The importance of a workable 3rd down defensive package cannot be overstated. If you play good defense on first and second down and you can get an offense in a third and medium to long situation, you must be able to get off the field a majority of the time. Coach Brown gives us a look at his go to 3rd down calls...
By Jason Brown
Dutchtown High School (LA)
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The importance of a workable 3rd down defensive package cannot be overstated. If you play good defense on first and second down and you can get an offense in a third and medium to long situation, you must be able to get off the field a majority of the time. We have found that our 3rd down package gives us a good chance to get our defense off the field and to give our offense a chance to score points.
Our 3rd down package has been developed over twenty-plus years and we are constantly tweaking it to make it simpler and more effective. The result is a nice clean package that we install in the summer months, work on during Pass Skeleton / 7 on 7 leagues, and then carry it through the season. During the season, this package is focused on every Tuesday. This time and commitment gives us the utmost confidence that we need to win on 3rd down when the games arrive.
On the early downs, our philosophy with the back of our defense is to maintain zone eyes. This allows us to better swarm the ball. When it gets to third down, especially in the third and medium area, we adjust into more of a man concept to deny the ball. Nothing is more frustrating for a coordinator than to get an offense to third and 4-7 yards and the offense runs a flood concept or horizontal stretches a zone defender and first down! If you work that hard to get to the down, you should have the necessary tools to win the down.
Defensively we are multiple in our personnel packages and in our mode of attack. For this report, we will mostly be dealing with our sub packages, which are listed and shown below:
Nickel: 4 lineman, 2 linebackers, 5 Defensive backs (Diagram 1)
Dime: 4 lineman, 1 linebacker, 6 defensive backs (Diagram 1)
Dollar: 3 lineman, 2 linebackers, 6 defensive backs (Diagram 2)
Cash: 3 lineman, 1 linebacker, 7 defensive backs (Diagram 3)
Basic Cover-Down Rules for Sub Personnel:
Star: Cover down on number 2 to the passing strength. If we are in man to man, he must bring the Money over if three receivers. This is an automatic “Coin” alignment. He must establish the strong side with a “Lucky” or “Ringo” call.
Money/Don: Cover down on number 2 away from the passing strength, unless “coin” is called aligning him to the three receiver side.
Mac: Cover down on number 3 receiver to the passing strength. If the Money “Coins,” he will then cover the # 2 receiver away.
Buck in Dollar Package: If in the package, he will align away from the Mac.
Strong Safety: He aligns to the strong side.
Weak Safety: He aligns to the weak side.
Middle Safety in Cash Package: If in the package, he will align in the middle third as a starting point.
Corners: They will be designated as left and right. Sometimes we will assign a corner to a certain side of the formation depending on receiver distribution, field-boundary, etc.
Man Coverage Tools:
Before we get into our third down concepts, it is important to understand that there are certain techniques that we teach for these man-to-man coverage situations. These techniques must be taught as tools that the players can use on their own to help them accomplish their task. If done right, these tools will guard against all of the different things offenses do to get their receivers free against man coverage.
Doubles are designed to take away certain offensive receivers based on formation or personnel. They are constructed to deny certain receivers and make the QB go somewhere else with the football.
If we want to put seven DBs on the field, we can go with our Cash package. In this case, we have a middle of the field safety attached to the coverage. If the safeties have a middle of the field safety, they can move out to the thirds of the field now instead of halves. You can start manipulating calls within this package to get some pretty good looks and combinations as well. “50 Combo Middle”, for example, would give us a middle of the field safety within the doubling of two receiver’s concept (Diagram 14).
Another option would be something like “50 Trouble.” This call would give us the opportunity to double three receivers within the formation (triple-double) (Diagram 15). We would explain who the three receivers we want doubled are during the week’s preparation.
Within our Cash package, we have a concept we call “Dragon.” The concept is a double-double concept with pressure. In Dragon, the blitz safety comes off the edge, the middle safety doubles the first receiver to the blitz and the opposite safety doubles the first receiver away from the blitz. We use this concept in a variety of different ways based on the weekly game plan. This past year we used Dragon to the back, away from the back, to the field, away from the field, to the strength or away from the strength (Diagrams 16 & 17).
Triangle Coverage Concept:
Join X&O Labs’ exclusive membership website, Insiders, and get instant access to the full-length version of Coach Brown’s clinic report. Here’s just a short list of what you’ll get in the full-length version:
- How Coach Brown defends stacked receivers using what he calls “Salt” and “Pepper.”
- “Triangle” coverage concept that Coach Brown uses to double a receiver in three-receiver sets.
- “Sift” coverage concept that Coach Brown uses against bunch formations.
- 3 components of bracket coverage: bracket double, hi-lo and vise and how Coach Brown uses these to deny receivers based on formation and personnel.
- VIDEO: Watch Coach Brown’s game film on all these concepts.
I know there are a lot of concepts there, but my intention was to stimulate a conversation and provide some different things we do or are capable of doing within our system. It is my opinion that with Cover 2 and 50 Doubles thrown in with the Cash package middle concepts, Dragon concepts, and Aces concepts, you are well on your way to tilting the 3rd down odds into your favor. I hope that I have given you something that you can use in the upcoming season. Sprinkle in some pressure concepts with good disguise principles and watch out!
As always it was a pleasure writing for X&O Labs and sharing some of our 3rd down package with you.
Meet Coach Brown: Jason Brown is the Defensive Coordinator at Dutchtown High School in Geismar, Louisiana. He has been coaching for 25 years with 21 of them serving as Defensive Coordinator at various upper classification schools in Louisiana. Dutchtown High School has a 51-11 record over the last five years and their defense has contributed greatly to this success. Some notable former players for Dutchtown High School include Eddie Lacy (RB Green Bay Packers), Eric Reid (DB San Francisco 49ers), and Landon Collins (DB Alabama). Coach Brown also is an esteemed member for the X&O Labs Board of Advisers.