Breakdown: Saints Pressure Defense (1 Viewer)

TCUDan

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Hey guys, sorry it's been a few weeks. Like I said I was officiating my brother's wedding, and this week I just got a new HC job so there was a lot going on with personnel decisions, hiring staff and media obligations. But I have been wanting to do this breakdown for a few weeks now, so I hope everyone enjoys it.

Before I get started, the only thought I want to immediately share on the last (2) games is that Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is a beast. He is playing like a high-level starter, and out of nowhere. I have been really impressed with him and can't see PJ Williams getting that nickel spot back. But I'll save the rest of my takeaways for a different thread.


Saints Pressure Defense
The Saints' defense has been lights-out this season and is a huge reason why the Saints have won the last 6 games including those without 2 of the best players in the NFL (Brees and Kamara) on offense. And while the defense as a whole has really progressed and improved each and every week, what I really love is what they are doing in pressure situations with their "amoeba" front.

**Full disclosure: I have been using the same pressure principles in my defensive system for the last 3 years** I refer to the variations as either Banshee or Psycho depending on what I am asking my guys to do up front alignment-wise. Because I don't like the term "amoeba front" I will just refer to it as "Banshee" for the rest of this breakdown.

What is the Banshee Front and Why does it work?

One of the most important lessons I learned as a Defensive Coordinator is to stop overthinking matchups. Of course you have to account for and develop a plan for the playmakers of an opposing offense, but the truth is that it all starts with protections. If the offensive line cannot effectively protect the QB then nobody else matters. This is where the Banshee front comes in. It attacks not just the physical play of the offensive line like a favorable matchup would (a speed rusher vs. a lumbering tackle, for example). What it also does is attack their assignments.

A lot of rules go into playing offensive line. Aside from the schematics in which most pass protections fall into either some form of zone/slide protection or man/big-on-big, there is also a lot of technique that goes into pass blocking based on things like alignment and movement of the defensive front.

By standing up everyone (or almost everyone) on the front, you are simply breaking the first rule of pass pro: "Who has their hand on the ground?" This is used to narrow down the threats in a passing situation. For backs, it does the same thing. Most backs are responsible for blitz pickup, but with everyone standing up, it becomes very difficult to define "blitzers."

Banshee fronts are also one of the most effective methods for neutralizing a scrambling QB. This is because QB's can typically anticipate where their passing windows and escape lanes will develop based on their protection vs. a specific front. Banshee does away with that.

For a defense, it allows you to more effectively disguise who is rushing and who is dropping off into coverage, as well as move into overload pressures where you can slant, twist, and attack specific protections. In the first clip, I show an example of a basic Banshee zone fire from my own defense with my former team in Brazil.


The second clip is from the 2018 Championship game here in Europe. It shows how we used Banshee to create some very simple overload pressures (based on pretty in-depth scouting of the team's protections) to put the RB in a 2 vs. 1 matchup. We were able to consistently defeat 6 blockers with 5 rushers and also neutralize a scrambling QB who gave us a lot of trouble with his legs during our regular season meeting.

The beauty of Banshee is that it is extremely simple and effective. And while it is not necessarily a new defense, it is still considered unorthodox and underutilized at all levels of football.

Here are some of examples of the Saints using this same defensive pressure structure:

This begins as a 5 man pressure and becomes a 4 man pressure with Vonn Bell peeling onto the RB in the flat. But it is the double edge look with Bell and Davenport to the boundary that leads to the first win, where Davenport successful crosses the face of the LT who is fanning out to block Bell. The LG posts inside to protect against the nose slanting, creating space for Davenport to penetrate. He misses the tackle on Minshew, but he pocket and escape lanes have already collapsed. This doesn't only affect the QB, but it also affects the OL as they cannot anticipate where their QB is going to scramble. PJ Williams uses second effort to recover and chase Minshew down, causing a sack-fumble.

Here you have a 4-man pressure vs. the Bucs, and as I alluded to above, the pressure is able to exploit the RB. Because a blitzer cannot easily be identified, the RB becomes matched up on a DL with a full head of steam (the tight angle was freezing up so I don't have his number). The Bucs RB doesn't have a chance in this matchup, gets steamrolled, and the Saints finish with the sack.

Here you have a 5-man pressure and you will see Davenport loop from the outside on an A-gap spike. Davis stems an inside blitz as Cam Jordan slants underneath, collapsing the tackle and creating a short edge for Davis to loop back around (which he is actually a little bit late doing). The escape lanes collapse and Winston is forced to scramble to his right, where an unblocked Davis chases his to the sideline, nearly forcing an interception.

