THE MOST VERSATILE DEFENSE: Part 2-Coaching the Front Seven

The Multiple 3-4 Defense can easily claim the title of the most versatile defense.  By basing out of a 3-4 under front you can have one call defensively and show a 50 front one snap and it will convert to a 4-2-5 look on another depending on the offensive formation.  This is done with out changing any base rules for the players or the manner in which they set the strength.  If you haven’t read part one of this series, please follow this link here “The Most Versatile Defense” and it will cover the basics of the defense.  This article will concern coaching and personneling the font seven defenders.

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DEFENSIVE LINE

We align the three down linemen in a shade, and a 5 to the front side and a 3 tech or a 4i backside depending on the player.  You want flat backs and most of the weight on their hands.  I like the gap hand down, so it is easier to get hands on the offensive lineman.  The first step is a 6 inch “power step” the second step should place the foot equal too or only half a step in front of the first step.  With the second step you want a violent punch on the shade half of the offensive lineman. Only take on half the man and emphasize using hands to get separation. “No Hands; Join the Band”.

When aligning in head up for an okie front, I prefer to have the DL on the move with slants, pinches and stunts.  The 1st step for a slant/movement is a 45 degree power step, and still punch the gap half.  If the DL has gotten leverage on the slant transition to a long arm technique to create space and pursue the ball.  If the DL is fighting for leverage, use a shuck to gain leverage and penetrate the gaps.  They can finish a shuck with a swim or rip.  If done correctly the shuck is usually plenty effective against run or pass block.  When you know it’s a pass you obviously have an advantage.  When this happens, I like my DL to be thinking long arm technique, statistically speaking it produces more stats than any other pass rush move. Verified by several NFL and NCAA defensive line studies. The picture below depicts a long arm in action:

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NOSE GUARD

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For the nose guard I look for a guy with a quick first step and lots of attitude over shear size.  I want a havoc causer here.  By playing him in a shade on the center or a head up 0, you ensure the center is occupied.  We want him concerned about the nose and not the snap.  A quick nose guard can cause a lot of errant snaps, especially against shot gun teams because the ball must travel through space. It is simple physics, the longer the path of a projectile, the smaller the variable needed to effect its path.  If your nose can command a double team, then you have the right guy there.   If hes a real war daddy then you can two gap him… but true two gap noses are hard to come by, even in the NFL.

DEFENSIVE ENDS

Again I like quick explosive guys over size here.  Speed off the ball can be a real head ache for some of the lumbering offensive linemen out there.  For an example, one time in my career I had a defensive end start in a 4A state championship game and lead the team in sacks and he was only 167 pounds.  The next year he started for us at corner back and received a D1 scholarship.  Its about attitude and will.  Speed kills.  If the ends are playing in a shade they need to squeeze any down block. “Down is Dive” no dive then spill.  Other than that all the rules of the defensive line still apply.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

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If you like to flip flop your inside backers, then put the more physical guy to the same side as the shade and the 5 tech. Put your quicker guy that can run to the same side as the B gap DL, this covers up your linebacker and protects him, so he can run.  For simplicity reasons, I like to not move them when I can.  The LBs reads are “through the guard”.  What this means is guard key is first then the eyes flow through to the backfield action.   This takes practice, but the players pick it up quick and will rarely misread the play once they understand it.  High hats on snap is pass, draw key is when the OL turn out on the DL.  Initial flow of the hats will be first read, then as stated though the guard to the backfield.

The first steps for the LBs must be what I call “read steps”.   These are 2-3 short rapid fire, choppy steps no more than 3 inches, in the same direction as initial flow.  These steps are crucial in allowing the LBs to make the proper reads and react to play direction.  The read steps allow the LBs to redirect on counters, draws and play actions by preventing over selling with steps that are too big.   The LBs are responsible for filling open windows from inside out.  The players on the line of scrimmage will force everything to spill out. Ideally the inside LBs will make the tackle in D gap for no gain if the players on the line have not previously made the play.

OUTSIDE LINE BACKERS

These are the guys that will make your defensive mediocre or elite.  You want guys that have attitude and can run.  Long rangy builds tend to have a little more success here if playing on TEs a lot.  When playing on the line of scrimmage over a TE or a wing the rules are similar to a defensive lineman.  1st step is a power step and we punch violently to control one half of the blocker.  The OLBs best weapon is the punch and shuck when man blocked.  When facing a kick out block, we will spill.   The technique is commonly called “wrong arming” take the outside arm and rip through the kick blockers inside arm.  Once spilled penetrate and make the ball carrier bubble out so the LBs can scrape and rally.  If he doesn’t bubble, make the tackle.  You want to be sure to avoid spilling to shallow, about 1 to 2 feet into the backfield is perfect.

CONCLUSION

This is a base description for coaching the techniques for the front seven in the multiple 3-4 defense.  It is a system that is adaptable and puts speed on the field. In general, you want to turn everything into a toss sweep and make it go sideways. The sideline has never missed a tackle.  Part 3 will cover the role of the secondary in the defense. Please feel free to comment and share.  Give me a follow on twitter at @thecoachvogt

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