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Old 06-20-2008, 06:32 PM    (permalink
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Default Zone Blitz Defense

A lot of people are under the misconception we run a primarily man-to-man heavy system. We however run a zone-blitz. Asante Samuel will do fine in our system. In this post there are few different variations of a zone blitz, all of which have been used by the Eagles under Jim Johnson.



In this diagram is a LB zone blitz. You will see many things, the main things are highlighted below:

1 - On the right side, there is a stunt by the RDE over the RDT.

2 - The LDE runs a short zone, guarding for screens and receivers out of the backfield

3 - The SAM blitzes, while the WILL plays essentially the same exact type of coverage as the LDE, on the opposite side.

4 - The MIKE guards the middle of the field. This works because our MIKE, Bradley is very good in coverage, as was our MIKE last season is Gaither.

5 - The LCB guards the zone from 5-20 yards down field, and the SS has everything after that. The RCB is in man, and has FS help over the top, but the FS also has to makeup if the MIKE or WILL makes a mistake covering a TE or Slot WR.

This defense can be seen a lot in the New England Game. The reason we shut down Moss, but Welker killed us because he is excellent at finding a hole in the zone.

When Asante Samuel plays man, it will be much like how we used Lito in man, see the following diagram.



Here are the main things

1 - Both S will be shaded to his side a bit, Dawkins will have to play CF, while Mikell will cover for Asante's main mistakes, this gives him more freedom to gamble a bit.

2 - Sheldon is in one-on-one coverage.

3 - Bradley covers the short Middle, while the 2 outside LBs guard the TE and back respectively, depending on where they are line up at.

4 - The entire D-Line is just asked to get up field and attack the QB. Our DTs push the pocket and take up multiple blockers, allowing others to get 1-on-1 match-ups.

This Next Diagram shows a FS Blitz



In this diagram, a few things you should noticed are highlighted as followed:

1 - Sheldon and Asante play deep zone, and Mikell covers CF.

2 - The MIKE LB covers the middle of the field from the line of scrimmage to 15 yards behind, while Gocong and Gaither play a short zone, watching for screens, backfield receivers, as well as covering WRs for the first 10-15 yards

3 - The DL is once again asked to go up field and rush the passer.


The Next Diagram is of a CB Blitz



Here are some things to look for

1 - As Sheldon Blitzes, the FS and WLB combine to cover the void left by the corner.

2 - The SS covers CF, while the Samuel will play a deep zone, and the SLB will cover underneath Samuel.

3 - The DL is again asked to penetrate and an extra blitzer is added.



This final diagram is an overload, where a DE drops into coverage(seen when Trent Cole picked off Eli Manning in 2006)



Notice How:

1 - Sheldon Brown is the only player on the field in Man-to-Man coverage

2 - The MIKE covers the void left by the SAM, while the WILL takes over the short middle. The RDE drops back to cover where the WILL would be.

3 - The FS helps the RCB over the top, while the LCB is in Zone, and the SS is in center.

4 - The left side has 3 blitzers, with the DL only having 2 to block on that side
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Old 06-20-2008, 06:51 PM    (permalink
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great thread.

this is a big misconception mainly because i think ppl fail to realize that you are really limited in what you can do as a blitzing team if you only plan on doing man coverage blitzes.

theres only so many different types of man coverage blitzes that can be done while holding coverage integrity. chances are, if a team is a heavy blitzing team like the Eagles and Giants are, they run a lot of zone blitzing. its the only way you can throw a wide variety of blitzes at an offense while maintaining coverage stability throughout.

of course, both our teams are designed to play like true 46 teams, but the truth is a pure 46 doesn't work anymore, you can't just overload blitz every play and expect coverage to hold up over 4 quarters. Id say the Giants were running ZB about 65% of the time we blitzed offenses. Only 35% of our blitzes were traditional man coverage 46 style blitzes.

And like you pointed out, just because a team zone blitzes, doesn't mean that the CBs are always in zone coverage. Thats why theres still a heavy emphasis on CBs being able to hold up in man coverage. In particular however, you really only need one shutdown man coverage CB to make this style of defense tick. And that one CB on an island doesn't have to be on an island with the primary #1 WR either.

We for example had Aaron Ross on an island the majority of the season, but he was on an island against the #2 possession WR of the opposition. We were able to trust him on an island in that role, and slide coverages towards the #1 threat.

I think having a SS who can cover the TE, a versatile FS, and solid man coverage CBs who are also versatile is key in the secondary in this style of defense. The name of the game is versatility. Players in this scheme have to be versatile, because theyre asked to do multiple things on any given play.
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Old 06-20-2008, 08:35 PM    (permalink
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BBD just to touch on your SS on the TE scenario.

