Analyzing Game Film from a Defensive Perspective

  

Overall, I feel looking at film from a defensive perspective takes considerable time and effort. Remember, this is probably for young coaches who have not learned how to watch film or analyze it. You head coaches or DC’s out there probably know far more than this and have a style that works for you (that’s why your in charge and I’m not!). So this is for those coaches who want some help in this field, and for whatever reason can’t find it somewhere.

You need to first ask yourself when you pop in that film, where do I stop? There needs to be an end point somewhere. Or you’ll watch film forever, rather than preparing from it.

The first year I was in charge of scouting offenses at the varsity level, I made sure I knew all their plays, when and where they liked to call them, and why they called such play.

It was worthless.

We couldn’t stop anyone on defense, and I blame a lot of it on myself. When I look back on it, I would force myself to do the following things.

1) Prepare for their best plays, and their best plays alone
2) Don’t be overly specific with tendencies, only chart run pass and then to the boundrary, middle, or field.
3) Understand who their top 2 playmakers are, and how they utilize those players and when.
4) Look for tells, but only the truly obvious ones. At the high school level, if you can barely notice a tell, the kids likely won’t.
5) What do they do with motion? Usually, offenses are lazy with it and don’t utilize that facet of their game well.
6) Understand the tendencies, but don’t over analyze them. Their gameplan can be completely different for you and your strengths (or your weaknesses).

So, when I pop in the film the first time, I first ask myself, what is the offense trying to accomplish. Unlike offense, I watched the whole film one time through. Offensive gameplans usually aren’t very reactive, even the “check with coach” style offenses. They use formations to get what they want, even if they say they’re taking what the defense gives them. This is a matter of opinion, some coaches would argue the very opposite with me for quite a while. Make up your own mind in this regard.

When I watch the offense the whole time through, I try to figure out what their game plan was. What do they like to do? How do they utilize their playmakers? Do they get them in space? Do they have athletes and how do those athletes make plays? From the best coaches to the worst, almost every coach tries to give the playmaker the football. It’s just a matter of how often and how they utlize other players to make that player stand out more. The next question I ask myself is if their is a method behind their madness. I feel a lot of average offensive cooridinator’s don’t understand the purpose behind their playcalling. They can get players in space and maybe out athlete you, but usually you can keep these coordinator’s best player’s relatively contained, even with somewhat worse athletes. If I feel the offensive coordinator will ignore options in other places and force the ball to his playmaker, I will be a little more aggressive in defending said player, and I may be willing to give up some plays on the other side of the field.

For instance, let’s say they have a stud slot receiver/scat back type. He’s shifty with good ball carrier vision. If the o-coordinator forces the ball to that player, no matter what his position, I will adjust my defense to defend said player. Once the o-coordinator proves to me that he can adjust, I will adjust more evenly.

If the o-coordinator shows me this on film, then I need to be more careful and spread my defense a little thinner across the field. The better o-coordinator’s utilize their system wisely. If I take something away, they should grab somewhere else. So, when watching film, I look for this. Does the offensive cooridantor attack the weaknesses of a defense? And when that defense adjusts, does he find the next weakness? Does he like to wait on this, or does he pounce on it right away?

So these are the things I’m thinking about the first time I pop in the film.

The second time I look at the film I try to break it down. This is where I fell apart the first time through. Understand that so many factors can effect playcalling. There are simply too many variables, and I cannot definitevely say that these tendencies will hold true unless I’ve versed this offensive coordinator several times already in the past and he’s a stickler.

So how do I break down film? I right down their the yard line, down and distance,hash, formation, and play, and result. I may keep notes on who gets the ball if they really force it to their playmaker, so that way I can see if they’ll at least spread the wealth.

Now, that’s a lot of information to keep. Too bad most of it is worthless. But it’s worth doing because you need all of this information for different areas. Just don’t use it all for tendencies.

I write down the specific play because I need to use this for the scout team. I simply tally up the number of times plays are ran, keeping in mind game conditions (score, yardline, ect) and try to put together their best plays. These will be prevented to the scout team offense and used in our defensive gameplan (top plays to stop by formation). I track the formation to see what their favorite plays are out of those formations. I also tally the top plays out of these formations. A lot of play callers simply use formations and plays together, not as seperate entities, which they should be. If they make this fatal mistake, we can be in a safe defense for pretty much everything based on formation.

The only thing I really use for tendencies then, is the down and distance and whether it was a run or pass and what part of the field it went to. Anything more than that (specific plays, ect…) will be statistically insiginficant (meaning the margin of error is too high). Even the way I do it will likely be statistically insignificant. However, the margin of error, nonetheless, will be much less.

I may also look at the hashes from a purely directional stand point if I feel the OC over utlizes this. Do they only like to run to the right side? Once their on the right hash, will they simply run a sweep so they can run to the right side some more? They will probably run inside too so they can keep going that way, in order to stay away from the 12th defender (that pesky sideline).

From here, I watch the film some more. I again ask myself, what is the OC trying to do? Is he force feeding the ball into his RB or QB’s hands? Is he trying to play games with my outside linebackers by tying a run play with a bubble screen? Does he want to force me to cover all of his wide receivers? Or does he want to pound the rock until we fall asleep so he can throw it deep?

I feel if I answer it the same way again, I know the offensive cooridinator. If I am still struggling, I will watch the film again.

Overall, don’t get bogged down in the statistics. Take away what they do best and the most often. Force them to be uncomfortable.

The most important rules I’d say for implementing your analysis…

1) Don’t throw away your defense for a “good” offense. Adapt your defense and put them in positions to succeed. Do NOT change your defense every week. Prepare for it in summer camp and have an answer then. This means making scouting reports based off of last years film in the off-season.

2) Be confident in yourself and your opponent’s abilities. Maybe they do force feed the ball to the runningback. But that’s probably because he’s really flipping good. So understand it’s okay to overplay him a little bit.

3) Don’t give the kids answers for everything, but do have them in your call sheet. If they surpisingly start running Gun QB Iso with their slow QB and they get 5 yards a crack, you better have some kind of A gap play that can take that away.

4) Don’t focus on the statistics. They lie … all the fricken time. Know what your opponent is trying to do, but don’t buy into the numbers so much. It will eventually bite you.

5) Understand what they want to do. It’s your best chance. If you take away their running game and they run Iso and Power all day, and you take that away, expect them to pass only so they can come back to running power and iso.

This has worked for me fairly well. I’m still learning, and I’d love to hear your tips.


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