FFODC Looks At Our Formations

In the ‘Breakdown’ posts I usually start with a Lining Up section that shows formations we used and how we matched up our personnel.  Below are our 2 main formations:

3-4 defense:


Rotation at each position (parenthesis notes lesser playing time):

  • DT:  Baker, Jenkins, Hood, Francois, Reyes, (Lanier, Ioannidis)
  • OLB:  Smith, Kerrigan, Murphy, (Bates)
  • LB: Compton, Foster, (Cravens, Spaight)
  • Safeties:  Bruton, Ihenacho, Blackmon, (Everett)
  • CB:  Norman, Breeland, (Toler, Dunbar, Phillips, Fuller)

The defensive line has 5 guys, 3 of which are space eating 300+ pound defensive lineman (labeled as DT) who usually require a temporary double team if the offense wants to run the ball and move them off the line.  Unless the offense wants to keep in 8 blockers, it is impossible to double team all 3 of our DTs without letting one of our 5 guys at the line run free.  This forces the offense to block one of our DTs one-on-one and that is where the advantage of this formation lies.  This 5 man front is called an “under” front and is built to stop the run.  Our outside linebackers are essentially defensive ends but with a few more coverage responsibilities.

When Do We Use This Formation:  When the offense sends out 2 wide receivers or less.

Nickel Defense:


Rotation at each position:

  • DT:  Baker, Jenkins, Hood, (Francois, Reyes)
  • DE:  Kerrigan, Smith, Murphy, (Bates)
  • LB:  Compton, Foster, (Cravens, Spaight)
  • Safeties:  Bruton, Ihenacho, Blackmon, (Everett)
  • CB:  Norman, Breeland (Toler, Dunbar, Phillips, Fuller)
  • Slot CB: Phillips, (Fuller, Norman, et al)

This formation can also be called a 4-2-5, since there are 4 defensive lineman, 2 linebackers and 5 defensive backs.  We have morphed from a 3-4 to a 4-2-5 by removing one 300+ pound DT and adding a cornerback.  Our outside linebackers have converted do defensive ends by putting their hand in the ground.

The defensive line is in an “over” look.  This is more of a balanced look with 2 defensive lineman on either side of the center.  It is not as dominant versus the run as an “under”–now the offense has the numbers to double team both DTs–but it does allow us to play more defensive backs while still covering gaps up front.  Our converted defensive ends now have fewer pass coverage responsibilities.

Slot CB is our shiftiest corner not named Norman.  He’s a guy that can deal with quicker wide receivers like Cole Beasley and Jamison Crowder.  The slot CB’s specialty is dealing with guys that can get in and out of cuts quickly.  Sometimes we will move a regular CB here for match up reasons.

When Do We Use This Formation:  When the offense has 3 wide receivers.  If a 4th wide receiver comes into the game, we sub out Foster for Cravens.  Cravens plays with linebacker responsibilities at Safety speed which allows him to play more comfortably in space.

Is It Working?

Well, against the run we are allowing 4.6 yards per carry and are 24th in the league allowing 123 yards per game.  The issue seems to be 2 fold:

  • Defensive LineIn our Nickel formation we try to deploy to space eating DTs that command doubles but the reality is we only have 2 guys that can:  Jenkins and Baker.  When they rotate out, we are forced to bring in pieces which are easily removable from the front line.  Hood has struggled against doubles and Francois isn’t really built for that, he’s more of an outside run and zone destroyer.  Holes open up and offensive lineman can work their way to the 2nd level and put pressure on our linebackers and the nominal safety who comes down to stop the run.
  • 2nd level:  Compton and Foster are quicksand dwellers; hesitant and lack of an attacking downhill style that would help to limit big chunks of yards.  Safeties are not filling correctly and on time because they are either scared to get beat deep or don’t understand their run responsibilities.

Versus pass we rank 26th and issues stem from linebackers not knowing their responsibilities to defensive backs playing not-to-get-beat-deep.  Compton has admitted to screwing up a few zone drops and it’s an issue that has popped up repeatedly.  Against the Giants it seemed to diminish a bit so adjustments may have been made.  Cravens was flat out lost versus the Steelers and actually blew his man coverage assignment on one play versus the TE that Ben failed to notice.  Since then we seemed to have locked him in the film room and only allowed him out on game days.  He’s slowly improved and even made a huge game sealing play this past Sunday.  Over top, guys like Breeland and most other defensive backs not named Norman keep playing way off their man and allow for 15-20 yard routes to go infuriatingly uncontested.  DHall was great at covering tight ends one-on-one but against faster receivers he was guilty of this exact mishap.  Reinforcements are on the way and it’s middle-early in the year so stumbling blocks surfacing from mental errors can still be corrected.  Our ceiling hasn’t been hit yet.

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