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What is a zone blitz?

Going to the chalkboard to break down the basics of closed (strong) and open (weak) side zone pressure. Matt Bowen

Print This May 30, 2012, 05:30 AM EST

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Throughout the summer months—until the start of training camp—I will be taking you through base route schemes, coverages, blitzes, etc and going off the field to talk evertyhing from injuries to practice scripts. All done to give you an inside look at the NFL and a better understanding of “How football really works.”

Today: the zone blitz

What is a zone blitz? In basic terms, it is a way for a defense to apply pressure and play zone coverage behind the blitz. The “fire zones” in the NFL can range from base fronts to unique looks with complex coverage rotations in the secondary.

To give you a better understanding of what a zone blitz looks like, I drew up two concepts on the chalkboard. First, we will start with a closed (or strong) side pressure and then move to an open (weak) side blitz with player assignments and coaching points vs. “Regular” (2 WR, 1 TE, 2 RB) personnel.

CLOSED (STRONG) ZONE PRESSURE

Playbook

Player assignments:

RE: Show pressure, drop to open side “seam-flat”
DT: Scoop to open side contain rush
N: Scoop to open side A gap
LE: “Long scoop” to closed side A gap
W: Drop to “middle hook”
M: Blitz closed side B gap
S: Closed side contain rush
SS: Drop to closed side “seam-flat”
FS: Deep middle 1/3
RCB: Fire zone outside 1/3
LCB: Fire zone outside 1/3

OPEN (WEAK) ZONE PRESSURE

Playbook

Player assignments:

RE: “Long scoop” to open side A gap
N: Scoop to closed side A gap
T: Scoop to closed side contain rush
LE: Show pressure, drop to closed side “seam-flat”
W: Move to outside edge alignment, open side contain rush
M: Drop to closed side “seam-flat”
S: Drop to “middle hook”
SS: Drop to deep middle 1/3
FS: Move to blitz alignment, blitz open side B gap
RCB: Fire zone outside 1/3
LCB: Fire zone outside 1/3

Coaching points:

- Disguise is key. In both blitz schemes I have the defense showing Cover 2 (CBs in a press alignment, safeties aligning in the deep half). Time up the snap, move to blitz alignments and roll the coverage.

- The closed side pressure is run from an "Under" front (Nose shaded to closed side) with the open side pressure coming out of an "Over" front (3-technique DT aligned to closed side).

- Both blitzes require the "B" gap rushers (Mike, FS) to enter the front after the "long scoop" from the DE.

- Rush five and drop six. With five-man pressure, the defense can create a three-deep, three under zone shell in the secondary.

- “Seam-flat” players will use a “bronco” technique (play 2-to-1 read). They are responsible to carry No.2 vertical and will pass off routes once they are threatened in the flat (think of the 3-level "sail" route).

- “Middle hook” defenders will play No.3.

- Both CBs are playing a “fire zone outside 1/3.” They will match to any vertical from No.1 (Z, X). Think Cover 3 or Cover 1 technique here. Outside leverage with safety help in the middle of the field.

Have a scheme you want to see broken down? Send me an email: matthew.bowen@nationalfootballpost.com

Follow me on Twitter: @MattBowen41

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