You are currently viewing the old forums. We have upgraded to a new NFL Forum.
This old forum is being left as a read-only archive.
Please update your bookmarks to our new forum at

 FAQFAQ  RegisterRegister   ProfileProfile   Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages   Log inLog in Forum Index Home

Football FAQs/Guides Compilation by D94W
Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7  Next
This forum is locked: you cannot post, reply to, or edit topics.   This topic is locked: you cannot edit posts or make replies. Forum Index -> NFL General
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message

Joined: 20 Feb 2008
Posts: 6939
Location: Brooklyn, NY
PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 10:04 pm    Post subject: Football FAQs/Guides Compilation by D94W Reply with quote

**Edited after almost 3 (or is it 4?) years to include a bit more information on each position and specifically on the systems for dummies.**

Finally got around to this and stopped being lazy. As requested, here's a compilation of the installments of the Football FAQ so far. This will be edited as more is added.

I've added information posted by others in the original threads to all the FAQs in their reposts in this thread. Much thanks to Spush for added even more in-depth persepectives in almost all of the guides.

By link:
Football Schemes for Dummies

Quarterbacks; An Idiot's Guide to:

Runningbacks; How to:

Wide Recievers, The Making of:

Offensive Linemen; All you need to know about:

Cornerback Owner's Manual

Safety: Behind the Scenes

Linebackers: Assembly Guide

Defensive line: Braund & Brain

Coaches: They get a guide too!

Creationism: Creating a System

Individual re-posts coming in a few minutes.

Coaching football is just my way of staying close to the game.
Read the Football FAQ!

Last edited by Dallas94Ware on Sun Aug 18, 2013 12:42 am; edited 4 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message AIM Address

Joined: 20 Feb 2008
Posts: 6939
Location: Brooklyn, NY
PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 10:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Football Schemes: For Dummies

Lots of misconceptions out there regarding offensive and defensive schemes and what they mean to a team and the players playing within them. For instance, the huge misconception about the 3-4 is that the guys up front need to be massively huge. I'll clear that up later on; for now it was just an example. For all you football noobs out there, or football fans looking for more of a coach's insight, look no further.

Offensive misconceptions
Many people overlook the fact that Quarterbacks of any kind are typically a "system" QB.

Many coaches bring their system with them where ever they go, and look for Quarterbacks that fit the mold of their system. For instance, you wouldn't catch Peyton Manning running a June Jones Run'N'Gun scheme where he could be exposed as an immobile statue waiting for the deep routes to develop. But you will, and do, catch him in a more classic offensive scheme utilizing 2 short routes, a deep route and a first down route: to maximize the usefulness of that quick release and keep him from getting abused back there.

You either find the right QB for your system, or you adjust your system or create a new one for a QB who feel you can scheme around. If you think calling a Quarterback a system QB is a knock on their abilities, you've a lot to learn about football.

West coast offenses are not always heavily lopsided on the pass end of the run-pass ratio.

This is a huge misconception. Many people associate west coast offenses with a scheme like Andy Reid's in Philly, where the passing routes are very diverse and passing to the variations of routes are the main aspect of the offense. However, West coast offenses have many variations. There have been several which were very run oriented, Denver's version under Shannahan the highlight of such offenses. What makes an offense a "west coast" offense are two factors.

First and foremost are design-scripted plays being a big part of the offense. In other words, passing plays which are intended to get the ball to a specific target at a specific time regardless of coverage, usually in the shallow areas of the field, in an effort to let the reciever gain yards after catch. Lots of screens, short crossing patterns, digs, flares and wheel routes are perfect examples of what is considered a west coast offense. A good west coast offense can actually pre determine their first 10 to 15 plays of the game and have success doing it without having to adjust the gameplan. The other main factor is the widened use of option routes which are routes designed to go one of two or sometimes three ways based on the coverage the defense plays.

And always remember: There are many variations of this sytem. West coast offense is over used as a description really, because no one uses the same form of it anymore.

There is a two tight end offense

Completely false. There are two tight end sets. But not offensive schemes. And there are many variations of two tight end sets, the most common in today's NFL being the Singleback formation - a formation using one runningback. The trend was hot for a year or two but has died out some with the failure on many running back's part to be successful running without any lead blocker. Most teams began motioning one of the TEs to the backfield to block, thus nearly entirely defeating the purpose of a Singleback formation.

Spread offenses use 4 WRs in their base offensive set.

Not entirely true and a misconception caused by Madden video games. A spread offense is a scheme which relies on using more than the basic two WR sets more often than using said two WR sets in an effort to spread the defense out and maximize running lane potential and enable the QB to have an easier time pointing out blitzers, coverages and get a better feel for the defense. Usually it's done with three wides, just enough to pull a LB out of the box in some situations, or draw more nickel defenses which only further raises the chances of a big running lane than drawing a LB into coverage. It does not mean using 4 wides every play. In fact, doing so is a nice way to get your QB injured in time. It would also prevent you from running effectively with any consistency. Less blockers means harder to find lanes, which often means more runs to the outside.

Defensive misconceptions

There's the 3-4 and the 4-3. That's it.

If your speaking about front 7 alignments, then yeah, nowadays, thats about all there is. But simply being a 3-4 or a 4-3 base front doesn't at all explain what kind of scheme you run. Each front has many, many variations on how they are run, called, designed and played.

The main differences are in aggressiveness and coverages. Some 4-3 schemes, like the now infamous "Tampa 2", rely on tough man stopping power up front, passive zone coverages and occasional aggressive blitzing from the linebackers, and strong over the top help from safeties in a cover 2 assignment playing deep. While an offense like say the NY Giants, who also run a 4-3, are much more aggressive. They rely on pass rushing and push from he linemen, and emphasize tenacity and speed from the linebackers to stop the run, and keep a safety closer to the line to help support those backers.

The 3-4 scheme is more aggressive

Entirely not true. Generally, the 3-4 was designed with the intention on disguising where the fourth rusher is coming from. The 4-3 has four down linemen, so you'll usually see 4 men rushing unless there is a blitz, then there would be five rushers. In the 3-4, with 3 down linemen, the fourth rusher is not considered a blitzer. So when an offense knows there will be a fourth rusher, because there almost always is, but has to figure out which one to of the four linebackers will rush it begins to cause confusion on every down. It's not so much extra aggressive as much as it is more complex for the offensive line and quarterback to work against.

The fifth rusher would be considered a blitzer. And there are 4-3 schemes which send fifth rushers more often than you'll see some 3-4 schemes do. A perfect example of this is the Patriots. They run a 3-4, so many are so quick to comment on the aggressive nature of their defense. Completely wrong. They run a more relaxed 3-4, which is actually quite similar to a 'Cover 2'/'Tampa 2' defense with a 3-4 front. Thus all those "bend but don't break mentality" comments from analysts during New England's last SB run (prior to losing to NY). Relax, stay put in your area of the field, make a play when you can. No chasing, leaving your post and being the cause for a huge cutback run. Give them only what they can get, nothing more. Bend but don't break.

Whereas, say, Wade Phillips' version of the 3-4 front, utilizes a fifth rusher almost every other down they use a 3-4 formation in Dallas and asks his players to aggressively swarm the ball and leave their post in an effort to make an earlier tackle - at the price of risking, as I said above, a huge cutback lane for a TD.

Aggressive is not better or more effective. Aggressive is a preference by some coaches. Same with passiveness. Not anymore effective than an aggressive D, it's simply just a preference.

3-4 needs huge guys up front

Not entirely true. What you need is muscle mass. DEs who are quick enough to stay in an OTs face and strong enough to keep them off the OLB. You don't need to be huge to do that. You just need to be strong enough, mentally as well as physically, to do it. And DTs (Nose tackles in a 3-4) who are powerful enough to neutralize the center and delay a Guard from reaching LB level and blocking him.

Again, you don't need to be massively huge - in fact, you want those guys to be pretty nimble too, not just powerful - you just need to be strong mentally and physically. Speed rush ends and push generating DTs fail in the 3-4 because their athleticism doesn't stretch to their pure strength. Not their size. But again, you need not be massive to do it - there is no such thing as an undersized DL, just a DL not strong enough to do the job needed of them in a 3-4 front.

Cover 2 is a scheme the Buccs and Colts run

Wrong. Very wrong. Cover 2 is a type of defensive playcall that has existed for decades now, which utilizes two deep safeties in zone coverage. There are many ways of using it, with all sorts of zone assignments or man coverages in front of the safeties. But bottom line, a cover 2 is a play. Not a scheme.

What the Buccanners and Colts run (among some other teams) is referred to as the "Tampa 2", as opposed to the cover 2. That is referred to as a scheme and not play, because the entire scheme of the defense is to utilize many different variations of cover 2 playcalling - man to man on one side with zones on the other, zones across the board, man across the board, etc. - while always maintaining their two deep safeties in cover 2.

That's pretty much all the average guy needs to know about offensive and defensive schemes. If you've read this and learned something, excellent. If you've read this and knew it all already, even better. But if I've been able to prevent one more ignorant poster from saying something like "Player A is too undersized for the 3-4" or "Player B is just a system QB and not really a good QB", then this entire post was well worth typing.

-By D94W, your FF Coach

Coaching football is just my way of staying close to the game.
Read the Football FAQ!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message AIM Address

Joined: 20 Feb 2008
Posts: 6939
Location: Brooklyn, NY
PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 10:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quarterbacks; An Idiots guide to:

With all the comparisons and debates out there about 'the better QB' and the most 'effective' at this or that, I decided I'd make a bit of a guide to the variations of QB play, how they fit certain systems, why it's nearly futile to compare them and give a bit of a coaches insight as to the whys.

Small hands are a big red flag with QBs

Not in any way. You don't need big hands to throw the ball or hold on to it. The same people that were criticizing Culpepper for small hands coming out of college were the same people trying to figure out how to stop him from constantly scoring on them. If your hands are big enough to grip the ball, they are big enough to play QB.

A big arm is a must at the pro level

Another false ideology. There are many intangibles that go into a successful pro QB, but a big strong arm is not one of them. Sure it helps, and can be quite a luxury. But there have been plenty of pro QBs, even HoF'ers, who do not and did not ever have a big arm. Throwing 70 yards while on your knee is not something you'll ever need to do in the NFL, in fact, it's extremely rare you'll ever have to sling it 50 yards in the air while on two feet. On average, the longest deep throws go about 30-40 yards before hitting the reciever.

The Wonderlic shows how good a QB will be

Not in anyway. It's just a way for teams to get somewhat of a gauge on how quick a QB can make decisions. But like a WR and their 40 times, it doesn't measure their ability to simply play their position. It's not like a QB stands behind his line and has to repeatedly answer questions in a timely fashion. He has to make his reads, which comes down to how well he knows his system and football.

Mobile QBs

Most mobile QBs aren't the running QBs who cross the L.O.S. and gain yards that way. Some of the more mobile QBs are mobile enough to escape the pressure when it's getting on them, and use that mobility to buy some extra time for their reciever to get open. Mobile and "able to gain lots of yards on the ground" are different abilities. In order to gain yards on the ground, you need some level of escapability from tacklers, not just the ability to scramble around. There are QBs with both attributes, able to escape from the pocket and buy time and able to escape tacklers for lots of forward progress - but they still are two different skills.

Most mobile QBs also use that mobility to run towards the line, but not beyond it. Such motions will draw corners and safeties out of position, to prepare to stop the QB from gaining yards, enabling the QB to fire a completion to one of the recievers who are now open.

Other factors that make a good QB good

There are several factors to take in when judging how well a QB will do at the pro level. Many of them are better at one intangible than the other and few do everything to perfection, which creates many types of QBing styles.

Accuracy is the most important. And it's not just pure accuracy, it's being able to place the ball where only the reciever can make a play. You have to be able to anticipate the route and know the system to do this very effectively.

Decision making with a defender bearing down on the QB. This is an amazing feature that some QBs who are really good still lack. Which is why QBs like Brady, who lack this feature and are rattled after being hit around, are used in systems which keep a QB releasing in a timely manner with lots of timed patterns and few option routes. Whereas a guy like Carson Palmer, capable of taking hits and not loosing his accuracy or touch, play in systems that can and do utilize option routes, progressions and few designated reciever plays. As with everything else, it comes down to the QBs skill set matching what he needs to do in that system.

Basic decision making. How consistently they can deviate from the design of the play to make a play. Some QBs throw many more INTs because they are too risky of a decision maker rather than a poor decision maker, but it still comes down to how well they see the field and anticipate the defense. If you have a QB who struggles with good decision making, you obviously want to ask him to make fewer decisions - thus use more short patterns, timed patterns and designated reciever plays. If you have a risky decision maker known for coming up big, you obviously want to keep him in a scheme that limits his decision making, but doesn't restrict him from taking some risks and making the big plays.

Pre snap and post snap adjustments. And I'm not just talking about pointing out blitzers and calling audibles at the line. I'm talking about being able to see what the defense is doing before they do it, and anticipating it for your throw. It's not an exact science, and as with all QBs, some do it better, some do it worse, some can't do it at all. And it all comes down to how that QB will be relied on to do this in his system. If your QB is no good at this, you don't want to scheme your offense around post-snap route adjustments but stick with more conventional methods.

Pocket Passers

A pocket passer, in the sense of it, is a QB of any arm strength, accuracy or intangible skill set who prefers to make his throws from within the pocket provided by the offensive line.

The true test of a pocket passer is their willingness to throw the ball knowing they will take a whooping for it. Many QBs, even good ones like Brady or Manning, are willing to throw and take the hit, but begin to struggle as this goes on during the game. As this post explains, it's the reason why they run the types of offenses that they do: ones that focus on quick releases, quick decision making, and precise (no-option) route running. Some QBs however, are not phased by this aspect - but struggle in other areas instead. Again, no QB is perfect - all skill sets have a downside and all QBs have faults.

While pocket passers generally share the same basic skill sets, such as sense the rush rather than see the rush and divert their eyes from their targets, there are many varities of pocket passer and the term "pocket passer" is in no way an adjective to describe what a QB can do, but rather simply how they go about doing it.

System QBs are QBs who wouldn't play well in any system

No QB would play well in any system. Every QB has different skill sets and are better at some abilities than others. Again, as was said in my other thread by Spush, it's about tailoring your scheme to the player in an effort to maximize what he can do best and minimize his exposure of his faults as a QB. You don't find Peyton Manning asked to run roll outs or throw to lots of streak routes for a reason.

Which is all of course, why any argument of QB A is better than QB B, is basically futile. You can say QB A is better at this, or QB B is better at that, but as for who's better as a QB, it comes down to what system they are playing in, what they are asked to do and how well their skill sets fit the role they'd be asked to fill as a QB.

No two QBs are exactly a like. Some may play similarly and have similar qualities, but no two of them have the same skill set or would be as effective in the same scheme as the other. Comparing them is like comparing an apple to an orange. They are both a fruit (Quarterback in this case) but that is where the similarities end.

Coaching football is just my way of staying close to the game.
Read the Football FAQ!

Last edited by Dallas94Ware on Fri Oct 07, 2011 12:58 am; edited 2 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message AIM Address

Joined: 20 Feb 2008
Posts: 6939
Location: Brooklyn, NY
PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 10:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Runningbacks; How to:

It was requested I do a bit of a guide on running backs and wide recievers. So I'll start with Running backs today, and do the recievers tomorrow.

Running Backs

The types

As with just about every position, there are many ways to play running back based on skill sets of the player, the blocking schemes up front and the system and playcall of that offensive system.

Running backs have different requirements per system. For starters, some variations of offenses require a running back to make one cut and run upfield without dilly-dallying back there. This tends to require good vision to find the hole immediately, and some of the more "smarter" runners mke this look easy. Guys like Steven Jackson, Clinton Portis and Willis McGahee are perfect examples of guys who stick with and have success with, the "one cut and run down field" form of running.

While other systems, for example in Indy, require the running back to run out of "stretch" plays. These kinds of running plays create several potential lane openings by making the entire Oline block in a diagnal path, which usually leaves several gaps and a potential outside cut open to the runner. A stretch play requires the runner to have perfect control over their feet - knowing when to put on the juice, when to cut upfield, whether to cut back the other way, or to sprint diagnally toward the sideline if nothing is happening. It's a skill set not many have, that perfect balance and foot control.

These are just different types of requirements for a runner depending on scheme. There are so many it's not worth it to give more than just a few examples, especially when many of them get very complicated.

Breaking it down even further than that and even further than the types of runs within the scheme, are the basic running styles. As has been established, it's all about fitting the player to the scheme or the scheme to the player.

The skill sets

Power runners are generally associated with skill sets resembling Marion Barber, but there are many kinds of power running backs each with different sets of abilities, and many of them used in different ways. The term power running back is actually quite vague and leaves a lot of gray areas up to opinion. If you were referring to a RB as a power runner of any kind, they will always variate in levels of skill in certain power running areas.

Features generally associated with a "power running back" are:

-Extreme leg drive. Able to push piles and constantly push forward despite being impacted of wrapped up. Jamal Lewis is one of the best at this.

-Gets a low pad level. Able to drop their shoulders and bend their knees lower than the average tackler, giving them enough leverage to explode into and thus trample over a would be tackler. An exciting move even when it fails. Marion Barber is amazing at this.

-Hard to bring down. Able to keep their momentum moving forward using every ounce of their will power. Larry Johnson is top notch at this.

-Stiff arming. Able to extend their arm with enough force to throw a tackler off balance. Just being able to do it often isn't enough, it's about placement and timing as well. Laurence Maroney is excellent at doing this.

There are also runners considered "evasive runners", or running backs who avoid contact with quick, agile movements. Depending on scheme and depth at the position, as well as judgement on how tough the evasive runner is, they are sometimes used not as a starter, but in the percieved 'scat back' or 'third down back' role, which I will explain later. But like power runners, the term elusive runner is also quite vague.

Skill sets usually associated with elusive running backs are:

-Speed. While speed is generally overrated (specifically 40 times) at the position, it is also associated with an elusive runner. However, there are cases where speedy runners don't neccessarily have any other feature associated with an elusive RB.

-Hip swivel. The ability to play with your upper body basically as free as a bobblehead's big head bouncing around and swaying from side to side. This makes an elusive runner hard to grab a hold of, especially when they have a speed advantage. Brian Westbrook is arguably the best at this.

-Good change of direction. The ability to instantly change direction with quick foot work and a good plant of the opposite leg. A runner good at this makes cut back running look easy, and often makes entire defenses look foolish. Devin Hester, though not a RB, has this skill at the top of his arsenal.

-General evasiveness. The innate, natural ability and instincts of a slipper runner. Be it by juking, spinning, cutting back or even leag frogging a low padded tackler. Some of the features here can be shared by both apower and elusive runner, but it's generally associated with the elusive types. Tomlinson is probably the most naturally evasive runners with the best tackle slipping instincts.

There are featurs that both types of running backs share or need to have to even be successful:

-Vision. The ability to see or find a hole, and know exactly when to hit it. Often times, poor vision runners will cut to the outside often because they are failing to find the crease - often resulting in tackles for loss or no gain.

-Field awareness. Knowing where you are on the field at all times, knowing where the boundary is, the first down marker, goal line and defenders. Knowing when to dive forward, run out of the boundary or when to give up on the run and settle for what you've gotten.

-Pass protection/blitz pick-up. The ability to follow the rush and support the protection of the QB - if even for an extra split second, it helps more so than if there were nothing else impeding the rushers progress toward the QB.

-Recieving ability. This is more of a luxury, but in many offenses it's vital that the running back is able to catch and turn upfield. They not only need to be able to catch and hold onto the football, but run the routes in the right timing for the QB to make the proper throw to the runner.

And as always, there are variations to how good one back is at any one skill. There are also running backs with skill sets from both types of runners, and not surprisingly, it's often those runners who are the more flashy numbers producers and highlight reelers.

The luxury-backs

Everyone understands what a starting RB is. But there are what I call luxury-backs, the types of runners who play in the roles of a third-down running back or scat back.

The idea of a third-down back is to change the pace and style of the runner in an attempt to catch the defense off their guard. They usually come in on third down because generally they have more speed than the starter, can catch out of the backfield better and be more of a threat for that down and distance and/or pass protect better.

The idea behind a "scat back" (I hate the term, I'm calling them "Weapon backs" from here on) is to use a good athlete in several areas of the field rather than just as a running back. Generally, they are better outside runners and a big threat for home run TDs. They usually can be found lining up in a reciever position and are a weapon in the passing game as much as they are the run game. They are always quite versatile and have impacts in more than the rushing game.

The concept is to basically suppliment the pure running ability of a more natural running back with a runner who is a threat to do more than run the ball. No coming out in a dime package on 3rd and long with a guy like that on the field.

Basically, what their roles are in the offense varies from team to team. But for the most part they all share traits of an elusive back and as I've said, can generally be found coming in on 3rd down and playing positions other than the lead RB role. Though there are cases, like Brian Westbrook, of a weapon-back that does indeed also play the lead role.

Let me know if I've let out anything. I've got to get to cooking.


Coaching football is just my way of staying close to the game.
Read the Football FAQ!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message AIM Address

Joined: 20 Feb 2008
Posts: 6939
Location: Brooklyn, NY
PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 10:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wide Recievers: The making of:

Here's todays installment of D94W's Football FAQ. This issue is about Wide Recievers.

