And now for part two of our lesson on defensive formations…
The “Prevent” Defense
The name of this formation might be confusing because, well, isn’t it the defense’s job to “prevent” the offense from doing something, no matter what the formation? Of course! Here, the defense is aligned to prevent long desperation pass plays. The offense will try some long, spectacular (if successful) play when it is behind in the score and there is very little time left in the game (say, less than a minute). To prevent a long completion, such as the “Hail Mary” completion in the endzone, the defense will field seven or eight defensive backs (i.e., safeties and cornerbacks). Because a team won’t have that many first-string caliber defensive backs, the eighth (or even seventh) back will likely be a wide receiver. While there will usually be three or four linemen to pressure the quarterback, there will only be one linebacker; there may even be no linebacker at all. In the image below, the two pairs of dots on the ends of the line of scrimmage represent the cornerbacks, who will run down the field covering the wide receivers.
As the name would suggest, the Goal Line defense is used in short-yardage situations, either to prevent a touchdown or a first down. The defense would expect to see a run from the offense in these situations, so it will usually take one or both safeties off the field and bring in additional linemen or linebackers. Instead of spreading out over the width of the field as in a typical play, the Goal Line defense will cluster closer to the line of scrimmage, and in the middle of the field. This is where they would expect the quarterback or running back to barrel straight ahead, through the offensive line. In the image below, however, you will also see one cornerback lined up at each end of the line of scrimmage. Many times the offense will use a couple of receivers at the goal line, and the defense still needs to be prepared for a pass play.
The 2-5 defense
This 2-5 defense is actually a variation of the 3-4 defense, which we learned about yesterday. The missing player is the nose tackle, who is replaced by a linebacker. The linebacker lines up where the nose tackle would, but is slightly behind the line of scrimmage instead of right on it. The 2-5 is also known as the “3-4 eagle.”
the Tampa 2 (and cover 2) defense
This is one you will hear a lot from commentators, who will say that a team runs a “Tampa 2 defense.” The Tampa 2 is not strictly a formation but rather a scheme around which a defensive strategy is based. Though it was originally developed in the 1970s, the scheme was popularized by former coach Tony Dungy (now a commentator with NBC), who used it with great success during his tenure as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1996 through 2001. Teams typically run the Tampa 2 from a 4-3 formation—four linemen, three linebackers, 2 cornerbacks and 2 safeties.
It is actually very similar to another scheme, the “Cover 2,” which has the same basic alignment, with the safeties taking responsibility for the deep part of the field while the cornerbacks cover the routes of the wide receivers. The Tampa 2 differs because the middle linebacker drops further back to cover short and medium-length passes in the middle of the field. The middle linebacker is actually a critical player in this scheme because he not only has to be able to watch for passes in the middle of the field, but he also needs to be able to respond to running plays and close in on a runner as close to the line of scrimmage as possible. Therefore, the middle linebacker will have to be very quick, a good tackler, and also intelligent.
Now, go forth and impress with your new defensive strategic mindset!