You don't see a lot of one on one with the TE anymore at the LOS because usually they are too powerful at the point of contact...and too fast to put a bigger linebacker alone.

Everyone needs to be ready to see a slight NFL transformation.

TE's in the slot will be around for awhile...but with the evolution of the pass rush this past season...teams have started to keep TE's in to block more. This makes it near impossible to play one on one on todays TEs and now teams are forced to make the LB bump within 5 yards to give the safety time to come down and disrupt the timing.

I'm not sure around the league how many teams have the personal to do this but I've noticed that in minicamps...the cowboys with the added depth at the corner positions have now implemented a package that puts Anthony Henry 3 yards off the TE straight up.

This is going to require a physical CB that still has the speed to run with elite TE's....but there are teams that can do this.

I wouldn't be surprised to see teams that are deep enough at CB to do this more this year...it free's up your lb'ers to make more plays since they aren't required to misdirect the LB...and it free's up one of your safeties to not play at as mismatch on elite TE's. This allows teams to play a lot more cover 1...which is nice if you have the talent to do it.
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Old 06-21-2008, 10:41 AM    (permalink
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Well ef 45, I must say, this was a thread worth posting. You brought useful knowledge to some posters and I'm sure there are a lot that didn't know about this before you posted it. You brought up so much about blitzing that many people can use to further understand the game. I will congradulate you, as this is actually a useful post. Because of this, I feel this is a valid reason to take down my sig comment and give you a +rep; Well done ef 45!
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Old 06-21-2008, 02:59 PM    (permalink
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Good job buddy, point some things out to those less informed and add insight for all.
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Old 06-21-2008, 05:29 PM    (permalink
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Originally Posted by thule View Post
BBD just to touch on your SS on the TE scenario.

You don't see a lot of one on one with the TE anymore at the LOS because usually they are too powerful at the point of contact...and too fast to put a bigger linebacker alone.

Everyone needs to be ready to see a slight NFL transformation.

TE's in the slot will be around for awhile...but with the evolution of the pass rush this past season...teams have started to keep TE's in to block more. This makes it near impossible to play one on one on todays TEs and now teams are forced to make the LB bump within 5 yards to give the safety time to come down and disrupt the timing.

I'm not sure around the league how many teams have the personal to do this but I've noticed that in minicamps...the cowboys with the added depth at the corner positions have now implemented a package that puts Anthony Henry 3 yards off the TE straight up.

This is going to require a physical CB that still has the speed to run with elite TE's....but there are teams that can do this.

I wouldn't be surprised to see teams that are deep enough at CB to do this more this year...it free's up your lb'ers to make more plays since they aren't required to misdirect the LB...and it free's up one of your safeties to not play at as mismatch on elite TE's. This allows teams to play a lot more cover 1...which is nice if you have the talent to do it.
Very true Thule. Dallas has actually been doing that since Parcells came to town. Remember the Penny fronts? It was very effective imo. The Giants have also used some similar fronts. Ive seen us put McQuarters on the TE before.

I expect the Giants to use some more traditional coverages on TEs however now, at least in our nickel defense bc we'll have Gerris Wilkinson starting. Wilk is fast enough to cover most TEs, and in our base 4-3 when Wilk is on the weakside, I expect us to run a lot of zone bc of Kiwi at SAM, or have one of our safeties pick up the TE after he's bumped by our backer.

We've also used Pierce to run down the seam with the TE like your traditional tampa 2 play, although Im not a big fan of doing that too often bc Pierce isn't a coverage LB.
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Old 06-21-2008, 10:50 PM    (permalink
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Originally Posted by bigbluedefense View Post
Very true Thule. Dallas has actually been doing that since Parcells came to town. Remember the Penny fronts? It was very effective imo. The Giants have also used some similar fronts. Ive seen us put McQuarters on the TE before.

I expect the Giants to use some more traditional coverages on TEs however now, at least in our nickel defense bc we'll have Gerris Wilkinson starting. Wilk is fast enough to cover most TEs, and in our base 4-3 when Wilk is on the weakside, I expect us to run a lot of zone bc of Kiwi at SAM, or have one of our safeties pick up the TE after he's bumped by our backer.

