Zone Drop - Tech Manual - WP

The Best System For Distinguishing & Communicating Zone Drops In Pass Coverage

The system that we use to distinguish and communicate zone drops in the pass game, goes off the premise that a football field is fifty-four yards wide.  Obviously, the playing field is fifty-three and 1/3 yards wide but we rounded up to illustrate our teaching and keep fractions out of the description.  We start by disregarding the outside three yards from both sideline’s working in.  With the football in the middle of the field, the disregarded area is the farthest throw for a QB to execute.  We feel our under-coverage will have the time and ability to expand to those outside three yards when needed.   By eliminating the outside three yards on each side, this gives us a field width of 48 yards that we will defend.

30 Defense Overview

I want to begin by saying that when I started using this system I was coordinating a 3-4 defense.  Within the 3-4 defense, we used a lot of cover 2, cover 3 and cover 4 schemes.  We were a very active 3-4 defense that brought at least one of the four LB’s on every snap.   We needed to find a way to communicate to each other who was responsible for each drop zone verse the pass when we were bringing pressure.  We also want to create ways of switching up those responsibilities to give the QB different looks in the coverage scheme and to the side of the pressure/blitz we were bringing.  When we would bring a LB on a pressure, while maintaining the four-underneath coverage integrity, we replaced the voided zone with a safety.  With the base rules of the system, the safety to the side of the pressure would give an “A” call and roll down to the A-drop zone if the OLB was the pressure.  He would give a “B” call and drop down to the B drop zone if the ILB was the pressure.  We were able to give false reads to the QB by “showing” a safety rotation to a side with every intention of running the pressure to the opposite side.  We also would bring the opposite safety to replace the B drop zone on pass downs to disguise where pressure was coming from.  We have since transitioned to a 40 defense but have brought the same philosophy of zone drop defense responsibilities that this system provided us out of the 3-4. The system is illustrated below.

40 Defense Overview

We have since transitioned to a 40 defense but have brought the same philosophy of zone drop defense responsibilities that this system provided us out of the 3-4. The system is illustrated below.

If we are playing a one-high safety coverage and dropping four defenders into under- coverage, we will divide those 48 yards by those four defenders. With that being said, each of the four underneath defenders will be responsible for a drop zone area of 12 yards. We will identify these zones as A, B, B, A working from outside towards the middle of the field.

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A Drop Defenders: One-High Safety Rules

When we are playing a one-high safety coverage, the  A drop zone is roughly four yards from the bottom of the numbers to roughly five yards outside of their hash, with a depth of 15 yards.   These landmarks describe a window of 12 yards wide to defend.  A drop defenders are taught to identify the potential #3 receiver in every formation.  We call this the A drop TO/AWAY rule. The A drop defender that gets the #3 receiver out their way (TO) is responsible for violently rerouting any vertical route by a #2 receiver that is not attached to the core of the formation to a depth of 15 yards, and deliver him to the deep player.  After the #2 is rerouted and delivered, the A drop defender will get his eyes to the #1 receiver on his side looking to defend the A drop zone.  He will also be responsible to keep outside and vertical wheel leverage on the #3 receiver.

The A drop defender on the two receiver side (AWAY) has the same reroute and delivery responsibilities and will identify any route coming to him from the other side of the formation.  His #3 receiver threat will take much longer to develop so he will focus his attention on the #1 to his side and hang on him longer.

B Drop Defenders: One-High Saftey Rules

When we are playing a one-high safety coverage, the B drop zone is roughly five yards outside of their hash to the middle of the field, with a depth of 15 yards.  Again, these landmarks describe a window of 12 yards to defend.   The B drop defenders will also identify the potential #3 receiver in every formation.  The B drop defender that gets the #3 receiver out his way (TO) is responsible for rerouting any vertical route by a #2 receiver that is attached to the formation or from the backfield to a depth of 15 yards and deliver him to the deep player.  If there is not an attached or backfield #2 receiver running a vertical route, he will continue to get depth and width looking for the first outside threat trying to work back inside and defend the B drop zone.

The B drop defender on the two receiver side (AWAY) has the same reroute and delivery responsibilities, and will also look for the first outside threat working back inside.

If we are playing a two-high safety coverage and only dropping three defenders into under-coverage, we will divide those 48 yards by those three defenders. With that being said, each of the three underneath defenders will now be responsible for a drop zone area of 16 yards.   We will identify these zones as A, C, A, working from outside towards the middle of the field. We will use a FREEZE CALL when playing with three underneath defenders.  This call will tell the corners that the A drop defender on the two receiver side will not expand to #1 as fast.

A Drop Defenders: Two-High Saftey Rules

When we are playing a two-high safety coverage, the A drop zone is roughly four yards from the bottom of the numbers to roughly two yards outside of their hash, with a depth of 15 yards.  These landmarks describe a window of 16 yards wide to defend.  We will acknowledge the three underneath scheme by echoing a FREEZE call to remind everyone their responsibilities are different now.  Again, the A drop defenders are taught to identify the potential #3 receiver in every formation.  The A drop defender that gets the #3 receiver out his way (TO) is responsible for violently rerouting any vertical route by a #2 receiver that is not attached to the core of the formation to a depth of 15 yards, and deliver him to the deep player.  After the #2 receiver is rerouted and delivered, the A drop defender will get his eyes to the #1 receiver on his side while maintaining outside and vertical wheel leverage on the #3 receiver.

The A drop defender on the two receiver side (AWAY) will now reroute ALL #2 vertical receivers regardless if it’s from the core of the formation or not.  He will squeeze or expand and hang on that #2 route if it is not vertical because the C drop defender will be cheating to the three-receiver side.  The FREEZE call is the indicator to hang on the route.  The FREEZE call will also inform the corner to the two-receiver side that the A drop defender will not expand to #1 as fast.  This will be illustrated in diagram 3.

C Drop Defenders: Two-High Saftey Rules

When we are playing with a two-high safety coverage, the C drop defender will defend the area roughly two yards outside one hash to roughly two yards outside the other hash with a depth of 15 yards.   Again, these landmarks describe a window of 16 yards to defend.  The C drop defender will identify the potential #3 receiver side of the formation and will always drop off of that #3 receiver.  He will hang on that #3 receiver anywhere inside of the C drop zone.

Conclusion

This system, as simple as it is, has proven to be one of the most important contributing factors to the success we have had over the years.  It has allowed our players to play fast and play with confidence.  It has also allowed our players to be interchangeable as they all learn the rules of each drop zone responsibility.  We are able to get into different defensive packages such as nickel/dime without having to re-teach responsibilities.  With the ever-changing landscape of offensive football, we need to have something in place that our guys can hang their hat on.  We feel that this system allows us to do just that.  I would again like to thank the AFCA for this opportunity and hope that there was something in this article that was beneficial to your program.

 

Jeff Girsch, who has spent 20 years as a college football coach, will enter his second season as the head coach at Angelo State.

Prior to being named the head coach, Girsch spent five seasons as the Rams Defensive Coordinator. Prior to joining Angelo State University, Girsch had spent 18 years coaching at St. Ambrose University, with his last six as the Defensive Coordinator and Assistant Head Coach. He was named the MSFA Assistant Football Coach of the Year in 2008. During his tenure at St. Ambrose, Girsch coached over 50 All-Conference Players, Five All-Americans, and was a part of Seven Mid-States Football Association Conference Championships. His defense finished in the top 25 in scoring five of his six years as the Coordinator, highlighted by a No. 2 finish in 2009 and a No. 5 finish in 2011.


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