Wide Recievers

Measurables vs Unmeasurables

Most WRs nowadays are rated coming out of college based on how well they performed in the 40 yard dash and vertical jump at the combine. It's possible for under performing recievers to be propelled into the first round simply because they ran a 4.35 in the 40 and measure up at 6' 3". But this formula has resulted in many first round bust recievers as of late, and later round recievers showing off the talent that should have had them in round one.

In my opinion, you really have to look at certain skills and unmeasurables to determine how good a reciever is - not just their speed, height and vertical. There are several factors I personally look at, but a lot of it is about preference and the type of reciever a team is looking for.

The Styles

As with every position, there are different styles of play that vary from reciever to reciever. Some earn titles for their style of play like "possession reciever" or "deep threat", but as always, such a term can be quite vague. Such titles as "number one target" or "slot reciever" become even more vague when you consider the amount of variable skill sets a guy could have being that number one target or slot guy. I'm going to do my best to break down these titles and explain what skill sets are generally associated with them, and explain how they fit into offensive schemes.

But first, I want to list the most important unmeasurable features that make any style of WR successful.

-General field awareness. Basically the same thing as in the RB thread. The ability to know where you are on the field, where the defender is, the sideline, the goal line and knowing when the ball should be coming on you if the QB finds you more open than the other targets.

-Good route running. Usually comes with experience, but any WR needs to be able to run a crisp, well timed route. The ability to keep track of your feet and be in position to make the catch in the spot your supposed to be. Getting seperation when the coverage is perfect for your route or you lack the speed to beat the cornerback is a big calling card of a good route runner.

-Route Adjustments. Ability to make adjustments during the play. Especially in more diverse offenses, the WR may need to make adjustments to their route based on the coverage, and needs to do it before the QB is getting hit.

-Catching adjustments. The ability to locate the football and adjust your body to make the catch, even if it means exposing your solarplexes to a hit.

-Catching ability - Pretty self-explanatory. Whether you call it "good hands", catching ability or even Madden's "spectacular catcher", it goes without saying that this is one of the single most unmeasurable features a WR needs to have.

-Blocking. You still need to be able to block as a reciever, especially if your team plans on running outside the tackles at any point in the game.

Possession Recievers

Next, I will explain the general idea behind a "possession reciever" and what skill sets they are usually associated with.

Personally, I call these types of recievers the "pure recievers", as they usually are better at the pure recieving skills than any speed or deep target.

A possession reciever as I said, is a pretty vague description. There are kinds that are big, tough targets who make all the tough grabs for first downs, taking the big hit from the coverage and hanging onto the football. There are also kinds of possession recievers which strive at getting Yards-after-catch by using their toughness or elusiveness in space.

There are even kinds of possession recievers who combine both of those styles of possession recieving, able to take the big hit over the middle for a first down and able to slip a tackler or two for a big gain. This style of possession reciever is also often referred to as YAC specialists for their ability to generate yards after catch after being given the ball in a shallower area of the field.

A big misconception about possession recievers is that they aren't fast runners. That is not always true. While it is true some of the better, more physical possession threats like Keyshawn Johnson lacked ideal WR speed, there are many cases (T.O. for instance) where the possession reciever does have speed albeit not the equivelant of a gamebreaking speed/deep threat.

The main factors and skills that are associated with possession recievers are that they are 9 times out of 10 a taller, bigger target without worldclass speed, plays physical, has amazing "hands" or catching ability and is superb at adjusting for the catch. They also need to be willing to extend their body and risk really taking a hard hit.

If your team has a reciever who fits that description, he's most likely your teams possession target and used in a role where he runs a lot of routes 5-15 yards deep and work the middle areas of the field more often.

Deep threats

Deep threats are usually titles given to a reciever who thrives at the deep routes. While they vary in effectiveness based on what skill sets and unmeasurables they have, they generally have one major feature in common - speed.

Deep threats generally need to be better at looking a football into their hands from over their shoulders and also need to be very good at footcontrol for those tougher sideline grabs.

The main concept behind a deep threat reciever is actually to have a target to always throw deep to, but rather to lift the coverage away from the shallower areas of the field so that the QB can make a first down throw to a more possession style of reciever.

However, it is pointless to have any player be nothing more than a decoy every down and many offenses rely on a progression based system and post-snap adjustments by the QB. Should that safety bite up, should that corner get beat or should something else look in favor of the deep threat in his matchup, he needs to be able to make the catch and thus, hands and catching ability, are also needed. It is typical however for a deep threat to lack the ideal catching ability, making up for it in decoy potential and gamebreaking speed.

As with every other position and every other type of player at those positions, this is all still very vague.

There are deep threats who excel at catching and deep threats who are so good at their job they are the top reciever for their team. These recievers however, I prefer to call speed threats. Because deep threat implies they only work deep, a "speed threat reciever" implies that it's a reciever who's speed is a big threat, and not just a threat at deep areas of the field.

Speed threats can make great YAC gainers/specialists because of their ability to be explosive once given the football in space. If they can make a catch in stride or are great at the "run-turn-catch-turn-run" transition and can do it without losing much forward momentum, they can often speed right through a seam to the endzone. However, this usually only applies to speed threats or deep threats that have some of the unmeasurable abilities of a possession reciever - such as being willing to make the tough catches where they could be subject to a big hit.

Number 1 Targets

Guys like Marvin Harrison who can do the job of a possession reciever but are also a legitimate threat with speed and deep ability are considered "number 1 targets."

But the majority of that title is nothing but fanfare - teams have been successful for decades using recievers who only strive in one area of recieving, and just mix and matching them to the proper role in your offense,using spread offensive sets to utilize more recievers and substituting players on certain playcalls and in certain down and distances.

Slot recievers

Slot recievers are the guys who work well from the third WR spot, which is the position between the OT (or TE) and the outer most recievers.

These guys vary in skill sets depending on scheme, team and preference. In some cases, the slot reciever is the pure speed threat, capable of lifting coverages and able to break a game open with one catch. While some teams prefer a possession reciever or YAC specialist in the slot, giving another big possession threat for the QB in the 3rd down situations where you might go to a 3 WR set.

As always, it's all about the scheme - and in some cases, all about whatever's available when it's a coach willing to work with whatever is given to him and tailors his offense to the players.

Putting it into a system

Wide Recievers usually are not the tell tale sign of what an offense schemes to do or of what system they try to run. Many offenses since the dawn of the forward pass simply utilize a good possession target (even if it's a tight end) and a good speed threat or deep threat opposite them and have tremendous success.

It all comes down to the routes they are asked to run within the system. But most coaches will adjust the play calling to reflect the routes their recievers are best at. This is actually one of the easiest positions to adjust your scheme to fit the personnell as long as your not hell bent like Bill Parcells for your guys to only do it how you want it done and refuse to adjust for whatever old-fashioned reason.

Typically, most schemes nowadays make perfect use of whatever type of recievers they have or obtain. It's rare you come across a team obviously only searching for one or two styles, but rather a large diversity in styles of playing reciever to help variate their offense in an affordable manner - without spending 40 million guaranteed on a Marvin Harrison do-it-all reciever.

Summarizing it all

The speed threats have been hot commodities lately, but because measurables are sometimes so misleading and unmeasurables are, well, unmeasurable, this trend is dying. It's slowly converting back to the classic possession-types preference, with selections like Jordy Nelson (not saying he's slow or can't go deep, just saying, he fits the bill of a "pure reciever") being made before some of the more exciting speedsters available is a testiment to this. The best speed recievers and the best deep threats are the recievers who can combine at least some of a possession recievers abilities into their own game.

Possession recievers generally are the more pure of recievers, able to simply make the tough catches a routine part of their job. While many of them may not be as exciting as Steve Smith, a real speedster who outruns the entire defense with the ball in his hand, their role and importance to offenses is just as important.

It more or less breaks down to if the reciever is physical enough for working in the middle regularly or breaking tackles in shallow routes, or if they are quick enough to run the deeper routes without it taking long enough for the rush to get to the QB.

But as always, there are plenty of players with mixed-skill sets who break and even shatter any barrier that a tag like "deep threat" or "possession reciever" usually brings.

-D94W, your unofficial FF coach

Coaching football is just my way of staying close to the game.
Read the Football FAQ!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message AIM Address

Joined: 20 Feb 2008
Posts: 6939
Location: Brooklyn, NY
PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 10:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Offensive Linemen: All you need to know about

Offensive linemen have one of the roughest jobs in the NFL. They are responsible for helping the offense produce yards and points. They protect the QB from the rush and push open gaps for the running back to run through.

The Offensive Line
What many fail to realize is the skill, technique and knowledge that goes into this position. What even more fail to realize is that pass protection and run blocking are different skills and require different skill sets - often a determining factor when deciding to place that newly aquired OL at tackle or guard.

Obviously, as a tackle, your primary objective will be maintaining speed rushers, even on run plays, so you need to be better at pass protection. While guards, lined up inside, deal with the bigger run stopping forces, and thus, often need to be better at run blocking.

Doing any of it is easier said then done. The defense is always scheming to take advantage of the Oline and confuse them with different fronts, different blitz schemes and trying to conceal the blitzer. It is then up to the QB or sometimes the center, to call out the blocking assignment adjustments if they feel any are neccessary. They need to sync up and be sure of their assignments if they are to have any form of success blocking.

This is a different position altogether in explaining how skill sets work within the position because all players need the same skills, if even at varying degrees. Footwork, balance, leverage and SMARTS are the main pre-requisites for an OL.

Working within the scheme

What is most important for any offensive lineman is to WORK WITHIN THEIR SCHEME. This cannot be stressed enough by any coach to their player. All play design begins and ends with determining which blocking assignments are assigned to the OL.

It would obviously take all day to explain how every blocking scheme works. I cannot go through all of it with you, especially in one post. And to be quite honest, some of the blocking schemes are beyond what I've learned or coached (only one year in college ball before realizing I was not only too small to play OT, but my knees were not strong enough - and I only coach H.S.). So what I'm going to do is paste the finer points of broncos_fan _from _uk's post about Zone-blocking schemes and add onto it for even further explanation.

Once you understand the concepts of Zone-blocking, it is easier to understand and make sense of a man-blocking scheme so it will eliminate the need for two long explanations of the two main schemes (there are many variations of each, like with any system or scheme).

So much thanks to him (broncos_fan _from _uk) for letting me know he'd like to contribute and for doing so (saving me lots extra carpal tunnel pain in the process).

Zone-blocking schemes

Zone blocking is a type of scheme used by coaches to have their offensive lineman block opposing players. In this scheme the offensive lineman block an area of the field, or zone, as opposed to a particular man as seen in the Man Blocking Scheme (MBS).

