How to Play Zone Defense in 4on4 Flag Football

7 01 2009


 Ninja, I was wondering if it’s possible to run any type of zone D in 4v4? I read somewhere that it can be done, but the team has to work well together. But it didn’t go on to explain how to set it up. Any help or info would be super! BTW Your O plays are sweet and I think they’ll help us out.  – Bob


  “The sun covers the earth and no feather of the sparrow escapes its rays.  So the Ninja will cover his enemies, and their escape will be as futile as that of the feather.”

                                                                                                                         – Ninja,  Whispers of Battle


 The short answer is that man defense is typically a more effective defense to run in 4man flag football.  While this depends on a number of variables (not the least of which are field size, league rules, passing clock and QB sneaks) overall teams have better success running man defense because there is so much ground to cover.


But a zone defense can be run in 4man. Here’s how it goes:


Ninja Tips:

– In 4man football, defenders cannot play true zone as they would on a 7,9 or 11 man team. They have to play a “liquid zone” meaning they drift and respond to the routes as the play develops. Otherwise, there’s just too much field and not enough defenders.

– All defenders should keep an eye on the receivers outside of their zone.  It’s best to turn off your brain and just feel the offensive play develop.  When someone approaches your zone, you’ve got to pick them up, but if all receivers clear out of your zone, with only 4 defenders, you’re going to have to adjust to provide support elsewhere.


We’ll assume there is a center, three receivers and a QB with a pass clock (instead of a rusher). Side Note: if you have a live rush and the QB can scramble, it’s almost impossible to run an effective zone.  


The Formation:

Form a diamond, with two defenders in the flats, one deep (though he should start only about 10-15 yards from the line of scrimmage).  The linebacker will spy the center and keep an eye on the QB (if he is allowed to run).  The deep man will have deep responsibilities by himself.  The flat defender on the strong side (the side with two receivers) will play true flat zone defense but will drift back slowly as the play progresses.  The flat defender on the weak side will follow his man a little more closely, though if the isolated receiver cuts inside on a quick slant or in route, the defender should let him go.  But if the isolated defender to the weak side (ie all by himself) takes off on a deep route, the flat defender to his side should follow.  If this happens, the line backer will have to be heads up to watch for the center releasing into the weak side flat under the deep route.


The deep man will shift towards the strong side and keep an eye on the inside receiver.  If both receivers on the strong side shoot deep, the flat defender should check the center for a release and then drop deep to give support to the deep defender.   


The success of this defense will lie almost entirely on the ability of your defenders.  And that does not mean they have to be the fastest, best athletes alive.  But they must have good instincts in order to read and react to the QB.  Sometimes they’ll guess wrong, but if executed correctly, this zone defense can work to shut down a 4on4 flag football offense.

Visit my dojo (scroll over for sneak peak)