Friday, August 6, 2010


As covered many times in various forms before, the fire zone blitz concept is prevalent in today's game. In this post, we'll cover probably the most under documented aspect of it, the SCIF player. Losing an underneath zone defender to pressure may cause some 'fundamentalist' thinking DC's to lose sleep... "how do you account for the four underneath zones"?

The 5-man pressure package can seem complex or superfluous to many folks, treating it as an alien concept. If you already pattern-match from a MOFC, then adapting to the fire zone for your players and philosophy becomes a natural extension. When players understand zone coverage as it relates to pattern distribution, plugging and playing them into similar roles becomes feasible because of the shared skill set.

When running a fire zone from a coverage standpoint, not much will actually change in the secondary. The fulcrum to this scheme will fall on the integrity of the SCIF/Bronco player, who controls the seams and matches the second receiver in the distribution. This player can be anyone within realistic alignment position (safety, linebacker, defensive end) near the seam. The beauty of the fire zone is its flexibility, you can bring anyone to match / fulfill the 3 underneath players.

If the SCIF player is a member of the secondary, the adjustment is extremely simple. If it is being run out of a 3-man / odd front, there usually is no need to drop linemen to create a fire zone, so you would typically end up with a Dog, Backer, or Safety as the SCIF player. Whoever it may be, the rules and technique will remain the same. The goal is to control the seams, the area between 2 yards inside the hash extending out to the numbers. You are essentially expecting a sack or force a short throw (below the conversion down) and outside (difficult).

This SCIF player must control the seams, which will be immediately threatened by the #2 receiver. On the snap, the defender will keep his eyes on the quarterback, bounce his feet (much like a Cover 4 safety), and easy pedal out with a slide step. Once recognizing drop back action from the quarterback, his eyes will snap to the #2 receiver and continue to slide for depth to stay on top of #2 at a depth of 10 yards.

Because this is a pressure package, the throw, if it occurs, should be quick (under 2 seconds) and not allow the quarterback much time to process through his progressions. If the quarterback's shoulders are directed at the seam, the SCIF player should be expecting an inside or vertical route, to which he has out leveraged the receiver (eliminating the throw). The SCIF defender should know that once the quarterback's shoulders go OUTSIDE the seam (exaggerated toward the flat), there is no way for him to progress back inside (and even if he did, the 'final 3' player would handle it). Therefore, if the quarterback's shoulders turn outside the seam, the SCIF should work parallel (expand width) to the numbers (sideline).
  • If #2 pushes vertically on the seam, the SCIF should catch at 10 yards and carry. He is essentially looking to play 'catch' technique on a vertical stem by #2 with inside-out leverage.
  • If #2 runs a speed out, the SCIF should slide to his outside foot and bust to the curl route, expecting the #1 receiver to be there on a curl-flat combo. The SCIF should not jump the speed out (but anticipate #1 will be the #2 after the pattern distribution).
  • If #2 breaks inside (shallow) underneath 10 yards, the SCIF will attempt to deliver this receiver to the final 3 player in the hole with an outside leveraged collision.
  • If the quarterback's shoulders open AWAY from the SCIF player (he is backside), remember, the quarterback won't have time to work back inside, the SCIF should slide parallel inside, no further than 2 yards inside the hash and help squeeze the ball with the 'final 3' player.

Where things get dicey is when you involve a lineman (end) in coverage as the potential dropper / SCIF player. This really becomes a run stunt because being away from the pressure overload, the defensive end's interior linemen will be stunting to his side. The nearest lineman will be looping to his "C" gap contain responsibilities, leaving the SCIF defensive end as a potential "B" gap filler. Below are some reinforcement drills on how the SCIF DE will mirror the back (load/flare) with leverage. The SCIF DE should always think of himself as a run-player FIRST, and a dropper only if there is no run action by the back.

No comments: