I’ve become a big believer in relying on a simple yet fast defense. I believe, given all the looks we see in today’s game, that being really good at a few things goes a long way. Out executing people and knowing exactly what you need to do and how you need to do it is often under valued by coaches who simply want to overwhelm an opponent. One would be surprised by the mileage they can get out of a few coverages by just getting after the passer with good defensive line stunts. Even 4 or 5 stunts, if practiced from the beginning of training camp in your off-season, can be executed well if they are used in conjunction with a gameplan to attack specific pass protections by faking blitzes by defenders and slightly changing alignments.
I believe, honestly, that you can run a simple defense that may base out of a few different looks and coverages, but get extensive usefulness out of it by “overwhelming” an opponent with simple adjustments. For coaches who read my offensive material, this may seem familiar.
Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of defensive line stunts is the idea that every front 6 or 7 defender is important in making them work. Whether that is a linebacker faking a blitz to force the protection to slide to him, or the defensive line having patience on a defensive line stunt to get the QB to step up into right into a defensive tackle who is about to loop around. Overall, going into each week with a few well game planned defensive line stunts can help your coverage players really excel by causing mayhem in the pocket for the QB.
Defensive Line Stunts: Game Planning Pass Protection
Before we can really breakdown a few defensive line stunts, we need to be able to understand and game plan the pass protection schemes that the offense will use. Especially at the high school level, many coaches will only carry 2-4 basic pass protections. Now, there may be some slight adjustments based off of check releases or the amount of backs or other players in the pass protection, but the base concept stays the same.
Let’s take a look at many of the different basic pass protection concepts that you will probably have to execute pass rush stunts against:
- Half Slide
- Full Slide
- Big On Big, Back on Backer (BOB)
- Full Roll
- Half Roll
In general, half slide, full slide, and turn back protection are usually “zone” concepts. Big on Big, and sometimes full roll and half roll concepts (which may be a drop back or play action, depending on the team) are man or count schemes in some way or fashion, though this isn’t always true.
Regardless, the terms don’t matter as much. Your goal is essentially to know the your main opponents will run going into the season, which ones are run the most by the most (and best) teams, and plan to install defensive line stunts to defeat them during summer camp so you can get the timing down early. While you can probably prepare stunts during the week of an opponent, you will lose the tenacity that comes with confidence in running something 300 times over a season versus just 20 times in a week.
The other benefit to doing this planning and executing the stunts early in the season is you prepare for the inevitable, what happens if its a run? Maybe you only call it in passing situations, or maybe they can read it as the play develops if your kids are that skilled. But at some point, the offense will catch you running a tackle and end stunt with an option play. Will your tackle know that he has to tackle the QB in this situation if that is what your defense asks of the defensive end normally? Preparing stunts and running them early and often in your practices helps prevent this potentially ugly scenario.
Defensive Line Stunts: Understanding Pass Pro Technique
It is also important to look at the individual technique that is used by the offensive line coach. Do they use the vertical set, drop set, kick slide, cut block, or front step? Sometimes the guards are heavy setters, front stepping on three techniques and 2i techniques, while the tackles are softer, vertical setting or kicksliding. In addition, are tight ends or even slot receivers used to crack on defensive ends?
If I know that the offensive tackle is getting a lot of depth with a kick slide or vertical step right away, why should I run stunts that try to create space by picking him when he naturally does it for me? If you know the guard is going to hard set most of the time too, you could try to out scheme that player since the tackle is essentially irrelevant for the most part.
Maybe you know the tackle only gets a deep vertical set with an outside blitzer threatening outside the defensive end. You could have a linebacker or other perimeter player show this, while the tackle and end work their game on the hard setting guard.
Defensive Line Stunts: Changing Alignment To Enhance Pass Rush
The Chicago Bears essentially used a mug look under Lovie Smith with two three techniques. One or two of the inside linebackers could walk up, both into the A gaps or stack behind the 3 tech near the LOS. The reason they did it is because for many protections, the guards would both step inside (with both backers) or at have to keep an eye on the backer with an A gap. This allows the Bears three techniques (Tommie Harris, Amobi Okoye and Henry Melton specifically) match up truly on half a linemen.
