A Deeper Look At The 3-5-3 Defense

September 24, 2009 · Filed Under Commentary, Football · 3 Comments 

The 3-5-3 is a relatively new defense that has picked up popularity over the last few years. Its a good scheme to distract the offense both before and after the snap. Its meant to create doubt for the quarterback in coverage reads. It allows the defense to either drop eight people into coverage or rush eight. It allows the linebackers and safeties to constantly move in and out of the line-of-scrimmage. Plus, its great against both running teams, passing teams and in goal-line situations.

The three down linemen typically never change their alignment and play the heads-up technique. The noseguard plays straight-ahead while the tackles line up against the offensive tackles and typically loop outside. The linebackers stack behind the down linemen at a depth of about 4 to 5 yards. This makes it hard for the opposing team to draw up blocking schemes against a stacked defense.

The strong safety aligns seven yards off the line for both a tight end or a split end. But against a tight end he will play two yards inside or four yards inside versus a split end. But he will have a 45 degree shoulder tilt towards the quarterback no matter where he lines up.

The cornerbacks will line up one yard inside of the receiver and nine yards off the line, again with a 45 degree shoulder tilt to the quarterback. The free safety will align on the strong side A gap about 12 yards deep.

The 3-5-3 defense is basically a disguised Gap 8 defense. The front eight will all have gap responsibilities. In the base defense, the nose will have one A gap while a middle linebacker will have the other A gap depending on the blocking scheme. The outside linebackers will have the B gaps to their side and the tackles will have the C gaps to their side. The strong safety will be responsible for the D gap on their side as well.

Versus the run, the front eight play gap responsibilities. Against the veer, the middle linebacker and free safety will play from dive to quarterback to pitch responsibility.

Some keys is that the nose guard needs to force a double team and the tackles cannot get cut off. Pressure is also put on the linebackers because they must read and react with no false steps.

The secondary’s base coverage is cover 3 and they must be able to read and break on the ball. The free safety must be a good tackler and play intelligently.

Against the pass, the base defense will drop eight into coverage. The nose guard will be responsible for a push up the middle while looking for the screen pass or the draw. The two tackles are responsible for containing the quarterback during the rush. The middle linebacker has the middle zone while the two outside linebackers cover the hook and curl zones to their side and the safeties have the flat zones to their side. The cornerbacks have the deep third to their side and the free safety plays deep middle zone.

Since this defensive scheme is balanced, the offense has no choice but to run to the strong side since they are outnumbered on the weak side. If the offense runs a balanced offense, then the defense will have to find their tendencies and work from there. It is almost impossible to trap against this defense because of the threat of the linebackers running through for a tackle for loss.

There are only a few ways to attack this type of defense so you can work against the same plays every week. The base defense has a multitude of stunts, pressures and coverages built into it, but really it is only limited by the imagination of the defensive coordinator.

This video will show you the basic alignment of the front 8 for the 3-5-3 defense. Notice how they stack behind the nose and ends. Remember this is to disguise the defense and to confuse the quarterback.

The following video shows how the 3-5-3 can defend against the option play to the weak side.

The following video is not the best video but it shows a team running the 3-5-3 defense and some of their highlights. It is the 2007 Petersburg PORTA Bluejays. They are a high school team Illinois but their defense only gave up 6 points in 10 games. NOTE: You may want to mute the sound on this video.