Rush or Cover? How to Handle a Talented QB in Co-Ed Flag Football

3 11 2010

Ninja,
I’m in a co-ed flag football team. Our offense is solid and it has helped us win the regular season. However, we have not played all teams. We hope to reach the other undefeated team in the championship game. They have a running QB who is fast as hell and can actually throw (we have watched his games). Our defense is: fastest female rusher, two girls short on each side, one tall quick middle guy, two guy corners and two guys long. This has worked really well but we have not faced a fast QB. Any suggestions on dealing with this fast QB? (when we man up the QB always finds our weakest guy).

Thanks!!!

Don't give up the open field to a fast QB

NINJA SPEAKS:
Coach,
  It sounds like the quarterback you will be facing in the playoffs is a strong player who can hurt you running or throwing.  The first question is whether your league allows QBs to run when rushed.  For purposes of this answer, we will assume the QB is free to run when rushed. 

For this playoff game, you need your best player on their best player. This means rushing or spying the QB with your superstar.  The way you’ve described it, this QB will put a move on your rusher and have the entire field at his disposal.  Also, by not having an effective rush, it will give the receivers time to break away and find an opening in the field.  It is extremely difficult to hold coverage for more than a few seconds in any league, but especially in a flag league where defenders have not had the benefit of a few years of organized football.  This is not to take anything away from your fast girl rusher, but unless she is also truly superior athlete, there is a good chance that her speed and efforts are wasted.   Consider keeping her as a rusher  with your best player also rushing or hesitating and then pursuing the QB once he has made a move in the pocket.  Often speedy QBs are not comfortable sitting in the pocket and will make a move soon after getting the ball.  As a QB, standing still with people running at you, it’s actually very easy to make a move and break free, using the rusher’s momentum against her.  It takes a lot of discipline and experience to rush in under control and not be eluded by a shifty runner.

What you need to avoid is giving the QB the benefit of time and space to run or throw to an opening in your defense.  Also, his accuracy and timing will be drastically reduced if he has a good rusher in his face.  He will force bad throws, he will make bad choices, and at the end of the day, you have taken away at least one, hopefully both of his weapons.  You don’t need to default into man defense.  Consider one deep guy, corners that drift back as the play progresses, two linebackers picking up middle and short threats, and rushing your fast girl and your best player.  With the corners drifting back, you may open up some shallow routes, but you should be able to maintain coverage on the deep ball. 

These strategies and more can be found in my playbooks and the Ultimate Strategy Guide and Defensive Handbook in my dojo.

No mistakes. No mercy.
– Ninja

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Never Miss Another Flag Pull Again – and Win More Flag Football Games

1 10 2010
Flag Football Tips: How to Pull Flag Football Flags

Pulling Flags the Right Way

It doesn’t take playing too many seasons of flag football to be able to count up the wins earned and losses given away because of missed flag pulls. But with practice, your team can greatly improve its flag pulling ability and start winning more of those close games.

Practice. Many teams don’t practice at all, but those that do practice route running, catching, throwing, running live plays and occasionally the stray defensive set. But almost never do you see a team practice flag pulling, even though it s a crucial part of the game (that happens nearly every play).

Technique. Aside from practice, the defense needs to have good technique. Too many players stop running and swat at the flag, which is fluttering and flapping. The likelihood of grabbing a flag with the swat method is lower than by using many other techniques. What’s worse, if you swat at a flag and miss, you’ve probably lost your ability to make a play on the runner because he’s still moving full speed and you’ve stopped to swat. Instead, use these three techniques from the Ninja’s Ultimate Strategy Guide, to improve your game:

  1. First, don’t swat and don’t stop your feet. Keep up with the runner and instead of swatting across at the flag, with one hand rip down the runner’s body (assuming your league uses tear-away belts rather than velcro flags) and rip the belt off and with the other hand you can take a swipe at the flag.
  2. Second, slow the momentum of the runner.  Most leagues allow some contact without a penalty, so wrap up the runner completely for a split second and then in one motion rip the flag.  If your referees are especially sensitive to this kind of thing, just put your body in front of the runner.  It will make him stop his forward progress and make a cut.  The result is a much easier target and more success.
  3. Finally, get your team in the habit of pursuing the runner from anywhere on the field.  This is the best defense against pitches and will save you from missed flag debacles.  Swarm the ball!

Here’s a Good Drill:

Form a line of flag pullers about 10-12 yards off the line of scrimmage, centered on the field and facing the line like a defensive back. On the line, have three lines spread out (wide right receiver, wide left receiver and center). Coach/QB will release one receiver from the center, right or left position and throw a quick pass (to work on other mechanics). As soon as the ball is caught, the flag puller releases and pursues the receiver. One point for the offense if he misses the flag, one point for the defense if he pulls it.

The Ninja.

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Drills and Tips for a Successful Zone Defense – Flag Football Tips from the Ninja

18 09 2010

What drills can I run to help my defense with ZONE. I’m having a hard time showing and teaching them. This is my 1st time coaching defense.  Thanks in advance,
Coach Paul

“No feather can fly.  But a wing full of feathers soars.” -Further Musings of the Master

Coach Paul,

The first thing to realize is that there are two components to a successful zone defense: Scheme and Execution.  Drills and practice need to revolve around those two themes.

Scheme. The wrong zone defense will get beaten no matter how hard you practice or what drills you work on. Having a good scheme is vital.  Some league formats (like 4on4) make running a zone defense very difficult. But with enough players it’s just a matter of the plan and carrying it out.  If you have purchased a playbook from my dojo, you will have received the defensive handbook with plays and tips to success on defense.  Also see the recent post on a great 7on7 flag football defensive look.  The important piece of running a successful zone, is to be able to tailor it to the offense you’re playing.  Have a couple of different sets ready for different offensive looks.  An aspiring Michael Vick quarterback requires more linebacker support and maybe even a dedicated defender to spy the QB, whereas an immobile gunslinger with strong receivers demands more attention in the secondary.

How to Run a Zone Defense Right

Know your zone responsibilities, and stick to them.

I like a base cover 2 defense with two deep safeties, two cornerbacks a linebacker and two rushers with blitzes and rotations out of that format.  As some earlier posts mention, man-on-man defense is a good alternative if you have the athletes. Also experiment with a hybrid.

Execution. The second, and probably more important, aspect of a good zone defense is execution.  Brush up on some of the fundamentals from the Ultimate Strategy Guide that comes in our playbook packages like the backpedal, keeping your head on a swivel and maintaining proper field vision.   Work on breaking on a ball, swarming the receiver and reading the QB’s eyes.  But those pieces are peripheral to the core zone defense key: staying in the zone.  By far the biggest problem with zone defense comes from guys who are not used to playing disciplined, organized football abandoning their zone coverage responsibilities.  One or two flashes of sandlot glory and suddenly a cornerback who is supposed to cover the flat is flying across the field with a receiver, hoping for a pick.  DEFENSE HAS TO STAY IN THE ZONE.  Work on fundamentals, work on vision, definitely work on swarming the football, but if you want to practice for a zone, practice staying in your spot.  Have a skeleton defense line up in the zone coverage.  Consider arranging a point scheme for receptions and touchdowns (to get the defense trying to win), and then start sending receivers through the zones.  Double up receivers in a zone.  Try to run routes that will pull the defenders out of position. If a defender blows coverage, pull him out, replace him and have him stand and watch the defense from the offensive side of the ball (not running a route, just watching). This will give perspective on what it looks like as a QB when zone coverage fails.  Also, emphasize communication.  When a receiver cuts across the field, he likely goes in and out of 2 or 3 zones.  If the defenders are communicating what’s happening, this fosters the cohesive defensive front, and will improve your team.

The key is to think about the zone from an offensive perspective.  Any good offense that’s targeting the zone will do what they can to exploit the zone.  Pull a defender out of his spot and hit another receiver in the hole.  A good quarterback knows which routes split a zone defender and where to look for an opening.

You don’t need a long list of specific drills to improve your zone coverage. You need a good foundation and scheme, and then you need to work on execution.  Yes, fundamentals play a big part, but the zone defense is only as good as the players executing it.  Each defender has to trust and rely on the guy next to him to pick up the receiver that crosses from one zone to another.

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How to Improve Your Offense with a Solid Defense – Flag Football Tips From the Ninja

14 09 2010

Dear Ninja,
I have a 7 on 7 touch football team and we do not have a defense in place.  Our offense is not that strong and I think that having a stronger defense might help win games. What would be the best defense to IMPLEMENT?  I have thought of putting the CB’s in man coverage and the rest of the team in zone. This is my first season as manager and I am USUALLY an offensive guy and no one to help with defense.  Thanks!
                                                                                                                                                             Sincerely,
                                                                                                                                                             Anthony

“The best offense is a good defense.”

   – Very Original Saying Invented by the Ninja in his Wisdom

Anthony,

Your issue is a common problem in flag football.  The limited extra attention devoted to the team strategy is spent on offense, trick plays or updating stats.  But developing a consistent defensive scheme and flexible formations is key to taking your team to the next level.

A blend of man and zone defense can work great if you have the right personnel.  If the offense is showing a three receiver set, and if you have the athletes to man up on all three receivers, it gives you a lot of options to cover the dump off, run or scramble.  In that type of formation, lock down your corners and a safety an man coverage and use two rushers and two linebackers.  To give your team an edge, work on a blitz and rush scheme that mixes up the linemen and linebackers, occasionally sending three.  Be aware of leaking linemen (assuming they’re eligible) and a scrambling QB. 

7man Flag Football Defensive Scheme

Shadow Cover 3 Defense

Also consider what the Ninja calls “Shadow Cover 3” – A less aggressive true zone option with corners starting in the flats and drifting back into deep third coverage with a middle safety and two backers and two rushers. 

This is just a start to what you can do in a 7man league on defense.  If you haven’t already, visit my Dojo and pickup a 7man playbook. These all come with the Defensive Handbook and the Ultimate Strategy Guide which will propel you and your team to the next level.

“No mistakes. No mercy.”

                                -Ninja

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Playing to Win: Regular Season Battles in the Shadow of Playoffs

13 09 2010

QUESTION:

Hi. I play in a league with only 8 games per season (less with rainouts).  Our team has not played that much together, but we don’t want to take a lot of chances during regular season because losses might hurt our playoff seed. Should we take risks during the season or play defensively? Thanks     – Johnny

“Fear of the open road weakens both hand and head.”

                                                                                                           – Trileon’s  Adages for his Heirs

Johnny:

Playing “defensive football” all season is a surefire way to ensure mediocrity.  Particularly if you are a new team, you will have a very difficult time accessing the players’ true potential and tapping the pockets of talent in your team without taking risks and making mid-season changes as needed.  

 The two most important things to remember about playoffs are:

  1. If your team makes it to the playoffs, you’ll have to beat the best team to win the championship.
  2. If you don’t make it to the playoffs, you’ve already spent too much time thinking about it.  It’s time to re-tool and look to next season.  Your system doesn’t work.

The first question to ask is how likely is it that your team doesn’t make the playoffs.  Some leagues let all but the bottom one or two teams in the playoffs, but others only allow four teams.  Know your league rules before the season starts, but once you’ve got a general idea of where you need to be to qualify, ignore the playoffs for the first half of the season.  Sitting at the computer refreshing the standings screen multiple times a day is a mistake, and drilling into your teammates’ heads how crucial it is to win X games before you step onto the field is likely to have destructive consequences.  Play to win and play to improve, but don’t obsess over the win/loss count and where you stand in the rankings.  Your team will benefit much more by having worked out the kinks (through wins or losses) than it will from having so carefully tried to manage wins and losses (which may not work anyway) that half of the players could be adding more.   

That said, there may come a point with one or two regular season games left, where a win or a loss determines whether you advance to the playoffs. Play that game like it’s the championship game – nothing else matters that day except a W. 

 And as for the first issue, yes you may not have to play in the first round, and yes you might skip over having to play a strong second seed, but in the end, your team will win or not win the championship by virtue of being the best team out there.  Does it help to be the first seed? Of course,  but if you’re so focused on playoff berths that you’re afraid to experiment with a spread set of receivers or to try the guy who keeps reminding you he played QB in high school or to run man coverage with an extra blitzer, you missed out.

