Thinking Outside The Defensive Box.

By FirstDown PlayBook on Mar 22, 2014

By FirstDown PlayBook Guest Blogger Gino Arcaro

You are a defensive coordinator. Here are three offensive formations. How do you match the offense without losing your identity?


These are the actual formations of the first three plays of a drive that one of our opponents called in a recent game we played.

The first play illustrates first down of the drive with the wide side and short side noted. The first formation shows a 2-back, single-TE shotgun.

The second formation illustrates a single-back single-TE shotgun that started as a 2×2 formation and changed to a 1×3 through motion the #2 receiver.

The third play shows “FIRST down” again. The team got a first down on the previous play. The third formation is a single-back shotgun with a 3×1. The three-receiver side is bunched with a flex-TE as the #2 receiver. The defensive bind created is the flex-TE because of the question, “Who is he? Is he a TE or a WR?”

I have intentionally left out the other relevant information – distance for first down, distance from end zone, score, time, quarter, and most of all, personnel assessment on their offense and our defense. The reason I left it out is to show: (a) our Phase One defensive teaching progression, and (b) how we have and continue to test the validity and reliability of our defensive system about how to ‘match formations’ without compromising our pressure-oriented philosophy.

We believe that the key to defense is to ‘match formations’ without playing follow the leader. We want to fit our defense to match the offense but not at the expense of losing our identity. ‘Matching formations’ while maintaining identity and pressure-oriented ideology requires a system as opposed to a playbook. A system is different than a playbook. A system solves problems using a combination of proactive and reactive strategies as opposing to strictly reactive strategies. Our starting point about matching formations is the following three questions:

  1. Does our system facilitate adaptation to each offensive formation without substituting players?
  2. Can we change the play called in our defensive huddle without changing defensive players and without changing pressure?
  3. What is the relationship between the formation and wide side/short side?

Gino Arcaro M.Ed., B.Sc., NCCP Level 3
Head coach – Niagara X-men football
Owner – X Fitness Inc.

Gino Arcaro is a widely published author. His website, blog, Youtube channel, and list of books are at:

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