Defending Air Raid Offenses from Odd Stack Looks

Dec 3, 2017 | Front, Defense, Odd Front Structures, Game Planning, Defending Specific Offensive Systems and Concepts

By Jason Winstead
Defensive Coordinator
South Pointe High School (SC)
Twitter: @FootballSPH



For most defensive units, the goal is to stop the run first. This makes since as there is nothing worse than having the ball crammed down your throat 4 yards at a time. Defenses tend to be built with this in mind. Stop the run, worry about the pass next.

At South Pointe High School, we do things a bit different. Our defenses are built on speed. We prefer speed more than size. If you can run, you have a chance to play. Our philosophy has developed because we were playing a number of Air Raid offenses year in and year out. This has led us to set up our defense to stop the pass first, while staying sound vs. the run with as few players in the box as possible. We will use multiple coverages to confuse the QB and to change our run fits against Air Raid teams.

Base Alignment

As stated earlier, we value speed. We are a gap assignment team. We are not big enough, or strong enough to utilize 2 gap techniques. We also want to take away as much thinking as we can. We tell our players to, “Know their gap responsibility and GO!”

At South Pointe, we make sure our best 11 are on the field. We do not believe in fitting our players into a scheme. Instead, we believe in fitting our scheme around our players. That means that we will do whatever we have to do to get our best 11 on the field. Against Air Raid offenses, it is vital that the 11 on the field can not only run, but also tackle in the open field. 

Our base alignment is a 3-3 cover 3 look with our SS splitting the difference between the end man on the line of scrimmage and the #2 WR. We will show what looks to be a 4 man box, hoping to encourage them to run the ball. Our DE will control B gap. Our NG will be given an A gap by the MLB. The Mike will take the other A gap. Our SS will read thru the tackle to the RB and will fill C gap against the run. What appears to be a 4 man box, quickly becomes a 6 man box against run.

Our goal is to make the offense bounce their running game to C gap. We feel that we have the speed on the field to run it down. We have no expectation of completely shutting down the run. We are playing the run/pass percentages. We will live with a few long runs in order to stop the chunk pass plays when possible. Adjustments will be made if the opposing OC makes a point to run the ball. 


Base Coverage

Our base coverage is Cover 3. We prefer to drop 8 in many instances. The nature of the Air Raid is to throw the ball quickly. We will pick and choose when to send pressure, but have found this to be a lot of show with minimal results. Most QB’s we face, including our own, will throw without the laces. Catch and throw. What ends up happening most of the time is that a throwing lane is opened and our blitzer(s) can’t get to the QB in time. We prefer to keep the extra droppers when possible.

That said, it is how we get to Cover 3 that has benefitted us. Our corners play a hard Cover 2. They will beat up the # 1 WR and funnel them inside. We are a zone Cover 3, Cover 2 team, so this is not something new we have to teach the week of the game. Our Corners will play #1 in a 1 x 1 alignment if the WR is on the LOS and at 3 x 3 if #1 is off the LOS. Our goal is to get our hands on them quickly and take away the screen game. If no screen happens, the corner sits in the flats.

Everyone else is playing Cover 3. Our SS plays Curl, Mike plays hook to the strong side. Our FS stays in the middle of the field. Our 2 deep safeties (S) will align between the #1 and #2 WR and bail into deep their assigned. 


Coaching Points:

Defensive Line 

  • Must control the running game. Our goal is to clog the middle and make all runs bounce.

  • The DE’s must attack B gap. They DO NOT have contain. If they beat their tackle and flush the QB, it is somebody else’s responsibility. In this case, the DE becomes a chaser. Against the Air Raid, we want the QB to have to scramble. We do not want him to be able to set his feet.

  • The DE will attack the inside shoulder of the offensive tackle. We do not want to necessarily “slant” into B gap. Our goal is to control B gap, not get washed out of it. If he gets a pull, he will jump into the hip pocket of the puller. If he gets doubled, he will fight the double team and drop if needed.

  • The nose can go 2 ways. We like to play our best DE at nose. If this is not an option, then we will play a “plugger” type player here. If we can draw a double team between the Center and Guard, we believe our DE can beat his Tackle into B gap.


  • Must NOT leave his A Gap. He is a major piece of stopping the run. With 7 DB’s on the field, he has to stay home.

  • We want him to be late to help with the pass. Read run first, if pass, turn and run, looking for crossers. To help with his reads, we have him align at 6 yards in his A Gap. We teach a flat footed read.

  • Against a QB scramble, the LB has contain on QB. He has to know that against a pass, he has the middle of the field. When he sees the QB take off, he has to go to the QB now! Note that this is what we teach against the Air Raid. If the QB is a runner, we are not in this defense.

Strong Safeties

  • Our SS use OLB techniques and reads. They read through the end man on the line of scrimmage to the RB. They have the QB in the running game.

  • The SSs will play underneath any puller to spill everything. In our