...and how it can be effectively attacked. Is it 4:15 on Sunday yet? Well, I'm bored, chomping my nails off in anticipation of the coming matchup, and needed to kill some time. So, I took a look at some Ryan concepts, looked at his players, had some thoughts and sat down on my laptop with a coldbeer. Let's start with the two most basic concepts behind Ryan's fundamental attack. His scheme relies upon attacking the blocking scheme of the offense and forcing a quick ball release. This is achieved through disguising the Mike backer, overloading a gap, and pressing receivers off of the line. In order to understand how this attacks blocking schemes, it is necessary to first understand the fundamentals of a pass blocking scheme. Typically, the first call made after the offense breaks the huddle is the identification of the Mike linebacker. This is sometimes made by both the QB and center, othertimes just by the center. Think of the Mike backer as the strength of the defensive formation. Just as you would hear defenses call out "strong left", offenses will call out "52 is Mike". Almost everything in defensive football boiled down it it's most basic, fundamental level flows through the Mike linebacker. This is in large part because of the premium on the middle of the field. Look at how defenses are built. Nose, Mike and Will, SS. Everything from flow to the football to coverage to blitzing runs through the Mike. From 2-gap 34 to Ryan 34 to Johnson 43 to Tampa-2, it all places a premium on the alignment and responsibility of the mike. If he's not there to blitz or eat a blocker he is there to compensate for a weakened area. In the context of the passing game, he is your best key in the anticipation of a blitz or coverage. Take this read away and the offense is already in an anticipation disadvantage. The next part of what makes Ryan's scheme effective is the overload blitz. This is again an attack on the pass protection concept. As a very general rule, most protections rely upon the blocker to defend a zone of closeness. Take the man closest to your face, and put a premium on defending the most direct line to the football. This is in response to stunts and loops that are designed to confuse man blocking scheme. For example; the offense is set in a singleback set with the TE aligned to the right of the formation. The defense is in a basic 43 call. In a very basic call the tackle is responsible for the weakside end, and the guard is responsible for the 3-technique. When the ball is snapped the 3-tech drives across the face of the guard, drawing him inwards. The defensive end accelerates towards the outside shoulder of the tackle, pulling him outwards in his drop steps. There is now a large rushing lane opened in the B-gap. The Will backer attacks the B-gap and the back steps up to block the Will. Tackle has outside responsibility, guard has inside responsibility, back has blitzer. Same thing would have happened if the 3-tech shot the B-Gap, and the Mike came through the A gap. Now, let's add a walked up free safety coming through the B-Gap off of the azz of the Will. No matter what the o-line does, someone is going to come free. This example isn't perfect nor absolute but it does a good job of illustrating my point. When you know that someone is going to come to the QB, and do so in a hurry, the next logical progression is a quick release of the football. The most obvious counter to this is the slant, and other routes that attack the inside of the field. This is why the interior defenders in blitz mandated man coverage will often play inside technique and jam the receivers. Force the progression to take as long as possible and remove the obvious areas. It also helps to have corners with great ball skills as rushed throws are often errent throws (Cromartie and Wilson are both examples of this). This seems great in theory. Create indecision, force panic, force rushed plays, penetrate and attack to create negative plays. If done effectively, it shortens the field and greatly limits the potential of the offense. It's the inverse of great Belichick defensive football, but the desired result is the same. It's difficult to attack, but because it is a hard philsophy and not an adaptable concept it can be beaten. The first thing you look at when scheming any defense is how are they going to attack you. We already know this. What follows is the identification of it's vulnerability. We know there are going to be zones vacated. We know that if blocked it is highly vulnerable. We know that the seams are going to be open. We know that their safeties are going to be in cover-0, or at most cover-1. You then look at what your own strengths are. Tight ends, passing game backs, slot receivers, and a flanker that must be respected. This is an interesting blend of strengths. It gives you the ability to spread the defense out and play the numbers and route game with your inside recievers. A valid option, but not necessarily absolutely prudent given the concession of immediate pressure in conjunction with press. You can also man up the tight ends and play the body positioning and physical mismatch game. Hmm, interesting. With two tight ends and your passing game back in there you can do a lot of things. You can line up your big tight end as the H and motion him towards the overload. He can chip the exterior defender and release to an uncovered seam. The back can pick up the interior defender. You will win this matchup every time. You can take your receiving tight end and play him in the seam as the Y draws the interior corner. I like that set. Then there's the option of the bunch formation creating your own overload. If they're in man, they are going to be forced to sell out their blitz or give it up all together. You are going to draw their outside man over the interior reciever in the bunch (especially if it is a TE) if they are going to play straight man. This will negate their overload. If they don't respect it and stick to the blitz, you have an easy hot hitch, or if you really want to get fancy an easy jet crack on the playside OLB and a quick toss that will outflank the blitz and is well blocked. Well, this is a fun topic of conversation, and I hope that others can chime in on this geekout session. What I said obviously isn't perfect nor absolute, but is in my mind a pretty logical way of looking at things. If you have something to add or just think I'm an idiot please add on!