Here you have another 5-man pressure/zone fire vs. the Bucs. The Edge blitzer to the boundary does a great job of disguising by staying lined up on the slot WR until the snap, but it is the field blitzer who collapses the edge and forces the sack. He is able to do this because, again, the protection assignments are not clear. Because of the covered inside gaps, the RB must read inside to outside. He steps to pickup any inside blitzer (a difficult task since the blitzers are hard to define) and is late to pick up the edge pressure coming from the field. Winston steps up, but Davenport does a great job slanting underneath and the escape lanes have been collapsed. The result is a sack/fumble for the Saints.

Since I have begun designing banshee pressures into my defense defense, I have given 3 clinics on it and will be giving another one at a coaching convention in Germany this weekend. I am always amazed at how hesitant coaches are to commit to it and not only install in on their teams, but to implement it into their gameplans. I understand the arguments against it in terms of gap soundness and the perceived "lack of discipline"... but at least for the Saints, the use of a "banshee" pressure system has easily been one of the biggest defensive payoffs of the season thus far. Expect to see more pressure variations by Dennis Allen, and for the Saints to continue to implement it quite heavily throughout the regular season and into the playoffs.

You also now have something to keep an eye out for on 3rd down :).
 
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JvilleJoe

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Dan, thanks much my friend for expanding my football knowledge. After reading your tutorial I think it will be interesting to watch our defense utilize the Banchee front and how they impact the OL and RB blockers! Great post as always.
 
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TCUDan

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Dan... Congrats on the new HC job! :9: As the season nears please update us on how we can follow.

Excellent breakdown! Thanks for posting it!
Thanks Andrus. Best way to follow is through social media.

Me:

New Team:
(I only signed so I could finally have a fleur-de-lis on my chest)

The season is in the spring (March - July) and the games are broadcast internationally via livestream. Equal chance of the links being posted on either of those pages.
 

Andrus

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Thanks Andrus. Best way to follow is through social media.

Me:

New Team:
(I only signed so I could finally have a fleur-de-lis on my chest)

The season is in the spring (March - July) and the games are broadcast internationally via livestream. Equal chance of the links being posted on either of those pages.
Bookmarked! :9:
 

football

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For me, just watching our defense has been one of the most exciting thing about this year. Defensive line plays have been excellent. It doesn't matter who is substitute in, there will be guys who are capable of rushing and putting pressure on the quarterback. Therefore the possibility of a big defense play continue on every play.

Communication has greatly improved. The unpredictability of the defense has made opposing offense confused. Everyone on that defense knows what each and everyone is doing. Offenses don't know who is coming or going.
 

Swampy Saint

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Hey guys, sorry it's been a few weeks. Like I said I was officiating my brother's wedding, and this week I just got a new HC job so there was a lot going on with personnel decisions, hiring staff and media obligations. But I have been wanting to do this breakdown for a few weeks now, so I hope everyone enjoys it.

Before I get started, the only thought I want to immediately share on the last (2) games is that Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is a beast. He is playing like a high-level starter, and out of nowhere. I have been really impressed with him and can't see PJ Williams getting that nickel spot back. But I'll save the rest of my takeaways for a different thread.


Saints Pressure Defense
The Saints' defense has been lights-out this season and is a huge reason why the Saints have won the last 6 games including those without 2 of the best players in the NFL (Brees and Kamara) on offense. And while the defense as a whole has really progressed and improved each and every week, what I really love is what they are doing in pressure situations with their "amoeba" front.

**Full disclosure: I have been using the same pressure principles in my defensive system for the last 3 years** I refer to the variations as either Banshee or Psycho depending on what I am asking my guys to do up front alignment-wise. Because I don't like the term "amoeba front" I will just refer to it as "Banshee" for the rest of this breakdown.

What is the Banshee Front and Why does it work?

One of the most important lessons I learned as a Defensive Coordinator is to stop overthinking matchups. Of course you have to account for and develop a plan for the playmakers of an opposing offense, but the truth is that it all starts with protections. If the offensive line cannot effectively protect the QB then nobody else matters. This is where the Banshee front comes in. It attacks not just the physical play of the offensive line like a favorable matchup would (a speed rusher vs. a lumbering tackle, for example). What it also does is attack their assignments.

