
C C
FS
cheated half FS
C C

Pro Set to Field Twins to Field


Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Common Alignments vs 21 Personnel with Passing Strength to the Boundary


• Preferred Adjustment is to check to Cover 3, especially in passing situations
• Prefers Cover 3 whenever SS is placed into the boundary
• OK to stay in quarters to the boundary in running situations

Short Eagle 4 or check 3 Field Eagle 5 or check 3


Strong Eagle 5 or check 3 Weak Eagle 5 or check
3
TB TB

H H

QB QB
Z Z
X
X
DE N T R T N DE
R
S SS SS E B S
B E

FS C C FS C
C

Split Eagle 5 or check 3 Short Eagle 4 or check 3


Field Eagle 5 or check 3 Strong Eagle 3
Weak Eagle 5 or check 3 Split Eagle 4 or check 3

TB TB

H H

QB QB
Z Z
X
X

R T N DE S S DE N T R
SS B B
E E SS

C C
FS C
C FS

Pro Set into Boundary Twins into Boundary


Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Adjustments for 2x2 Formations


Check Cover 3
• Defend 4 verticals by collisioning with overhangs and having LB drop with depth down the weak seam
• If Sam is to the TE side
– Can play him in a walk position, shifting the DE into a 7 tech and the NT into a 2i on the guard, especially in passing
situations - this is a “wide” call
– Keep them in their regular positions (9-5-1 techs) when anticipating run
• Vs Detached 2x2 check Cover 3 with no special adjustment by Sam

Field 5 check 3
Short 4 check 3 Strong 5 check 3
Weak 4 check Split 5 or 7 check 3
3 TB
TB

QB
H QB
Z H
Z
X
X

R T N DE DE N T R
E B B
SS S S E SS

C C C
FS C FS
Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden
Adjustments for Trips 3x1 with 11 and 10 Personnel
• Prefers Cover 3
– Underneath coverage should “flood” the underneath zones by dropping to strong flat, strong curl, strong hook and weak curl/flat.
• Vs TE Trips to the Eagle defense should check to a 4-3 Over Cover 3 (Stack Cover 3)
– Rush End becomes a 9 tech, Eagle LB goes to a 50 tech, LB goes to a 10 tech
• Vs Open Trips to the Eagle, the eagle LB must widen out near #3 while still maintaining his run fit
– If the Eagle LB widens more than 3 yards past the Rush End, he should make a “G” to the Eagle tackle so he loops into A gap. Now the Eagle LB’s run fit is B
gap which is closer to him
• Vs TE Trips and Trip Open away from the Eagle, the FS will become the low safety and the SS will become the deep middle safety
– Unclear if Eagle LB should widen and call a “G” to send the Eagle Tackle inside

Field Eagle 5 check 3


Field Eagle 5 check 3 Strong Eagle 5 check 3
Strong Eagle 5 check 3 Split Eagle 5 check 3
TB TB

QB QB Z
H
H Z
X
X

DE N T R S DE N T R
S B E SS B E SS

C C
FS C FS C

Short Eagle 4 check 3


Weak Eagle 4 check 3 Weak Eagle 4 check 3
Split Eagle 4 check 3 Short Eagle 4 check 3
TB TB

QB QB Z
H Z H
X X

R T N DE S R T N DE
E B B S
FS E FS

C
C SS C
C SS
Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Adjustments for 3x1 10 Personnel with Passing Strength into the Boundary
• Automatic check to cover 3
• Eagle LB should widen vs single WR and make a “G” call to the Eagle Tackle

Short Eagle 5 check 3


Field Eagle 5 check 3 Strong Eagle 4 check 3
Weak Eagle 4 check 3 Weak Eagle 4 check 3
Split Eagle 4 check 3 Split Eagle 5 check 3
TB TB

QB QB H Z
X H Z
X
R T N DE S S DE N T R
E “G” B SS
FS
B E C
C C C
SS FS

Field Eagle 5 check 3


Short Eagle 5 check 3 Strong Eagle 4 check 3
Strong Eagle 5 check 3 Weak Eagle 4 check 3
TB TB

