Nickel defense

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The Texas A&M-Commerce Lions in a nickel defense against the Adams State Grizzlies in 2015 Adams State vs. Texas A&M-Commerce football 2015 11 (Adams State on offense).jpg
The Texas A&M–Commerce Lions in a nickel defense against the Adams State Grizzlies in 2015

In American football, a nickel defense (also known as a 4–2–5 or 3–3–5) is any defensive alignment that uses five defensive backs, of whom the fifth is known as a nickelback. The original and most common form of the nickel defense features four down linemen and two linebackers. Because the traditional 4–2 form preserves the defense's ability to stop an opponent's running game, it has remained more popular than its variants, to the extent that even when another formation technically falls within the "nickel" definition, coaches and analysts will refer to it by a more specific designation (e.g., "3–3–5" for a lineup of three down linemen and three linebackers) that conveys more information with equal or greater conciseness.

The nickel defense originated as an innovation of Philadelphia Eagles defensive coach Jerry Williams in 1960 and used successfully in the Eagles' Championship victory over Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers that year. [1] He later employed it effectively as a measure to defend against star tight end Mike Ditka of the Chicago Bears, holding Ditka to a single reception in the Eagles' 1961 victory over the Bears. The nickel defense was later used by then Chicago Bears assistant George Allen, who came up with the name "nickel" and later marketed the idea as his own. [1] The nickel defense was popularized by head coach Don Shula and defensive coordinator Bill Arnsparger of the Miami Dolphins in the 1970s and is now commonly employed in obvious passing situations or against a team that frequently uses three+ wide receiver sets on offense.

In college football, TCU is known to use a nickel defense as its base set, typically playing three safeties and two linebackers. Former Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson installed the nickel partly out of necessity upon finding that larger and more prominent programs, most notably those of the large public universities in Texas, were able to "recruit away" most of the large athletes who would otherwise be available to the TCU program. As it turned out, the nickel proved to be a very good set against the spread offenses proliferating throughout college football in the early 21st century. [2]

A common defensive front adjustment for 3–4 teams to accommodate the nickel backfield involves putting the two outside linebackers into a three-point stance shading the offensive tackles (i.e., a 5 technique). To complete the adjustment, the 3–4 defensive ends are moved to face or shade the offensive guards. The nose tackle is removed for a defensive back. The purpose of this is to leave the four best pass rushers on the field in a long yardage situation. This is not the only adjustment that can be made. Bill Arnsparger would often remove linebackers from a 3–4 to create nickel and dime sets, replacing them with defensive backs. [3]

See also

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4–3 defense American football defensive formation

In American football, a 4–3 defense is a defensive alignment consisting of four down linemen and three linebackers. It is called a "base defense" because it is the default defensive alignment used on "base downs". However, defenses will readily switch to other defensive alignments as circumstances change. Alternatively, some defenses use a 3–4 defense.

3–3–5 defense American football defensive formation

In American football, the 3–3–5 defense is a defensive alignment consisting of three down linemen, three linebackers, and five defensive backs. The 3–3–5 defense can also be referred to as the 3-3 stack and the Spread Defense. It is one form of the nickel defense, a generic term for a formation with five defensive backs. Veteran college football defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn is widely credited with being the main innovator of the 3-3-5 scheme.

The following terms are used in American football, both conventional and indoor. Some of these terms are also in use in Canadian football; for a list of terms unique to that code, see Glossary of Canadian football.

4–4 defense American football defensive formation

In American football, the 4–4 defense is a defensive alignment consisting of four down linemen and four linebackers.

Dime defense American football defensive formation

In American football, the dime defense is a defensive alignment that uses six defensive backs. It is usually employed in obvious passing situations. The formation usually consists of six defensive backs, usually two safeties, and four cornerbacks, and has either four down linemen and one linebacker, or three down linemen and two linebackers. This formation is used to prevent the offense from completing a medium- to long-range pass play. This may be because the offense's running game is inefficient, time is an issue, or they need a long pass for a first down. It is also used against teams whose pass-to-run ratio predominantly favors pass. The formation, however, is vulnerable to running plays as the formation is missing two linebackers, or a linebacker and a down lineman.

7–2–2 defense American football defensive formation

The 7–2–2 defense or seven-box defense, used seven "down linemen", or players on the line of scrimmage at the time of the snap, two linebackers, and two safeties. Amos Alonzo Stagg invented the seven-box defense in 1890 at Springfield College. At that time, most teams were using a nine-man line on defense, and there were only three downs and no forward passes. The 7–2–2 was the base defense used by Knute Rockne at Notre Dame, as well as Mike Donahue at Auburn. Into the late 1930s, the 7–2–2 was still commonly employed inside the defender's thirty-yard line. It was considered "very strong against a running attack, but rather weak defensively against passes." The 7–2–2 was also employed when the opponent was expected to punt.

7–1–2–1 defense American football defensive formation

The 7–1–2–1, or seven-diamond defense, used seven "down linemen", or players on the line of scrimmage at the time of the snap, one linebacker, two safeties relatively close to the line and one safety farther downfield. The formation was created by Minnesota coach Henry L. Williams in 1903, reputedly to stop Michigan back Willie Heston. By some accounts in the mid-1930s, the 7-1-2-1 was considered "almost obsolete" due to its weakness against the forward pass, whereas the 7-2-2 defense was still considered viable. Yet Bill Arnsparger notes the use of the seven-diamond from the 1940s into the 1960s, as a defensive adjustment to the common wide tackle 6 defenses of the time. Further, the form of the 7 diamond as derived from a wide tackle 6, with a more compact line spacing than the 1930s era 7 man lines, shows a marked similarity to the 46 defense of Buddy Ryan.

Miami 4–3 defense Defensive formation in American football made famous by coach Jimmy Johnson

The Miami 4–3, also called the 4–lslide, is a scheme closely associated with the Jimmy Johnson-led Miami Hurricanes, and taken by Johnson to the Dallas Cowboys. Built around Jimmy Johnson's notion of "upfield pressure", it is a penetrating, swarming defense, with a "get there firstest with the mostest" mentality. The focus is to cause opponents to make mistakes, even if the defense might give up a big gain or two. Compared to older 4–3 defenses, such as Tom Landry's 4–3 inside, the defensive line assignments are simpler. Linemen don't read then react, they act then read. Linebackers fill the gaps the linemen leave behind, ignoring gaps away from the play. Coverages are simple, and the playbook small and easy to learn.

In American football, the 6–2 defense is a defensive alignment consisting of six down linemen and two linebackers.

References

  1. 1 2 Philadelphia Daily News. September 25, 1986
  2. Bennett, Brian (December 29, 2010). "Speed, position switches define TCU way". College Football Nation Blog. ESPN.com . Retrieved December 30, 2010.
  3. Arnsparger, Bill (1999). Coaching Defensive Football, St. Lucie Press, Chapter 6.