A lot of rules go into playing offensive line. Aside from the schematics in which most pass protections fall into either some form of zone/slide protection or man/big-on-big, there is also a lot of technique that goes into pass blocking based on things like alignment and movement of the defensive front.

By standing up everyone (or almost everyone) on the front, you are simply breaking the first rule of pass pro: "Who has their hand on the ground?" This is used to narrow down the threats in a passing situation. For backs, it does the same thing. Most backs are responsible for blitz pickup, but with everyone standing up, it becomes very difficult to define "blitzers."

Banshee fronts are also one of the most effective methods for neutralizing a scrambling QB. This is because QB's can typically anticipate where their passing windows and escape lanes will develop based on their protection vs. a specific front. Banshee does away with that.

For a defense, it allows you to more effectively disguise who is rushing and who is dropping off into coverage, as well as move into overload pressures where you can slant, twist, and attack specific protections. In the first clip, I show an example of a basic Banshee zone fire from my own defense with my former team in Brazil.


The second clip is from the 2018 Championship game here in Europe. It shows how we used Banshee to create some very simple overload pressures (based on pretty in-depth scouting of the team's protections) to put the RB in a 2 vs. 1 matchup. We were able to consistently defeat 6 blockers with 5 rushers and also neutralize a scrambling QB who gave us a lot of trouble with his legs during our regular season meeting.

The beauty of Banshee is that it is extremely simple and effective. And while it is not necessarily a new defense, it is still considered unorthodox and underutilized at all levels of football.

Here are some of examples of the Saints using this same defensive pressure structure:

This begins as a 5 man pressure and becomes a 4 man pressure with Vonn Bell peeling onto the RB in the flat. But it is the double edge look with Bell and Davenport to the boundary that leads to the first win, where Davenport successful crosses the face of the LT who is fanning out to block Bell. The LG posts inside to protect against the nose slanting, creating space for Davenport to penetrate. He misses the tackle on Minshew, but he pocket and escape lanes have already collapsed. This doesn't only affect the QB, but it also affects the OL as they cannot anticipate where their QB is going to scramble. PJ Williams uses second effort to recover and chase Minshew down, causing a sack-fumble.

Here you have a 4-man pressure vs. the Bucs, and as I alluded to above, the pressure is able to exploit the RB. Because a blitzer cannot easily be identified, the RB becomes matched up on a DL with a full head of steam (the tight angle was freezing up so I don't have his number). The Bucs RB doesn't have a chance in this matchup, gets steamrolled, and the Saints finish with the sack.

Here you have a 5-man pressure and you will see Davenport loop from the outside on an A-gap spike. Davis stems an inside blitz as Cam Jordan slants underneath, collapsing the tackle and creating a short edge for Davis to loop back around (which he is actually a little bit late doing). The escape lanes collapse and Winston is forced to scramble to his right, where an unblocked Davis chases his to the sideline, nearly forcing an interception.

Here you have another 5-man pressure/zone fire vs. the Bucs. The Edge blitzer to the boundary does a great job of disguising by staying lined up on the slot WR until the snap, but it is the field blitzer who collapses the edge and forces the sack. He is able to do this because, again, the protection assignments are not clear. Because of the covered inside gaps, the RB must read inside to outside. He steps to pickup any inside blitzer (a difficult task since the blitzers are hard to define) and is late to pick up the edge pressure coming from the field. Winston steps up, but Davenport does a great job slanting underneath and the escape lanes have been collapsed. The result is a sack/fumble for the Saints.

Since I have begun designing banshee pressures into my defense defense, I have given 3 clinics on it and will be giving another one at a coaching convention in Germany this weekend. I am always amazed at how hesitant coaches are to commit to it and not only install in on their teams, but to implement it into their gameplans. I understand the arguments against it in terms of gap soundness and the perceived "lack of discipline"... but at least for the Saints, the use of a "banshee" pressure system has easily been one of the biggest defensive payoffs of the season thus far. Expect to see more pressure variations by Dennis Allen, and for the Saints to continue to implement it quite heavily throughout the regular season and into the playoffs.

You also now have something to keep an eye out for on 3rd down :).
congrats
 

Saint_Ward

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Hey guys, sorry it's been a few weeks. Like I said I was officiating my brother's wedding, and this week I just got a new HC job so there was a lot going on with personnel decisions, hiring staff and media obligations. But I have been wanting to do this breakdown for a few weeks now, so I hope everyone enjoys it.

