Pressure Packages in the Double-A Gap Mug

By Mike Pettine

Today we are here to talk about different looks out of the double mug package. As defensive coaches, we are always looking for ways to line up that are simple for us and difficult on the offense.

We know that threatening both A-gaps is definitely an issue for the offense when it comes to pass protection, so we came up with a variety of ways to threaten the A-gaps without always running the same thing out of it.

I think it’s important that you can show the look often and back out of it. Then from time to time bring pressure in the form of Cover 1 or zone blitz, and then a few instances you need to go Cover 0 and bring everybody.

The look here is the Double A-Gap Mug. We are going to start by widening our defensive tackles into the B-gaps. They have B-gap responsibility.

The defensive ends are C-gap responsible. The defensive end towards the tight end can align in a 6-technique, 7-technique or 9-technique. It all depends on what you’re running out of it.

You will now walk both of your linebackers up into the A-gaps. A key coaching point here for the linebackers is they need to make everything look the same. Everything should look like an all-out blitz.

We always talk defensively about being great actors. The offense is in the business of gathering information pre-snap just as we are defensively. I think it’s important that you don’t give a “tell” based on your stance, your posture or your demeanor.

Cover 3

In this first look, we are going to show all up and then we’re going to back out of it and play standard Cover 3.

However advanced you are, you can run it anyway you want. We prefer to “double call” our Cover 3 so we are in the best defense possible against specific formations.

The key point here is the acting job. We want to show all out pressure and back out of it.

Most offenses will have some sort of protection check against double mug pressure. Many times, the quarterback will cheat the running back up into one of the A-gaps so he can block his responsibility early.

The key thing to know here is since your tackles are starting wide, one of them has to have a plan for how they will balance out the rush lanes. What you don’t want to end up with is two B-gap rushers and two edge rushers. With that, the QB has an easy escape lane up the middle once the linebackers vacate.

Key Coaching Points

Acting is very important. Everything must look the same. Show heavy pressure and then back out of it.

Balance out your rush lanes. Do not have two B-gap and C-gap rushers and none in the A-gap, leaving a lane for the QB.

When bringing players from depth, you may create a free rusher, but it is hard to reach the QB. Bring blitzers from near the line of scrimmage.

Cover 1

The key thing for your players to understand is if they have a job responsibility, never sacrifice your job for the disguise. Disguise early, but never stray too far from your work.

This is a simple Cover 1. We are going to play man-free.

The problem here is how to account for the running back. In most protections, the running back is going to have to block one of these inside rushers.

For some reason if the running back free releases, the near defensive end will peel off to cover him. That allows us to be protected if the back does free release into the route combination.

We also coach the tackle towards the running back that if he feels the back leave, work for width because he will become the new contain rusher.

What we are trying to do inside is “pick” the center. A lot of teams are running this, but there are a couple of different ways to do it when determining who is “picking” the center.

Whoever the running back has in protection, have that player “pick” the center first with the other mugged linebacker looping around.

The main thing is the player who goes first must keep their legs moving pads down. A lot of times that game will get passed and the guy that ends up coming free will be the original guy setting the “pick.” That is a critical coaching point for us.

A way we do it is the Mike linebacker starts to drop out before looping back in the A-gap after the opposite linebacker picks for him. That gives it a little bit of time to set up.

The secondary players here have an importance in their disguise. We always tell them to test themselves in practice. See what you can get away with in your disguise.

There are some instances where you can drop both defensive ends. In turn, this results in a four-man rush. This is what we call a “simulated pressure.”

A “simulated pressure” allows you to play defense in layers. It stresses protection like a blitz, but you’ve built insurance policies into your pressure with both defensive ends dropping.

Key Coaching Points

While disguising is important, you never want to sacrifice a job for the disguise, so “never stray too far from your job.”

Account for the back. If the running back free releases, the near defensive end will peel off to take him.

When picking the center, the player who goes first must keep his legs moving and pads down. Often, it is the first rusher who comes free.

Zone Pressure

The next evolution of this package is to have a zone pressure out of it. We’ve already brought both inside linebackers so now we’re bringing edge pressure.

A zone blitz pressure looks like an interior blitz but brings edge pressure instead.

We are playing what we call “fire zone” coverage behind this pressure. This has two seam/flat players dropping off No. 2, a middle hole dropper that is dropping off No. 3 and three deep cover players.

The linebacker to the side of the nickel is going to be the penetrator. He is hitting the A-gap as hard as he can.

We always tell our guys, “Always assume you will be the free rusher.” Oftentimes, especially when it comes to “games” being passed, the initial penetrator gets blocked but comes free late.

Away from the passing strength, we call this a “pop” technique with the defensive tackle. The common mistake here is to just loop outside. They want to buy the block of the guard.

The defensive end away from the passing strength is dropping to the seam/flat.

The defensive end here is taking one-step up the field before looping inside. The nickel has to do a good job with his pre-snap disguise.

The QB is oftentimes going to try and escape out so we have to do a good job with our aiming points.

Key Coaching Points

Zone pressure means bringing five rushers and playing a form of Cover 3 zone behind it. Drop one linebacker and one defensive end.

Always assume you are going to be the free rusher. Many times, it is the player who goes first that ends up coming free.

Have the boundary tackle use “pop technique.” A common mistake is to just loop outside. Instead, this player needs to buy the block of the guard first and then get contain.

Cover 0

The final component of this package is the all-out pressure. To make this double mug look effective, you must bring everyone at times.

As teams see you continuously bluff it, they get used to it. There is going to be times in the game when you have to bring everyone. It is high risk, high reward.

Many times, before we run an all-out pressure we say, “Someone’s band is going to be playing after this play.” There is a time and place for Cover 0.

The purpose of Cover 0 is that the defense is going to bring one more player than the offense can protect resulting in a free run at the quarterback, which forces him to make a quick decision.

We don’t like our Cover 0’s to be exotic. We like them to be direct. There is nothing worse than watching a team run an all-out blitz with a “looper” or a “twist.” That player might end up being the free rusher, but the ball is already out.

We always like to draw that bonus defender. We coach the mugged linebackers to read the center. Whichever way he steps, engage the block and buy him, then drop out. We don’t want to assume that you’re going to be the dropper and either go slow or drop right away.

Key Coaching Points

To make the double mug look effective, you must bring everyone from time to time so the threat of blitz is always there.

Don’t make Cover 0 blitzes exotic. Line up tight and rush directly at the QB so that your free rusher can get to the QB.

Demeanor is most important. The offense is reading everyone for keys so work hard to remove any “tells” about who is coming and who is not.