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.

Jaguar Football Defensive Scheme Scoop

October 22, 2008 · Filed Under Football, Joey Jones Radio Show · 2 Comments 

On the noon radio broadcast today of the Joey Jones radio show, defensive coordinator Bill Clark was the guest from the coaching staff. One of the callers (not myself unfortunately) asked about the Jaguar defensive scheme. More specifically what would be their base scheme.

I suspected it was going to be the widely used 3-4 and those suspicions were confirmed on the show. Coach Clark said they would be utilizing a 3-4 base. To break it down for those who may not know football lingo too well the 3-4 scheme uses three down linemen, typically two defensive ends and a nose tackle, and four linebackers. Your linemen are typically larger and a little on the slow side, while your linebackers are still fairly large but are more manuverable. This leaves four defensive backs which are normally two cornerbacks and two safeties. The safeties may merely be referred to as safeties or could be broken down into  a strong safety and a free safety. These guys cover the receivers downfield and are typically fast.

Many high school teams will use a 4-3 base defense (four down linemen and three linebackers). Since high school football tends to be more run oriented, the 4-3 is better suited for a strong run defense. This is not to say that a 3-4 is weak against the run.

Its all about a thing called ‘gaps’. When looking at the offensive line you have five linemen. Two guards, two tackles and a center. Between each of the linemen is a ‘gap’ which is four, then you have the left side and right side ‘gaps’ that bring the total up to six and if there is a tight end used as a blocker then there could be a seventh gap. Its easier to cover the inside gaps with four down linemen than it is with three typically. But if you look at Alabama and their nose tackle, you can get an understanding of how a 3-4 can be as good or better in stopping the run. Alabama’s nose tackle, Terrance Cody, is considered a ‘two gapper’ which means he is big and strong enough to take away the two gaps up the middle (on either side of the center). Which leaves you with six guys to cover four (or five) gaps. Its all pretty complicated with analytical geometry (not really just a Better Than Ezra quote there). But a 3-4 can also typically give you more speed on the field (another faster linebacker than a slower defensive lineman).

Back to what I started talking about. The jags defense will be a base 3-4 but will be flexible and will be able to run the 4-3 just as well. This is pretty typical, but he emphasized the fact that they want to be flexible which can also be translated into “we want to give the offense many different looks to keep them guessing”.

Other points of interest from the radio show was tickets. Hopefully in the next few weeks ticket information and prices will finally be available. They stated that it would be very affordable for everyone in the area. Also Joe Gottfried, and I suspect Coach Jones, is working on schedules. Scheduling is a long term thing and they are not put together a year or two in advance. It is a true vision of where you want the program to go in the future. So not only are they dealing with schedules for 2009 and 2010 but they are working on schedules six,  eight and even ten years down the road. Its a long term plan to make South Alabama a strong and successful football program.

So keep checking back for the scoop on tickets and schedules and like always,

Go Jags!