Before I get started, the only thought I want to immediately share on the last (2) games is that Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is a beast. He is playing like a high-level starter, and out of nowhere. I have been really impressed with him and can't see PJ Williams getting that nickel spot back. But I'll save the rest of my takeaways for a different thread.


Saints Pressure Defense
The Saints' defense has been lights-out this season and is a huge reason why the Saints have won the last 6 games including those without 2 of the best players in the NFL (Brees and Kamara) on offense. And while the defense as a whole has really progressed and improved each and every week, what I really love is what they are doing in pressure situations with their "amoeba" front.

**Full disclosure: I have been using the same pressure principles in my defensive system for the last 3 years** I refer to the variations as either Banshee or Psycho depending on what I am asking my guys to do up front alignment-wise. Because I don't like the term "amoeba front" I will just refer to it as "Banshee" for the rest of this breakdown.

What is the Banshee Front and Why does it work?

One of the most important lessons I learned as a Defensive Coordinator is to stop overthinking matchups. Of course you have to account for and develop a plan for the playmakers of an opposing offense, but the truth is that it all starts with protections. If the offensive line cannot effectively protect the QB then nobody else matters. This is where the Banshee front comes in. It attacks not just the physical play of the offensive line like a favorable matchup would (a speed rusher vs. a lumbering tackle, for example). What it also does is attack their assignments.

A lot of rules go into playing offensive line. Aside from the schematics in which most pass protections fall into either some form of zone/slide protection or man/big-on-big, there is also a lot of technique that goes into pass blocking based on things like alignment and movement of the defensive front.

By standing up everyone (or almost everyone) on the front, you are simply breaking the first rule of pass pro: "Who has their hand on the ground?" This is used to narrow down the threats in a passing situation. For backs, it does the same thing. Most backs are responsible for blitz pickup, but with everyone standing up, it becomes very difficult to define "blitzers."

Banshee fronts are also one of the most effective methods for neutralizing a scrambling QB. This is because QB's can typically anticipate where their passing windows and escape lanes will develop based on their protection vs. a specific front. Banshee does away with that.

For a defense, it allows you to more effectively disguise who is rushing and who is dropping off into coverage, as well as move into overload pressures where you can slant, twist, and attack specific protections. In the first clip, I show an example of a basic Banshee zone fire from my own defense with my former team in Brazil.


The second clip is from the 2018 Championship game here in Europe. It shows how we used Banshee to create some very simple overload pressures (based on pretty in-depth scouting of the team's protections) to put the RB in a 2 vs. 1 matchup. We were able to consistently defeat 6 blockers with 5 rushers and also neutralize a scrambling QB who gave us a lot of trouble with his legs during our regular season meeting.

The beauty of Banshee is that it is extremely simple and effective. And while it is not necessarily a new defense, it is still considered unorthodox and underutilized at all levels of football.

Here are some of examples of the Saints using this same defensive pressure structure:

This begins as a 5 man pressure and becomes a 4 man pressure with Vonn Bell peeling onto the RB in the flat. But it is the double edge look with Bell and Davenport to the boundary that leads to the first win, where Davenport successful crosses the face of the LT who is fanning out to block Bell. The LG posts inside to protect against the nose slanting, creating space for Davenport to penetrate. He misses the tackle on Minshew, but he pocket and escape lanes have already collapsed. This doesn't only affect the QB, but it also affects the OL as they cannot anticipate where their QB is going to scramble. PJ Williams uses second effort to recover and chase Minshew down, causing a sack-fumble.

Here you have a 4-man pressure vs. the Bucs, and as I alluded to above, the pressure is able to exploit the RB. Because a blitzer cannot easily be identified, the RB becomes matched up on a DL with a full head of steam (the tight angle was freezing up so I don't have his number). The Bucs RB doesn't have a chance in this matchup, gets steamrolled, and the Saints finish with the sack.

Here you have a 5-man pressure and you will see Davenport loop from the outside on an A-gap spike. Davis stems an inside blitz as Cam Jordan slants underneath, collapsing the tackle and creating a short edge for Davis to loop back around (which he is actually a little bit late doing). The escape lanes collapse and Winston is forced to scramble to his right, where an unblocked Davis chases his to the sideline, nearly forcing an interception.