The ZBS requires a different type of player than the MBS. A lot of fans just think "Light" players when it comes to ZBS but thatís not the case. You need linemen who are "light on their feet", and have better balance than average linemen. You still need the mass and muscle that is a requirement of the position to begin with.

Now it is important to remember that all teams use a combination of both schemes but generally favor one or the other. Teams use this type of blocking in an effort to help neutralize Stunts, Slants, and Blitzes without having to properly identify and/or adjust first. It can eliminate 30-50% or sometimes even more of the adjustments that need to be made or called pre-snap.

However, in the run game, as will be explained, it can be used to create larger gaps in one area at the sacrifice of a bit of protection elsewhere on the line.

The ZBS, when used for running, is when two or three offensive linemen work in tandem as opposed to each offensive lineman having a specific, predetermined man to block. The key is for two linemen to come off in unison and attack a single DL to the play side. Then as the play progresses one of them leaves and moves to the second level to block a LB. The key is for the lineman to have chemistry so they can decide who and when one of them will leave to block the linebacker.

By doing this it will create a "crease" for the RB, but often at times leaves one DL opposite the playside free to get into the backfield. That is why ZBS schemes often run counters, in an attempt to draw the defense away from the playside first, but mostly so that the runner can "cut-back" and run into the crease. That is why teams like Denver rely on one-cut runners (explained in my RB guide found here: with a really strong cut back ability.

You can watch some quality film regarding Zone and Man blocking and the differences in comparison by visiting these two videos:

Zone blocking:

Man (starts at 4:33 of the video) :

The movements

Now the linemen must do 4 key things for this to work.

1. They MUST stay hip to hip with each other. This is difficult to do without tripping over each other without repetitions working together. Often why OL in this scheme rank among the highest in high ankle sprain injuries.

2. They also need to keep their shoulders square to the line. This keeps their arms within reach of making a play and help conceal any potential foot movement, as well as help explode into their block.

3. Most importantly, they both have to keep their eyes on the linebacker, knowing where he is at all times and being aware of his assignment based on his first few movements.

4. Finally they must communicate with each other and know who is going to take over the DL and who is going to move to the 2nd level.

The main 2 zone blocking plays are the inside zone and the outside zone, also called the stretch play. On the Outside Zone the play calls for the DE to be double teamed by the G and the T and they decide who breaks off and blocks the LB. This usually depends on the DE. If he tries to edge rush then the G moves to the 2nd level, if he spins inside then the OT moves to block the LB. On the inside zone the play calls for the DT to be double teamed (especially prevalent in cases of going against a 3-4) and the C and the G who have to make the double team and the subsequent decision to move on to the second level.

Now for the individual linemen there are 2 basic techniques for the linemen when running a ZBS, Zone Block Right and Zone Block Left. As the names indicate Zone Block Right is for plays, and the double team, to be run to the right of the Center and Zone Block Left for plays, and the double team, to be run to the left of the Center.

So when you put this together the plays are run Inside Left and Inside Right, or Outside Left and Outside Right.

As for the actual footwork there are four basic steps depending on what side of the play youíre on and where your zone is.

The Drive Block is your basic fire straight out and try to drive the man in front of you back. This is used if you are on the front side of the play (the play is on your side, such as a LT or LG on a Zone Block Left) and your zone is directly in front of you.

The Turn Step is where you take your play side foot and step about six inches at a 45-degree angle away from your body and to the play side. The second step is a long forward step with your backside foot putting you at an angle to the play. This is used if you are on the front side of the play and your zone is not directly in front of you. Generally this is used by the second man on the double team.

The Scoop step is where the blocker takes a short step laterally away from the play to block the back side blocker. This is used if you are on the back side of the play and the zone is not directly in front of you. This is generally where the Cut block is used, to cut off backside pursuit.

The Bucket Step is a short backwards step to the outside where the foot lands at a 45 degree angle to the outside putting an O-Lineman on a 45 Degree track up field. It is basically a backwards turn step. This is used if you are on the back side of the play and the zone is directly in front of you. Unlike the Scoop Step these players generally donít use the cut block but continues on his angle looking to block the player who shows on the next level, in the event that the defender beats him to the inside.

Pass protection gets trickier. But this is where Zone blocking and man blocking scheme begin to get very similar, utilizing more foot-to-foot protection until the point of impact, in which the linemen seperate to work their player away from the QB. In pass protection even with an MBS, it becomes more of a zone protection, mainting protection over your area of the field.


Now that you understand the concepts of Zone-blocking schemes and how the linemen must work within them, the concepts behind Man-blocking schemes are relatively easier to understand. Man-blocking often relies on more play-specific assignments per player and is heavily determined by the adjustments that are made pre-snap.

For instance, it's possible for the LT and LG to have completely different assignments, such as the G "pulling to the outside" (moving to the outside to make a block on the end or backer) while the T is then assigned to the DT left free by the pulling G. Every OL is assigned to a defender in an MBS, but their assignments for that block will always vary and is always predetermined by the play and any adjustments that were made.


With OL, it all comes down to playing with leverage and within your scheme. It is the most scheme-determined position on the offense, relying heavily on the players to do what is mapped out for them. While some OL are devastating players, it's quite possible to have average talent on the OL but still have one of the best OL in the game - as long as they all play within their scheme, work well together and don't make any mental errors.

Spush adds:

Anyone lift weights? How about bench press? The concept behind it is 2 hands on the bar and extend your arms.

Now in the ZBS, 2 OL double team a DT. They use a zone step to get position first. Some terminology

halfbench: each blocker gets 2 hands on the DT driving him together. So each man puts 2 hands on a number of the DT's jersey with arms extended which equals a half bench per player.

full bench: used more on backside blocks or in unison with a turn step to wall off a blocker in a veer or cutback scheme. Two hands in the chest, extend the arms so the guy your blocking cant get up in your chest and cross your face to seal cutback lanes.

Rule of thumb in ZBS: 4 hands on the tackle 4 eyes on the backer. Double team the DL until the backer releases and is forced to choose a side. Thats where the zone part comes in. Whatever side the backer releases to, that OL go with him and picks him up stays with him. Thats the part where the athletic skillset is needed to have the footwork to chase down said backer.

Whereas MBS is more chip and release to 2nd level. Most teams do incorporate principles of both styles. It shows different looks to defense so a MLB cant sit back and read the OG's all day in a run and chase role in the run game.

-D94W with big help from broncos_fan _from _uk

Coaching football is just my way of staying close to the game.
Read the Football FAQ!

Last edited by Dallas94Ware on Fri Oct 07, 2011 12:29 am; edited 2 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message AIM Address

Joined: 20 Feb 2008
Posts: 6939
Location: Brooklyn, NY
PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 10:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cornerback Owner's Manual

Today's installment of the Football FAQ is a look at cornerbacks. Arguably the most important asset a defense can have, a good corner, is hard to find. The rules work against them and there is quite a lot of knowledge of the offense required to play well.


The general concept of the cornerback is to, as I was taught when I was little, "legally interfere with the catch." They do this by playing different coverages and playing to their assignment. But there is so much more to it.

Making a good corner

Cornerbacks generally are the quickest and most athletic players on the team. This is for a reason. They need to be able to chase speedy recievers, keep up with them, and be able to correct themselves quickly when beaten on a double move or a misjudgment on the route.

They need to be able to be athletic enough to get in front of a reciever before the ball gets to him, and that means agility and recovery speed, not just pure straightline speed - thats where the athleticism comes into play.

Not to mention, needing to jump high enough to compete for the football. All that, and still need to be able to tackle in the openfield, or at least slow down the carrier enough for someone else to clean up.

And of course, you need to be very smart and alert. Need to be able to not only locate the ball, but be able to read and react - to the point of being proactive - to everything the QB and WRs do. This takes amazing work ethic and willingness to study every aspect of the opposing team, looking for anything that will tip you off a bit to what is going to happen and what to do to stop it early and make a play.

There are some basic techniques and skillsets that corners need to have, what I refer to as "unmeasurables." In this case, many of the techniques are skills in themselves.

Backpeddling - The basic technique all corners need to be good at. This keeps the play in front of you while still being able to keep an eye on your man or any reciever entering your zone.

Shedding blockers - Corners need to do this too. Especially if you expect to stop some speedy outside runners. Luckily it's mostly recievers they will need to beat off a block.

Physicality - Nowadays, the rules are against the cornerbacks. They only have five yards in which to interfere with a reciever in any way (in high school and even to some extent in college, you are allowed to keep an arm, hip or back against a reciever but cannot grab or push). This makes it much harder to to keep track of the reciever when beaten, and thus it's becoming a bigger neccessity to be as physical as possible within the five yards. This disrupts the route's timing and flow. Physical play when going for the ball without interupting the reciever is also a big plus.

Man up bumping - A seperate skill from purely being physical at the line. This is the ability to force a reciever, from the bump, to go outside or inside and completely adjust their route. Only the real best of the best at physicality can do it this well.

Tackling - A corner who can't tackle is a huge liability, especially against the short passing game in which he may get beat for lots of 2 or 3 yarders that turn into first downs on a failure to wrap up.

Sudden explosiveness - The ability to make quick adjustments and "burst" into the play. Neccessary for getting in front of a reciever before the ball does without impeding the intended target, blitzing, making up on a misjudgment of the route being run or making up a lost step to stop the reciever when he slows just enough to make the catch.

Speed - Plain and simple, they need to be able to run with at least the worst-of-the-best of them.

Reading and reacting

It's preached to corners from the H.S. to pro levels by any defensive coach: watch everything. Maintain focus on the play. Be aware of what the QB and reciever are doing. React to what you see as quick as you can.

It sounds simple. At the pro level though, with all the confusing variables the offense will throw at a defense, it becomes extremely difficult. Luckily enough (or maybe not so, depending on the work ethic of the corner), at the pro level, there is plenty of time for film study with school studies done. But the same goes for the offense, who will be tipped off about your coverage by anything you do as well. So reading and reacting, again, becomes even more crucial and difficult.

Cornerbacks need to react to everything the QB does without biting on any form of misdirectional play - be it a counter, a draw, play action or pump fake - while still keeping tabs on anything the reciever is doing to get an idea of where they are doing with their rout and when to break on it as well as if they even should break on it, or keep the play in front of them. Some coaches preach different aspects of this for their defense, preferring their corners play that aggressive and break early, while some demand their corners never break and ALWAYS keep the play in front of them (usually zone defenses).

I'll explain that a bit more now.

Aggressive and conservative corners

Depending on the coaches preference, the cornerback will either play aggressive, meaning break on the route (jumping it for a play) or conservatively, meaning keep the play in front of you at all times to prevent a bigger play.

