This is a reprint of an article by Jim Scott, describing a specific 'play family'.

--Bryan Bills


By: Jim Scott (

This is a description of one of my most commonly called defensive plays. I'm sending this to the list because I think it's a good starting point for a set of defensive plays. To be successful, you still need to customize the play to your personnel.

  __________________   _____________              _______________
  |                 | |      S1     |       S2   |       Zone    |
  |_________________| |_____________|            |_______________|    
             CB1              LB1       LB3            CB2

                             LB2 DE DT DT DE

I set CB1, S1 and CB2 to play horizontal zones about 8 yards deep. These are skinny zones -- 10 yards wide, but only 2 yards high. The CBs line up close to the line of scrimmage, then retreat immediately to the zone. The idea is to keep any short passes in front of them.

S2 and LB3 can do several different things. They can man up against the running backs, or against the opposing team's best receivers. Or they can play read, or drop into vertical zones (8-10 yards tall, 2 yards wide) to pick up any crossing patterns or slants. Or they can drop into spot zones to defend certain areas of the field. I even set the LB3 to run defense in some circumstances, or have him blitz.

LB1 plays Run D Conservative. He's my fastest linebacker, so he should be able to beat most RBs to the corner. LB2 plays Run D aggressive. He charges straight into the backfield. He has a chance to make a big play on any run left, or a deep pass without good protection. My LB2 is usually my best tackler.

The defensive line has lots of options, as well. The DTs can go to Run Rush Agg. and generate a pass rush. Or they can go to conservative and patrol the line of scrimmage. My LDE almost always plays Run Rush Conservative. I'll often drop him a yard off the line of scrimmage. A RT with fire out logic can miss him, letting the LDE beat a RB to the sideline.

That's about it. That's a formation, and general ideas about what to do with it. I've used 12-16 different versions of this play in the last couple of seasons.

This is vulnerable to any floods (3 receivers to one side of the field) and the CBs can get beat deep from time to time. Underneath passes are usually completed, so your CBs have to be able to tackle for this to work well. Ineffective against comeback routes. Depending on the S2 logic, there can be a seam up the middle, where an offensive can send two receivers deep against a single safety.

I invite any comments or questions about this play. I encourage anyone else who wants to to contribute a description of a play they use.

Jim Scott

"I have plenty of hearsay and conjecture.  Those are *kinds* of evidence."
        -- Lionel Hutz.

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