We've also used Pierce to run down the seam with the TE like your traditional tampa 2 play, although Im not a big fan of doing that too often bc Pierce isn't a coverage LB.
What BBD means by this but is too nice to say is that Pierce is fat and slower than a drunk teenager who lacks the balance too walk.
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Old 06-22-2008, 09:09 AM    (permalink
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What BBD means by this but is too nice to say is that Pierce is fat and slower than a drunk teenager who lacks the balance too walk.
yes, the past 2 years hes been out of shape and terrible in coverage. from the looks of it, it seems as if he's lost weight though, so im hoping that is the case.
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Old 06-22-2008, 04:53 PM    (permalink
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yes, the past 2 years hes been out of shape and terrible in coverage. from the looks of it, it seems as if he's lost weight though, so im hoping that is the case.
I'm crossing my fingers.
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Old 06-23-2008, 07:17 AM    (permalink
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I'm crossing my fingers.
As an Eagles fan, I'm crossing my fingers against it, haha.
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Old 06-23-2008, 09:42 AM    (permalink
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As an Eagles fan, I'm crossing my fingers against it, haha.
Even when he's fat he's effective.
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Old 06-23-2008, 09:47 AM    (permalink
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if you think about it, the NFC East was the 46 division. The Giants and Eagles both run variations of the 4-3/46, the Cowboys run a 3-4/46 variation of the philosophy, and the Skins last year ran a Cover 2/46 hybrid.

Now the skins are gonna be more of a Cover 2 team, but last year every team shared a similar philosophy.
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Old 06-23-2008, 03:20 PM    (permalink
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Even when he's fat he's effective.
Against the run yes, very effective, but even at the admission of Giants fans isn't exactly top notch in pass coverage. Anyone else find it ironic that there are more Giants fans than Eagles fans talking about this?
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Old 06-23-2008, 09:09 PM    (permalink
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Against the run yes, very effective, but even at the admission of Giants fans isn't exactly top notch in pass coverage. Anyone else find it ironic that there are more Giants fans than Eagles fans talking about this?
yeah whats up with that?


I just love talking defense lol.
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Old 06-24-2008, 06:26 AM    (permalink
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yeah whats up with that?


I just love talking defense lol.
Yeah me too. I used to be a d-line coach, but I stopped because it was jsut taking too much time up in my life, and its not like I was gonna make a career out of it. It was tough though, there are a lot of players and other coaches that I'll miss seeing every day..
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Old 06-24-2008, 10:34 AM    (permalink
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Yeah me too. I used to be a d-line coach, but I stopped because it was jsut taking too much time up in my life, and its not like I was gonna make a career out of it. It was tough though, there are a lot of players and other coaches that I'll miss seeing every day..
if you don't mind me asking, do you have any particular preference with what kind of dlinemen you prefer?

small quick guys or big strong guys etc? do you believe in having NTs, or two 1 gap DTs, etc.

just curious to know your personal philosophy.
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Old 06-24-2008, 11:26 AM    (permalink
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Since I wasn't at a high level, I prefferred the best guys I could put on my team, whether that be with quick DTs or DE or cloggers at DT or DE. In an ideal situation, with which I had the most success, I want to have a balnced D-line. I want a two gap NT type DT and a penetrating one gap UT. I like having DEs who can reach the QB, as I like pass rushers, but if they can't hold their own against the run that is a major problem for me, as run stopping is very important at the level I was coaching. (Middle School and Freshman)
I am a beleiver in the 4-3, and my ideal D-line looks like this...
LE or RE- Balanced DE who can get to the QB when needed to, but not necessarily a terror in the backfield. Good at the POA and good in the pass rush, but doesn't need to excel at either.
DT1. Big two gap style NT who clogs up blocks and frees up the rest of the line and the LBs behind him. Must be good against the run.
DT2. Quick, penetrating UT who can get to the backfiled using speed and athleticism. Must also at least hold their own in the run game, but doesn't need to be as good at it as my NT
RE or LE. Must be a good pass rusher, someone who can make OTs nervous and could sometimes need to be double teamed by the TE or FB, or chip blocked by the back. A guy like this can be important in the passing gmae because if he doesn't reach the QB, that means that either one receiver had to help out and thus be less of a receiving option. Doesn't necessarily have to be good agianst the run, but once again, a run stopper would be nice too.

