Man Free VS. Zone Pressure


The word pressure as a verb means to persuade or coerce someone into doing something. It can also be seen as a state of physical or mental distress. When applying pressure as a defense, we are trying to do both.  We would like to persuade the offense into a state of mental or physical duress.  When I say that I don't just mean the QB, but the entire offensive system. The thing about applying pressure is it becomes a risk/reward type situation.  Sometimes depending on the coverage structure you play behind the pressure you may be putting pressure on YOUR players as well.

Most people understand that if you can harass the QB you can slow down an offense.  The problem is not how to harass the QB or the run game, the problem is how can you be solid and sound behind the harassment.  Blitzing just to blitz is a bad bad idea.  All blitzes should be thought out and calculated based on personnel, field position, tendencies, and flow of the game.  Blitzing in general should not be your first course of action because if it does not work, then what do you fall back on?

First I think we must define what a zone blitz is.  For today's blog we are talking about sending a 5th rusher and playing zone coverage behind it, with only 6 players in coverage.  That means we are short a player in our zone coverage so we must adapt the coverage a little bit to account for that.  The picture above is a simple version of a 3 under 3 deep zone blitz coverage.  The underneath coverage has 2 Seam Curl Flat defenders and a middle hole or hook 3 player.  The back end of the coverage is playing deep thirds.  This is a much better look vs. the run game because it is essentially an 8 man front with a force defender to each side and zone players are in better positions to support the run because of where their eyes can look.  The issue becomes the coverage aspect of the pressure and making sure you can match the coverage to the formation you are seeing.  In this diagram the Hook 3 defender is on the same side as the #3 receiver and that receiver is in the backfield.  If that #3 was a wide out and lined up opposite the Hook 3 defender you will now need to make some adjustments in the coverage.


In the diagram above you are now looking at a 5 man, man free blitz which means the coverage will be man to man with a Safety free in the deep middle of the field.  Now that the coverage has become man to man it makes defending the run a little more difficult.  In today's wide open spread style offense's you are going to see a lot of 2x2 and 3x1 sets which means those 4 wides can run guys off in man coverage very easily.  For us at my high school if we play man we look exclusively at our man because I don't want my guys "peeking" in the backfield and giving up an easy 6 points on play action passes.  That will slow down their run fits if those are wide receivers they are covering.  So now we have to make sure the outside edge rushers become the force players in the run game.  What we gain though is the ability to line up and play faster and more aggressive because we are not as concerned with getting out formationed or having to check our coverages to certain formations.

Each 5 man pressure comes with it's own set of strengths and weaknesses and you must decide which works best for you and your players.  The ideal scenario would be the ability to do both.  We have opted to not do both versions because our players play both sides of the ball and we felt like we did not have enough time to teach both. Remember when blitzing its not the actual blitzes you draw up that's important but making sure you are sound in coverage and run support behind it.  The amount of blitzes you could draw on paper is endless, but the structure you play behind it is the most important thing.  Keep in mind the goal is to make the opponent have to beat you, don't beat yourself and do it for them.  Whatever you can teach best and your kids can play best should be the determining factor in making your decision.


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