Disrupting Protections Using First Level Twists

May 18, 2015 | Front, Even Front Structures, Defense

By Ben McKaig
Defensive Line Coach
Utica College
Twitter: @McKaig_Ben


As defensive coaches, we are constantly looking at ways to attack weaknesses in protections without losing coverage options in the back end of the defense. I believe that a properly executed twist can give both man and slide protections trouble, providing pressure on the quarterback without bringing an extra defender. We have worked our twists over the past several years to try to obtain maximum effectiveness against both types of protection.

Benefits of Using a Twist:

We look to twists to do several things for our defense. First, we can attack a protection with a properly executed twist and almost always generate additional pressure and stress on the quarterback and offensive line. We also incorporate our twist game to defend against screens and draws, as late moving defensive linemen are able to see the play happening in front of them and redirect. Finally, twists can cloud quarterback throwing lanes and help to defend against a quarterback looking to step up in the pocket or scramble. That said, the lion’s share of this article will focus on attacking offensive pass protections.

Maximizing the Effectiveness of Your Twists

Our twisters are divided into two primary jobs: a penetrator and a looper. Our defensive linemen understand that depending on the type of protection we face, either member of the twist may come free to the quarterback. So there is a shared responsibility in executing our twists and all of our guys can benefit from a well-executed stunt. The basic twist movement is shown in Diagram 1. The penetrator is labeled P and the looper is labeled L.


The Penetrator must execute the following:

  • Attack his aiming point which is either the ear hole or nose of the OL.
    • The penetrator is the catalyst in the twist. He must break the line of scrimmage and get the opponent offensive line off of the same plane or “off level.” This is the most important part of the penetrator’s job. Getting the offensive line off of the same plane ensures that they will not be able to pass off the twist without pressure on the QB. We also aim for either the ear hole or to “break the nose” of the OL so that we can penetrate the gap. These two aiming points allow us to work half of an offensive lineman even while we are executing the twist.
  • Strike the offensive lineman with their face and hands.
    • The OL should be looking to engage the “looper” in the twist. This is a free shot for our penetrating defensive lineman to strike an OL and to knock him “off level.” This will also help to deny OL the ability to pass off the twist.
  • Shed and Ricochet. Get vertical to the QB.
    • The penetrator must not become engaged when he strikes the OL. It is important to ricochet off of the strike and get vertical into the QB’s face. We call it a pinball technique. Bounce off of the OL and get moving to the QB.

The Looper must execute the following:

  • 2 vertical steps to make the OL believe he is about to engage the looper.
    • Best case scenario, we can get the OL to focus his eyes and even open his hips toward the looper. When his hips are pointed to the looper, it ensures that our penetrator will get a great strike and will be free to ricochet to the QB. The OL will not be able to flip his hips faster than we can move. Occupying his eyes will ensure a free shot for our penetrator to take him out, eliminating him from the protection.
  • Stick and go. The looper will stick his foot in the ground and nod, similar to a WR break.
    • Sell the movement and continue to occupy the eyes of the OL. Loop to find open space. Work a move off of any additional blockers. In a man blocking situation, one of the two will come free.

Types of Twists