Mailbag question: Regarding the what defense is best exchange

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Question:

I’m sure many noticed the exchange in the comments of the “What defense is best…” Mailbag question between Coach BT and Gsimmons85. Could you explain in further detail what the two are talking about? What are stunts, shade techniques, one-gap, two-gap and what are the philosophies behind them.

Thanks.

— F

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Thanks for the question.

As for the philosophy behind the choice of defensive schemes used, many times, it is just a matter of what scheme the coaches learned as players. Tony Dungy, for instance, based his defense on what he learned playing defensive back for Chuck Noll and the Steelers. Other times, it is based on what works best against the offenses the teams in your league use. I have had defensive coordinators tell me it is simply what has worked for them in the past.

The offensive line is divided up into gaps or areas.

Gaps:
A-gaps: the areas between offensive center and offensive guards.

B-gaps: the areas between offensive guards and offensive tackles.

C-gaps: the areas between offensive tackles and tight ends.

D-gaps: the areas outside tight ends. If no tight end is used, many teams will call the C-gap area off the offensive tackles outside hip, or some even go as far as using a “shadow” tight end as an aiming point.

Most defenses are based on the idea that defenders are responsible for certain gaps. In two-gap defenses, defensive linemen are responsible for — as the name suggests — two gaps.

For example in a defense with a 0 “shade,” the defender/nose tackle will align head up on offensive center. In this alignment, the nose tackle can be responsible for both A-gaps, or both areas between the offensive center and offensive guard.

One-gap is just that. The defender is responsible for a single gap. Using the same example as above, if the nose tackle angles to one side of offensive center he will more than likely be responsible for the A-gap in the direction he is angling.

Shades:
A “shade” technique is when a defender lines up and shades an offensive lineman. For example, the nose tackle, instead of lining up head up on the offensive center, “shades,” or aligns on the outside shoulder, or splits the legs of the offensive center. You can do this with any defender on any offensive linemen. When you shade you are generally playing a one-gap defense.

Stunts:
Stunt is a general term for when defensive linemen attack gaps other than ones they are lined up on.

In many stunts, two linemen will crisscross. Many teams will use different terminology for stunts: twist, loop, slant, and jet, are common.

For example, one we use a lot is called JET. In JET, our weak, or quick side, defensive end drives up field on the offensive tackle, and then quickly will work his way inside the offensive tackle. The defensive tackle will attack the offensive guard by driving hard at him. The defensive tackle will than slip outside the defensive end and rush up field after the defensive end has made his move.

These explanations may have created more questions than answers, so please send them in and we’ll do our best to answer them.

Written by CoachBt and ErocWolverine