What I mean by RE or LE on that list is I would prefer to have one like the DE I have listed at the top, and one like I have listed at the bottom, whether it be a RE or LE. Coupled with the DTs that is a balanceddefensive line, who can hold their own in both the run game and the pass game. Of course, your not always able to do this, depending on personnel that you have to work with, or by what the LB and secondary coaches have to deal with. If our secondary is weak, the other coaches have preferred to have quick pass rushing DEs to cover it up as much as possible, which I understand, but if that means sacrificing a lot in the run game, I would let them know, because that too can come back and bite you in the end. My first year (for Middle School), last year, my two best DTs were UT style DTs, so those were my starters, and we had two balanced DEs. We had a good pass rush, but the two DTs weren't exactly the best at run stuffing, and that was a major weakness for them. I tried teaching them better leverage and keeping pads low and hand placment and a couple of grabs that worked for me when I played DT, but the fact was they were just better in the pass game, and couldn't hold up as well in the run game. Last year for the Freshman Squad, I had something close to what my ideal scenario for the line was, but i had two pass rushing DEs instead of a pass rusher and a balanced one. My one DT hogged up blocks, and my other took full advantage fo it. I think in one game my UT style DT had three sacks. I've never seen the kid so psyched. But the defense got burned on outside runs a few times, though not totally the fault of the line, as our SAM and WILL were not exactly the best, and our CBs offered little in run support. This past year, I had the same D-line for my fresman squad as I did for middle school, but my DTs were a little better against the run, but still below average. Both are very good at getting to the QB though, and that is where they make a mark on the defense. My middle schools squad this year though was three run stuffers (our two DTs and our RE) and a balanced DE. We were very good against the run, but not very good against the pass. Our defense had to have a lot of blitzes to get pressure on the QB, and that resulted in some coverage breakdowns. I decided not to do it again because it took up a lot of time, and I mean, I'm 19, I don't need this taking up so much time, especially with work. Some of my days would suck. I would get home from work and head strait to practices or games. I leave for work at 7 in the morning and some days I wouldn't get home until after 9:00 at night. Two a days were tough, I took a few days off of work each year so I could be there, but the whole thing was a cluster. I have a lot more free time now though. I hang out with a few of my friends, sometimes just relax and watch TV, and I'm on NFLDC quite a bit more... haha
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Old 06-24-2008, 11:32 AM    (permalink
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Great post. There was widespread misinformation here in the NE area when Assante was visiting Philly. Much of it was exactly what you bring up - people not recognizing/understanding the difference between man coverage as an occasional assignment in the zone blitz sceme.

Samuel was a great signing by the Igles. Hopefully he won't prove to be the player that makes the Pats 'no-big-contract' philosophy come back to haunt them. I have my concerns, especially since I expect another league leading INT & probowl season from him.
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Old 06-24-2008, 11:46 AM    (permalink
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I guess thats good for the Eagles then...
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Old 07-12-2008, 06:57 PM    (permalink
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OK, so I was reading an Eagles Season Preview and it was a load of BS.

People do not understand the defense that JJ runs.

One of the criticisms was that the Eagles do not have a legitimate every down DE. That right there was a sign that the "preview" was going to be BS. Trent Cole is as good of an every down DE as you can find in the NFL. Victor Abiamiri has potential to be a good every down DE.

But other than that, Chris Clemons, Bryan Smith, Jaqua Parker are all smaller DEs. The Reason the Eagles have smaller DE's is because the Eagles drop the DE's into coverage a lot more than other teams. (See last diagram). Which is also a reason why the Eagles DEs are good fits at OLB in a 3-4.
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Old 07-12-2008, 07:26 PM    (permalink
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Great post and very interesting thread. I've always been a fan of Johnson's defense, but I rarely get a chance to see it function anymore here on the west coast.

That last diagram, of the overload, is the one I find most interesting. I understand the intent is to shut off the right half of the field with the pass rush (provided by Patterson, Bunkley, Gocong, and Abiamiri) and shut off the left half of the field with extensive coverage (courtesy of Cole, Brown, and Dawkins), but the possible gap left on the strongside of the field would be troubling. With both safeties shifting to the left in coverage and Samuel plays the deep zone, completely the Cover 3, it would appear that the ability to properly judge the speed with which to get into position by the middle and weakside linebackers (Gaither and Stewart) becomes the real hinge. Stewart has a good deal of ground to cover, especially if he's going to try and be keeping the tight end under wraps before the quarterback can dump it off in the face of the rush, and with Gocong voiding his position to blitz, there would almost have to be a significant gap between Gaither and Stewart no matter how perfectly they drag across the quarterback's vision.

Maybe I'm being too cautious when the obvious intent of the play is a form of shock & awe, but any quarterback who can keep his wits and is able to see over the rush coming from the right side would seem to have some pretty sparse zone coverage to exploit.
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Old 07-13-2008, 01:21 AM    (permalink
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Originally Posted by Paranoidmoonduck View Post
Great post and very interesting thread. I've always been a fan of Johnson's defense, but I rarely get a chance to see it function anymore here on the west coast.

