Introduction to Understanding Defensive Coverages for the Run & Shoot

“Any conversation of offensive football without the consideration and complete understanding of the defensive confrontation is completely useless.  This statement certainly applies to our situation more so than any other team in football today.  For with our sight reads and coordinated option adjustments on the move the defense is virtually placed in a helpless state.  And this is merely due to our own proper decision decisions and has nothing to do with the defensive strength or weaknesses.”

“Introduction to Understanding Coverages”


1.)  “Excluding our short yardage & goal line attack, we present an offensive threat, with 4 wide receivers inserted, that will never be confronted by a pure Eight Man Front…However, with our obvious receiver threats, even a base Eight Man Front team… must adjust personnel to a nickel or dime situational substitution constantly against us to avoid glaring mismatches.”

-Any Eight Man Front is going to be unsound both in structure and personnel when facing the four wide receiver doubles and trips formations of the Run & Shoot offense.  As Chris Brown states in a great article on the Virginia Tech defense “you could successfully argue that the spread offense, both in its run-first and pass-first incarnations, was invented to counter the aggressive, eight-man front defense Virginia Tech made famous.”(   The Eight Man Front will almost certainly leave the slot receivers uncovered.  With the defense giving leverage to the slot receives the offense just has to audible to a quick pass and take the easy gain.  The personnel of an Eight Man Front can be modified by shifting into nickel and dime personnel  (this is in effect what Virginia Tech has done by converting the “rover” into a full-time defensive back).  However, as soon as the personnel has shifted the defense is forced into playing backup players against the offenses starting players (the offense is always using four wide receivers) and the Eight Man Front is still structurally unsound.

2.)   “Any coverage can be easily recognized by our receivers and quarterback due to constant motioning and sight reads upon the snap.

            a.) Coverages will obviously reveal a pre-snap disguise and even attempt to “cover themselves up” to a degree with motion being presented.

            b.) But upon the snap the true picture unfolds and we merely “take what we want” from a particular coverage by our own reads and proper reactions.”

-All coverages have weaknesses and defensive coordinators know this so they will attempt to hide what coverage they are running from the offense.  This very difficult if not impossible to do when faced with the constant motioning and audibling of the Run & Shoot offense.  When an offense motions a receiver the defense has two options they can either respond to the motioned player or ignore him.  If the defense responds to the motioned player they will most likely reveal their defensive coverage.  If the defense does not reveal their coverage it is because the defenders passed off the receiver.  Passing off a receiver requires almost every defender making a new decision without the help of their coaches and this can easily result in blown coverages.  If the defense does not honor the motioned receiver they are placing themselves at a huge disadvantage by ceding leverage to the offense.  However, no matter how well the defense hides its coverage pre-snap it is impossible to hide it after the snap.  As soon as the ball is snapped the defenders will fall into their coverage and the offense will react.  Since the offense is reacting after the snap and after the defense has revealed its coverage the offensive players should always be in a position to take advantage of the defense.

3.)  Defenses must stay “honest” in staying balanced whenever we reveal a doubles formation to them.

            a.) Any front or coverage overshift would obviously constitute a mere “opposite” check audible or whatever we wish to select will leave them short-handed.”

-Not only is this true with a doubles formation it is also true with a trips formation (it is true in the except the opposite way, but still true).  Football is essentially a game of numbers and angles (leverage).  The offense and defense and offense are always seeking to outnumber each other at the point of attack.  On a passing play the offense wants to have more receivers in a location than defenders.  Obviously having one receiver to no defenders is best, but having two receivers to one defender forces the defender to guard only one receiver which essentially creates a situation where there is one receiver and no defender.  Therefore, the defense needs to matchup with the offense.  So, if the offense lines up in a balanced formation* (doubles being the perfect example) the defense needs to line up in a balanced defense in return.  If the defense does not line up in response to the offense they are giving the offense a numbers advantage.  *This is also true of an unbalanced formation (trips formations are the perfect example)  the defense will be covering empty grass on one side of the field and be outnumbered on the other if they line up in a balanced defense.  In his article on the New Orleans’ Saints and the Four Verticals Concept Chris Brown gives a perfect example of this(

4.)  “From the standpoint of coverages, zone coverages offer vertical and horizontal lanes of completion at our disposal.  Whereas vs. any type of man coverage would constitute our separation from them with “break backs” and “hot reads.””

-Most simply understood zone coverage struggles with numbers while man coverage struggles with leverage.  A zone defense places defenders in the places where it expects the balls to go.  However, the defensive coordinator does not have enough defenders to cover all the grass on the field so there are going to be certain areas that are defended better than others.  The open areas on the field can easily be attack if the offense sends its receivers on routes that are evenly spaced across the field.  This spacing can either be horizontal forcing the defense to cover the field from sideline to sideline or the spacing can be vertical forcing the defense to cover the field from the line of scrimmage to the endzone either form of spacing is valuable and will create holes in the defense.  A man defense, unlike a zone defense, guards the receivers rather than areas on the field.  The disadvantage to this approach is that if the receiver can shake the defender he is wide open and no one else on the defense is anywhere near him.


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