A NEW Way for Defensive Coaches to Stop an Empty Formation

By Anthony Stone, QBs/RBs Coach at Rockford Boylan High (Ill.)

Author of the Back to the Basics Football Drill Manual Series

The purpose of a defensive football coach is to find ways to literally shut down the offensive side of the football. The Empty Formation has become more and more popular with offensive coordinators in recent years. Ask the following questions when going against a team that runs an Empty Formation:

  • Why? Why are they running Empty? Are they trying to get their players in space, take advantage of matchups, make up for their offensive line not being large, or the opposite – they have the manpower, etc.
  • How many looks do they have? How many different forms of empty formations are you going against?

Here are two Empty Formation examples: 

  • What is the percentage they align in when running empty? – Are they doing this in certain areas of the field or are they doing it on certain down and distance or hashes?
  • Who is the main player / pass zones? – By using this Pass Zone Chart (picture from my Back to the Basics Football Drill Manual: Volume 2: Defense) or your own, you can track who their main player is and where they are going with the football.

  • Is their quarterback a TRUE threat? – As a current quarterbacks coach, I know firsthand that having a quarterback that can run and throw accurately is a deadly combination for any opponent.

Now that you have answered the above questions, use the following defensive alignment to attack an opponent that runs empty. Like the Joker said, “Here We GO.”

The alignment below is super simple: four down linemen in their regular stances (nose and defensive tackle aligned in 1 Techniques or A-Gap) and the defensive ends aligned in 5 Techniques and must keep the outside contained. The two inside linebackers are aligned in the B-Gap and are in a 2-point stance — their inside foot is up and their eyes watching the football on which way the center blocks.

Inside linebacker responsibilities: Mike and Will read the center. If the center blocks to their side then drop to the deep middle of the field and turn to the #3 Hot Threat. Finally, the defensive secondary must partner up with their offensive counterpart so their athletic abilities are matched up appropriately. It is important to remember to have the secondary play off the football while going against receivers going out for a pass. This will help the secondary catch the receiver and turn and run with the receiver. Don’t let the receiver get behind the secondary.

I learned about this defense around 2010, but didn’t start using it until Fall 2016. The following are tips I have learned while running it:

  • MUST have hungry players that know how to tackle in an open space.
  • Make sure you have the best defensive players covering the best offensive players.
  • Defensive players that can cover players for 4 to 5 seconds or less.
  • BE creative and BE SMART when covering offensive players!!

This one really works when it comes to stopping a team that runs an empty formation. Good luck and GATA!

You can reach Coach Stone via email at CoachStoneUSA@gmail.com or by visiting his website at www.CoachStoneFootball.com.

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