Looking at a defense can be overwhelming. The first time you go to plan out a game many offensive coordinators will spend hours pouring over the film without really taking away any solid pieces of information. Instead it’s critical to find a systematic way to process game film so that you can come up with a great game plan in the limited amount of time you have.
Attacking a Defense-Where to Start
The first time you look at a defense you need to look for the overall structure of the defense. Is the defense an odd front or an even? Does it tend to keep two safeties back or does it roll one to the field? How do they handle shifts and motions? Are they in primarily man coverage or zone coverage? Once you can answer all of these questions you should have a good idea of the base of the defense.
The structure of the defense will give you some attacking points based on the leverage of certain players. Each defense will have to use a couple of players as dual responsibility players. This means that they will have a responsibility in the run game while still being responsible for a portion of pass defense. In the odd front this is normally the outside linebackers while in the even front it is the will linebacker and strong linebacker. Once you have identified these players you can create formations and plays that take advantage of when they are playing the run or pass.
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Many coaches divide their passing attack into routes for when the Middle of Field is Open (MOFO) and routes that are designed for when the Middle of the Field is Closed (MOFC). This refers to the number and leverage of the Safeties. If there are two Safeties it is probably a MOFO defense. From an offensive perspective this means the ideal areas to attack are the deep middle of the field and sidelines or they can attack through the run game. If the defense only has one Safety then the defense is structured as a MOFC defense. This normally means that a Safety has come down to linebacker level which gives the defense an extra man to stop the run. While they are stronger against the run they are now giving up the coverage over the top to defend the deep ball.
Once you have determined both of these options you can begin to look at how shifts and motions affect the defense and change the different coverages. There are a variety of different things that you can do here but the key is that you go in with some sort of concept on what you are looking to do to the defense.
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When preparing to attack a defense the most important thing to do is to understand the nature of the defense. Every defense has strengths and weaknesses that are built into the structure of the defense. When you can combine these with an understanding of how you can use your best players to attack these weaknesses you are in a position to have success on the field.