Defending the Inside Zone Running Play
The Inside Zone is one of the top offensive schemes in football. This play is so dominant because it can be run from so many different formations and personnel groups. When it comes to stopping this scheme there are two main ways that people are using to shut it down. One plan is to overload the A Gaps where the play is designed to go so that the offense can’t create the double teams that it relies on. The other way teams are stopping the play is by using stunting and defensive line movement to get offensive linemen out of position and put defenders into gaps.
Defending the Inside Zone
To truly understand how to stop the Inside Zone you must understand the goal of the scheme. The Inside Zone is based on the offensive line getting double teams in the interior of line so that they can get vertical movement on the defensive linemen and create running lanes. This vertical movement creates barriers that stop linebackers from being able to move over the top and fill the gap the runner goes through. This means as a defense you want to stop this vertical movement and find ways to keep your linebackers free to respond to the running back and fill the hole.
One of the more popular ways to stop the Inside Zone is to use double 1 techniques. This was made popular by the Indianapolis Colts defense and is making its rounds through the clinic circuit. The reason why this has become so popular is that it eliminates the ability of the offensive line to create double teams. By putting a defender in each A Gap the Center must make a decision leaving one of the A Gap defenders unblocked. Normally this is going to be the defender in the backside A Gap. While the BSG will look to down block and get him sealed off, if this defender can shoot the gap he will be in a perfect position to stop any inside run.
Related Content: Why I Prefer the Inside Zone Scheme
The other way to stop the Inside Zone is a much older strategy, but equally effective. This strategy is based on the idea of using stunts and twists to create open holes that linebackers can fill. Because the Inside Zone relies on double teams, the offensive linemen will put themselves in a position where they will chase a defensive lineman. Whenever an offensive linemen chases one of these stunting defensive linemen they abandon their gap and leave a clean lane for a linebacker to fill.
Defending the Inside Zone is all about putting the offense on the back foot and forcing them to react to your defense. The Inside Zone is a scheme that is based on the offensive line covering up defenders, creating some vertical movement, and hoping the Running Back can find a seam. If you play static against this scheme the runner will be able to rely on his offensive linemen covering up defenders so that he can find a gap to sneak through. Instead you must engage the offense in a way that benefits your team and gives you the matchups you want.