Why Offensive Line Coaches Need to Understand Defensive Run Fits

  

I’ve touched on the topic of offensive line coaches understanding defensive run fits in the past. But it is absolutely critical that offensive line coaches spend time with their defensive coordinator in order to understand how defenses defend plays. Then, the coach needs to take this information to the next step and equip their plays to be better prepared for well coached teams. I’ll use a simple example, weakside iso versus a 4-3 over cover 4 front, to show the importance of understanding defensive run fits.

Offensive Line Coaches Understanding Run Fits: “The Play Looks Wide Open Coach!”

Or… “It’ll be there all day!” Then it’s not. We’ve been there as O-line coaches. The defense makes an adjustment. For instance, below is an example of weakside iso versus the 4-3 over front. Every offensive line coach licks his chops when he sees this. There’s a big, natural bubble, and all we have to do is get a body on a body.

Weakside I Formation Iso versus 4-3 Over Cover 4

Weakside Iso versus 4-3 Over

I always assume the defensive coordinator is smarter than me. They’re not giving me a huge bubble unless they’ve got a way to protect it. In other words…

It's a Trap!

As many o-line coaches find out the day after film, while we draw it up and it looks perfect, the execution kills us. That’s because good defensive teams understand run fits and they do them so often that this play get’s clogged up. As you can see below, it was indeed a trap. The Mike linebacker has strongside B, the safety fills outside, and the Will linebacker plugs the kickout by the fullback. In other words, it’s hard as heck to get movement on the double and get to the Mike linebacker with a traditional horizontal combination block through the nose tackle.

4-3 run fits versus I formation Weakside Iso

Notice the bad angle for the combo to keep the Mike from Inserting Inside the Fullback

The Mike scrapes to B gap, and inserts inside of the Will linebacker, who should be taking the block on with his inside shoulder. Even if the Will linebacker takes it on wrong, the Rover is there. We can’t account for the Rover unless we get into some double tight sets OR use a receiver and get to him. So let’s assume the Will does forces it back inside.

On top of this, the Sam is probably flying to strongside A gap because the backside safety can take C gap. So now, we’re in a tough spot. ┬áThree linebackers who are scraping fast towards the play. We’ve got to combo a nose AND hope the backside tackle takes a great path to the strongside linebacker.

Offensive Line Coaches Understanding Run Fits: Offensive Line Technique

As an offensive line coach, need to understand how your conference opponents will insert their run fits against your run game before the season starts. Why? Because then you can really focus on teaching the skills necessary to play their run fits, not where they are going to be at the snap.

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For instance, in the diagram below, we see a vertical combo block on the nose tackle through to the Mike. You may not get the dominating combo, but you will get a body on a body. The crease here in the 4-3 over weakside B gap is big enough naturally that the tailback should have no problem punching it through if the guard and center can get some vertical displacement on the nose and just come off to the Mike.

Weakside Iso versus the 4-3 Over Cover 4 with better technique

Notice the vertical combo on the nose tackle to the Mike.

The tailback also needs coaching here. He needs to trust that his linemen will come off off onto the Mike. If he cuts back at the line of scrimmage, he will run into cutback defenders. He should stay inside, true to the hole. It probably won’t be terribly clean, but he should be able to punch it through for 5 yards if not much more.

We also see the tackle and guard on the backside stepping tight together. This is almost a zone combination. Some coaches would say combo the backside defensive tackle to the Sam linebacker. I feel that the tackle, even on the vertical combo, can step too hard and knock the defensive tackle into the A gap in this scenario, closing that window for the linebacker, which in turn makes him press tighter to the playside because well coached linebackers go to the next open window. I’d rather have the backside of the offensive line here use a mentality like, “you two have those two”, and really zone through. So that way, if the 3 technique works into the offensive tackle, the guard can slip off for the Sam. If the defensive tackle gets hands on the guard, like he probably will, the offensive tackle will step inside (no matter what he’s doing that) and work on a 45 degree angle inside up to the Sam.

Conclusion

By taking time to understand how the Mike will flow (aka, his run fits), I will know to coach our guys to use a vertical combination block in this scenario, rather than a horizontal combo. Some offensive coordinators may need to be “schooled” on why that nose tackle shouldn’t be completely blown away by the combo. You need to care more about getting to the backer on this play. For winning teams, while it’s nice to physically dominate the defensive line, it’s better simply to get a body on a body so that way the running back can use his vision. So overall, when scheming plays, you need to make planning for a defense’s run fits a priority.

ChiefPigskin.com is a place you should visit today. They have some great drills that can help you.


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