By Mike Kuchar
Senior Research Manager
In this case, we will expound upon the coverage responsibilities of defenders in these replace pressures. Remember, the base coverages will only be one of two concepts, Cover 3 or Cover 2, but the difference in these pressures is that it’s unknown, particularly to the opposing quarterback, which defenders are responsible for which zones because they can change from play-to-play.
According to Coach Toney, this the safest way to pressure the quarterback, because a defense can get seven defenders in coverage. And the beauty is those defenders will change from snap-to-snap. “When running a replace pressure, you are still playing traditional coverage,” he said. “We are playing either four under three deep zone (Cover 3) or five under two deep zone (Quarter, Quarter, Half). Being able to play traditional coverage while still being able to bring pressure maximizes your time coaching. Since you are running the same coverage you play on base downs, there is minimal new learning for your players, which allows them to rep and become proficient at the techniques, pattern reads and matches of the coverage. The other added benefit is that the presentation of the coverage looks drastically different to the opposing quarterback, because different defenders are dropping into the underneath zones and different rushers are coming. So, while it may be simple for us, it’s still difficult for the opposition.”
According to Coach Toney, utilizing replace pressures gives you the ability to call them in all down-and-distance situations. “For example, in third-and- medium situations, most offensive coordinators are trying to get the ball to the sticks,” he said. “So, defenses are mainly seeing quick-rhythm short routes in which three deep replace pressures wouldn’t be the answer. Yet if we want to run those pressures, we have other coverages to pair them with, so they can be used in those situations. Conversely in long yardage situations, we like using our two deep and three deep zone replace pressures to protect the seams and verticals, which forces the offense to check the ball down short and outside and we can rally to and tackle in front of the sticks. This versatility has allowed us to go into games running the same pressure patterns from four or more different versions of coverage as well as allows us to keep our game plan simple for the front and allow the secondary to adjust to the down-and-distance situations by coverage.”
Communication System for Pressures
Part of the challenge in devising pressure packages is making sure the language is aligned. One flaw in communication can produce big plays for the offense. This is why Coach Roberts and the defensive staff will marry each of these pressure concepts with words that denote the corresponding coverage. The four replace pressure concepts are classified below:
Editor’s Note: All of the following pressure concepts are detailed further in this report.
“Smoke” Pressures: These are boundary (short side) pressures. The coverage is a single safety coverage (cover three) with weak side rotation.
“Fire” Pressures: These are field pressures. The coverage is a single safety coverage (cover three) with strong side rotation.
“Weak” Pressures: These are middle pressures. The coverage is a single safety coverage with middle rotation. Strength is called to the field.
Two-High Pressures: These are middle of the field open pressures, where mostly an interior linebacker will add onto the pressure pattern. Coverages can vary between two-read or cloud principles.
Base Three Deep, Four Under Coverage Responsibilities
In order to teach the zone coverage unilaterally, defenders must know the base rules of each underneath and deep defender. Regardless of the zone they are responsible for, each coverage defender is asked to look at the QB with “zone eyes,” which is different than pure pattern match principles. It’s all centered around the intent of different defenders dropping into unknown locations to get tip balls or interceptions. Since the Cajuns teach a spot drop, not pattern match principle, all coverage defenders must abide by the golden rule: Anything the quarterback tells you as he’s dropping is bulls**t, once the backfoot hits the ground it’s a reality. And with four unidentified flying objects come directly in his face, the QB will usually need to shorten his drop. So, when the quarterback shortens his drop, so do drop defenders. They often don’t need drop that far before the ball is released, or the whistle is blown on a sack.
In any of the above three deep, four under coverages, the following zones must be accounted for:
- Outside Third (2 defenders)
- Deep Third (1 defender)
- Curl/Flat (2 defenders)
- Hook (2 defenders)
Outside Third Defenders: While outside third defenders will usually be the corner, or Weak safety in boundary pressures, they will play off 1x8 off the number one receiver or will press bail to look like man coverage. Their primary key is through the number two receiver to the QB. “He will start in a walkout technique,” said Coach Toney. “His is secondary key is the release of number two. If number two is in the seam, he will get depth on his divider, which is one yard on top of the numbers if he’s a field corner. If he’s the boundary corner the divider is apexing the numbers.” Once the ball is snapped, these defenders are asked to play with complete vision on the quarterback. “If number two is anything non-vertical (which means in our out) he will nail down and play loose man on number one,” said Coach Toney. This is essentially “MOD (man over the depth of LBs)” in Coach Nick Saban’s terms. “He will play loose man over the depth of linebackers on number one. Anything underneath he will zone the third and look for work coming back to him.”