Now you’ve taken a hard set guard and turned him into a softer setter because the inside gap threat. With a defensive tackle with a solid rip, swim move or bull rush, you could easily defeat half a linemen. You really didn’t even do a defensive line stunt, you presented a modification to a front. Add in a few defensive line stunts to this look and get ready to cause mayhem. Let’s take a glimpse at this in the next series of pictures.
Overall, I think these images show you the Bears, with only one major adjustment (moving a shade on the nose to a 3 technique), can amplify a pass rush stunt. It gives the other team something new to look at, and it was a fairly simple install.
While this video below is coaches film of their Tampa 2, I feel like it shows a lot of their favorite pass rush stunts during their season when they went to the Super Bowl in 2005. They utilize a lot of them even today if you check out the All-22.
In addition, think about what you’ve done to a the pass protection logistics. Your base defense hardly changed (basically the nose tackle in a 4-3 and the Will linebacker switched gaps), but the whole protection needs to be communicated an directed. Are the linebackers now “bigs”? Does half slide check to full slide? Are they blitzing (center or guards looking for a tell) or just faking it?
Where the Bears get teams is they then do stunts from a look like this. Their defensive tackles will twist from here. Maybe a linebacker comes too. Obviously you can do a tackle and end stunt as well with the wider alignments. Whatever the case is, you’ve made one small chance to your front six or seven, but you’ve now completely changed how they work their pass protection.
Defensive Line Stunts: Logistics and Technique
I am a believer in taking an open gap when it presents itself if you are the second player on the stunt. I believe that the penetrator must do whatever he can to get to his landmark on any specified defensive line stunt. For instance, let’s say we’re attacking the hard setting guard. If our defensive end doesn’t make contact with the guard, the tackle might never get around to the outside if the guard gets a piece of him (even if it’s just for a split second).
Now the tackle, who is the looper, should take the open space. If the tackle closed down to help stop the defensive end who was crashing, he should work immediately to that players outside shoulder and get a good lean and rip working. If the tackle continued to vertical set looking for a blitzer outside (maybe because we faked one), the defensive tackles eyes should see this as soon as he works outside and his goal then is to “rub paint” with the defensive end and get his hands up into the QB’s face if the QB is front side. If he away from the QB’s sight, he immediately needs to stretch his outside arm to the QB’s back shoulder. You would be surprised and what just slightly tapping the QB’s shoulder could do to the QB or the ball’s flight path (if we don’t cause a fumble of course).
Of course, it’s of vital importance to drill defensive line stunts on a routine basis as well. I encourage you to focus heavily on drilling landmarks for the penetrator and cross-face/rip moves and footwork for the loopers. Avoiding tells for the looper should be priority. Some defensive tackles back up when looping. If the defensive tackle isn’t fast enough, consider placing 4 end types on the field, and if you don’t have that, try having the defensive tackle back up on some plays where he’s not looping, even in running scenarios. Backing up off the line of scrimmage is a decent change up against offensive linemen anyways, because it affects the timing between their steps and hand strike on the defensive linemen. It’s important, regardless, to maintain the element of confusion and surprise when executing defensive line stunts.
I also encourage you to video tape drills and educate the defensive linemen on the purpose of the defensive line stunts. If the kids don’t understand it, they won’t be able to adapt when situations change in game. For instance, if the offense runs the option and your end normally takes the QB, your tackle must know that when he loops. They most understand the purpose behind the stunts. That’s why I encourage only running a few stunts from the start of camp and doing a few things to enhance them, such as changing an alignment here or there or walking up a linebacker whenever necessary.
Conclusion on Defensive Line Stunts
No matter what defense you run, having a few specific, well-game planned defensive line stunts and looks can go a long way in transforming your pass rush. You don’t need a Julius Peppers to get a sack every time. Sometimes you just need him to be a decoy, along with a linebacker, in order to open up some other pass rush opportunities.