The 50 Defense vs The Spread Offense.
As time went on, the 54 went through many changes to maintain its efficiency against all the different offenses that had evolved since 1950.
The defense proved successful against all forms of option football, the Wing-T, I, and different pro sets. Today, we still find teams, especially at the high school level, that are going to run first and pass only out of necessity.
Other teams, at both the high school and college levels, will use the running game as their base attack and supplement it with a strong play-action passing game. A third type of attack will employ an equal blend of the run and drop-back or sprint-out pass.
We are also seeing teams at all levels using a spread offense with a quick three-step drop or a shot-gun alignment with three, four, or five quick receivers. This kind of offense presents a different challenge to the defense, particularly at the high school level where a team may face all four offensive philosophies in a given year.
Back in the early '50s, we aligned in a 54 defense, as shown in Diag. 1, but as offenses adjusted to it, coaches began developing multiple defenses from the 50 front, using a variety of stunts (Diags. 2 and 3), a slanting front (Diag. 4), and sliding men to different alignments (Diag 5).
Most of the college and professional teams have turned to the 43 as their base defense, giving them four big men up front to play the run, protect the linebackers, and serve as pass-rushers.
The linebackers and defensive backs are used in pass coverage and run support and as pass-rushers in blitz calls.
On the high school level, many coaches still favor a three-deep because of the limited time to teach pass coverages and the need to stop the run with an 8-man front.
I believe the 50 front is sound against run-pass offenses, offers even more flexibility than the 43 vs. spread formations, and can provide the safety a 3-deep secondary when necessary.
Obviously, the physical requirements for some of the positions in the 54 are different than they were in the early '50s, but the transition has been easy for today's athletes.
The biggest challenge has been at the defensive end position. Quickness, speed, and aggressiveness are now more important than size. The DE must always be on the move playing pass defense, rushing the passer or taking on a blocker. He must be an athlete who loves to play football.
The offenses are spreading out, using speed and quickness in attacking the defense, and the defense has to adjust.
Remember, football has always been a game that runs in cycles. Offenses change: Short Punt to Single Wing to Split-T Option to Wing-T to Wishbone to I Formation to Veer to Pro Set, and the defenses have to make adjustments to meet the challenge.
The defense shown in Diag. 6 closely resembles the modus operandi of teams that run a 34 defense. Since we want to use all six men (cornerbacks, defensive ends, linebackers) in a variety of stunts, we call this a 36 defense.
In defending against the modern spread sets, the 35 allows for both zone coverage (Diag. 7), man coverages (Diag. 8), and combo coverages (Diag. 9).
A wide variety of stunts, using the abilities of individual players, can be used to pressure the quarterback.