Correlating Verbiage in Building a Multiple Zone Pressure System

Jan 31, 2021 | Defense, Pressure

By Jason Brown
Linebacker Coach
St. Charles Catholic High School (LA)


As always it is a pleasure to represent the St Charles Catholic Football Program writing this article for X&O Labs. It is my goal with this article to share some of our thoughts on Pressure Defense. As a disclaimer, I will always say that it is not my intent to sell you on anything only to share the thoughts that we have on a topic and stimulate thought within the X and O community. Believe me, I was told a long time ago, "there are a lot of different ways to get to Chicago". These are some of the thoughts that we think get us there until of course, we find a better way to do it. These concepts have been developed and tested over 30 plus years in defensive football. We don't have all the answers, for sure, but we have OUR answers. As with all coaches, the answers have changed over the years. Some things were great, some things looked great, but we could never teach it good enough, or some answers we just simply got beat in and we had to find a better way to do it. Because of the length limits of this report, there may be times it is necessary to just touch on something and not get too involved. If the article is lacking in some detail, I do apologize but the main goal, as always, is to stimulate thought because that is where I think true growth in this profession starts.


Rationale for Pressure:

  1. Part of an attacking culture in the football program.
  2. Get the ball back for the offense in positive field position.
  3. Defense is an attitude!
  4. The complexity of running attacks in today's offenses makes it harder and harder to read and fit plays effectively down after down.
  5. With the advent of the RPO game, we must have a way to distort the QBs reads and make him make decisions quicker. Disguise can cause QB mistakes, but the question always is “what are you disguising?”.
  6. With the advent of Passing Leagues in the summer, passing games are becoming more and more sophisticated and the QB and skill are getting better and better executing within these systems.
  7. Offensive Menus are growing at an alarming rate and in response, the defenses must have a way to respond to all of this.
  8. Must have a way to aggressively take away time and space from the offense. Make them speed up the decision-making process.
  9. In modern football tackles for loss, turnovers, penalties caused, and three and outs are a big indicator for defensive success. Hard to get these things in modern football unless you force the issue. Do not allow the opposing offense to occupy the ball.
  10. Must be able to snatch momentum back within a game. Defensively we have the best chance to gain the momentum back for our team.
  11. Have answers to the puzzle that the offense is presenting during a series. It does no good if you must get to the sideline to fix a problem. Usually, you are getting to the sideline because the offense has scored on that series.
  12. The addition of pressure and movement adds to the effectiveness of our static defend principles because it lightens the steps of the offensive lineman in the running game and creates doubt in the mind of QBs and receivers in the passing game.


Making the Pressure Package Player Friendly

When in the installation process it is important to teach pod concepts to the players that define their techniques within the pressure package. That way they can just start plugging in their technique based on the call. Again, this allows the pressure to make sense to the player on a total level.


Defensive Line Zone Pressure Concepts:

Short Stick (Gap slants): Step-dip-rip to the V of the neck of the next offensive lineman in the direction of the movement. Read him as you would if you would have lined up on him.

Long Stick (Face Slants): Step to the face of the player that he is supposed to read. If he gets his face, he will cross it right now. If he gets his butt he will chase it.

Make the Trip: Tackle to the pressure side is long sticking to the Center and the Tackle away from the pressure is looping into the OT. When you have a "Cop" designation you must handle the run in the B gap first, then work outside to contain on a pass.

Anchor: The End in a 3-man front to the backside of the pressure plays a true 5-technique

Take: Penetrate the designated gap on the snap.

Loop-Squeeze: Loop outside with eyes still on your alignment key. If he blocks down, you must squeeze back inside and “Dent” whatever shows.

Belly Button: Step to the belly button of your alignment key. If your key blocks down squeeze off his butt, if your key blocks out slip underneath him.

Sprint: puts the End on the outside path of the pressure side.

Visual: DE visual key the OT. If he blocks down squeeze off his butt. If the OT blocks out twist into the A gap.

Linebacker and Secondary Zone Pressure Concepts: Outside Track: Outside pressure path where the aiming point is the hip of the deepest back in the backfield. If Gun, it is the hip of the closest hip of the QB and RB. Stay on the track and defend the first threat through that track.

Inside Track: Could either be face of the Guard, Face of the OT, or the Face of the Center depending on the call. Pressure the Face of the key: If the key blocks down squeeze tight off his hip. If the key blocks on or out go inside the block and squeeze from there.

Gap: Penetrate the designated gap on the snap reading the inside blocker. Read the V of the neck of the blocker and react accordingly to the blocking scheme. Blocks down= squeeze, blocks you= keep your hat in the crack, pulls= get in the hip pocket. If pass understand your lane in the pass rush.

Key: If you are on a key blitz you have a designated spot in the pattern if it is pass or if the flow is to the pressure side. If it is none of the above, you play football.

Visual: Read the OT. If the OT blocks down, you will squeeze off his butt. If the OT blocks on or out, you will twist into the A gap. It is important to note, as a camp rule, we play linebackers at 4 ½ yards deep and have a downhill attitude based on our keys. When we have pressure happening in front of them, they are instructed to play more in a sideways shuffle to let the pressure pattern work for them. “Go when you know”.  Also, if they are part of the pressure, they must scoot their alignment up to 3 yards as a “camp rule”.