Wednesday, January 26, 2011

4-3 vs. the Flexbone - FS/SS Play


The CB or the Safeties can be a 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 used their Safeties as their primary run players.  My next guest writer is already an accomplished author and an expert on the 4-3/Under front Defense, having written the book Coaching the Under Front Defense, which you can get here Coaching the Under Front Defense if you haven't already.  Ladies and gentlemen, Jerry Gordon...

4-3 vs. the Flexbone - "Safety Play" by Jerry Gordon

One of the most critical aspects in defending the Flexbone is the play of the Safeties in combination with the Corners.  Most good Flexbone offensive coordinators are going to try to put some doubt in your Safeties mind to confuse them.  The point you must try to remember is that they only have to confuse a H.S. kid, not a 40 year old man.  We need to keep reads simple, concise, and clear.  Our Safeties must have an understanding of their assignments.  On every play the defense must have a Dive player, one or more QB players, a Pitch player and a Pass player. 

There are basically 4 types of motion a Safety will see when facing a Flexbone team:

1.  Deep motion - Backside A Back running through the heels of the FB to become the Pitch player.

2.  Twirl motion - A Back going into motion as if he is becoming the Pitch back but now reverses course and becomes the blocker for the primary Force.

3.  Insert motion - A Back goes in motion and inserts himself into the A or B gap. There is no longer a Pitch back.  This play is generally an Isolation or Midline.

4.  No motion

There are also basically two types of releases a Safety will see:

a.  Arc release - A Back blocks the Safety and the WR blocks the Corner.

b.  Crack release - A Back blocks the Corner and the WR blocks (cracks) the Safety.

Let’s go through a couple of scenarios:

1a.  Deep motion w/ an Arc release:

Frontside Safety:
The Frontside Safety is now the Pitch player.  The Pitch player needs to play the pitch through the outside shoulder of the A Back trying to block him.  He should use a dip and rip technique exploding through his assigned blocker.  Since this Safety is now the primary Force player, he must play from outside in, never allowing the ball carrier to get outside of him.  All his help will come from the inside.  If a pass were to emerge, the Safety would become a late Flat defender.

Backside Safety: 
Motion is away, and the Backside Safety is responsible for #2 going vertical.  If there is not a #2 going vertical, he will play the middle third much as he would if he were a 3 deep defender.  The reason we say #2 vertical is because the offense could run #1 and #2 vertical or they could run the Switch concept.  Playing the Backside Safety on #2 vertical allows the Frontside Safety to be a run only player.  This allows the Frontside Safety to play with reckless abandon.  The Backside Safety must “stay behind” the motion until after the ball is snapped because of the threat of Twirl motion, thus placing the Safety too far out of position to play the pitch.  Once run is declared, the Backside Safety now pursues the ball from the inside out.

1b.  Deep motion with a crack release:

Frontside Safety:
Once the Safety’s A Back crack releases, the Corner must yell “Crack, Crack”.  The Corner now becomes the Primary Force.  The Safety must aim through the upfield shoulder of the WR trying to crack him.  He needs to keep outside leverage in case the A Back runs a Wheel.  If the WR does block him the Safety now becomes Secondary Contain.  If the WR does not block him and continues on for a pass, the Safety now has the A Back man to man. The A Back is now probably running a Wheel route on the Switch concept (Post by outside WR, Wheel by the A Back).  

Backside Safety: 
The Backside Safety is still responsible for #2 going vertical, but he needs to be aware that there will be a new #2.

2.  Twirl motion:
The Safety must stay behind the motion so as not to be out of position once the A Back reverses course.  Once the A Back reverses course, the Safety must be able to get himself back into position to become the Primary Force player.  We tell the Safety to be “physically patient and mentally alert.”  If the Twirl motion man has a tendency to be a pass receiver in this situation (3rd and 10), some teams will lock the Frontside Safety on him man to man and play the Pitch with the Backside Safety, thinking that they will be able to catch up to the Pitch back as he is not in motion before the play starts.

3.  Insert motion: (there will not be a Pitch back)

Frontside Safety: play QB inside of your OLB.

Backside Safety: if the Frontside A Back releases, play pass. If the front side A back blocks, play the run inside out.

4a.  No motion, Arc release:
Safeties have their A back man to man.

4b.  No motion, Crack release:
Safeties will play their quarter.

As you can see, there is much to prepare for a Flexbone team.  A team that can have a few weeks to prepare as Iowa did in the film clips surely helps the defense prepare for the onslaught of problems that a Flexbone team can present.

Here's the video:
FS/SS Keys
1.  Quarters: Safety Force
2.  Cover 3: SS Force
3.  Cover 2: Secondary Force
4.  Quarters: Stay Outside of Slot and Be on Top of Him if He Runs Wheel Route
5.  Quarters: If Slot Motions Inside the Box to Lead Block, Be Ready to Fill Fast

FS/SS Mistakes
1.  Force Player Must Stay Outside of Lead Blocker
2.  Quarters: Slow Read / Poor Read
3.  Cover 3: SS Force Player Not Squeezing the Alley
4.  Cover 3: Not Getting Jam on #2
5.  Force Player Must Stay Outside of Slot and Run with Him on Wheel Route

4-3 vs. the Flexbone - Schedule of Posts
Wed. January 12 - DT Play
Sat. January 15 - DE Play
Wed. January 19 - Mike Play
Sat. January 22 - OLB Play
Wed. January 26 - FS/SS Play
Sat. January 29 - CB Play

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