NY Giants “Super Strategies” For Pressuring QBs, Stopping The Spread

June 25, 2012 1 Comment

At every level of football, offenses are spreading the field and passing for record numbers in terms of both yardage and points. With increasing regularity, offensive coordinators are dictating tempo, rhythm and the pace of games, while defenses seemingly struggle to adapt and keep up.

In the NFL, while it might not technically be the same type of “spread offense” as seen in college or high school, in many ways, defending the pass may be even more difficult in the professional ranks due to rule changes that have tipped the scales of balance in favor of the game’s passing offenses.

Editor’s Note: This article is a continuation of an in-depth coaching profile on Tom Coughlin from an exclusive article called “Championship Convictions” that was featured in the July/Aug 2012 issue of This Is AFCA Magazine (pg 26-31).

These powerful NFL offenses – led  by supremely talented QBs such as Tom Brady in New England, Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay and Drew Brees in New Orleans – have littered the record books with huge passing numbers, gaudy seasonal records and world championships.

While these air attacks have kept most of the league’s defensive coordinators awake with schematic insomnia, Tom Coughlin and the New York Giants remain unfazed at the prospect of facing a spread-type offense. Coughlin’s Giants, with their post-season triumphs over the Green Bay’s and New England’s of the world, have provided defensive coaches with a beacon of hope that all is not lost on the gridiron battlefield. So what is the 66-year old coach’s magic formula for defensive success? It has to be scheme, right?

Wrong. As with every other aspect of his coaching philosophy, Coughlin’s success against spread teams stems entirely from staying consistent to his core beliefs as a football coach. In this case, these time-tested tenets refer to generating relentless defensive pressure … primarily with his defensive line.

“As head coach, you have to have your team’s positional priorities – those things you feel are important – in place in order to have consistent success,” Coughlin says. “The New York Giants have built our defense around the defensive line and by establishing our defensive front as a force.

“You cannot leave your secondary hanging out to dry. A formidable defensive front is a real asset in trying to help your secondary against these extremely gifted, talented athletes who play the receiver position in today’s game.”


Adjust – Or Face “Death-By-QB”

To make matters worse for modern-day defensive coaches, is that offensive play-callers are not only spreading the field with increasing efficiency, but the offensive players are trained far better than ever before. Coughlin, for example, cites that today’s receivers are better athletically while still remaining technically sound. Furthermore, he adds that today’s QB are trained to be more efficient in the passing game than they have ever been in the past. To rein these offenses in, therefore, Coughlin says that it’s critical to make the QB uncomfortable as he drops back to throw.

“The quarterback position has evolved into such an incredibly accurate passing position that your coverage is only going to be a lot better if the opposing QB is worried about the rush,” says Coughlin. “You can force an opposing QB to become increasingly uncomfortable if you can get in his face on a consistent basis.

“If you can consistently get to the QB, sack the QB, pressure the QB or make him uncomfortable by moving him off his mark as he releases the ball, it will most likely decrease his efficiency and help your entire defense.”

By successfully disrupting the opposing QB with primarily just your defensive front, Coughlin says, you’re then also freed up to be more aggressive defensively elsewhere and allow your defensive coordinator further creativity with his pressure schemes, coverages and calls.

“It is a team concept that way, and in today’s game you absolutely can’t afford to let a QB stand back there, read his progression and go through them properly,” says Coughlin. “With time to operate, today’s QBs will absolutely pick your defense apart.”


Snake (From Okie Mug) Puts On The Pressure

The following illustrates some of the successful pressure schemes that the Giants have used during Coughlin’s championship run as New York’s head coach.

Snake (from Okie Mug alignments) is an overloaded strong-side zone dog that includes Nickel and Strong-Safety blitz from the strong-side. The nickel is aligned to strength and the Mike LB sets the blitz direction to the Nickel (Gold /Red Call). Once the blitz is set, nobody runs with motion. The defensive line aligns in the Okie Front and the Joker always aligns away from the Nickel.

