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.

Flag Football Answers for Flag Football Questions

Got Questions? Ask the Ninja.

Advertisements