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34 Football's Eagle & Stack Defenses

The eagle linebacker should not widen farther than five yards outside of the outside leg of the defensive end. If the eagle linebacker does widen past three yards, he can call a "G" stunt for the defensive tackle, instructing the tackle to rip into the 1 gap. The eagle linebacker is now responsible for the 3 gap, which is much closer to his walk alignment.The coverage will still check to flood. Short Eagle Cover 4 Figure 4.3 shows Short Eagle Cover 4 versus a pro formation with two running backs. The Short placement call sets the call side and the reduction to the short side of the field (into the boundary).The same rules apply with each of the placement calls.The eagle linebacker, defensive tackle, rush end, and strong safety travel to the call side.The inside linebacker, noseguard, defensive end, and Sam linebacker align away from the call (for a Short placement call, this is to the field). Some coaches use a Short placement call because they like to put the reduction into R T N DE S the boundary and have the Sam linebacker E B Curl to flat C Hook be the support player to the field. This Flat Hook to curl to curl would place the Sam linebacker over the number two receiver versus a twin formaFS C 1/4 1/4 SS tion. In general, I prefer to have the strong 1/2 safety aligned to the field and have the Sam linebacker into the boundary. Therefore, I Figure 4.3 Short Eagle Cover 4 versus a pro have used a Short placement call primarily I formation. to stunt from. As a change-up placement call against a two-back attack, I have always liked to use a Split placement alignment.The Split placement call puts the noseguard in a 1 alignment, the defensive end in a 5E4292/Vanderlinden/Fig.04.03/312671/TimB/R3-alw alignment, and the Sam linebacker in a 9 alignment on the line of scrimmage, on the outside edge of the tight end. Cover 4 is known in the football world as quarter-quarter-half coverage. In Cover 4, the field corner has the same alignment and the same responsibility as in Cover 5. If Cover 4 is played with the strong safety in a cloud position and the boundary corner as the deep-one-half defender, the boundary corner has similar alignment and responsibility as in Cover 5. The free safety uses the same alignment as in Cover 5 and gets his run-pass read off the number two receiver.Versus the pass, his responsibilities remain the same as in Cover 5. Versus the run, his fit is now off of the Sam linebacker. The Sam linebacker is the support player to the field. If the Sam linebacker contains the ballcarrier, the free safety will fit the run inside of the Sam linebacker. If the Sam linebacker loses containment, then the free safety will fit outside of the Sam linebacker. In football terms, the free safety "makes the Sam linebacker right." The strong safety continues to align to the call side, which is now into the boundary. He is the deep one-half player into the boundary. The boundary corner, shown in figure 4.3 in a cloud alignment, is the contain player to his side of the field, and he defends the curl and flat zones versus the passing game. Cover 4 can be played two different ways into the boundary. At Colorado, we played a cloud technique with the strong safety rolled up on the receiver into the

Eagle Coverage Calls 35

boundary.The strong safety is aligned 1 to 2 yards outside of the receiver (depending on the receiver's split) and 5 yards off the line of scrimmage. Versus the pass, the strong safety funnels the receiver to the boundary corner, who is aligned on the hash, 12 yards deep. Our front seven defenders at Colorado were talented versus the run, and our free safety to the field became our eighth defender versus the run. At Northwestern, we felt that we needed to play the strong safety in a sky position into the boundary. The boundary corner would be positioned in his Cover 5 alignment, which is 4 yards off the college hash (or 2 yards off the high school hash) and 12 yards deep--I refer to this as a cheated half position. Having the strong safety in a sky position gives the defense nine players in the box (the area opposite the offensive linemen and relatively close to the line of scrimmage) versus a two-back pro formation (see figure 4.4). The strong safety's R T N DE S Curl alignment and responsibilities are the to flat same as when he is aligned to the field in a SS E B Flat Hook Hook Cover 5 alignment. Playing the strong safety to curl to curl FS C in a sky position also gives the defense 1/4 1/4 another physical player close to the line C 1/2 of scrimmage. Because the strong safety's alignment is close to the formation and Figure 4.4 Short Eagle Cover 4 (sky) versus into the boundary, it provides an excellent a pro formation. disguise when the strong safety stunts. When a Short Eagle Cover 4 placement call has been made versus a twin E4292/Vanderlinden/Fig.04.04/312672/TimB/R2 formation (see figure 4.5), the free safety aligns inside of the number two receiver and continues to read the release of the R T N DE number two receiver.The Sam linebacker SS E B aligns between the number two receiver S Curl Curl Hook to flat to flat Hook to curl and the offensive tackle. For his run-pass to curl FS C key, the Sam linebacker reads the offen1/4 1/4 C sive tackle. His pass responsibility is the 1/2 curl to flat zones. The Sam linebacker Figure 4.5 Short Eagle Cover 4 versus a twin will only expand to the flat if the number formation. three receiver expands to the flat. If the number two receiver releases to the field-side flat at a depth of five yards or less, the field corner, who reads the number two receiver through the number one receiver E4292/Vanderlinden/Fig.04.05/312673/TimB/R2 as he backpedals, should break up on the number two receiver in the flat. A wheel route by the number two receiver would be impossible for the Sam linebacker to cover. The combination of a skinny post by the number one receiver and a wheel route by the number two receiver is a challenge for Cover 4. For this reason, the field corner and the free safety stay in their respective deep-one-fourth zones, and they would exchange a skinny post by the number one receiver and a wheel route by the number two receiver.