Usually corners who play conservatively and play well are the cornerbacks with great adjustment and make-up speed, with that good burst for ensuring the big play doesn't get started. Reacting - again, to the point of almost being proactive - with smart decisions is key. A great example of this is Ronde Barber.

Corners who play aggressively and play well generally are the guys with size and physicality to their game, able to out muscle at the line and disrupt plays early enough to put themselves in a better position to make a catch than the reciever is. Yet however, they still need to maintain some strong form of a short burst and good general speed, for keeping track of and biting on any read they make as soon as they make it. A great example of this is Al Harris.

Then there are the cornerbacks who do both pretty well, and often are allowed to play freely and read, react and be conservative or aggressive based on what they see. You generally need to be a very well rounded cornerback (in terms of skillsets and unmeasurables) to do this. A good example of this style of play is Marcus Trufant.

Zone and man coverages

As with conservative and aggressive styles of reading and reacting, a cornerback also has to be able to play to the defensive preference of the coach in terms of coverage scheme. As was the case with Zone-blocking and Man-blocking, all teams use both but tend to favor one of the other. The difference is, Man and zone coverages can be combined each play, with for instance the slot and X reciever being manned, while the other cornerbacks are playing zone coverages.

For the most part, cornerbacks need to be able to do both as a result. But some corners tend to fit the mold of one type of coverage corner over the other, and play that coverage better.

Zone-coverage is when the corners cover a portion of the field. This area is assigned by the play, and can be nearly anywhere on the field depending on the play design. It is intended to confuse the offense, forcing the QB to find an open area and sometimes delay his throw until his target hits an open area of the field, or "hole in the zone."

There will always be a gap or hole in the coverage with zone assignments, it's just a matter of finding them and having the right route to hit them - which in turn gives the time edge to the pass rush. Recievers and offenses can counter this with option routes and post-snap route adjustments that the QB and reciever must both read and make in sync - a difficult task.

Cornerbacks that "project" to zone defenses are physical in their style of play, and are very good at reading and reacting to the point of proactivity. They don't need to have as much speed so much as a short length burst, and again I can't stress enough the need to be extremely quick with reactions to play zone well. Asante Samuel is a good example of this.

Man-coverage is when a cornerback is assigned to "shadow" a particular reciever (or in some cases tight end) and cover them the length of the play in a one-on-one matchup of abilities. One wrong step, one wrong read or one slow step, and the reciever could very well be beating you for six. The positive is just the opposite, good steps, good reads and fast feet can prevent you from having to defend one pass or make one tackle all game - the true sign of a great corner.

But as the saying goes, no one stays covered forever. Eventually, especially with the rules favoring the reciever, a QB is bound to find a target sometimes - the same as with "holes in the zone", it comes down to it just not happening before the pass rush gets there. If you haven't caught on, a good pass rush is a corners best friend.

Cornerbacks who are great in man coverage generally are the faster of the cornerbacks, with great back peddling and the knowledge to combine aggressive and conservative play and use it to their advantage. A great example of this is (homerism or not, it's true!) Terence Newman.

Slot corners

Covering the slot is a tricky ordeal. Some teams prefer, as with their starters, a good man or zone corner for the position. A good slot corner generally is a well rounded corner, able to do both at any given time and they NEED to be able to play the run working in that position.

Other than that, there really is no difference between a slot corner and a starter except where they play in the defense. And none of that truly is a difference at all.


While it comes down to scheme and preference, cornerbacks, especially the good ones, need to be able to do it all. Any lack of ability can get exploited all day long, and often if you have one really good corner, it can force more efforts to the other side of the field - making that corner often look worse than he is.

It's an important position and a unique one. The best corners often don't get noticed for a while because they are quiet in terms of playmaking, keeping QBs throwing the other way and the worst corners can make a play at any time if they study enough film, and slowly become quite effective for a defense, if even as a 4th man on the depth chart.

Knowledge at this position can sometimes triumph over ability.

Spush adds:
A CB only needs to be able to run to orange cone the fastest to get into the league, after that its a mind game. Playing the CB position in any scheme basically equates to:

80% Football IQ
20% measureables

Through film study, coaching, awareness, route recognition skills, and awareness are what makes a player better. Most defenses in this league play a predominant form of zone cloud coverage. It takes the ability of a CB to key and diagnose a play to make him great. Understanding the fact the one route sets up another (pattern matching) and the ability to read route trees and progressions post snap separates the men from the boys.

Most CB's these days are system guys. Cover 2 CB's need good size and awareness to get the most out of them. A main role for them is run support and playing a WR in trail technique to cut off underneath sight lines from a QB. A cover 4 CB needs to excel in vision and be able to break on a ball in front of them as it becomes the LB's job to cut off said sight lines and saw off seam routes from the underneath zone. Man CB's need to be attackers with good hips. They need the strength to jam a WR who is 20-30 lbs heavier in attempts to reroute him and disrupt the play while having the hips and footspeed to stay on his 6 in sky coverage.

The #1 most important quality in playing the CB position is having the ability to play within the system and understand where your help is. By understanding this concept, a good CB knows what part of the field he can concede and helps determine when to make a play on the ball or make a play on the WR. Technique goes along way in helping this along as they will be taught to keep a triangle of vision with one eye on the QB and one eye on the WR. Stay low in your backpedal and explode out of your break.


Coaching football is just my way of staying close to the game.
Read the Football FAQ!

Last edited by Dallas94Ware on Mon Jun 09, 2008 10:20 pm; edited 1 time in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message AIM Address

Joined: 20 Feb 2008
Posts: 6939
Location: Brooklyn, NY
PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 10:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Safety: Behind the Scenes

The position of safety has varying degrees of importance to defenses across the NFL depending upon scheme and defensive preference. But for the most part, the general idea behind the safety is to be the last line of defense for your team, preventing plays from going the distance. But as always, theres much more to it than that.


The basic concept behind the position of safety is to stand your ground and close in for a tackle when you need to. You are to prevent a long play at all costs and to play a support role to the rest of the defense.

Safeties have historically been one of the more interchangeable positions in the NFL. In other words, some quicker LBs can play safety, some corners are better at safety, some safeties can play LB or corner, and vice versa. It's because of the varied skill sets a safety can have, and depending on assignments the defensive scheme will ask of him, may or may not need.

Safeties line up anywhere from 10 to 20 yards behind the line, sometimes even deeper and in some cases, "in the box" of the front seven to play a run support role or to bring a blitz. Because of this, QBs tend to be taught to locate the safeties and try to identify their assignments based on where they line up and how far back. It can be a big tip off, or it can be a big bluff from the defense that causes a negative play by the offense.

The skills

Safeties can and will use all different types of skills. A safety needs to be able to play to the coach's assignment for them, and depending on that scheme they will need to do different things well. But I will pinpoint several skills any safety must have and explain them.

-Tackling skills. A safety needs to be able to wrap up and bring down without any hesitation. As the last line of defense this is the most important requisite for any safety. Because safeties generally have a full running start and are the sometimes the surest tacklers on a defense, some of the hardest hitters in the NFL's history have played safety.

-Coverage skills. From zone coverages to man coverages a safety must have some form of coverage ability in all aspects of coverage. If they cannot cover they will be exposed time and time again if assigned to any form of coverage role - which 3 times out of 5 they will be.

-Recognition skills. Like a cornerback, one of the most important asset any safety can have is the ability to read, recognize and react to what is going on in front of them. Being in position and knowing where the best position for you to be in is a big part of playing safety, and a lot of that comes with recognition and general on-field smarts.

I would have broken each skill set down even further, but by now if you've been reading these guides you have a very good idea of what skills go into skillsets like coverage and recognition. I shouldn't need to go over that again.


Many schemes assign safeties to many tasks that revolve around the same concepts mentioned: being the final line of defense. But there are schemes where the safety is asked to do more, and sometimes that safety's skills are such that a coach will ask different things of a safety that more resemble duties of another position, such as play closer to the line and support the run, or man up on a slot reciever or reciever coming out of the backfield. There are even "ball hawk" safeties, assigned to do nothing more but roam the defensive backfield and swarm the ball carrier as quickly (and as ferociously) as possible. It all depends on the defensive scheme and the skills of the safety.

Some of the general assignments are:

-Cover 2 Zone coverage: The general premise of a cover 2 zone is playing two safeties deep in zone coverage. One safety will cover one side (half) of the defensive backfield while the other will cover the remaining half. The idea is to restrict any pass to the shallower areas of the field or have the reciever face two defenders when trying to make the catch.

-1 Deep coverages: Utilizing the better coverage safety, teams will place said safety deep and in center field while using the other safety in a man assignment, shallow zone or a "free roam" or "ball hawk" assignment closer to the LOS. This ensures that at least one safety will always be deep for assistance against any long throws while keeping the better hitter of the two safeties closer to the line where can make an impact - literally.

-Man coverages: While not very common, some safeties are asked to move up and cover a reciever one on one in man coverage. They can also be assigned to a tight end or running back. Assigning them to a running back is usually more common than any of the others particularly because, even if the offense runs, there is already a good tackler designated to follow the running back.

-Shallow zone/Run support: By playing a safety in a shallower zone, more towards the center of the field, teams can keep him closer to the area of the play and increase the defenses' chances of stopping a run early. Usually used in conjunction with a cover 1 assignment by the other safety.

-Free-roam: A bit pop-warner and old school for this new age NFL, there are still safeties that strive at playing this assignment and schemes out there that still assign this. This assignment asks the safety to simply wreak havoc any way possible. They need to read the offense and play to their recognition skills, and put themselves in the best position to make a play of any kind based on the offensive playcall. Also usually used in conjunction with a cover 1 assignment from the other safety.

Safeties always have certain duties to keep in mind that they have to maintain at all times often regardless of their assignment for that play.

-Maintain a last line of defense. Don't let anything past you or your team is giving up six.

-Break up middle-field catches with a hard hit. Most of the time the safety will not get there before the catch is made, but as it's being made, with barely enough time to stop it as it happens. Timed just right, you can seperate a reciever from his catch and be a force no reciever wants to challenge in the middle of the field, extending for the catch and thus exposing their midsection to some serious pain infliction by the safety.

-Support the cornerbacks in coverage. If a corner is getting beaten or struggling to cover on a particular play, it is the duty of the safety to roll their assignment in that direction and provide an extra coverage blanket against that reciever.

-Support run coverage. If the front seven is beaten by a running back, a safety is the final hope to prevent a score. They cannot be caught out of position and need to make the play.

Strong & free

While free and strong safeties are generally interchangeable, there are widely accepted differences between the "mold" of safety who plays each position.