Here you have another 5-man pressure/zone fire vs. the Bucs. The Edge blitzer to the boundary does a great job of disguising by staying lined up on the slot WR until the snap, but it is the field blitzer who collapses the edge and forces the sack. He is able to do this because, again, the protection assignments are not clear. Because of the covered inside gaps, the RB must read inside to outside. He steps to pickup any inside blitzer (a difficult task since the blitzers are hard to define) and is late to pick up the edge pressure coming from the field. Winston steps up, but Davenport does a great job slanting underneath and the escape lanes have been collapsed. The result is a sack/fumble for the Saints.

Since I have begun designing banshee pressures into my defense defense, I have given 3 clinics on it and will be giving another one at a coaching convention in Germany this weekend. I am always amazed at how hesitant coaches are to commit to it and not only install in on their teams, but to implement it into their gameplans. I understand the arguments against it in terms of gap soundness and the perceived "lack of discipline"... but at least for the Saints, the use of a "banshee" pressure system has easily been one of the biggest defensive payoffs of the season thus far. Expect to see more pressure variations by Dennis Allen, and for the Saints to continue to implement it quite heavily throughout the regular season and into the playoffs.

You also now have something to keep an eye out for on 3rd down :).
Since you brought it up at the end there, clearly this is a great pass rush technique. How does it fare against the run? Seems like anything up the gut may be a mistake, since it seems like often, the pass rush is crashing the inside. But, it depends on where the blitz is coming from. Can this defense be exploited by certain run calls? I'd imagine some of the blocking assignments would still be difficult. But an OL coming out to meet the def, vs waiting for the Def is probably better for them.
 
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TCUDan

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Since you brought it up at the end there, clearly this is a great pass rush technique. How does it fare against the run? Seems like anything up the gut may be a mistake, since it seems like often, the pass rush is crashing the inside. But, it depends on where the blitz is coming from. Can this defense be exploited by certain run calls? I'd imagine some of the blocking assignments would still be difficult. But an OL coming out to meet the def, vs waiting for the Def is probably better for them.
That is definitely the conventional thinking, which is why the Saints mostly use it in passing situations. The main liability is that on those zone fires you have defenders dropping into coverage at the snap because they are aligned at the line of scrimmage and have to gain depth immediately. This means that they are not making any run keys (vs. a LB being at 5 yards depth and being in position to make a flat footed read before committing downhill to the run or getting into his pass drop). So a zone or gap run could definitely exploit the defense.

That being said, calling a run play on a 3rd and long may get you 5-8 quick yards, but it is unlikely to convert a first down in a passing situation. A draw play is usually the answer when a team is playing coverage, but draw concepts would struggle to effectively block this front due to the alignment presnap and movement post-snap. It also makes screen plays difficult because, again, it is hard for the offensive line to anticipate where the pressure is coming from.

But like I said, this is the conventional thinking. I have actually schemed short yardage defenses out of a Banshee front due to the high probability of penetration. It is kind of what I call a "football hack." At the NFL level, though, you do have much more athletic offensive linemen than any other level of football. So it does limit the use of it more to passing situations.
 
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TCUDan

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That is definitely the conventional thinking, which is why the Saints mostly use it in passing situations. The main liability is that on those zone fires you have defenders dropping into coverage at the snap because they are aligned at the line of scrimmage and have to gain depth immediately. This means that they are not making any run keys (vs. a LB being at 5 yards depth and being in position to make a flat footed read before committing downhill to the run or getting into his pass drop). So a zone or gap run could definitely exploit the defense.

That being said, calling a run play on a 3rd and long may get you 5-8 quick yards, but it is unlikely to convert a first down in a passing situation. A draw play is usually the answer when a team is playing coverage, but draw concepts would struggle to effectively block this front due to the alignment presnap and movement post-snap. It also makes screen plays difficult because, again, it is hard for the offensive line to anticipate where the pressure is coming from.

But like I said, this is the conventional thinking. I have actually schemed short yardage defenses out of a Banshee front due to the high probability of penetration. It is kind of what I call a "football hack." At the NFL level, though, you do have much more athletic offensive linemen than any other level of football. So it does limit the use of it more to passing situations.
Regarding what I was saying about screen plays, this is from the league opener last year. We are running a very basic man pressure out of Banshee on 3rd down, and our opponent tried to counter it with a screen pass. As you can see, it will often bait QB's into attempting screen passes that aren't there.


I actually spent the entire practice week working on the pitch-peel key with the LB (#45) and he kept screwing it up. Good thing he got it right in the game.
 

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