We have established in previous posts that stopping the run is a key to winning football games for the Texas Longhorns and any other team. If you are in the small portion of people that has read the previous posts and disagrees with that, then I will not waste my time any further.
We have also established that Todd Orlando loves to use the blitz to pressure the quarterback. Manny Diaz is a brilliant and effective defensive coordinator. He took a Miami defense that was ranked 117 in S&P plus in 2015 to 13 in 2016. He loves to blitz, and in his time at Texas, he had issues with players being out of position in run situations because of a blitz.
That brings me to my first point — you don’t blitz to stop the run. The reason why is pretty simple. Most often, when you blitz, you blitz with a linebacker. Think of your linebackers as military special forces. They are intelligent, strong, agile, and fast. They are special in that they don’t possess one of the tools needed to be successful in football, they possess all of them. They are five tool players. So, would you send a Navy Seal in to battle as a simple infantry man? NO!
The biggest advantage linebackers, more specifically inside linebackers, have in football is their ability to read and react. Due to their mental ability to process and their position on the field, they can see everything, and are in a position to flow to the right place on the field to stop any run play. When you blitz them, you take away that advantage. You guess, and if you guess wrong, your linebacker is no longer providing a strategic advantage and gaining numbers on the opponent through their ability to read and flow to the right place on the field. I will touch more on this later, but I don’t think Orlando blitzes to stop the run either.
Okay so we want to confuse an offensive line, but don’t want to blitz (especially on downs which tell us a run is very likely). How do we do that? The answer is line stunts. Yes, it is a pretty simple concept, but it is the best way to confuse offensive lines, and often times creates opportunities for an unblocked linebacker to make plays. Orlando will slant the entire line, or any combination of a single or two lineman on the defensive front. In most run situations, Orlando plays a 3 technique (tackle) to one side of the field and a 5 or a 7 (end) to the other side of the field. Because of this, he will use the rush (outside linebacker) to basically become a fourth defensive lineman at times can be used in a stunt as well.
One of my favorite stunts that Orlando also uses is TAG (Tackle A Gap), where the 3 technique goes across the guard’s face into the A gap. Now notice he goes across the guard’s face. There are two reasons for this. The first is that if he simply takes an angle from his 3 technique into the guard, he will not block the vision of the guard and actually creates a lane for the guard to go through to get to the mike linebacker. No good.
The second is based on a door-and-wall philosophy. Think of the guard as a wall and A gap as the room you are desiring to enter. Are you going to have an easier pathway to that room by going through the wall or by moving three feet to the left or right and through the door. Of course, you are going to use the door. And that is exactly what all defensive linemen should do when they stunt. Engage the opposing lineman, and stunt across their face into the door (well, we actually call it a window, but you get the picture).
Another great line stunt is zEBra, or end B gap. This involves the end in a 5 technique and going into the B gap. Other favorites of mine include the nose opposite A (NOAh) stunt and the TAzR stunt, which is a TAG combined with a rush stunt into the B gap. TAzR stands for tackle A and rush...pretty simple.
So, why do I think and not know that Orlando doesn’t blitz often on standard downs? Shouldn’t the film tell the tale? No! If a linebacker and even a safety correctly reads and reacts to a play, it looks just like a blitz, especially when combined with a line stunt. It all happens so fast, the reaction time is almost unrecognizable, even to the trained eye.
The only way to really tell if a linebacker or safety is blitzing or reading and reacting on run plays is to watch a great deal of film and see how often they are out of position on those plays. The Houston linebackers were rarely out of position in the past two years, and I don’t think that Orlando is that good of a strategist. I mean he’s surely good, but having a success rate of almost 90 percent on guesses is just not practical, even with the most educated of guessers. Because of this, I think his players are reading and reacting more than blitzing.
At times, he will use the safety to blitz the C gap with a TAG stunt to a tight end surface, which allows the rush to play contain and focus more on taking away the tight end in the passing game, but even then, is it really a blitz? Maybe. Safeties can read an offensive play as well. My guess is more like he frees that safety up in coverage and allow him to play a C8 technique...or lined up over the C gap 8 yards deep. He then reads pass/run and plays the appropriate responsibility.
In passing situations, a NOAh can be combined with a the will blitzing the A gap previously occupied by the nose. I call this a WOW blitz. A WOW blitz looks identical to a NOAh with the Will reading flow away and attaching the A gap looking for the cutback as discussed before in the linebacker responsibilities post.
A TAG can be combined with a Mike blitz into the B gap. I call this a TAMe stunt. Tackle A and Mike. Pretty simple. This looks just like a TAG stunt with a Mike seeing an open window in B gap and shooting it with proper technique on film. In fact, if the Mike knows a TAG is called, he is taught to attack open air in B gap immediately. He is looking for it, because the stunt creates that hole which the ball r will likely see and attempt to run through.
Other blitzes I like are the will A cross (WAC), where the will blitzes across the center and pressures through A gap and the NAM blitz, which NOAh stunt is combined with a mike blitz into the opposite A gap.
Writing these up will show that each of them leaves a vulnerability against the run, which is why Diaz struggled with “guessing wrong” while at Texas, and why I believe Orlando does not use blitzes regularly to stop the run in his defense.