Three New Ways to Break Down an Opponent Offense

Bill Belichick got his start in the NFL by breaking down film for Ted Marchibroda’s Baltimore Colts, and through the years he perfected his approach to the game by intense and nearly religious film study.

Coaches are always looking for that extra edge that will give them an advantage over their competition, that hidden piece of information that will allow them to get inside the head of their opponent. Obviously I can’t promise you anything like that, but I can give you a few (hopefully) new ways to look at opponent offenses.

Even if you use one or all of these, hopefully this discussion will get you thinking about new ways to look at offenses.

1. Defensive Line Techniques at the point of attack

With so much of the offense being called from the sideline or at the line of scrimmage these days, it’s obvious that offensive coaches are going to try to get themselves into the best possible call on every down. If you’re facing an opponent who doesn’t do a lot of audibling at the line, or who doesn’t have a “lookover” style of offense, then this information won’t be that useful to you. This style of offense is very popular throughout all levels of college football, but it has also been leaking down to the high school game for several years.

Against a team that is constantly changing the play, it is important to know what fronts they like for what play, so that by taking inventory of your own group of looks on defense, you can better predict what the offense will try to run against you.

There are a couple of ways to do it, but my personal preference is to list the techniques of the d-line, starting from the direction of the point of attack, and moving toward the center.

For example:

def-front-breakdown1

Once you begin to chart what plays an offense likes to run against what fronts, you’ll be able better anticipate what’s coming at your defense.

2. Leverage

If you’re facing a team that employs a lot of smoke, bubble, and hitch screens on the edge of their run concepts, it’s always a good idea to chart the number of times they run them, even if the QB doesn’t decide to throw it.

One of the more recent trends that may or may not have made it down to your level of play is for the offense to align in a 3×1 set and have the receivers make the call on who is going to run the route and who will be blocking, depending on what kind of leverage they get.

Check out the graphic below for an example:

Hitch Screen vs Bubble Screen

Create a column in whatever scouting program you use and chart what the leverage used by the defenders is when the offense runs their different screens, and when the QB decides to throw them. To simplify, the only man you usually need to chart is the linebacker, since the other defenders will usually play off of how he aligns. This of course is not always true, so you need to identify and name the different ways the defense lines up, then chart them when the corresponding alignment shows up on the video.

3. Watch Your Own Game Film

Depending on the league or conference you’re coaching in, you may find that opponents like to steal, err,¬†borrow pages out of other teams playbooks if they’ve been successful. A good self scout is important for defensive coaches too, and often times that extra hour or so spent charting and breaking down your last game is time well spent, since your weak points are not always visible during the postgame grading sessions. It doesn’t have to be a play or formation that gashes you over and over again, but a scheme that can consistently pick up 5-6 yards is something you need to be aware of, especially if opponents have been running it against you in successive weeks.

Your next opponent is watching your game films, and you can bet they’re taking notes on what works against you and what doesn’t. If you’re a college coach, it’s likely that you’ve got all of your opponent’s games from the season, and that they have yours.

Go back through your last 3-4 games and see how many times opponents have run a play on first and ten in the open field, then go through all the different scenarios, and you may see some tendencies you didn’t know existed. Those guys on the other coaching staff have probably noticed and tried to incorporate some new wrinkles into their game plans that attack those weaknesses that you may not have even known existed.
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