One of the toughest processes during a game week is breaking down the pass protection of the opponent. You need to understand what type of protection scheme they are using, so that you can find out how to exploit it. But if you see fronts that are drastically different from your own on film, it may be tough.
The other thing that can make breaking down pass protections tough is that they are not always executed properly. Backs do not always insert where they are supposed, linemen do not always block who they are supposed to.
There are three basic protections that we look for to attack a team’s drop back pass protection scheme. We will not concern ourselves with Boot, Sprint, and Quick Game protections as much here.
Pass Protection 101
The types of pass protection that we most commonly see for a drop back passing game include:
- Big on Big Protection: Probably the most common protection. The 5 Offensive Linemen are responsible for the 4 down linemen at the Mike Linebacker. Backs will pick up other blitzers.
- Full Slide Protection: A simple protection to teach, where the Offensive Linemen will all be protecting an area to their immediate right or left, while the Running Back will handle the back side of the play.
- Half Slide Protection: In Half Slide, one half of the line and the Center will slide to protect their gaps in one direction. To the other side, the remaining Tackle and Guard will handle the 2 down linemen and the Back will be responsible for any blitzing linebacker to that side.
What to Look For
The first component you need to figure out is what type of protection the Offense is using. Accept that there are numerous ways to protect the passer, and the protection scheme your opponent is running may not look exactly like you think it should.
If you have enough film to evaluate the protection, plan your attack based on what you actually see. Do not take some generic assault on Full Slide Protection because you read it on a forum, if it does not fit the Full Slide your opponent is running. Coaches at the Division 1 Level can attack protections with more consistent plans, because they are more likely to see protections that are run the way you see them in a clinic.
Your opponent, who runs a Wing-T and does not get into their drop back passing game until they are at 3rd and 15+, or down by 24+, probably does not run a textbook example of protection. See what they are doing, and find a way to attack it.
Find the Weak Link
Attacking pass protection will be all about finding the weak link. If that is an Offensive Lineman, you will find ways to get your best Defensive Lineman over him, or bring a variety of stunts and blitzes at him in drop back passing situations.
More than likely, however, you will find that the Running Back is the weak link. He is the guy who practices blocking the least, and probably is the least excited about the process. Often, backs have a check down route that they are in a hurry to get to, and may miss picking up delay blitzes, as well.
Bring More than They Can Block
Another way to attack the protection is to bring more guys than they can block. When playing a team who likes to use 5 Man Protection schemes and release the back a lot, we will always carry a 6 man blitz with Cover 0 behind it.
In this situation, you want to find out early how the Quarterback is going to react. He may be able to make a check to keep the back in for help, or he may not – and then we will see how well he handles that pressure.
If they are going to protect with 6 or 7, you can still bring one more than they can handle by using a Blitz-Engage technique. This is sometimes called a Dog, though that term gets applied to an endless number of techniques.
When a player blitz-engages, he is in man coverage on a back who is a potential blocker. If the back sets up to block, the defender will immediately blitz through him. This forces the player to stay in to block, while still putting added pressure on the Quarterback. In this way, we can use a 6 Man Blitz, with a plus 1 when the 7th man comes on the blitz engage.
By identifying the protection, finding the weak link, and bringing more than they can block, your defense can put a ton of pressure on the Quarterback.
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