Defensive Strategies

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Unlike offenses, which have very specific plans and assignments for each player, defenses are more reactive in nature. The goal being to “stop the offense” by tackling the ball carrier, breaking up passing plays, taking the ball away from the offense, or sacking the quarterback. Where precision and timing are among the most important parts of offensive strategy, defensive strategies often emphasize aggressiveness and the ability to react to plays as they develop. Often a coach will adjust the defence to the offence it is facing, and design it specifically to stop the opponents system.

 

Nevertheless, there are specific defensive strategies that have been developed over the years that each one has their unique tendencies and philosophies.

 

Some of the most commonly known and used defensive strategies include:

 

4-3 front

 

The numbers refer to the number of defensive linemen (four) and linebackers (three), and this front is the most common defensive alignment. By having four players matched up with the offensive line, it is fundamentally sound against the run. The two defensive tackles should allow the linebackers to flow freely and the two ends help defend the edges. Against the pass on the other hand, it is harder to surprise and confuse the offence with blitzes, as the linemen’s rush lanes are easy to predict from where they line up.

 

Many teams have and continue to use this front; the 2002 Baltimore Ravens who dominated defensively are one example.

 

3-4 front

 

In this front only three linemen face the offence, but usually the all line up inside the offensive tackles. Two outside linebackers, who often line up on the line of scrimmage, defend the edges. This leaves only two true linebackers in the middle. The strength of this defence is that any one of the four linebackers can blitz without leaving holes in the coverage. This ability to pressure the quarterback in an unpredictable way on pass plays is a tremendous advantage. The drawback is that the offensive guards are often free to block the inside linebackers, and thus the defence is susceptible to the run, unless you have excellent defensive linemen who can occupy the blockers.

 

Historically the Pittsburg Steeles have used this scheme with great success, earning the nickname 'Blitzburg' for their eagerness to rush the passer.

 

Tampa 2

 

This variant of defence is played out of a 4-3 front, and the number refers to the two deep safeties in the base coverage. The Tampa Two lives by the 'bend but don’t break' philosophy, it usually relies on the four linemen to create a pass rush, and drops the remaining seven players into coverage. By being fundamentally sound and emphasizing team speed, the goal is to minimize the offensive gains with quick tackles. The scheme is designed to rarely give up big plays, but it can only function with a quick and sound tackling personnel.

 

As the name indicates the scheme comes from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where Coach Tony Dungy implemented it. Both the Buccaneers and the Indianapolis Colts have won Super Bowls using this defence.

 

46 Defense

 

Pretty much the opposite of the Tampa Two, the 46 Defence seeks to dictate what the offence does and not 'just' react to it. By flooding the line with defenders the 46 is all but impossible to run against, and aims to stop passes by bringing extreme pressure. This means that one safety plays close to the line effectively as another linebacker, making the alignment a 4-4 or 5-3 formation. This defense can overwhelm an offence and totally close it down, but the risk is very big, and if the offence can protect the quarterback it can score big on deep passes.

 

Links

 

Defensive Strategies 

 

Quotes

 

"I don't know any other way to lead but by example."
-Don Shula, Hall of Fame Coach

 

"Football is easy if you're crazy as hell"
-Bo Jackson, Former Oakland Raider

 

”Football is, after all, a wonderful way to get rid of your aggressions without going to jail for it.”    
- Heywood Hale Broun, American sportswriter