– NINJA

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Youth Coaching Tips

19 08 2010

This is my second year coaching a 9 yr old 4on4 flag football team and I need help. I’m looking for some basic or semi-advanced plays on offense and some defensive formations. We are allowed 1 rusher on defense. I’d also like some drills to run in practice to back up the above plays. Thanks. – Coach

Coach,
Thanks for the email.   The 4man package we offer provides 30 core passing and running plays that include both beginner schemes and more advanced plays.  The Base 10 supplements the Core 30 package with an additional core play set.   The feedback we have received from other coaches has been very positive.  Just remember, as you probably know it’s better to have 4-6 plays your guys know cold rather than 20 they can’t execute well.  Especially for youth teams, fundamentals and simplicity are king.
Included in all purchases from our site are the Ultimate Strategy Guide.  This should give you a leg up in some of the basic skill sets and coaching techniques to propel your team to the next level.  As for defensive schemes, with 4man football, you options are limited.  Check out our blog post that discusses this in more detail.
Also, you are about 30 days too early, but we are in the process of ramping up for the launch of our youth site, which will include coaching tips, drills, plays, strategy and more.  Go ahead and purchase one of our products, and the Ninja will send you some drills and practice ideas for your team.
Best of luck Coach.
Ninja

Coach,Thanks for the email.   The 4man package we offer provides 30 core passing and running plays that include both beginner schemes and more advanced plays.  The Base 10 supplements the Core 30 package with an additional core play set.   The feedback we have received from other coaches has been very positive.  Just remember, as you probably know it’s better to have 4-6 plays your guys know cold rather than 20 they can’t execute well.  Especially for youth teams, fundamentals and simplicity are king.
Included in all purchases from our site are the Ultimate Strategy Guide.  This should give you a leg up in some of the basic skill sets and coaching techniques to propel your team to the next level.  As for defensive schemes, with 4man football, you options are limited.  Check out our blog post that discusses this in more detail.
Also, you are about 30 days too early, but we are in the process of ramping up for the launch of our youth site, which will include coaching tips, drills, plays, strategy and more.  Go ahead and purchase one of our products, and the Ninja will send you some drills and practice ideas for your team.
Best of luck Coach.
Ninja





How to Beat the Zone, Man Defense in 4man, 5man, 6man or 7man Flag Football

14 08 2010

What’s up man.  I purchased your 7-on-7 option playbook online and it is some great stuff.  Most of the plays are drawn up against what you call a “Rhino Base 2” I was wondering. what do you do if they line up differently in a different defensive look? If you could give me a response when you get a chance. Thanks.                            -Zeke A.

“It is not where the blade begins, but the arc of the slice and where it comes to rest that matters.”

“Tora – Master Swordhandler”

Zeke,

Thank you for your purchase of the Poison Dart Passing playbook from my Dojo.  You have already taken steps on the path to victory. All of the plays in the playbooks are shown against a shell defense, but do not be fooled by the simplicity.

Most of the plays can be run against a zone defense or a man defense.   That is, they are designed to find holes in a zone defense, but can be extremely effective against a man set as well.  The main differences between running against a man defense and running against a zone defense will be the way the routes are run.  Against a man defense, routes should be sharper and timing more precise.  An out pattern should show no hint of a cut until it’s too late and the receiver has made his move.  Against a zone defense, however, the receiver has a little more freedom to make the cut sooner or later, to round it or cut it hard, depending on the position of the zone defenders.  For example: if you are a receiver running a shallow flag route (straight, then a cut 45 degrees to the outside), if it looks like the deep safety is sucking up to jump the out route in front of you, cut a little later and a little deeper to get behind the safety.

Success against a (good) man defense will hinge on your QB’s ability and how you’re your timing is.  Practice is key to getting timing down. Otherwise you only hit your stride by the end of the season. In flag football, particularly with smaller teams (4man, 5man, 6man – even 7 man), it is very hard to play shut-down man defense against a good well-practiced team.  If every defender is a superior athlete than the receivers, this can happen, but good sharp patterns and well timed throws can pick apart almost any man defense.

Spend a little time with the Ultimate Strategy Guide that came with you playbook purchase.  Also, to really open up your options, consider upgrading to the Ninja package with 100 plays of all types.

The Ninja.

No Mistakes, No Mercy.


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