QB QB
H Z
H Z

X X

R R T N DE
DE N T
SS E B S
SS
S B E

C C FS C
C FS
Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Adjustment to 22 Personnel
• Prefers “loaded” coverages (cover 5 and 4)
– Strong Eagle 5
– Weak Eagle 4 (SS free to blitz off edge)
• Can check cover 3 with passing strength into the boundary

Short Eagle 5
Field Eagle 5 Weak Eagle 5
Strong Eagle Split Eagle 5
5 TB TB

H
H

QB
Z QB
Z

R T N DE S
S DE N T R
SS E B SS
B E
C FS C FS
C
C
Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Stack Defenses: 4-4-3 and 4-3-4

• Two Types
– Stack 4-4-3
– Stack 4-3-4
• General Alignment and Placement Rules
– Automatic Tight call
• Rush End and Eagle Tackle go to the TE side
• Eagle LB always goes to field; strength in MOF
Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Stack 4-4-3
• Alignment
– Rush End: 6, 7, or 9 tech based upon preference
– Eagle Tackle: 3 tech
– NT: 1 technique (shade on center)
– Defensive End: 5 technique
– Eagle LB: 30 tech to field
– LB: 30 tech to boundary
• Sam: 80 tech vs no TE; 9 tech vs TE
• Coverages
– Cover 3 Sky (SS as 80 tech to field)
• Can rotate to Cover 3 from 2 deep shell
– Cover 7 vs Twins

Stack 3 Stack 3 check 7


TB
TB
H
H
QB
Z QB
X Z
X

R T N DE
SS DE N T R
E B S
SS S
E B
C
C C
FS
FS C
Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Stack 4-4-3 Adjustments vs 2x2 with 11 Personnel


• If Twins to field
– SS makes “I’m gone” call telling the LB that he is out of the box for run support.
– Eagle and LB slide to the twins but are responsible for the same gaps
• If Twins to boundary
– SS aligns near TE and makes a “box” call alerting the LBs that he is in the box and has C gap on run
– LB makes an “Over” call which slides the Eagle and LB toward the twins
– Sam aligns on the #2 receiver

Twins to Field Twins to Boundary


TB TB

QB
Z QB H H
Z
X
X

N T R R T N DE
DE
SS S SS E B S
E B
“I’m Gone” “Box” “Over”
C C
C FS C FS
Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Stack 4-4-3 Adjustments vs 3x1 with 11 Personnel

• TE Trips
– SS makes a “I’m gone” call and aligns over #2
– Eagle and LB slide to trips
– Flood drop (Strong flat, curl and hook, weak curl/flat) by underneath players
• Open Trips
– SS makes an “I’m gone” call and aligns over #2
– Eagle LB widens up to 5 yards outside DE and still has B gap on run. He can make a “Fin” call which
sends the DE into the B gap
– LB slides to weak A gap
– Flood Drop

TB TB

QB
H QB
Z H
Z
X X

R T N DE N T R
DE
SS E B S E
SS B S

C “I’m Gone” C “I’m Gone”


C FS C
FS
Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Stack 4-4-3 Adjustments vs 22 Personnel


• SS aligns 2 yards off the TE and makes a “Box” call to alert the LB that he is in the box and
has C gap
• Eagle and LB align over the guards
• NT aligns as a 2i tech (inside shade of the guard)
• Cover 3

Double TE Flanker

TB

QB
Z

R T N DE
SS E B S

C C
FS
Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Stack 4-3-4
• Alignment
– Rush End: 6, 7, or 9 tech based upon preference
– Eagle Tackle: 3 tech
– NT: 1 technique (shade on center)
– Defensive End: 5 technique
– Eagle LB: 50 or 30 tech to field or strength when in MOF
– Inside LB: 10 tech
– Sam: 50 or 30 tech to boundary or away from strengths when in MOF
– FS aligns to field or strength when in MOF
– SS aligns to boundary or away from strength when in MOF
• Base Coverages
– Cover 44 (quarters)
• Play match-up underneath
• Safeties force puts 9 in run support
• CB play inside leverage to help protect post route off play-action
– Cover 2
• CB are force
– Cover 3

