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Defense: Learning to Use the Zone Blitz

12 Jan

By Joe Daniel
Football Defense Report
January 12, 2011
You should have a little bit of an idea about why we want to use the Zone Blitz in our defensive scheme now. But we have not gotten into exactly what the Zone Blitz is.
Zone Blitzes are a 5 man rush package that features a zone coverage behind them. The starting point for a zone blitz package is a blitz with four defensive linemen and a linebacker (if you are an even front) or three defensive linemen and two linebackers (for odd fronts).
Most Zone Blitz packages use a 3 under, 3 deep zone coverage behind them. This creates safety because you always have players behind the receivers to make a tackle and line up again if the offense does have success.
In man blitz schemes, you are subject to the deep ball and big plays, more so than the Zone Blitz.
Some teams also use a 4 under, 2 deep zone coverage behind their Zone Blitzes. Coupling this with the 3 deep zone coverage creates even more confusion for the offense, if your players can handle it.
From the starting point of basic one-linebacker Zone Blitzes, we can expand the package. Zone Blitz packages can include blitzes by multiple linebackers, safeties and corner backs.
Linebackers and even Defensive Linemen can get involved in the coverage package. This creates more opportunities for confusion for the offense (and for your defense if not taught properly!). It also lets you get your athletes in to a number of different positions during the course of a single defensive series.
When to Use the Zone Blitz
One of the goals of this book will be to teach you not only a variety of Zone Blitzes, but when it is best to call these blitzes. Certain calls will be more effective in certain situations.
Again, do not make calls just to make a call. Going in to a game, I only want to take a maximum of three different zone blitzes. There is just no reason to take more than that. Offenses can only do so many different things to you.
Every Zone Blitz you use should have a specific purpose. Think about what you are trying to accomplish.
— Are you trying to force the Offense to change their game plan? 
— Are you trying to pick on a particular player on the offense?
— Are you trying to put your most dynamic player in multiple positions to cause havoc for the offense?
If you are using a Zone Blitz as an answer to the offense, keep in mind that you are probably letting them dictate to you. This is not the mentality we want to have.
The ultimate success of your package will be based on how well you game plan for your opponent. Offenses are so varied today, and so too are the individual talents of our defense, that we cannot give a cookie cutter answer to “when to Zone Blitz.”
Reprinted by permission of the author.  You can visit Coach Daniel at