That last diagram, of the overload, is the one I find most interesting. I understand the intent is to shut off the right half of the field with the pass rush (provided by Patterson, Bunkley, Gocong, and Abiamiri) and shut off the left half of the field with extensive coverage (courtesy of Cole, Brown, and Dawkins), but the possible gap left on the strongside of the field would be troubling. With both safeties shifting to the left in coverage and Samuel plays the deep zone, completely the Cover 3, it would appear that the ability to properly judge the speed with which to get into position by the middle and weakside linebackers (Gaither and Stewart) becomes the real hinge. Stewart has a good deal of ground to cover, especially if he's going to try and be keeping the tight end under wraps before the quarterback can dump it off in the face of the rush, and with Gocong voiding his position to blitz, there would almost have to be a significant gap between Gaither and Stewart no matter how perfectly they drag across the quarterback's vision.

Maybe I'm being too cautious when the obvious intent of the play is a form of shock & awe, but any quarterback who can keep his wits and is able to see over the rush coming from the right side would seem to have some pretty sparse zone coverage to exploit.
PMD something to take a look at is how the diagram would be disguised on gameday.

I highly doubt they run that blitz regularily with the standard 4-3 set...my guess is that both LB'ers would show blitz on the right side...now you mentioned a QB that could see over the blitz and still have the ability to make a good throw with his vision...well instantly peyton comes to mind....

Now if you look at it like this....lets say we are in a singleback set with the colts and strongside is the offenses right side...same side the blitz is coming...if TE is tight to the formation and peyton reads heavy blitz that side he likely audibles to keep the TE to block or to a quick run/pass right.

The beauty of this play is that...if manning is to audible....you have your biggest worry the TE drag called off....you have defense against a quick slant with Cole falling to a zone....your weakness becomes the run to the left side...but you have heavy rotation going that direction. So you have just a couple of quick things to go to otherwise it's up to the players.

If your worried about stewart getting to his zone....if he is showing blitz...he is already near the LOS...it becomes a footrace between him and the back/te...if the TE goes out on a route wide...there is a slight chance that the QB can get the throw off...in which case you have a WR and CB one on one for the block and stewart in pursuit....this is probably the ideal play for the offense...but I'm guessing you'd see an audible called or a offside checkdown before you set your primary target as the TE dragging outside.
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Old 07-13-2008, 01:40 AM    (permalink
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I can't imagine the overload play would get many calls that aren't strict passing downs, so I'm less worried about a run to the left doing damage. However, if the tight end is running a short route, he has a multitude of options no matter where he goes.

With the trio of linemen blitzing, additional space should be made between the trench and where the tightend and linebackers are operating. If he heads to the right, he's got Stewart (not the fastest guy in the world) in pursuit and Asante Samuel as the most immediate tackler ahead of him.

If he heads to the left (let us say on a dragging route), he running against the grain of Stewart who, if he was showing blitz, is going to be running completely horizontal to the flat. Any tight end whose name isn't Bubba Franks would catch him on his back heel easily, meaning the play would suddenly depend suddenly on Gaither's ability to read this and attach himself to the tight end before the ball makes it there.

The other bonus of running the route to the left means that the quarterback gets to step away from the rush and assuming he doesn't freak out when he look out wide left and sees the coverage, should give him additional visibility.

Yes, the initial reaction of any quarterback facing this play is to step away from the rush and look to his left, where he will be inevitably met with coverage on the three levels of the field. That said, the play expands what the middle of the field is by splitting a lot of players to the edge, and then defends that middle with two linebackers. It's terribly risky.
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Old 07-13-2008, 01:54 AM    (permalink
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Again good points PMD

I'm still not sold that the QB will have enough time to have the TE flash on a drag..

Like you said Stewart will be moving horizontally and this will force the TE to get around him essentially which would be the exact same thing for Stewart....this slight crossup probably allows the rush to get to the QB before the TE flashes open....the only quick routes I see that would burn this play is flare right to your RB...who should be able to out run the backer...which puts huge pressure on Samuel to shed the block and make the open field tackle..the quick slant is shut down by Cole...and a hitch is a minimal gain...like you said probably only use this defense is obvious passing situations...quick hitch get's you 4-5 yards...probably not enough.

That said...the best way to beat any blitz is to go right at it the majority of the time...if you can get a lob pass to your TE before the rush is there you win....but this becomes a huge risk play in the face of the beast.
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Old 07-14-2008, 07:28 AM    (permalink
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That said...the best way to beat any blitz is to go right at it the majority of the time...if you can get a lob pass to your TE before the rush is there you win....but this becomes a huge risk play in the face of the beast.
Also many good pints brought up between the both of you. The perfect example of what you are tlaking about is a play two years ago against the cowboys when Garcia hit L.J. wit a lob almost directly after the snap and L.J. ran for almost 50 yards I beleive before he was tackled just short of a touchdown.
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