Today: Complex blitz schemes

Click here for the previous edition of Inside the Playbook: The “Spot” Route

I wanted to try something different today and focus on the chalkboard. Why? Because to really get inside an NFL playbook, we need to talk about the complex schemes that are hard to replicate—and hard to stop.

In today’s NFL, defenses are becoming more attacking and require a high level of game planning—and study—when we put their schemes up on the chalkboard. Think of the Jets under Rex Ryan, the Steelers under Dick LeBeau, the Saints under Gregg Williams, etc. These aren’t defenses that sit back in Tampa 2 or play coverage over pressure. Instead, they try to dictate the flow of the game to an offense—and force them to react.

Let’s use an example of one of Gregg Williams’ blitz schemes: Ruby Scorpion 77 Dime. It is a scheme that caters to the safety position and one I played in during my time in Washington.

The Ruby Package is a 3-2-6 look, with 3 DL, 2 LB and 6 DBs and both the dime and nickel corners on the field. We will see similar looks and blitz schemes from Pittsburgh and the Jets this season. I put the offense in “Posse” or “311” personnel (3 WR, 1 RB, 1 TE) vs. the Ruby look.

Let’s check it out on the chalkboard…


As we can tell, this looks like a lot going on—and it is. But, we can simplify it. The idea isn’t complex: bring a 5-man pressure and force the QB to get rid of the ball. The yellow highlighted boxes indicate a player in a man-to-man situation.  Lets break it down by position….

RDE- Rush open side “B” gap
NT- Rush closed side “A” gap
LDE- Man-to-man “Y” (TE) receiver
MLB- Rush open side “A” gap
SLB- Closed side contain rush
N- “Slice” technique vs. No. 2 open with FS
D- Closed side deep ½
SS- Open side contain rush
FS- “Slice” technique vs. No.2 open with nickel
RC- Man-to-man vs. No. 1 open (no help)
LC- Cover 2 principles/ Jam and reroute No.1/ 7 to flat

Now that we have the responsibilities up in front of us, let’s go back and look at some of the specifics we need to talk about.

The dime back

Tough to play as a deep ½ player (think Cover 2) from the line of scrimmage. But, the pre-snap look is key to cause protection issues with the offense. The dime must hold his look and turn and go at the snap. His technique is to open his hips and turn to the No.1 receiver. By doing this, he can read the release of No.1 to determine if he can settle at his landmark (top of the numbers) or have to get over the top of any outside vertical depending on the release.

The “slice” technique

The “slice” is essentially a double of No.2. If it were on No.1, we would call it a “cut.” Here, the FS will align in a Cover 2 or Cover 4 pre-snap alignment and move just before the snap—once the SS begins to creep to the line of scrimmage. The nickel plays any outside release by No.2 and the FS plays any inside release. The only problem: a vertical release by No.2 that can split both players.

The open side corner

To run this scheme, you better have a corner who can play some man coverage. The corner to the open side (away from the TE) has to use Cover 0 (blitz with no safety help) technique. His has to be solid at the line of scrimmage and he can’t get beat down the field. His “help” in this situation in the blitz—as the ball should come out quick. Play for the slant, the hitch and the “9” (fade). Shouldn’t be enough time to run much else.

The Closed Side DE

Anytime you have a DE playing  man coverage over the top of a TE, there is a matchup issue. He will get help from the dime back playing the deep ½ over the top, but as we can see, there is no help in the middle of the field. Pressure has to get home. You can’t run a blitz of this magnitude without having a matchup problem.

The basic idea

With any blitz, you want to force the offense to change their protection schemes. With the dime aligned in the front, the offense will most likely turn their protection to the closed side. It is an overload look when they come out of the huddle (4-2). The SS will creep down before the snap and could have a free run at the QB. This is where a Darren Sharper or a Troy Polamalu come into play. Williams, like the Jets' Rex Ryan, love to get their safeties involved in the blitz--and they will send them often.

Does it always work that way? Of course not, but there aren’t many teams out there that blitz with this style and play complex coverage schemes in the secondary. It causes confusion—and that is the main goal in the NFL. Force an offense to make mistakes and hit the QB.

How do you beat Williams' scheme? You tell me....

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