Stack 44

TB

QB
Z
X

R T N DE
E B S

C SS C
FS
Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Stack 4-3-4 vs 21 Personnel


• Cover 44
– The Eagle LB will widen outside the box but will still be responsible for the B gap
– Can play cover 2 on the single TE side that is into the boundary
– If Twins are into the boundary, the preferred check is cover 3
• Cover 2
– The Eagle LB will widen outside the boxbut will still be responsible for the B gap
– If Twins are into the boundary, the preferred check is cover 3

Stack 44 Stack 2
TB TB

H H

QB
Z QB
Z
X
X

DE N T R T N DE
R
E B S C C
C E B S

C FS SS
FS SS

Stack 44 Stack 2
TB TB

H H

QB
QB Z
Z X
X

T DE DE N T R
R N
E B C
C S
E B S

C FS SS C
FS SS
Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Stack 4-3-4 vs 2x2 with 11 Personnel


• Cover 2
• Cover 44
• The Eagle or Sam LB needs to widen outside the box to help with any twin formation to the
field. He is still responsible for the B gap but can send the DE or R into the B gap with a “Fin”
call (gap exchange) as it is easier to cover C gap.

Cover 44
Cover 2
TB TB

Z H
H QB
QB Z
X X

R T N DE
DE N T R
E B S
E B S C

C FS SS
C FS SS C

Cover 44 Cover 2
TB TB

Z H
H QB Z QB
X X

DE N T R R T N DE
E C E B S
B S C

C SS C FS SS
FS
Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Stack 4-4-3 Adjustments vs 3x1 with 11 Personnel


• Cover 3 and flood underneath zones
– SS rolls to align on #2
– Vs a detached #3 strong or #1 weak, the LB needs to widen for support but still play their assigned gap (C
or B)
– Allows for more players in the box
– Flood cannot cover weak hook and weak flat; call flood off if this is a problem

Cover 3 Cover 3
TB TB

QB Z H QB
Z H
X X

R T N DE DE N T R
SS E B S SS E
B S

C C C
C FS FS
Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Stack 4-4-3 Adjustments vs 3x1 with 11 Personnel


• Cover 44
– Weak safety can “cheat” and cover #3 on any vertical route while weak CB plays #1 man on everything except crossing routes;
Sam covers the back if he releases weak
• Cover 2
– Weak safety can “cheat” and cover #3 on any vertical route while weak CB plays #1 man on everything except crossing routes;
Sam covers the back if he releases weak

Cover 44 Cheat Cover 2 Cheat


TB TB

QB QB
Z H Z H
X X

R T N DE R T N DE
E B C E B
S C S C

C FS
SS FS
SS

Cover 44 Cheat Cover 2 Cheat


TB TB

QB QB
H H
Z Z
X X

DE N T R DE N T R
E C E
B S B S
C C

C FS SS
FS SS
Football’s Eagle & Stack Defense by Ron Vanderlinden

Adding Stack to Eagle Defense

• Advantages Adding Stack 4-3-4 to the Eagle


– Better vs Spread than Eagle
• Balanced formation vs spread (2x2) makes it easier to play 2 safeties
• Easier to play Cover 2/4 and combinations
• More 3X1 coverage options (3, 2 cheat, 4 cheat)
– Rush End is in 9 tech
• Generate better pass rush as a 9 tech
– More separation from OT for speed rush
– Easy for TE to slam the 7 tech before releasing
• Adds alley player vs TE trips compared to the 7 tech in an Eagle Cover 3
– Better zone blitz options w/ 3 LB

• Advantages of Adding Eagle to a Stack Defense


– Better suited vs 22 Personnel
• Strong Eagle 5 puts both the SS and FS to the strong-side
• Weak Eagle 4 puts SS on the weak edge for blitzing