36 Football's Eagle & Stack Defenses

Short Eagle Lightning, (see the figures on page 43) is an example of a stunt being run from the boundary versus a two-back formation. Bringing the strong safety on a stunt from the boundary is effective because it enables the defense to bring pressure and cancel the inside running lanses without voiding the flat zone to the field. From this formation, many offenses will attack the field-side flat with the passing game. Seldom does a team design a passing attack into the boundary.The only two conceivable passing plays would be the bootleg into the sideline and a power pass with the fullback releasing into the boundary. In both cases, the eagle linebacker would be responsible for defending the boundary flat. Because of the strong safety blitzing off the edge and applying pressure on the quarterback, the pass play will declare itself quickly, allowing the eagle linebacker to react to a pass in the flat. On a Short Eagle Lightning stunt, the eagle linebacker does not have an immediate gap to fill and should be able to defend the boundary flat. Strong Eagle Cover 5 or 3 A Strong placement call puts the call side and the reduction to the strength of the offensive formation. In this case, I refer to passing strength, which is the two-receiver side. I have primarily used a R T N DE Strong call when the ball is in the middle SS E B S Curl to flat of the field. In this situation, the defenders Hook Hook to curl to curl play Cover 3, which is a three-deep coverage (see figure 4.6). A Split placement call FS C C 1/3 1/3 1/3 can also be used when the ball is in the middle of the field (with Cover 4-3). Figure 4.6 Strong Eagle Cover 3 versus a pro When the ball is in the middle of the formation. field, playing Cover 5 can make a defense vulnerable to passes on the weak side of the formation. Cover 5 is an overshifted E4292/Vanderlinden/Fig.04.06/312674/TimB/R2 coverage to the field, putting the free safety and the strong safety in a strong position S DE N T R to provide run support.When the ball is on Curl to flat the hash, the boundary corner can play a B E SS Curl cheated half position. However, when the Hook Hook to flat to curl to curl ball is in the middle of the field, there is C C too much area for the weak-side corner to 1/3 1/3 FS 1/3 cover from a cheated half position. Cover 3 allows both corners to play a deep third, Figure 4.7 Strong Eagle Cover 3 versus a twin with post help in the middle.Versus a pro formation. set, the free safety aligns over the strongside guard, 10 to 12 yards deep. He aligns over the strong-side tackle versus a twin formation (see figure 4.7). Cover 3 puts the E4292/Vanderlinden/Fig.04.07/312675/TimB/R2 free safety in a better position to provide alley support to either side of the formation versus the run; however, it does slow his alley pursuit to the strength of the formation. Versus the pass, the free safety is the

Eagle Coverage Calls 37

deep-middle defender. Cover 3 is a more conservative coverage versus both the run and the pass. Having a true center fielder helps prevent big runs and big passes. S DE N T R I have also used a Strong call versus a flanker formation, which has two tight ends, B E SS two backs, and one wide receiver (see figure Hook Hook Curl to flat to curl 4.8).This offensive set is generally used as a FS 1/4 C C power running formation. Because there is 1/4 1/2 not a detached receiving threat away from the overshifted coverage, Cover 5 allows Figure 4.8 Strong Eagle Cover 5 versus a the defense to have 10 players within nine flanker formation. yards of the line of scrimmage.This coverage can be used on the hash and in the middle of the field. If the wide receiver motions from one side of the formation to the other, the free safety checks the coverage to Cover E4292/Vanderlinden/Fig.04.08/312676/TimB/R2 4. In this case, the free safety shifts over to the tight end on the opposite side. Weak Eagle Cover 4 A Weak placement call puts the reduction to the weak side of the offensive formation.The weak side is away from the passing strength of the formation. I have used a Weak placement call in two situations. One is when the ball is in the middle of the field and I want to be assured of playing Cover 4, which is a quarter-quarter-half coverage scheme.The other situation is when I want to use a stunt versus a flanker formation. A Weak placement allows the defense to stunt off the edge of the formation on the side where there is not a detached receiver to be concerned about. An example of this is Weak Eagle Lightning Cover 3. Split Eagle Cover 4-5, 4-3, 4-7, or 2-7 A Split placement call places the reduction to the split side of the formation, or away from the tight end (see figures 4.9 and 4.10). Because the offensive formation could put the tight end to the field or to the boundary, or to the strong or weak side of the formation, a double-digit coverage call is needed.Versus a pro set with the tight

R

Flat

T

Hook

N

DE S B

Curl to flat

C

E

Curl to flat

S DE

Hook to curl

N

T

Hook to curl

R

Curl to flat

Hook to curl

B

E

SS

SS

1/2

FS

1/4

1/4

C

1/3

C

FS

1/3

1/3

C

Figure 4.9 Split Eagle Cover 4-3 versus a pro I formation.

Figure 4.10 Split Eagle Cover 4-3 versus a twin I formation.

E4292/Vanderlinden/Fig.04.09/312677/TimB/R2 E4292/Vanderlinden/Fig.04.10/312678/TimB/R2

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