The Complete 4-3 Defensive Playbook
Kenny Ratledge via Coaches Choice Football Coaching Library
Safety Coaching Points
The safeties align 12 yards deep on the edge of the box. They key the triangle for a run-pass read. However, they should think pass first. Safeties play over the top of vertical routes and must be able to midpoint multiple receivers. They read the ball to #1. #1 will let the safety know if he will be stretched on passes, especially if the receiver releases outside the corner. If #1 is outside the corner, the safety will play to outside the hash. If #1 is on an inside release, the safety will squeeze to inside the hash.
If #2 is no threat or he blocks, the safety will lean to #1. Versus running plays, the safeties attack the alley when they read offensive linemen downfield. When in the alley, the safety should be ready to overlap the corner. On runs away, they rotate through the other safety before inserting into the alley. With a receiver in the middle, they hold the half (middle read) and break on the long arm of the quarterback. With no middle read, safeties check #1 to the offside. On a smash route, they get over the top of #2’s flag-out.
With #1 on an in route, they get on top of #2’s vertical or corner route. The strong safety’s ram technique against the slot set requires him to align seven yards deep over the offensive tackle. On a pass play, the safety will work the innermost part of the zone if there is no threat from the tight end. On flow runs, the strong safety plays over the top to D+ after taking two shuffle steps. The strong safety plays over the top on flood runs, but is responsible for reverse because the corner is chasing flat.
Corner Coaching Points
Corners line up on the outside shoulder of #1 at a depth of five yards, turned at a 45-degree angle to the ball. From that point, the corners will read the
three-step drop. They will communicate the release of #1 if he isn’t vertical (e.g., smash, in, etc.). Corners reroute #1 and run with him on any deep route spying #2.
If #1 releases inside, they squeeze him as far as possible, looking for #2. On an inside release, they squeeze #1 and look for #2 on an out or corner route. If so, they gain depth at a 45-degree angle. On an inside release, the corners give the linebacker an in call. If #1 tries a boundary release, they use a hook technique. With the hook technique, the corner will post the receiver with the outside arm and drive him outside. The corner will drop his
hips and throw his inside elbow toward the quarterback, blocking the receiver from getting up the boundary and looks for #2.
If #2 is inside, the corner continues to get depth. If #1 is inside and #2 runs a wheel, the corner takes him man-to-man, which is called the wheel rule. Against a sprint pass, the frontside corner will plaster #1, while the backside corner will gain depth and defend the innermost part of the zone. The corner should be in position to undercut a backside throw.
Corner Dead Technique
The corner to the tight end against a slot set aligns one yard outside the tight end and on the line of scrimmage. He will give a dead call. From that point, the corner will play flat-footed, gaining no depth. Versus a flow run, the corner will aggressively force the ball. Against flood runs, he will chase flat because the strong safety has reverse responsibility. Versus passes, the corner has the flat looking for leakers or crossers.
Corner Slant Technique
Backside of a 3×1 set, the corner aligns 1×5 inside the receiver. Since the corner will have no inside help from Sam, he is susceptible to a slant. This
alignment will better enable him to break on any inside route.
Corner Force Techniques
The corner has a toolbox full of force techniques so the receiver won’t be able to zero in on one particular technique. Following are three force techniques:
Speed: The corner will simply out run the receiver inside and force.
Outside in: The corner will escape quickly outside the block and force.
Outside fake: The corner will move upfield, making the receiver commit, and then beat him inside with an inside move. On runs away, the corner gives ground and holds position on the receiver for play pass. After identifying a run away, he will take a cutback to cutoff angle.
You can find out more about and purchase the eBook that this article is from at: The Complete 4-3 Defense Playbook