By Jerry Gordon

Zone blitzes from the under front have three things in common:

  • There will be five rushers.
  • There will be three underneath players, two seam/curl/flat defenders and one No. 3 control defender.
  • There will be three deep players.

The zone blitz can be called on run and pass downs. There will be a mechanism to bring the zone blitz from the field, up the middle and from the boundary.

To create consistency, zone blitzes are run with the Sam set to the field. The Will always sets the front away from the Sam.

Although the under defense is always three under and three deep, a different name is given to each coverage based on which three defenders are responsible for the deep thirds. For us, those are:

  • Rain
  • Fog
  • Freeze

Field, Smash, Rain

“Field” tells the Sam to align to the field. “Smash” tells the Sam and the Mac they are involved in the stunt. “Rain” tells the safeties that the Rover is the middle third player.

Here are the roles and responsibilities for each defender:

  • Sam. Contain blitz. Since he is in zone coverage, the Sam does not have to cover the running back flare as he normally would.
  • End. He takes a “long stick,” angling two gaps using a crossface technique. Crossface technique means if the guard comes at the end, the end crosses his face. If his face goes away from the end, the end should heel line trail.

  • Nose. Tag steps into the opposite A gap, reading the V of the neck of the offensive guard.
  • Tackle. Loop to the offensive tackle using a crossface technique. The tackle is the contain player versus pass.

  • Bandit. Stomp and drop technique. He takes two hard tag steps to the outside (stomp), and if the run does not appear, he drops to play seam/curl/flat. If a swap call comes from the Will, the Will becomes the seam/curl/flat player, and the Bandit becomes the No. 3 control player. The Will makes this call when it is decided that the Bandit cannot, because of his position or athletic ability, perform the seam/curl/flat function. This call usually occurs when No. 2 removes himself from the core of the formation (pro/twins) to the side of the Will.
  • Mac. Blitzes the B gap behind the end using cloudy/clear rules 4. If the B gap is closed and action is to him, he scrapes one gap wider. If the B gap is open, he maintains B gap responsibility.

  • Will. No. 3 control player versus the pass. Regular under rules versus the run. Makes a swap call if necessary

  • Free. Seam/curl/flat player versus the pass. If a tight end is No. 2, the free is also a C gap and quarterback player with action to him. If No. 2 is a wide receiver, the free is a secondary contain player with action to him.
  • Rover. Middle third
  • Corners. Outside third

 Variation: Field Strike Rain

The Sam now executes a long stick using crossface technique on the offensive tackle to attack the B gap. If the tackle’s face goes away from the Sam, the Same heels line trail.

The Mac now becomes the contain blitzer. For simplicity, the “I” in “Strike” can signify to the Sam to come inside and the end to go inside.

Jerry Gordon has coached with the Boston Breakers of the USFL; on the college level at Northeastern, UMass and Yale; and at the high school level at Sandwich (Mass.) and Potomac Falls (Va.).

About the author

Dan Guttenplan