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Attacking the offensive front with a slanting defensive line. (Football).

DEFENSIVE LINES that hope to be successful have to be taught to attack the offensive line and force them to reestablish the line of scrimmage and create problems for themselves.

There are numerous ways of attacking the offensive line, such as by playing a base technique and using twist games. But perhaps the quickest, most aggressive way of closing off the gaps is by slanting the defensive line.

In short, rather than having your defensive linemen go head-to-head with the offensive linemen, you'll be better off putting them on the move and allowing them to blitz.

The point we instill in our defensive linemen is to get a great takeoff: to attack the line of scrimmage with a low pad level (stay low). It is an excellent way to reestablish the line of scrimmage and play on the offensive side of the ball.

Slanting low also allows the linemen to avoid taking on the base blocks and double-teams. It confuses the offensive line and prevents them from knowing what gap we are attacking and for what players they are responsible.

When slanting from a shade technique, it is imperative for the defensive lineman to fix his eyes on the opponent's hip and focus on it while getting down into his stance before the quarterback begins his cadence. The lineman must identify his key and respond to it without telegraphing the slant.

The slanting action begins the moment the ball is snapped. The first step is known as the "power step." It is taken with the foot closest to the opposing lineman and is accompanied with a punch of the grounded hand.

The step is only six inches long and is executed with enough force to root the opposition into the ground. The analogy we use is: "It's like driving a nail into the ground."

The toes are pointed directly at the opponent's heel, with the lineman's shoulders and hips in alignment.

Coaching point: The first step cannot be too long or it will prevent the momentum from going forward. (It would put the momentum back over the center of gravity, which would tend to keep the torso upright and expose the chest.)

Players over 6-feet-4 are often guilty of taking too long a step--a fault that will narrow their base and make them easier to block.

After the first step is firmly planted, the "in-flight" adjustment step begins. This step is a reaction to the initial key. If the defensive lineman sees the opponent's hips coming at him, as in a reach block (Diag. 2), belly motion, or base block, he must "arm off" the opponent and redirect the movement into the gap that has just shifted toward him as a result of slanting action.

The hand that was down on the ground must be thrust into the opponent's shoulder to redirect his momentum.

If the opponent's hip goes away, the defensive lineman has to run the heel line (Diags. 2 and 4)--where the opponent's heels were just before the snap.

The backside arm is set in the "ready position" (stance) and cocked at about 120 degrees perpendicular to the ground, with the hand about six inches from the grass.

Midway through the first (power) step, the defensive player must rip his backside arm just outside of his knee. That will knock the opponent's hands out of the way without interfering with the second step or any other steps.

Throughout the first two steps, the defensive lineman must keep his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage, with the hips and the body in a good athletic position.

The second step is a balance-up step that is used to redirect, depending on the opponent's block. The defensive lineman must penetrate to the heels of the offensive line or deeper to reestablish the line of scrimmage.

While taking his second step, the defensive lineman must use a backside arm rip to protect the backside leg from a chop block. He must also have the slantside arm ready to arm off and redirect, depending on the opponent's block.

The shoulders must be kept square during the slanting process to enable the player to penetrate the gap and not open his shoulders to present a wider blocking surface.

The final step in slanting is reacting to the offensive line blocking and the direction of the ball. Remember, it's important to reestablish the line of scrimmage and have your defensive linemen play on the heels of the offensive line. That is where we react and pursue.

Slanting Drills

We use three drills in working on the various aspects of slanting: the three-cone drill, the pop-up dummy drill, and a live block reaction drill.

Three-cone drill: We set up the three cones in a triangle position about the length of an offensive line apart. The defensive player straddles the cone at the top of the triangle.

The other two cones simulate the opponent's hip toward which the defensive lineman will be slanting--"left" or "right," at the coach's command. The step should be aiming directly at the offensive lineman's hip.

We then progress to the entire slant technique--widening or narrowing the cones to simulate the differences in gap widths used by different teams.

Block Reaction: This drill includes two offensive linemen and one defensive lineman.

We give the offensive players different blocks to execute and have the defensive opponents read the hip of the offensive man toward whom they are slanting. We progress from slow speed to full speed.

Keying the hip to teach the use of hands is no different than teaching a defensive lineman to key a certain part of the jersey. The eyes will tell the hands and feet where to go.

Summing Up:

While it is important to teach the defensive linemen how to attack the offensive line, you can get even better results by slanting them. This positioning will enable them to attack the line of scrimmage more aggressively.

You can break down the slanting technique into small movements such as the first step, power step, and pointing the toe.

The second step is a balance-up step, in which the shoulder and arm movements are also crucial.

The final essential element for success is teaching the defensive lineman how to react to the movement of the offensive lineman's hip.

By breaking the slant technique down into parts and teaching and practicing the movements, you can get every individual defensive lineman to understand each step and perform it to the best of his ability.

RELATED ARTICLE: Slant techniques

Set up in 3-point stance; down hand can be the hand closest to the offensive opponent or hand in direction of the slant. Foot stagger depends upon the lineman's ability; buttocks kept slightly higher than shoulders.

KEY: The near hip of offensive man toward whom you are slanting.

RESPONSIBILITY: Gap into which you are slanting.

TECHNIQUE: Take 6-inch step in direction of the slant; balance-up on second step, penetrate to heels of offensive lineman; rip with backside arm; keep slantside ready to arm-off and redirect; keep shoulders square.

VS BASE BLOCK: Cross face of opposing lineman, penetrate gap of responsibility, then run the heel line of the offensive linemen.

VS REACH BLOCK: Cross face of offensive linemen and penetrate gap of responsibility, along with a backside rip. If hip of your key is coming toward you, "arm off" and redirect to get into the flow of play.

VS INSIDE RELEASE: Cross face of opposing guard and penetrate the A gap. If guard cuts you off, knock him into the gap.

VS PULLING GUARD: If opposing center comes across flat to block the tackle, the tackle can cross his face or pop across. If the center comes back at more of an angle, tackle can go behind him and sit in the hip pocket of the pulling guard.
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Author:Cunningham, David
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2002
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