Strong safeties are typically the larger safety, capable of hitting hard and playing all the assignments closer to the LOS to perfection - playing more physical in both coverage and run support.

They tend to line up closer to the line as well, and are often the slower of the two safeties.

While the misconception is that they are called "Strong" safeties because they play the physical role of a safety, they are actually called strong safeties because they play on the "strong side" of the defense, the side the Tight end usually lines up on.

Free safeties are typically the smaller of the two safeties. They are often better in the coverage aspects of playing safety, and thus line up a bit deeper.

However, the "free roam" assignments began as a free safety duty, which is most likely the reason it earned it's "free" pre-fix. Generally speaking, they are never actually free. Especially in this age of zone coverages.

It all depends on scheme. For example, a team might ask their free safety to play a shallow zone and support the run while the strong safety plays manned-up on the tight end during one play, then on the very next play have the free safety play a deep zone while the strong safety blitzes. While another team may stick to specific "free" or "strong" assignments, preferring to keep their free safety in coverage and their strong safety closer to the line.

More teams actually utilize their safeties in the same roles nowadays than teams that use them specifically in "free" or "strong" roles, and the pre-fixes have actually become more of a title of which side of the field they line up on rather than what duties they are assigned to. But again, it all really depends on the scheme and preference of the coach.

Summing it all up

Safety is often referred to as the easiest job on a football team because so much of it is simply being in the right position and unlike cornerback, you don't need much speed and athleticism as long as your playing the way the coach asks and doing whatever the coach says to.

But that's not to say you don't need talent. Especially at the pro level you need talent, but chances are if your extrmely talented in any one area of playing safety (run coverage, pass coverage, blitzing) you wouldn't be playing safety - you'd be playing linebacker, cornerback or even defensive end.

kramxel adds:

safeties need to be good at a larger variety of aspects than a corner or a linebacker....

They need to have the coverage skills of a corner, and the tackling skills, and especially the wrap up skills of a linebacker.

Their base skill set is more complete.... generally speaking.

Spush adds:
The role of the modern safety has changed alot over the last 2 to 3 decades. The evolution of the of the position is in direct correlation of the modern day offense and how its changed. In the 80's, the safety position was widely considered a secondary role to the CB position. Teams didnt really value it very highly on draft day as it was figured a player lacking skills to play CB at a high level could step right in and play safety. During that era and before, alot of SS's in particular, were bigger athletes used primarily in run support. One example on the far end of the spectrum was the man the Cincinnati Bengals of Samy Wyche's teams used, 240 lb David Fulcher, a Roy Williams clone. A very good football player that played at the same weight as most LB's in the NFL at that time.

It was widely considered at that time that the safeties be tough, and in the old pro 43 their main focus was to separate the WR from the ball making them think twice before coming across the middle. Coverages werent as exotic in those days as most teams preferred some version of a man coverage scheme in a man over set (deep double coverage by the FS on the #1 WR).

The man I give the credit to redefining how the safety position is played is none other than the original WCO TE himself from the Denver Broncos, Shannon Sharpe. This type of athlete started to take over the TE position once it was seen what Sharpe could do at the position. He was a mismatch for any SS in the league forcing teams to utilize better athletes at the position in coverage roles. It also forced teams to become more creative and exotic in coverage schemes to account for the extra WR lined up in the TE position.

Getting into the scheme aspect of it. Where the safeties line up usually dictate pre snap looks, call "shells". If both are in deep looks, its a cover 2 shell. If one is in the box, its either a cover 1 shell or cover 3 shell depending on where the CB's are lined up. Alot variations of these looks have developed over the years in attempts to confuse a QB pre snap. Instead of just playing deep halves out of a cover 2 shell, teams will now utilize the those athletes in such coverages as 1/4 1/4 1/2, 1/4 1/2 1/4, 1/4's in attempts to change things up. The tampa 2 is purely defined by ending up in a cover 3 scheme by dropping the MLB into a deep middle safety role post snap.

In certain down and distance situations, defenses are forced to go into nickel and dime packages to match up with offensive personnel. Adding in the extra CB is a pure nickel look, but bringing in an extra safety is a "big nickel" look thats being used more and more. The big nickel allows more speed than a LB, but more run support than a CB. When that extra DB is brought in to cover the slot, he is often times the QB's first read post snap to read a defense. If he runs in man coverage, its a pretty good indicator of a cover 8 call (man under coverage) and the QB will look for his first read to the "X" WR. If the safety backs into zone, the QB reads that and looks for the soft spot in zone coverage.

The terminology, or nomenclature, has also developed through the years. Coverage isnt really named after the coverage, but the run support roles resulting from it. The examples:

Sky: "S" for Sky... "S" stands for safety. Meaning the safety is the last line of perimeter defense in run support. Usually correlated with man coverage and the CB's often times have their backs to the L.O.S. in turn and run coverage roles. A safety will need to quickly key and diagnose run plays without getting sucked into play action, and have the feet to assist in deep coverage.

Cloud: "C" for CB. CB is the last line of defense in perimeter run support. Most closely associated in zone coverage where a CB is usually in a backpedal with an eye in the backfield for the run game. CB's in a cover 2 call will run underne ath WR's in a "trail technique" cutting off a QB's sight lines to a WR with curl to hash responsibilities and must break to the flats on an outside run play to play contain. In a cover 3 call, they'll play with more cushion to allow them the time to diagnose the pattern or key a run play.

-D94W, your unofficial FF coach

Coaching football is just my way of staying close to the game.
Read the Football FAQ!

Last edited by Dallas94Ware on Mon Jun 09, 2008 10:25 pm; edited 2 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message AIM Address

Joined: 20 Feb 2008
Posts: 6939
Location: Brooklyn, NY
PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 10:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Linebackers: Assembly Guide

The general idea behind a Linebacker is to play a support role to the defensive linemen much in the way safeties play a support role to cornerbacks. But as I've said about 6 times already, there is so much more to that than how it sounds.


The most important thing to remember when thinking linebacker is assignment, assignment, assignment. Much like a safety, they need to be quite versatile. Even in schemes that ask only specific tasks from their LBs, versatility is a LBs best friend.

They have historically been a position where, based on scheme, they can be vital stars of the defense or simple role players. Because their assignments can be so diverse in most defensive schemes, you will often find offensive lines adjusting their protection schemes based on what they percieve from the LBs. A good LB corps can conceal their true intentions by masking it with something that percieves an entirely different assignment. While it sounds simple, it's no easy task, and requires some smart play from all three (or four) backers.

Defensive fronts also play a big part in how linebackers are used and what assignments are given to each one. The basic two base fronts, the 4-3 and 3-4, are more deeply explained in my Football Schemes guide. I suggest you read and understand that first before reading on in this guide. It's found here:

Skill sets

Linebackers have a wide variety of skills that all types of linebackers have to varying degrees. While they can get by being really good at only 1 or 2 of these, the best LBs are athletic enough to do it all, or most of it all, with success.

-Speed. Not entirely vital, but a speedy linebacker or at least a linebacker with some burst to their initial movements can be great for nullifying off-tackle runs and can make them especially useful blitzing.

-Tackling. Linebackers need to be able to solo tackle well for obvious reasons.

-Coverage. This goes for both zone and man assignments, though zone assignments at this position are more likely. They need to be able to locate the ball and contain their man or zone with authority. A linebacker good in coverage will be able to eliminate a majority of the easier over-the-middle catches with a good seperating hit or simply by blocking the throwing lane.

-Jamming. Particularly the outside backers and especially the weak-side backer, a LB needs to be able to occasionally move into the slot and jam the reciever long enough to disrupt the timing or force the reciever into the corners zone.

-Recognition. As with most of the defensive positions, recognition can be vital. It can be the difference between -5 yards and a gain of 20 yards. A linebacker with good field awareness and recognition skills can put an end to a play before it even begins.

-Blocker-shedding. They need to be able to shed the occasional blocker to make plays. A hard feat when you are usually outweight by a good amount of muscle mass, but playing with smart leverage and hand movement/placement can shed any TE or make it possible to shed a Guard off you who's made it to the second level. Can become vital in run stopping situations against tough Olines.

-Pass-rushing. Being able to shed a blocker sometimes isn't enough. Sometimes you need a linebacker to bring the heat and get behind the Oline. This requires not only good leverage, strength and hand movement, but the genuine athleticism required to spin, swim, club and bull past O-linemen.

While most LBs only shine in one or two of these areas, they will still sometimes become stars. It depends on the scheme and what they will be asked to do; if a scheme requires the middle linebacker to either play a mid field zone or blitz in most of the plays, a speedy linebacker with some pass rush ability could become a star in that role. In a different scheme, if that middle linebacker is required to play a man up role on the running back and stuff the run, a speedy guy with good tackling skills and recognition will become the star.

4-3 Outside Linebackers

Outside linebackers in a 4-3 front are referred to as Will (for the weak, or non TE side) and Sam (for the strong, or TE side).

Their roles will vary from defense to defense, but the genuine premise behind their role is covering the area between the hash and the cornerback with run and coverage support based on their assignment for that playcall.

While many defenses nowadays ask the same things of their OLBs (though not always the same assignments on the same playcall), there is a consensus view of the accepted strengths/weaknesses/roles of each. Some teams still use this formula, but as with everything else in this new era NFL, it's become much more diverse.

Strongside/Sam linebackers are generally the bigger, stronger backers who are able the shed the block of a TE consistently. They line up over the TE most of the time, and will often be asked to jam the TE and cover him in passing situations. They usually get help from the Strong safety in those situations.

Weakside/Will linebackers are generally the faster, more athletic linebacker. They are more often called into zone coverage assignments, and are asked also to cover or jam slot recievers in certain situations. They often cover the runningback that attacks his side of the field first in man coverage, while covering the weak flat or hook/curl areas in zone coverage assignments.

4-3 Middle Linebackers

Middle linebackers in a 4-3 front are referred to as the Mike linebacker. They are usually responsible for recieving the defensive signals and relaying them to the rest of the unit. They are the QB of the defense.

Again, the roles they play vary from defense to defense. But generally, the Mike backer is assigned to protect the area between the hash marks and shut down the runningback.

Depending on scheme, they may be assigned to simply a particular gap, as would the OLBs. But the more popular use of a Mike linebacker is in pure run support from sideline to sideline, supporting both the Dline and OLBs in their roles. Mid-field zones are also quite popular in passing situations. For all this they are usually the most well rounded and versatile LB on the field with the best ability to bring down a ball carrier 1 on 1.

Dealing with interior linemen from the offensive getting to the second level becomes a big problem with some MLBs, and it's become more and more of a neccessity for the Mike to be able to shed even the best blockers at times. Guys like Ray Lewis, as talented as they are, struggle at this aspect of the game and require a large defensive front to ensure his freedom of movement.

