Over my 30+ years of coaching the offensive line, many coaches from all levels have asked me how I break down defensive blitz patterns. I found that there were too many different named blitzes, so I needed to develop a system to manage them more efficiently. Here is that system that I have used since my time at Grand Valley State University in 1992.
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When I break down film, I have a column with the heading named “Number of Blitzers.” I type in a number – either 4, 5, 6, or 7 – which designates how many blitzers rushed at the line of scrimmage. This includes counting the “spy” defensive lineman who takes a few steps at us, but drops into coverage. We initially recognize this defensive lineman as a potential rusher, but then react post-snap to find work and help were it is needed. I have another column with the heading “Blitz Direction.” There are seven choices depending on where the blitzers are attacking us (See Table).
|M||Middle||Pressure coming from either a linebacker or defensive back located inside the box, blitzing through the A, B or C gaps. C gap only if we have an attached tight end.|
|B||Boundary||Pressure coming from either a linebacker or defensive back located outside the box, blitzing the C, D gaps and Wider from the boundary.|
|F||Field||Pressure coming from either a linebacker or defensive back located outside the box, blitzing the C, D gaps and Wider from the field.|
|O||Outside||Pressure coming from either linebackers or defensive backs located outside the box, blitzing from both the boundary and the field.|
|Pressure coming from both the middle and the boundary.|
|MF||Middle and Field||Pressure coming from both the middle and the field.|
|MO||Middle and Outside||Pressure coming from the middle and both the boundary and the field.|
When I “quickie” stat these columns I can then group all the 5M, 5F, 6B, 6MF, 7MO, etc., as pressure patterns. This allows me an opportunity to study and determine any tendencies defensive coordinators have when they call various pressures versus certain personnel groups, on certain down and distances, and in various field zones. This has given me a competitive advantage when game planning and practicing for that week’s opponent. (See Diagrams with listed Number of Blitzers: Blitz Direction).
Regardless of what position blitzes us (Corner, Safety, Sam, Mike, Will, Buck) in either a 3, 4 down or Bear fronts, we can then set our protections and run game to pick these patterns up. We also have specific calls to alert the entire offensive line, tight ends, and running backs as to where the pre-snap issues are. This system accounts for single, double, triple, overhang, double overhang, inside and outside pressure patterns. It is critical that we see things as “one set of eyes.”
I am also constantly updating my Blitz Indicator Checklist and reminding our players to see linebackers and safeties to help them make the proper calls and react appropriately.
Game Film Blitz Indicators
- Defender’s Body Demeanor (leaning, active feet, wide eyes)
- Check Stance (staggered vs. non-staggered)
- Understand Alignment (bossed or bowed, depth from line of scrimmage)
- Is the defensive back “Capped” or “Stacked” behind a linebacker?
- Are they “Cheating” their front alignments? (wide 9 technique, 3 technique moves to 4i, tight 1 technique)
- Is the pressed corner “Peaking” or aligning tighter inside the wide receiver?
- Is the defender aligned like he’s playing man coverage, but is looking at the quarterback?
- Are the safeties aligning off the hash? (cheating over a boundary corner, rotating down to 1 and 5 technique typically indicates a fire zone pressure, etc.)
I am constantly evaluating the best ways to attack defensive blitz patterns and this system has provided me the opportunity to do that.
If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com.
In 2018, Jeff Quinn enters his 34th year of coaching, his fourth year with the Notre Dame football program and his first year as offensive line coach. He served the last three years in a variety of roles, including most recently as senior offensive analyst. Prior to his tenure at Notre Dame, Quinn served as the head coach at the University at Buffalo from 2010-14, which included a 2013 campaign that saw the Bulls finish with an 8-5 record. The eight wins equalled the most for Buffalo in the regular season since it moved to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1999. The Bulls also won a school-record six Mid-American Conference games and registered a seven-game winning streak in 2013. As offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Cincinnati (2007-2009), Quinn helped the Bearcats to a 12-0 regular-season record in 2009 and served as the interim head coach for the Sugar Bowl meeting with defending national champion Florida. Quinn was named a finalist for the 2009 Broyles Award. Prior to his stint at Cincinnati, Quinn was the associate head coach and offensive coordinator at Central Michigan. He helped the Chippewas to the 2006 MAC title. Quinn served as interim head coach for Central Michigan in its 31-14 victory over Middle Tennessee in the 2006 Motor City Bowl. Quinn arrived at CMU in 2004 after 15 seasons at Grand Valley State. He was part of the staff that led the Lakers to back-to-back national championships in 2002 and 2003.
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