Saturday, January 29, 2011

4-3 vs. the Flexbone - CB Play


The CBs or the Safeties can be the Force player in the 4-3 defense depending on your coverage philosophy and personnel.  Most teams ran Quarters coverage vs. the Georgia Tech Flexbone in 2009 and utilized their Safeties as the Force players.  The CB in Quarters coverage is is a pass-first defender who is man vs. his WR unless he runs a Shallow route or unless he cracks the Force player, the Safety.  When the WR crack-blocks the Safety, the CB will then become a run-first defender.  If he does not, the defense will have nobody on the pitch back, allowing the Flexbone offense to make big plays on the perimeter.

CB as Secondary Force

The CB is the Secondary Force defender vs. the run in Quarters coverage.   He will become the Force player for the defense when the Safety is crack-blocked by the WR or when the Safety loses his outside leverage.  The CB must see the WR angling inside and come off of the WR to become the new Force player for the defense.  He will now be responsible for the pitch back as the new Force player for the defense.  The CB must quickly read this crack block and give a "Crack!" call immediately to the Safety to keep him from getting ear-holed. 

It takes all 11 guys to defend the Flexbone running game and the CB cannot just be a finesse coverage specialist.  He must be able to support the run when needed and become the Force player for the defense when the Primary Force player is cracked.

The CB in Quarters or Cover 3 is a Secondary Force defender who must keep outside leverage vs. the run once the ball crosses the LOS (line of scrimmage) and Force it back inside to the rest of the defense or big runs will happen.

CB as Primary Force

Iowa and also Jacksonville State did some nice things vs. the Option and they were Cover 2 teams, utilizing their Corners as their Force players.  Iowa really opened a lot of eyes with the job they did vs. the Flexbone in the 2010 Orange Bowl. They didn't do it with anything new or complicated, they just played outstanding fundamental defense. They stayed in Cover 2 vs. the Double Slot Flexbone look and checked to Cover 3 vs. any Trips setsthat was all they did in terms of  "X's and O's" in defending the Option.  The scheme didn't matter near as much as the execution of each individual player on the Iowa defense.

Jacksonville State often cheated their CBs a few yards inside of the WRs which, although great vs. the outside run, left them susceptible to 4 Verticals as the outside WRs were allowed a free release and put the Safety in a 2 on 1 situation that resulted in some big plays for the Georgia Tech offense.  

It is imperative for defenses to collision and slow down every WR that can threaten the holes in the deep coverage.  For Cover 2, the holes are on the outside and in the middle.  For Cover 3, the holes are down the hashmarks.  If the WRs are not collisioned and slowed down, the defense will give up big plays as a result.

Iowa showed that you didn't have to cheat your CBs in to properly defend the perimeter and Force the ball inside. They had their CBs line up in normal Cover 2 alignment (roughly 5 yards deep with outside leverage) and they read the Offensive Tackles for their run-pass read. As soon as the OT blocked down on Inside Veer, the CB charged in to be the Force player and took away the Pitch.  One CB read it extremely well and he was on the pitch back before the QB could blink.  It looked like a very clean and easy readone CB executed it extremely well, but the other CB was not quite as good.

The CB in Cover 2 must be disciplined as the Force player for the defense.  He cannot stay wide and leave a huge Alley for the defense to be able to run the ball. Rather, he must squeeze the Alley and constrict the offense's ability to be able to run on the perimeter.

CB Keys
1.  Cover 2: Force, Run Read - OT
2.  Quarters: Secondary Force / Crack Replace
3.  Cover 3, 4: Secondary Force - Keep Outside Leverage

CB Mistakes
1.  Cover 2: Poor Run Read.  Must Read OT's Down Block Quickly.
2.  Cover 2: Force Player Not Squeezing the Alley
3.  Not Keeping Outside Leverage vs. the Run
4.  Quarters: CB Must Stay on Top of Post Route

Thanks again to my guest writers OJW, Deuce, Brophy, and Jerry Gordon who all did a fantastic job in contributing to this series on Defending the Flexbone.

Check out the article on the Auburn Fire series (Buck sweep, Reverse, and Play-Action Pass) here:

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