Pressure Defense Pt II

By Matthew Brophy

Block Destruction
Our entire focus on defense is to attack those in possession of the football. We want to create as much contempt and disregard for those that stand in our way (offensive blockers) within the minds of the defensive unit. We can do this by; 1) instilling in every practice about the importance of football possession and that is the be-all-end-all and 2) focusing a great deal of every individual and group period on block destruction. Block destruction for a defensive player is tantamount to fundamental tackling. Since we are attacking from the snap, we do not want to be delayed with boxing or wrestling with blockers. We want an efficient path to the ball carrier; therefore we stress aiming points in our pursuit attack. We only concern ourselves with beating the outside arm and shoulder of the potential blocker. We stress explosive movements through the blocker. It should be one fluid movement – same arm, same foot rip. It’s not enough to throw an arm; we must be violent with this lunge. We want to drive our bicep up to the ear hole of the blocker jarring any leverage he may have initially had on our defensive player. To put the entire product together, we must work piece-by-piece and not overwhelm the athletes with vague or obtuse concepts. Just like a boxer training to build a combination, so to we must be in our teaching of block destruction. Because we rely so heavily on flow, one drill that has worked quite well is a three-step separation practice that we also use (with the linebackers) in pre-game. We start with two opposing lines facing each other, on command both players lock up at arms lengths. It is important that the defensive player practices gaining inside control of the ‘blocker’ with his thumbs up, controlling his opponent’s breastplate with a firm hold. Both players will shuffle for width outside. The defensive player will work to get his face mask across the bridge of his opponent, while shuffling for width to setup his feet-and-inside-arm separation (rip) after about his third gather step. We allow the players to get accustomed to this drill, gain a comfort level, and then speed it up to rapid tempo repping. We progress this drill by stressing an explosive punch into the blocker (put him on his heels) and if need be, a counter-club. The biggest elements we try to communicate in block destruction is focus (aiming points), explosion (violent strike), protect your hips (keep distance), and separation. The focus element we try to sell, by reminding the kids that the game is simple and they don’t need to make the game, “harder than it needs to be”. Focus on the small things with aiming points. Too often when facing large blockers, athletes typically will look at an enormous mass instead of selecting their target and focusing their efforts, using their leverage and mass on small points (shoulder / triceps / helmet screws) that they CAN win. Fighting a man with one arm is a heck of a lot easier than a man with two. Put the odds in your favor.


We’ve touched on the violent strikes and separation techniques in part one, but the key thing that is the most important element in attacking blocks is protecting their hips. What we mean by this is not letting a blocker get into our body at the center of our mass. We want to keep our hips FURTHEST from the blocker. The easiest sell to young males is similar to telling them to ‘protect your jewels’, keeping your groin clear. Doing so, will always ensure leverage is on the side of the player attacking a blocker.


Using Your Defensive Package for Pressure
Again, as a defensive staff we must game plan towards the blocking protection employed by our opponent based on formation and backs in the backfield. Because we do not rely heavily on reading linemen reactions, but penetration, we are afforded the luxury, or burden of placing our athletes in positions to be turned loose and make plays. This can become an intensive process of exploring all options that your defensive package allows versus the tendencies and formations (and their respective play threats) your opponent uses to attack field position. What do we want to attack and how can we get our best players to the point of attack? Each snap becomes a hide-and-seek game grounded in gap integrity, attempting to marginalize our weakness while attacking the offense’s comfort zone. Like I alluded to earlier, we are not blessed with exceptional strength or size in our program. Instead of playing a traditional defense just for the sake of lining up traditionally, we have to take pride in our uniqueness and rally around our strengths. We emphasize our speed. Get-offs of the front 7 are relied upon to quickly close the window for offensive opportunity. We equate this to our athletes to any number of George Lucas’ films (Indiana Jones / Star Wars) where a massive door is closing and the hero must make a frantic attempt to cross the threshold at the last minute for safety. In the same manner, we teach aggressive runthrough support from our linebackers to not only ‘jump-through’ a window into the backfield, but to anticipate making an aggressive play on the ball once clear. To often you will see a defensive player make a great read and run through a gap, only to be met by a runner unexpectedly and miss an opportunity for a negative yardage play . Likewise, we want our linemen closing the window for opportunity for quarterbacks to see the open receiver. We want to keep his feet moving within the pocket. We never want to let him settle into a rhythm. Much like our punt block drills, our whole goal from the snap is to be in the backfield and attack the ‘launch point’ / quarterback’s pocket. We expect to be in the backfield for depth in less than 1.8 seconds. To do this, we cannot remain tied up with blockers at the line of scrimmage. Again, the tempo for this type of urgency can be set in your team pursuit periods, emphasizing that there should always be pressing movement towards the ball at all times. We remind the players that it is our opponents job to keep us from making plays, we expect to be accounted for with blockers, we anticipate adversity, but just like in life, this cannot be used as an excuse, you always must press on to your objective regardless of the obstacles you face.


