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Building a Better Blitz

Ideas on building a blitz package.

Americas Blitz

Walk into most defensive staff rooms, ask what their #1 blitz is, and it will
likely be some variation of this:

Americas Fire Zone Blitz

This is Americas fire zone blitz. A Sam/Mike edge blitz with full line
movement, and the defensive end to the boundary dropping to the low hole
(replacing the Mike). A fire zone is simply a blitz that sends five men and
plays three under-three deep behind it (Cover 3). Many times a defensive
lineman is used to drop to the low hole (MOF), or to replace a blitzing
linebacker (curl/flat). The emphasis for a defense in this blitz package is
sending more players than an offense can handle to a certain side. Most
offenses have hot routes to counteract a blitzing backer. To counter this
(football is a game of chess), defenses started to drop d-lineman, or
exchange the LBs responsibilities, into vacated spots or rolling secondary
players to the hot receivers. Here is an example of a cross-dog blitz
(dog=LBs) with the end to the boundary replacing the Will.

The reason fire zones are so prevalent is they are easy to run, and can use
any player on the field. To run a fire zone, a defense has to have two
curl/flat players (or seam players), a low hole player (MOF), and three deep
third players. This allows a defensive coordinator to get creative. If looked
at as a numbers game, the offense should be able to handle the rush.
Where fire zones work is by overloading a side, forcing the quarterback to
move, and creating short, inaccurate throws to hot WRs.

The Next Step in Evolution

What if you could make the same cross-dog blitz better by eliminating the
low hole player? The video above shows the Texas defense running a cross-
dog fire zone. The QB feels the pressure and easily checks down to the
running back to the boundary. Easy four yards. Its now 3rd and goal. Now,
imagine that same play with the boundary end inserting himself up the
field, creating a wall, or even rushing the passer. The blitz just became six
on five. The only adjustment the defense has to make is to roll the
boundary safety over the #2 WR (in this case the RB). The QB, who
stepped to his right, would be blocked by the boundary end and the interior
push would probably have sacked him. If the QB was able to get the ball
off, the dropping safety would easily have been able to tackle him or break
the pass up. In reality, the middle hole player, the safety, in this case, is
wasted. The saying, Dont just cover grass, comes to mind. Here is the
same cross-dog blitz, but with Narduzzis principles of two under-three
Narduzzis train of thought is a defense doesnt need to waste a lineman.
Let the d-lineman do what he does naturally, rush the passer. The two
curl/flat players absorb the hot routes, while the CBs and deep safety
protect the verticals. Americas blitz, under the Narduzzi principles, would
look like this:

Americas blitz, Narduzzi style.

The issue with any Cover 3 blitz is the vertical route up the seam. If the
curl/flat player doesnt sink with the slot and collision and carry, it could be
fatal. The spinning safety is at the mercy of the QB. The high-hole player
kicks to the center of the formation and reads the QBs shoulders, weaving
in the direction the shoulders are facing. In a 22 set, shown below, the
high-hole safety has a dilemma if both #2 WRs run verticals. See video

The Split
The video above demonstrates why there is a split in how to divide the pass
distribution behind a blitz. The two sides, fire zone and man, both have
good arguments. The fire zone is the safer of the two in theory because
the defense is protecting deep. Narduzzi takes it a step further by adding
another lineman and playing the averages that the offense wont throw the
ball in the middle of the field short. Many teams will not risk this, but over
time Michigan St. has proven it works. Adding the extra lineman could be
the difference in a sack or an escape (Note: Teams can also run a Cover 1
scheme behind fire zones).

In a man scheme, every player on the field is accounted for. Zero blitzes
can afford to send an extra man and peel the edge rusher to a RB if there is
a flare. No matter what, a zero blitz has a plus-1 on the offense. Max or
zero blitzes can come with a price. If any man is beat off the line it is an
automatic touchdown. The theory behind zero blitzing is there are too many
men attacking the offensive line for the QB to get a deep ball off. By not
pressing the WRs, a defense can absorb any vertical route and drive on a
short hot route (Dont press = Dont give the offense a quick hit deep). In
the end, it is really a matter of preference for the defensive coordinator.

Blitz the Formation (BTF)

The next step in creating a sound blitz package is to formation the blitzes.
It never fails, a defensive coordinator will call a field blitz into a 31 set and
watch the Sam go all the way from the #2 WR to the A gap. Needless to
say, its not sound and the Sam will never get there. One of the main
blitzing principles is to never blitz from depth. That means, dont blitz from
far out, the player will never get there. Some coordinators will call blitzes to
a TE, the extra blocker absorbs the rush and is wasted (should have
checked to the other side). Blitzing an Ace/Diamond set with max
protection can also lead to no results.
By formationing your blitzes, a defense puts its players in a better position
to be successful. When designing your blitz package a coach must ask
himself the what ifs. What if I call a fire zone to the field, but the
formation calls for a boundary blitz. Against a tempo team, a defense is
done. Bilechek, Saban, Ryan, and Phil Bennett, are all BTF disciples. It puts
a defense in the correct blitz 100% of the time because it has established
rules. By formationing blitzes, players get smarter too. They learn to
recognize formations and how to attack them. What DC wouldnt want his
players to be more knowledgeable? None. The adage, cant fit a square
peg in a round hole, is true. Not every blitz works to every formation.
There must be checks, there must be automatics, and most importantly
there must be quality control.

5 Tips to Build a Better Blitz

Dont blitz from depth. Even if you show it early, it just adds to your bluff

Formation, formation, formation. Formation your blitz calls to ensure they

are right 100% of the time. You dont want a LB covered down in trips
coming from the hash to the A gap, or even the edge (See tip #1).

Use that extra lineman. You wouldnt put a LB at CB, or a Safety at Nose,
so dont ask your lineman to cover a slot up the seam. It just doesnt make
sense. Use the Narduzzi principle and have your LB and dropping safety
absorb the seam/hot routes, plus it sets the box and contains the QB.

If you can, play man. Zero blitzes give a defense a plus-1 in the pass
protection. But using Tip #1 a defense can wreck havoc on an opposing QB.
Nothing worse to a QB than having a defender in his face seconds after the

Cover the gaps. When drawing up a blitz make sure every gap is accounted
for. Never assume the open A gap is never going to be attacked. Next
thing you know the RB is scampering untouched up the middle of your