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Defending quarterback scrambles.

A commonly overlooked yet potentially devastating aspect of defensing an opponent's passing game is defensive reaction to a quarterback scramble.

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The late Bill Walsh wrote that one in five drop-back passes ends up with the quarterback scrambling. Depending upon the quarterback, this can be disastrous to a defense. Obviously, some quarterbacks are more of a threat than others. A well prepared defense allots practice time to work on defensive reactions when a quarterback is forced from the pocket.

It is crucial that defenders know how to react when the quarterback is flushed. Before a defensive coach can formulate a defensive response, he must first understand the offense's basic rules or guidelines on a quarterback scramble. Also, the individual quarterback's preferences must be understood. For example, some quarterbacks prefer to scramble one way or another.

SOME OFFENSIVE GUIDELINES ON QUARTERBACK SCRAMBLES

Different offensive systems use various rules. Following are some basic scramble rules:

DEFENSIVE GUIDELINES ON QUARTERBACK SCRAMBLES

These are defensive reactions to a scramble. These reactions should be honed early in the season and drilled periodically. Obviously, they should be focused on when preparing for an athletic quarterback.

Defenders must know which way the quarterback likes to scramble. Does he like to go left or right? Usually the quarterback's dominant arm will determine this. Does the quarterback scramble to run or does he scramble to throw? What does he prefer?

* Deep defenders stay deep.

* Pass defenders should stick with their primary assignment and not turn a receiver loose. "Plaster" your assignment.

* Defensive backs should never come up until the quarterback

GUIDELINES ON DEFENDING AN ATHLETIC QUARTERBACK

Ask a number of offensive coordinators their definition of their "dream" quarterback and chances are you will get as many definitions as coaches you asked. To some coaches, the perfect quarterback would be a tall guy who stands in the pocket and delivers the ball. Other coaches might choose a more athletic and mobile type of quarterback. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

The trend at the collegiate and high school levels, especially teams that run the spread offense, is toward the athletic and mobile type of quarterback. Double threat quarterbacks serve to add pressure to defenses. A quarterback who is a running threat demands special adjustments in the defensive game plan.

Adjustments and schemes for a stationary type of quarterback are counter productive versus quarterbacks who can run. In reality a mobile quarterback may make a one back offense a two back offense.

Pass rushers have to be more disciplined against mobile quarterbacks than if they were playing a classic drop-back passer. Defenses must maintain lane integrity with a more balanced rush that is easier for the offense to identify and block.

Following are some defensive considerations and counter measures which may be included in the defensive game plan to reduce damage done by an athletic quarterback.

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* Quarterback looks deep to short. * Quarterback avoids throwing late down the middle.

* Quarterback looks to near sideline.

* Quarterback avoids throwing across his body.

* Quarterback will take a little off the throw because of the added velocity of a ball thrown on the run.

* If the quarterback decides, to run he will give a "Go" call. This informs backs and receivers to block.

* Receivers will move in the same direction as the quarterback.

* Running backs will work parallel to the quarterback.

* Receivers on deep routes will work back to the quarterback.

* Receivers on short routes will work deep away from the quarterback.

* Receivers backside of a scramble will stay on the same yard line and work horizontally to the quarterback.

* Receivers will remain stationary if they are open to the side of the scramble.

crosses the line of scrimmage.

* Pass rushers should disengage and take sharp pursuit angles, not "fishhooks" to the quarterback.

* Frontside linebackers, if not in man coverage, should supply frontside run through on the quarterback.

* Be selective when blitzing. Instead of pressuring the quarterback with man blitzes it might be more effective to zone blitz. This will allow the defense to have more sets of eyes on the quarterback should he decide to pull the ball down and run. Man coverage principles with defenders turning their backs to the ball are a highly dangerous proposition. Zone coverages solidify the defense's ability to play quarterback scrambles. Defenses may assign a spy on the quarterback. Be careful, however, that you don't assign your best pass rusher to this task. By the same token, make sure the spy is somewhat athletic and not a slug. Be aware that the use of a spy will water down either the rush or coverage.

Lane exchanges are beneficial if rushers keep good lane integrity The pass rush must be balanced. Defenses can't overload one side and have their pants down to the other side

Quarterback scramble rules should be in place. Incorporate these rules early in the season and drill them periodically.

Make the quarterback give up the ball quickly versus option plays. Make him pitch. Don't allow him to carry the ball! Approach tins situation as a golden opportunity to hammer the quarterback. Make the quarterback pay as he comes off fakes. This moment is another opportune time to lay some wood on the offense's best player! It might be more productive to focus on boxing the quarterback in the pocket and allowing him to throw the ball, especially if he is more of a running threat than a passing threat. A good plan might be to thicken defensive line alignment on blockers and contain rush the quarterback with emphasis on keeping him in the box.

By Kenny Ratledge Defensive Coordinator, Sevierville (TN) County H.S.
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Title Annotation:FOOTBALL
Author:Ratledge, Kenny
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2008
Words:943
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