Multiple Fronts
Nothing is more awesome and frightful to a big fat high school kid than speed. Give them a large, slow target they can bench press and you’ve made their day – but put them up against track sprinters and you take them out of their comfort zone, out of their rhythm, and out of their milieu of confidence. Operating in space is not an attribute noted among most high school linemen, so once their initial key has left, few are able to distinguish the next available threat, much less intercept them (get to them). With this premise, we try to counteract our size limitations by presenting multiple fronts within a given game. Not only does this allow us to attack weaker elements of their protection, but also give several defensive looks for our opponent to game plan and practice for. Our most common fronts we typically play in a given contest are our; Base, G, Eagle, Under, Wide, and Slide (50), These fronts can actually be installed within the second week of Summer Camp and only alter certain linemen with a simple call. The multiple fronts we employ from week to week have become our unique identifier on how we use our defense. We do not intend to be the Jack-of-all-Trades by running multiple fronts, instead we utilize them just as spring boards to jump on an offense. The fronts are merely tools / weapons in which we attack a formation / protection. Our coverages are what we use to defend formations, our fronts/stunts are what we use to attack a formation. Again, back to fundamental defense, your front is determined by your coverage. Our base front is the typical 5, 1, (weak) 3, 6 (strong) that most everyone plays. Our “G” front plays our nose in an inside shade of the weak guard.

Our Under, simply inverts our alignments and rolls the SOLB in a 9 technique.


Our (double) Eagle package we run different than most. Because we use a SS/WOLB type at our Weak Defensive End, we actually flip he and our strong side defensive end in our Eagle package. When we install “Eagle” we do not present it as such, however. We simply offer it to our athletes that the “eagle” just means we’re going to play our WDE at a (“fly him down to a ) 3 technique (weak), This becomes an easy sell,because nobody really changes but the WDE in this call. We explain that we are “Double Eagle” because we’ve got two guys playing in a 3 technique now. The next part is sold as a subtle (personnel) adjustment. We ask the WILB what he is now defending since there is a defensive lineman in his weak “B” gap. Well, being that there is a guy in his gap, he’s going to look to the next over gap…..”C” gap. “Great job!” we can sell him, “and how about, to put you in better position we walk you up to that 5 technique (weak) spot”? We will then instruct him about playing in a track-stance 3 point (though we have played him in a 2 point as well). The other two fronts have become major stressors on formations, especially in longyardage situations. We will simply over shift the linemen into an odd front, playing 5,0,5,9. Wide shifts us strong (think “W” as a powerful letter = strong) Slide shifts us weak (think “L” as a limp letter = weak)

We have used this formation to outflank jet and perimeter hitting offenses as well as provide kill-shot opportunity for our WDE in slide, with no one able to reach this athlete. I must again stress the simplicity in which we operate within our playbook. We have pared down our verbiage over the years to only work with the bare bones of our package. We have developed a method to keep the terminology brief and simple. All of our front / stunt calls that make up a majority of our sets typically only affect one or two players to avoid any confusion and usually use identifiers for a clear understanding of which position it effects. All of our stunts can be used in any front without any major change or accommodations. We like to think of the calls as simply Lego blocks that you can build and create different sets with, while keeping rules and reads consistent.


For example, we have 14 front changes in our defensive package but routinely only use 4. We have 31 stunt calls, but there are only 3 that we ‘need’ or typically use. Out of any set, our basic defensive line calls are B.A.D.; Bullets: All linemen crash to their inside gap – Tackle to strong A / Rush to strong B / Edge to weak B

Angle: All interior linemen slant weak - Tackle to strong A / Nose to weak B

Rock: All linemen slant strong (since in base, strong players are already going strong, this only affects the weak side linemen) Nose to strong A / Edge to weak B

Complimentary calls affecting one or two linemen are built off the premise of these calls. If the linemen can master these three calls, they can figure out the rest of the package. In additional installments, we will go over how we use this flexibility in game planning and with more exotic stunts, such as zone blitzing.


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