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Defensive Line in the Miami 4-3 Defense
The Miami 4-3 defense was developed by University of Miami coach Jimmy Johnson and his staff in the mid-1980s. His original purpose was to stop the wishbone option offense that was crushing teams at the University of Oklahoma under coach Barry Switzer. At Prince George’s High School in 2008, we decided to implement this safeguard. We felt it was the best fit for our employees. The biggest benefit of the defense is that, even though it creates a 4-man defensive front, we only need two – or even one – true defensive linemen to run it.
Miami’s 4-3 lead includes two defensive ends and two defensive tackles. We announce our strength to the tight end. For the purposes of this article, we’ll work against a pro-eye set, with a tight end and flanker on one side and a split receiver on the other. Over the front, Weeks will align in the 5-technique, which is off the shoulder of the offensive tackle. The strong end will align in the 9-technique on the outside shadow of the tight end. The weak defensive tackle (we call him the nose) aligns with the weak shadow, or the weak shadow over the middle. A strong defensive tackle will align in a strong 3-technique, shadowing the outside of the guard. In our base defense, these defenders are gap-responsible. 3-Technique The B-gap handles strong, while the nose handles the A-gap weak. The ends are responsible for C gap weakening and D gap strengthening. We don’t use ends for content! They are Dropped players In our aggressive style of defense.
Our defensive ends are not typical defensive linemen. They should be able to contain the quarterback, pull linemen and drop into zone pass coverage with our blitz packages. We will use players who are more traditionally linebackers at these spots. Our true linemen are the tackles. If you don’t want to trick linemen into strength, tackles need to be able to play both the 3-technique and the 1-technique. We prefer this, as a player can play with hands down inside. However, if you have one True tackle, you can use a fast “wrestler” type player on the 1-technique nose. This gives us more speed on the field.
As spill players, our defensive linemen are looking to attack Inside the shoulder Any blockers or ball carriers attack their gap. This will force the ball to “spill” outward. On the outside, we use our safeties (quarter coverage) or corners (cover 2). We teach our defensive linemen to play using 6 steps:
- Get off: Fire the ball low and hard on the snap, shadowing the defender’s crotch.
- Engaging: Run your hand across the V of his neck. The outside hand will control his shoulder pad.
- Escape: On our third step, the linemen are looking to escape the defender. They will rip with their inside arm to gain control of their distance and work the football. We don’t just take up space! Our defensive linemen are players too and we want them to be playmakers!
- Bending: Against any down blocks, our defensive linemen immediately bend at the line of scrimmage. We tell our linemen to treat any action away from them as “run” and begin the chase. If the play is coming back, you bump the pulling blocker!
- Wrong hand: When engaging a pulling lineman or other blocker, we will use our outside shoulder to attack the lineman’s inside shoulder. We are aggressive to engage the blocker, attacking the outside 4/5 of his body to the inside 4/5 of his body. We want to blow that blocker. By misarming the trapper, we’re forcing the play to bounce outside.
- Pursuit: When the play starts to spread outside, we move to a scout angle down the line. We want to be in a position where once the runner is brought back inside by a contain player (usually a safety or corner), we can make the tackle.
By using aggressive spill players up front – players who are moving against multiple blocks – you sacrifice some of your pass rushing ability. To combat this, we must teach the players Read on Offensive linemen block. If they can learn the difference between a down block, a reach block and a pass set, they can achieve more. Reading the pass rush, defensive linemen are still tearing up the OL on the third set, now using pass rush moves to gain separation. These pass rush moves must be practiced daily to become habituated when pass blocks are read.
Players must also practice their rush lanes. On a pass read, the linebackers, safeties, and corners are going to execute their pass coverage responsibilities. Therefore, defensive ends must be players who read the pass. It’s important that they don’t let the quarterback get out of the backfield. Our ends’ aim point on the pass rush is either side of the QB’s outside shoulder. For tackles, their target point will be near the eye of the QB. We must rush the passer with active hands and controlled feet to get off the blocker, but not lose the QB’s involvement. We want to force the QB to move in the pocket and make quick decisions. If the front four doesn’t consistently pressure the QB, we could be in for a lot of nights.
The Miami 4-3 defense can be a very effective run stopping defense without using traditional linemen. We can get more players on the field, do more things to confuse the offense. Speed and aggressive play is the name of the game. If the other defenders can trust the linemen to throw the ball out, they can play faster and more aggressively in their responsibilities.
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