3-4 Outside backers

Since the 3-4 is a scheme designed to conceal who the fourth rusher will be, the outside linebackers in a 3-4 are often very pass-rush capable linebackers who possess the athleticism to be effective in zone and run coverages. This is quite a demanding position as not many pure LBs are capable of being both a pass rusher and run stuffer.

The weakside 3-4 backer is the one with the better pass rush ability. Playing opposite the TE, they rely on the weakside DE to hinder the Offensive tackles ability to block them on the rush. They need to be quite athletic, speedy and capable of beating OTs to the edge and getting behind them to disrupt the QB. Outside of a pass rush assignment, they are generally responsible for covering the runningback coming out of the backfield.

The strongside 3-4 backer is the one with the more well rounded skill set. They must be able to rush the passer successfully, but will also be required to play coverage against the TE and support the run coverage. They will usually pass the coverage of a RB coming out of the backfield to the strongside inside linebacker.

Because 3-4 OLB requires such pass rush talents while remaining strong against the run, college defensive ends in 4-3 schemes are often drafted in an attempt to convert them to a 3-4 OLB. They usually possess pass rush capability and having played on a DL, they are already instinctively concerned about stopping the run. In the case of pure speed rushers like Dwight Freeney however, these guys do not project to this position because they are usually not as stout against the run as a bigger pass rusher with a blend of power and speed rushing skills.

3-4 Inside Linebackers

Responsible for playing the role of Mike, Will and Sam, they need to be quite strong in shedding blockers, playing the run and covering the middle of the field in zone. Occasionaly, depending on playcall, the weakside ILB will be required to play the role of Mike while the strongside backer plays in pass coverage, and vice versa. They need to be pretty versatile for these reasons.

The strongside inside backer will be responsible for the TE at times as well, and shares many of the duties that Sam in a 4-3 would have while splitting the duties of the Mike backer with the weakside ILB.

The weakside ILB will occasionally be responsible for maintaining a strong mid-field zone, and shares many of the duties that Will in a 4-3 would have while again splitting the duties of the Mike backer with the strongside ILB.

Summarizing it all

Linebackers are the safeties of the front 7. Depending on scheme they will have many different roles in a defense, but it all revolves around supporting the efforts of the downlinemen and occasionally reinforcing the actions of the secondary. They need to be pure football players, capable of doing whatever is asked of them while maintaining some form of a strong skill set, one that reflects what their team's scheme requires from the position.

While some defenses will require their linebackers to take a passive "wait and see" role and hold their ground, breaking big plays before they happen and giving up ground in small bits, others will ask their backers to be aggressive and attack plays with blitzes and proactive run coverage. Each of those schemes and every one in between require different forms of effort from each LB. You always need the right backer for the job.

Spush adds:
One thing I'd like to add is LB, probably more than any other position requires system players.

Some examples would be for instance, in the old pro 43, both DT's played the 3 technique and were both primarily 2 gap run stuffers which required a larger size stout MLB who excels at run stopping. Jax has tried this for awhile successfully with Henderson, Stroud, and Mike Peterson. Philly as well with Trotter. That system requires speedy edge rushers usually backed by some sort of man and a half over coverage sets whether it be out of zone, man, or combo

More conventional modern day 43 teams are primarily one gap teams. They require the DL to play run on the way to the QB and require speedier LB's in a run and chase role rather than a vertical attacking role, assuming the front 4 get the job done. The speedy LB's usually have the feet to get good depth in their drops allowing the safeties to maintain depth as well which will ultimately allow a team to creep a safety up in the box in run support b/c the backers are able to get depth up the seam in a cover 3 shell. This sytle is used primarily in zone looks from my experience.

More 34 teams are adopting this philosophy as well today with the LB's being used in a run and chase role b/c they are easier to find. The trend seems to be using a big 2 gap DE (Haloti Ngata) to shut down the run game while slanting playside allowing the LBs freem roam to attack a ball carrier, blitz, or drop in coverage. It hinders the ability of fire zone looks but allows versatility to the LB corps

Some general techniques needed in quality LB play includes always taking on a play with your inside shoulder on the outside of the blocker. Always force the run back inside and when you have less than a second to determine that, your instincts better be pretty good. More of a style used for downhill thumpers in a run stuffing role. Key and diagnose backers usually try more often to keep thier pins clean in traffic to get a clean hit on the ball carrier.

-D94W, unofficial FF coach

Coaching football is just my way of staying close to the game.
Read the Football FAQ!

Last edited by Dallas94Ware on Mon Jun 09, 2008 10:26 pm; edited 1 time in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message AIM Address

Joined: 20 Feb 2008
Posts: 6939
Location: Brooklyn, NY
PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 10:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Defensive Line: Braun & Brains

Today's installment of the Football FAQ is defensive linemen. I had planned on putting my own touches on this guide, but Spush really hit every topic I could think of for the DL. Thanks a million to him for saving me some effort and for making this a joint project. Smile

4-3 Defensive Lineman
Defensive Tackles:
Two specific types of DT's are needed whose assingment differ from one another and different techniques and alignments make the two unique of one another also. Defensive lineman in this formation usually play a one gap responsiblity where their main responsibility is to attempt to split 2 blockers while not giving up any ground and maintain assigned rush lanes.

Figure one shows gap designations to clearly help define a DT rush responsibility in the run and pass game with A gap between Center and Guard, B gap between guard and tackle and so on. Figure 2 is a technique scale showing where the player is to line up. A "0" technique DT lines heads up on the center, 2 technique heads up on the guard and so on. The odd number designations have the player lining up in gaps such as a 3 technique player on the outside shoulder of a guard and a 5 techniqe player in the outside shoulder of the tackle.

The 2 DT's aforementioned in this alignment are as follows:

Nose Tackle: A tall bulky player in the desired 6'4" 320 lb range is utilized mainly as a run stuffer. His alignment will normally be a "0" shade technique to the weak side (side opposite tight end). This player must possess tremendous core strength to move an anchored blocker in the run game and pass protection as well as have long arms to raise them while rushing the passer in hopes of cluttering a QB's throwing lanes and batting down passes.

Under tackle (3 technique): This player, as mentioned, normally lines up in a 3 technique position on the strong side. His role is greatly expanded from the nose tackle. This player must be very athletic, strong, and agile at the same time. He is responsible for his gap designation against the run but is also relied upon to apply the bulk of the interior pressure on the quarterback while maintaining his assigned rush lane. By effectively pushing the pocket applying pressure and hopefully sacks, he also shortens the depth of the pocket not allowing the QB to step up giving the outside rush more of a chance to reach the QB.

3 technique DT's are some of the hardest players for NFL talent evaluators to find due to the fact that NFL big men are not always as athletic as takes to play this position. The competition for their services is so great that these players, when on top of their game, demand some of the highest salaries in football. A deep rotation of DT's (wave players) are also an asset as to keep these big men fresh for 60 minutes.

Defensive Ends:
In this defensive set, the DE's are the pass rushers. The players given the enviable job of grabbing headlines rushing the QB. Different coaches employ differnent variations of the defense so the style of player they covet can vary. Some coaches prefer DE's with a smaller body type who bring an explosively quick first step as an edge rusher to effectively beat tackles to the edge reaching the QB from the backside. This style of player isnt always the adequate vs. the power run game and normally attempts to play the run on his way to reaching the QB as opposed to having a run first assignment. This is the desired body type in Dungy's new Tampa 2. Other philosophies search for somewhat larger players who can equally play the run and rush the passer as well. On the strong side, the players usually have to beat a tackle and tight end alike to apply pressure so the strength attained from the extra bulk helps to play stout at the point of attack. Think Will Smith in (NO) or Aaron Kampman (Green Bay). The stouter players usually play the bandit position (SDE) while the the quicker players usually line up on the back side in attempts to come from a short corner.

34 Defensive Line
There are 2 basic schemes surrounding DL in a 34 set. One gap, and 2 gap. A 1 gap player has responsibility of just that. His job is to man one gap in the run game whether it be "A" gap (between OC and OG), "B" gap (between OG and OT) or "C" gap (between OT and TE)c and not give any ground. The technique these 1 gap tackles use is to explosively burst upfield with at quick first step as trying get into the backfield to create problems for play development. This has become the most prevalent style of DL play in the NFL largely due in part to when it is employed effectively and with the interior rush getting penetration, it allows LB's and CB's to drop into coverage quicker thus becoming more effective.

A 2 gap DL has much different responsibilities. His job is to explode into offenseive lineman occupying more than one blocker at a time allowing the linebackers to run free and make tackles. His responsibility is to man the gap on either side of him.

34 Nose Tackle (NT)
The nose tackle in a 34 base set has several different responsibilities than a tradition 43 DT. His ideal frame is short, compact, and stout with exceptional strength. As opposed to a 43 Tackle, he doesnt need to be taller with long arms to put an arm up in passing lanes on throwing downs because pass rush isnt his first responsibility In the run game his job first and foremost, is to occupy the Center with enough leverage that a guard must help block him. He can never allow the post snap line of scrimmage to be pushed back. Normally in pass rush, his main goal is to push the Center back into the pocket far enough as to not allow the QB to step up in the pocket avoiding the outside rush. A good Nose Tackle who does his job well is essential for this defense to be successful.

Defensive Ends or "5 techniques" (DE)
They are also first and foremost run stoppers. Their ideal frame is tall and athletic in the 290 lb range and good strength. Taller players are preferred for this position as they usually have long arms to disengage from blockers in the run game. Usually lined up in an elongated 3 point stance, they also must explode into the OT hard enough that he cant be blocked by a single tackle or guard. If this player occupies both blockers, he successfully completed his job allowing the linebackers to run free. He is also responsible for manning the gap on either side of him in the run game and collapse the pocket in the pass game not allowing the QB to step. The 5 technique player must possess good lateral movement to string a play out to the sideline as well. But the modern day NFL has made this player into a predominant one gap attacker and disrupter be it in a slant or gap scheme. The success of a defense can rely heavily on the ability of this player to be a finisher.

Thanks again to Spush for writing this up for the Football FAQ.

Coaching football is just my way of staying close to the game.
Read the Football FAQ!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message AIM Address

Joined: 20 Feb 2008
Posts: 6939
Location: Brooklyn, NY
PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 10:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Coaches: They Get a Guide Too!

I've been running out of Football FAQ subjects, and I decided to follow up on it all with a guide for coaching staffs.

Coaches play an extremely vital role in any football game. Football is often compared to a form of chess. If the players are the pieces and the field is the board, the coaches are the ones playing each other.


For the most part, coaching begins and ends at a chalk board. It is a coaches' duty to design not only the scheme, but the plays that go with it.

