In my previous article, I touched upon the “numbers in the box”. The magic number is six. More than six in the box, you should be throwing the football. Less than six, you should be running the football. It is not an absolute because of other factors such as down and distance.
The box is the imaginary space from the line of scrimmage (LOS) to the linebackers and extending to the last man on the LOS. The other factor is the “ears of the box”. This was introduced to me by Coach Jerry Campbell. Coach Campbell is a must see on the clinic circuit and his website (www.jcfb.com) is very informative. Draw two circles on the top edges of the box. This may be the location of the outside linebacker or strong safety (FIG.5). Finally, I add a triangle to identify the free safety (FIG.6). The triangle is an idea I started to think about in the last part of our season. I plan to use it next season. If there are two high safeties then no triangle is used and the read goes to the “ears” One ear must be open…
A general rule of thumb is when a base defense is balanced and has an even number of linebackers (4-4, 3-4, 5-2, 3-5) try to get them unbalanced by an odd formation. For example if the base defense is a 4-4 then any 3x1 formation would work to attack the defense (FIG.7).
If the defense is unbalanced and has an odd number of linebackers (4-3 or 5-3) try to get them unbalanced by an even formation. An example of this is lining up in 2x2, if the base defense is a 4-3 (FIG.8).
Next, identify the defender that you have put in an uncomfortable position. In FIG.7, the linebacker defending the three receiver side may be put into a bind. He may be poor pass defender and by placing an athlete at the #2 or #3 spots in the trips will create a favorable matchup. The other way the formation is making him uncomfortable is by his alignment. The formation pulls him away from the box and makes it hard for him to complete his normal run assignment. Another key point is the mismatch that is created on the single receiver side. The linebacker to that side is forced to cover the running back. This matchup is often overlooked because of the short side of the field. I will remind people all the time that the distance from the hash to the sideline is eighteen yards. This is more than enough room to do some damage to the defense, especially one that is field strength heavy!
In FIG.8, the three linebackers are stacked in the box. First response is to throw uncovered, however the two high safeties may be able to make the play. Other pass concepts to attack this coverage would be bubble or Fade/Out combination. The other factor is determining the weaker of the two safeties. Draw the triangle leaning toward the safety with the best pass coverage skills. FIG. 10 shows one ear open and the triangle leaning away from the open ear. Which side to attack is very clear!
Depending upon the hash, one would anticipate one of the three linebackers to bump out toward to the flats. In FIG. 9, the ball is on the left hash (represented by the dashed line) and the linebacker has bumped toward the play side slot receiver. The left “ear” is open, attack that side!
I will try to include some real pictures. Look for the weakness!!