As an example, let's take one formation idea that is underutilized in many offenses: "stacked" or "bunched" receivers. Though the vanilla TV commentator will point out how the tight alignment of receivers will provide natural "rubs" vs man defenders, there are two important things to consider:
- Proper route running technique and selection will give receivers ample opportunity to defeat man for man defenders without wasting receivers (deploying players on a pass play with no intention of getting open for a pass).
- Defenses today are well coached in defending such alignments. Even at the high school level, defenses have answers to simple rub or pick plays.
This second fact is something that can be used to the offenses advantage. For instance, let's look at some opponent scenarios:
- This week: Multiple 3-4 pressure team that blitzes a lot
- Next week: 4-3 Cover 4 team
- 3 weeks from now: Best opponent; Cover 1 press team
This week's mythical opponent plays loose man and 3 deep zone mainly, and creates pressure by attempting to overload protections by bringing 4 rushers to one side - outnumbering most 6 man protection schemes as they typically distribute blockers with 3 to a side:
One formation idea the offense could use would be using a "Stack" call to create unfamiliar angles for zone droppers in the event of a zone blitz (below) in conjunction with a SOLO protection adjustment, which accounts for 4 rushers to either side. The Stack alignment also forces soft man defenders to play in-and-out (which equates to basketball switch defense against picks), which creates a different practice problem for the defense.
Once the blitz is picked up, the defense is exposed. There are two threats that can be quick throws, as well as two potential vertical threats. With the use of hash marks, there is even further space for the defense to "carry the seam" to the zone blitz side. All basic pass concepts can be run, and the use of no huddle tempo can aid the coach in making a SOLO call, or the basic half slide protection, for those not wanting to burden the QB.
Further dividends can be garnered in the coming weeks; the next opponent will certainly have a plan for Stack (2 rec) as well as Bunch (3 rec). Some typical things seen from these structures are as follows:
From a stack perspective, it would be relatively easy to predict a "3 over 2" configuration over the stack. Moreover, a more thorough study can even negate disguises and allow the offense to recognize FASTER. In the example on the left, the OLB in a position to wall a vertical can be a clean indication of halves coverage, while the force position on the right can indicate quarters.
A common adjustment to bunch from such a structure is to play a "Cover 2" or "Cloud" rotation to the 3 receiver side, which is made to order for standard bunch routes, like 471:
The ability to run multipurpose patterns like 471 is essential, as it allows the offense to "set up" game planning ahead. Leading up to the 3rd opponent in this hypothetical schedule, coaches must be mindful to get enough bunch and stack sets on film so that certain responses can be garnered. One such response would be "Banjo" pattern reading, in which defenders play the basketball equivalent of "switch" defense; while this eliminates being rubbed off in man coverage, it makes the defense susceptible to big plays with relatively easy completions:
Another tactic used by the defense is to simply involve the MLB, the extra underneath player in Cover 1, to rob any inside throws. This sets up perfectly for a couple passes using the RAM advantage principle. Let two examples suffice:
At the center of this all is the method of attacking pass coverage. A.C.T.S. allows any QB, beyond the shadow of a doubt, attack any given defense. With set principles in place, while maintaining the flexibility to direct the QB via NAVIGATION TAGS, the coach is able to direct the offense without new teaching. This method leaves practice for what is truly important: skill development.
How simple is this application? Simple enough that once Advantage Principles, Concepts, and Third Fixes (backside routes) are defined, one can explore the almost limitless possibilities without sacrificing fundamentals. My now 10-year old son's team, the inspiration for the system in Recoded and Reloaded, is currently going through a third season of 7 on 7. Given the absence of advanced scouting, we simply create mini scripts based on coverage. The first play of a game/ drive will feature a multi-purpose pass, and then follow the script from there. Because of tempo, the defense is usually locked into a look for at least that series. Below is a sample script from a few weeks ago:
The result: 7 on 7 games become what they should be: practice for "real" football, with a high degree of reps vs. specific coverage looks. Pictures can be put into a player's brain, no matter what age. So much so that last night, the NFL network was showing a replay of Texans/ Cowboys. On a crucial 4th quarter incompletion (in which the Texans run "471"), I ask my son what he thought should have happened. He looked up from the game he was playing, and without hesitation said "should have thrown the 7" -- and went right back to what he was doing.