Coaches, whether offensive or defensive, tend to all have their own ideas and opinions on what works and what doesn't, and how to make other things work. Depending on where they coach during their careers, they tend to adapt other coaches' features into their scheme, further evolving it. Some coaches however, completely ditch their old playbooks and schemes in favor of an entirely different one if they end up working with a coach who's system has prooven very effective.

Because of this, many schemes share a lot of the same qualities while other schemes are completely different. Yet still there are schemes that may share the same name, such as Tampa 2 or West Coast, but have very different characteristics within that scheme despite sharing the same basics. If you want more information on schemes and the general ideas behind them, check out Football Schemes For Dummies, written by me:

However, just because a coach has their own opinion and scheme, doesn't mean that is what a team will use. It depends on how high up on the ladder they are, and what their tasks are based on their job title and what duties have been delegated to them by the head coach.

All coaches favor either offense or defense. There are some old school coaches who prefer to run both, but that age has slowly died. The NFL has become more of a delegated duty coaching job.

Head coach

There is no coaching job more prestigious than head coach of an NFL team.

A head coach may run the offense, the defense, both, or none. Most coaches however in this era of NFL, run only one side of the football.

Head coaches are often hired based on how well they have previously run an offense or defense and the success of their team sometimes regardless of if they have any experience being the head coach.

While the duties of a head coach vary, it's mainly varied because of the way the HC delegates his duties to the other coaches. Because of this, it's often the HC's duty to identify and hire coaches for the staff. While the GM or Owner may play a role in this, for the most part it is the HC's choice who is on their staff. Think of HC as the president of a company, the guy who runs the show and dictates how things are run, why they are run that way, and when and how to change it for the most 'profitability' - in this case that profit is winning. While the Owners and the GM are the coorperate people, watching from the outside and making sure the HC is doing his job successfully and providing him with anything he made need to get it done - in this case, players.

Head coachs may or may not have a hand in the draft and personnell decisions. In many cases, the Head Coach is not the GM (General Manager) of the franchise and thus cedes his authority over player decisions to the GM. Some of the coaches who do this still have some say in personnel and can relay preferences to the GM, but the GM will make the choice. Owners who have their team run in this way tend to hire HCs who are willing to adjust their scheme to the players on the team - or HCs who are capable of drawing up entirely new systems with certain players as a the focal point.

Other HCs are also the GM, and have complete say over who is brought in and let go on their team. While this has become fairly rare, it's mainly the older-school coaches who are renowned for their eye for talent that are HC and GM. Many owners feel this can be overwhelming for new coaches in particular, and thus stick to the format of having both a GM and a HC, and not have both jobs held by one person.

Head coaches, as I said, are responsible for delegating duties to the rest of the coaching staff. For example, while one head coach may call the plays on offense or defense (or even both), others will delegate that duty to a coordinator or even a positional coach with outstanding knowledge of the scheme.

Which duties are delegated to other members of the coaching staff depends greatly on the HC and their ability to do the job as well as a member on the coaching staff's ability to do the job.

A HC is responsible for everything coaching related whether they delegate the duties out or not. They are responsible for everything from running the practices and making schedules for practice to motivating the team and calling the plays, and every other little task in between.

I will list some of the other forms of coaches on a coaching staff, and what their duties generally are - in other words, what duties are usually delegated to them by the HC.


A coordinators job is pretty descriptive in their job title - they coordinate the scheme on their side of the ball. Think of them as the managers of the company.

While how detailed that duty is varies from team to team depending on the duties bestowed upon them by the HC, they will almost always be responsible for coming up with variations of the basic gameplan to reflect what the other team does on offense or defense, depending on if the coordinator is offensive or defensive.

If a coordinator is hired on a side of the ball that the HC favors and runs, the coordinator is usually directly responsible for keeping the players up to speed on the scheme and gameplan from game to game. They dictate the HC's mentality to the players on that side of the ball, and keep them "coordinated" from game to game. They need to understand the HC's scheme well in order to do this, which is why the relation between an offensive or defensive minded HC and his coordinator for that side of the ball is usually a very close one. The HC will sometimes delegate playcalling duties to the coordinator in this situation, but usually they handle it themselves. There are some instances where the coordinator in this scenario would be responsible for calling in three different plays to the HC, who will then make the final decision on which of the three plays is called.

If a coordinator is hired for the side of the ball the HC does NOT favor or run, the coordinator then becomes directly responsible for installing their own offensive or defensive scheme, and not only installing it, but running it, coordinating it and calling the plays for it. In this situation they will almost always have an assistant who helps in all these duties. It tends to be a positional coach well versed in the scheme.

Assistant HCs

In the past, Asst. Head Coach was a title usually given to a positional coach or coordinator who was offered a promotion to join another franchise while still having the same duties. Since the NFL rule was they had to have a higher job title in order to switch teams while under contract - thus a promotion - teams began using the Asst. Head Coach title to hire coordinators from other teams just to give them the same duties they originally had on the other team.

The rule has since changed, and it's demanded that the coach taking a "promotion" elsewhere has not only a change in job title, but an actually job change with more important duties to the head coach.

It now usually partains to any coordinator who also has the duty of being a positional coach. While the job is more daunting, and forces guys like Mike Singletary (Asst. HC and LB coach in San Fran) to work 22 hour days during the mid-week doing the jobs of both, it is a more prestigious job than coordinator or position coach and a step higher on the ladder. It can also be a title given to the coordinator who works on the same side of the football that the HC runs, and thus is considered to literally be "assisting the HC." In some cases (again, like Singletary) it means both.

Positional coach

The position coach is the hands-on coach. You can think of them as the employees of a company. They are the chore guys, the get things done up close and personal guys.

While all the other coaches have some form of hands on coaching with the players, especially during camp, they have quite a lot of other and sometimes more important things to get done during the season. So they assign duties to other coaches to help handle each position specifically. These are called position coaches, and teams will usually have one for every position (Linebackers coach, Quarterbacks coach, etc.).

Their jobs vary based on the duties given to them by the head coach and/or the coordinator for their side of the ball. But they are almost always responsible for helping and running positional drills, going over positional film breakdowns and helping to fine tune issues with the player. They will almost always be the coaches with the best relationship with their players for this reason, constantly working with them and talking to their players - often even relating to them on a level more in the terms of a good friendship rather than a coach-player relationship.

They are, again, the hands-on coaches - the employees if you will. They do it how the managers (coordinators) tell them to, but they are the ones that do it. Poisitional coaching is often the breaking ground for a professional coach.

Quality control

Quality control coaches, or "Q.C.", are the guys who ensure the position coaches have everything they need to do their job. In a sense, you can think of them as the janitors of the company. A real dirty job that is often the testing grounds for very young potential coaches. A way to prove your worth and earn a step up the ladder to real coaching.

They are the ones who cut and edit all the coaching film to make a tape for every position, tapes for use in team meetings and just about anything film related. Make copies of the weekly gameplan, assist in meetings, heck probably even mop up the meeting rooms and arrange the desks. They are the behind the scenes, dirty work guys.

Conditioning coach

Conditioning or Strength & Conditioning coach are the guys responsible for keeping athletes in shape, weight training them properly according to position, and helping in rehab of injured players. They often have little to do with football coaching itself, but rather are the guys who run the team gym and coach the players in remaining in shape and athletic.

Spush adds:
Some important things to touch are the basics. Coaching dictates tempo. Say it again, coaching dictates tempo.

X's and O's, jimmies and joe's, how ever you want to put it. A coach's #1 priority is to put his players in the best possible position to succeed. A players value can decline to a fanbase, but you never actually know if he's making mistakes or the gameplan is taking him out of his element unless your actually in the huddle.

Coaches can scheme around opponents, obviously. Attacking a teams weakness is what the entire week leading up to a game is about. "Installing a gameplan" is opponent specific. Playing a man cover team you probably want a lot motion. Against a zone team you probably want to bunch your WR's or establish the run and get matchups in the passing game. Or if you have a speedy back get him in the slot to exploit a slower safety or LB.

Coaches also system oriented. You obviously want to play a system thats best suited for the talent you have, but certain systems normally go together. A high scoring offense will usually be backed by some form of cover 2 or cover 4 allowing the opponent to dink and dunk relying on field position %'s and the risk that an offense will make a mistake before driving the length of the field. Team speed is the key to this style.

Conversely, a T.O.P. coach emphasizes stopping the run and an attacking style of defense. Its a system that usually has a bell cow that eats clock and slowly and methodically plug down the field and field goals are just as important to this style as TD's at times. The defense plays run first most downs and brings the heat in passing situations in attempts to get the ball back, slow it down and control tempo. A system that utilizes braun and brains as its base.

Another style, think Packers, with the man up CB's and the attacking DL rotation with speedy playmaking LB's. Its a gambling type boom or bust defense. Usually matched with a spread offense of similar style that is high powered and efficient.

The thing to remember is, each coach has a plan. What offense complements my defense the most? What D complements my O? Its the big picture. Unless your as potent as NE, your working against yourself playing a spread offense followed up by an 8 in the box cover 3 front. The styles just dont match.


Coaching football is just my way of staying close to the game.
Read the Football FAQ!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message AIM Address

Joined: 20 Feb 2008
Posts: 6939
Location: Brooklyn, NY
PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 10:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Next installment of Football FAQ coming tomorrow evening barring any setbacks in my schedule. It will be on the intimacy of the playcall, a sort of add on with its own section for the Schemes guide and Coaches guide.

Coaching football is just my way of staying close to the game.
Read the Football FAQ!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message AIM Address
broncos_fan _from _uk

Joined: 06 Feb 2005
Posts: 9322
Location: SA
PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 10:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

definately going into my favorites right now Very Happy
When you base your opinions off of facts instead of searching for facts that support your opinions you will find yourself often the contrarian but rarely the fool.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail

Joined: 20 Feb 2008
Posts: 6939
Location: Brooklyn, NY
PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 11:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

broncos_fan _from _uk wrote:
definately going into my favorites right now Very Happy

Smile And you know, to you and to everyone else, if you have anything to add to any of those, this is the thread to do it!

Coaching football is just my way of staying close to the game.
Read the Football FAQ!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message AIM Address

Joined: 24 May 2007
Posts: 769
Location: Wisconsin
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2008 1:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dallas94Ware for MVP!

These posts are probably the best I've ever seen on this website. You really have a lot of knowledge about football.
starheather wrote:
my posts always have factual backup.

bucs99 wrote:
Keep McIntyre just call him "The Diddler"
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Display posts from previous:   

This forum is locked: you cannot post, reply to, or edit topics.   This topic is locked: you cannot edit posts or make replies. Forum Index -> NFL General All times are GMT - 4 Hours
Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7  Next
Page 1 of 7

Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum

Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group