The contingency factor which most often drives the defense is the field situation (e.g. down and distance, field position, etc) Defenses must also account for circumstances which are time-related (e.g. two minutes to go at the end of the half, etc). Finally, the defensive system must be ready to respond to the reactive elements of the game (e.g. 1st down after an explosive pass, 1st down after a turnover, etc).
Of the three elements which a defensive system must be able to address, the reactive situations are the most intense. Offenses usually are structured to maximize the yardage-gaining potential of a reactive situation. One of the characteristics of a sound defense is the fact that all defenders are fully aware of the need for sharpening their focus in reactive situations.
As the head coach you must consider certain factors when designing, developing and implementing your team’s defensive system. Among the steps that you can take to help ensure that your team has a sound defensive system are the following:
- Design a defensive system that is build around the players. As a rule, the head coach should not fall into the trap of holding to a purist philosophy or system. Find a system which fits the talents of your players. Players cannot adjust their talent level to fit the demands of the scheme. The athlete must be physically capable of performing the tasks required of him.
- Develop a defensive system which highlights the players’ talents. Not only must the talent fit the system, the system must serve the talent. Incorporate elements of defensive football that allow the talent on the team to reach its fullest potential.
- Utilize simple reads. Avoid explanations to the players that involve superfluous verbiage. Keep in mind that all factors considered, an attacking defense cannot be a ‘thinking’ defense. it should be an instinctive defense. The coaching staff must provide the defenders with simple reads and maximum quality repetitions at responding to their reads. Repetition in practice is central to developing instincts.
- Employ a defensive scheme that can maximize the ability of a team to exploit a one-on-one matchup that favors the defense. The scheme should allow the team to take advantage of an opportunistic matchup. Two examples of a defensive team addressing a particular matchup involve:
- Using a defense that overmatches the tight end. A defensive scheme that is designed to create a favorable matchup over the tight end can produce quite an advantage.
- Using a defense that gives a team the ability to double cover a receiver. Squat coverages and bracket coverages are examples of two of techniques that can be built in the defensive scheme to take the offense is premier receiver out of the flow of the game.
- Goal line (i.e. inside the five-yard line)
- Short yardage (e.g. 3rd and 2, or 4th and 2 etc)
- Long yardage (i.e. the offense must go ten or more yards in a single down)
- Prevent (i.e. extremely long situations or time related situations)
- 3rd and three – the awkward possession down (i.e.e the down upon which continued possession is dependent – situation that is sensitive to time, score, location on the field, etc)
The 49ers’ defense was itself a dominating force. The attacking natures of the 49ers’ defensive scheme, coupled with the sliding 4-3 philosophy on which ti was based, epitomized the qualities of aggressiveness, flexibility, and simplicity. As with any successful defensive scheme, the 49ers’ defense was built upon the skills of the players on a foundation of controlled movement.
Developing a great defensive system is quite similar to establishing a great offensive system. It must involve a teaching process that is properly sequenced. The defensive system must be evaluated as to its overall objectives and then partitioned into specific teaching units. The instruction of each of the units should then proceed in a concise manner that results in measurable outcomes . During the sequencing, the system should focus on addressing the contingencies which it will face during the season.
Identify the Components for an Effective Defense
An effective defense must be sound against both the run and the pass. Among other factors on which a sound defensive scheme should be based are the following
- Takes away what the opponent does best
- Overloads the opponent
- Evaluates its won defensive tendencies and plans accordingly
- Develops procedures for the smooth transition of personnel
Walsh, Bill - "Finding The Winning Edge", 1997, pgs 309 - 312