We have been looking at incorporating an Odd Front into our 4-3 Defense playbook this upcoming season, but wanted to be able to use Quarters Coverage (our base coverage) with the Odd alignment. Many of you have read my thoughts about 7-man fronts and 8-man fronts, and I figured we would have to run a 3-4 Defense in order to use a 2-high safety coverage with an odd front.I had the opportunity to talk with Shap Boyd, who I have credited many times as the man I stole my Quarters Coverage from. Coach Boyd has been using his coverage package for several years with the 4-3 Defense, and also using an odd front. But not a 3-4. After talking to him about how to incorporate the 3-3-5 Defense with Quarters Coverage, I’m sold.Let’s start by looking at the alignment changes that have to happen.
The 3-3-5 Defense as an 8-Man FrontThe original problem that I had with the 3-5-3 Defense is that it is an 8-man front, which means you have one high safety and no one is a 2-gap player across the front.
If you pull a player back and make a 2-deep safety look, you are going to need a 2-gap player or somehow make a change. I felt hand-cuffed in that the Will Linebacker (the inside backer on the weak side, stacked behind the weak side Defensive End) absolutely had to go to C-Gap and contain. There’s no way you can trust a head up or even shaded Defensive End to contain on a consistent basis.
If the weak side was into the short side of the field, I felt we could play Cover 2 with the Corner as the force player. I have done that in the past in the 3-5-3 Defense and it was okay, but you need a special Corner to consistently play that job. It was not a permanent answer.
Adapting the 3-3-5 to 2-High Safeties
Enter Shap Boyd, and a conversation that changed my view of this defense. Smarter people than me have probably been doing this for years. But I am so stuck on what is “sound” and even conventional sometimes that I do not see how to adapt.
You roll your Weak Safety back, and the Free Safety walks over to the strength to give you the two-high look. A key for the strength call, it must be to the passing strength! That means you call strength to the multiple receiver side, not the Tight End.
Since we are in Quarters, against a Pro Formation we have “Read” check on both sides. Our Weak Safety is at 8-10 yards, and is the box player. You can do whatever you like with your Defensive Line and Linebackers (we will always be blitzing one Linebacker, usually the Mike, Sam or Strong Safety).
What Happens If…
After our conversation I sat down and realized how simple this really is. Like any defensive alignment, there are formations that put it into a bind. But for the most part, this system is pretty solid.
Against a typical Slot formation with two backs in the backfield, our Strong Safety can loosen up. In a “Read” check versus a Tight End and one receiver removed, we would tighten down the SS, playing like a spill OLB in the 3-4 or even a 4-3 Defensive End. Against two receivers removed, we make the “Alert” check, and the SS walks out to split the difference between #2 and the EMOLS.
The Ultimate Question: What About Doubles?
Doubles has always been what killed and dreams I had of combining the 3-3-5 Defense with Quarters Coverage in the past. I just kills the ability to use Cover 2, and locks you into a man coverage situation on the weak side.
What we will do to fix the problem is walk the Will out. It leaves a 3-2 Box, but one I feel much more comfortable with. The Will makes a call to the Defensive Line, telling them to slant to the strong side. The weak side End is responsible for B Gap, the Will backer is boxing the play, and the Weak Safety can play the deep technique we want him to play.
You can obviously switch back to a man coverage or Clue check on the weak side and bring your Will Linebacker back in the box to create a six man box. Tightening down the Strong Safety and going Cover 0 is your final answer to get 7 in the box and make sure you shut down the run first!