Coverage is Ray/Lou to strength (the weak-side DE in Drop System). The Joker hot-drops to side of the Call (Gold /Red) and relates to the first on-the-line Receiver (threaten the weak-side A-Gap).

DIAGRAM A: Okie Snake Queens (20P, Gold, “Lou”)
Okie Snake Queens (20P, Gold, “Lou”)

DIAGRAM B: Okie Snake Kings (11P, Gold, “Lou”)

Okie Snake Kings (11P, Gold, “Lou”)

DIAGRAM C: Okie Snake Kings (11P, Red)
Okie Snake Kings (11P, Red)

DIAGRAM D: Okie Snake King (11P, Red, “Ray to Lou”)
Okie Snake King (11P, Red, “Ray to Lou”)


1) Vs. Twin (2×2) = Ray/Lou to blitz side.

2) WLB/Dime – Make “Hook”, “Flat” or “Hank” call to DE.
1 Rec = “Flat”
2 Rec = “Hook”
3 Rec = “Hank”

3) Motion to Empty – Execute Blitz and adjust coverage.

4) Vs. Aligned Empty – By Gameplan.


Player Responsibilities: (Also See Chart)

Strong-side CB plays force vs run and is in Ray/Lou call vs pass (feather the flat).

Strong-Side Safety plays B-gap (spills all blocks) in run responsibility and Blitzes B to A (inside all blocks) in pass.

Free Safety is secondary force vs run and plays the deep-half Ray/Lou call (alert pop pass).

Weak-Side CB plays secondary force vs run and 1/2-man (inside technique 8 to 10 yards deep) against pass.

Nickel plays B-gap (squeeze all blocks) vs run and blitzes outside B-gap against pass.

Mike LB plays strong-side A-gap (aligning on strong-side OG) vs run and defends A-to-opposite-A against pass (entertains OG).

Joker plays weak-side B-gap (aligning on weak-side OG) vs run and has varying route responsibilities vs receivers (depending on offensive formation).

Blitz-Side End plays C-gap (TE in location = D-gap) vs run and plays contain rush vs pass. Tackle plays B-gap vs run and B-gap-to-contain vs pass.

Away-Side End plays C-gap vs run and against pass defends flat call (play seam flat tech) or  hook call (vertical hook #2).

Player Responsibility Chart
Player Responsibility Chart


1. WLB / DI and Weak Corner – If Hook Call and #2 Weak is speed Rec. WLB adjust to Man on #1 and WC adjust to Man on speed Rec.

2. WLB / DI – If to 3 Rec. side – Hank Call and play Vertical Hook on #2.

3. Vs. 3 x 1 (Trips) – Or 2×1: WLB Push to #2 (Vertical Hook)

4. Joker always drops to Blitz side (#2 or #3 depending on #Recs weak).

5. C.O.S. motion – FS make new Ray /Lou call.

Special thanks to New York Giants defensive assistant Al Holcomb for his help with the Xs and Os of this excellent pressure scheme.

Mike Podoll is the editor-in-chief of Football Coach Daily and
This Is AFCA Magazine – the Official Publication of the American Football Coaches Association. This Is AFCA Magazine is published six times per year and is a member benefit of being an association member.

For Information on becoming a member of the American Football Coaches Association, visit the AFCA’s Website at:  AFCA.com


Pictured above is the July/August 2012 issue of THIS IS AFCA Magazine with Tom Coughlin on the cover.

Tom Coughlin, NY Giants PHOTOS by EVAN PINKUS


Tags: , , , , , , , , , Defense, Features, High School, Mike Podoll, News, Personnel, Professional
One Comments to “NY Giants “Super Strategies” For Pressuring QBs, Stopping The Spread”
  1. Denauld Brown says:

    Great article! How do you exclude the defense line and rush philosophy from the scheme and how it is organized?

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