It is an honor to contribute my first article to USA Football and I appreciate all that they do to serve the coaching community. I want to go in-depth and talk about some of the specific simulated pressures. A simulated pressure is a pressure that brings a non-traditional rusher (a LB or DB) in exchange for dropping a traditional rusher (DL). The great thing about sim pressures is that they are an “extra safe” pressure that do not require any additional rushers. This means they do not sacrifice coverage in pressuring offenses by getting to the QB and disrupting the run game.
Most coaches are now becoming familiar with the idea of simulated pressures, although they are not a new concept, as I discovered in my research featured in my last article, Origin of Simulated Pressures. I will talk about how to run these pressures from multiple fronts and from different pre-snap looks and bluffs to help coaches who are beginning to install sim pressures into their defensive package.
If sim pressures are not new, why are they just now becoming popular? Offenses are much better today than they were years ago. High school defensive coordinators used to be able to just blitz all their LBs, play Cover 0 and cause mayhem; but offenses were soon able to exploit these pressures and hurt defenses with big plays. Defenses knew they needed a safer way to bring pressure, so fire zones became the weapon of choice as defenses were able to bring five rushers and play zone coverage behind it.
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It has taken some time, but offenses and QBs today are now better trained to exploit fire zone pressures and are able to take advantage of the gaps in zone coverage due to defenses always being one man short in coverage. There is still a place for fire zones, but defenses realized that they would need to be able to pressure offenses and still play coverage with seven defenders. This is the benefit of simulated pressure concepts, which help to accomplish this by specifically attacking protections with a four-man rush.
The first sim pressure I will talk about is Fire 3. It is a simple yet very effective concept in bringing the SS off the edge player and dropping off the boundary DE/OLB hybrid player. It is a versatile concept that fits any scheme as it can be run out of different fronts and coverages. This pressure is generally run with Cover 3, but I have seen LSU run it playing Cover 1, Cover 2, Cover 2 Tampa, Cover 4 and Cover 6 (quarter, quarter, half).
1. Clemson - the first cut up is the pick-six by Clemson vs. Alabama in the first drive during last year’s national championship game. The pressure causes a quick throw without a read by the QB.
2. LSU – the OT points out the player who is blitzing, but the DE takes a step upfield first and distracts him, allowing the S to come free.
3. LSU - this gets into the coverage options that you have in Cover 3, which my good friend Brian Vaughn, a.k.a. Blitzology, explained to me recently. He described the basic rules of how he set up his defense and repeatedly said that you must “give your players the tools to be successful.”
The bottom of the screen is playing Cover 3 Rip/Liz rules, allowing the CB to press and be more aggressive on No. 1. The CB can disregard the No. 2 WR since the FS will carry the vertical of No. 2. To the top, it is “country” Cover 3, with the Will LB as the Curl/Flat player with JCF rules (jam No. 2 to curl to flat). Since the Will has a bad matchup vs. the vertical of No. 2, he has help with the CB playing midpoint technique and looking to help vs. the No. 2 WR. The FS is melting that way as well to help vs. the potential vertical of No. 2.
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The 2i DT does not work all the way outside. When he starts to work outside, the OT is wasted trying to block the DE, and the DT can still work outside to contain rush, although the OT comes back to help block him late. The DT should have continued working outside as the QB was still in the pocket.
4. Florida - the NT, No. 44, did a good job of running to daylight into the B-gap instead of staying in the A-gap and letting himself get blocked. The left DE, No. 95, could have done the same thing to help get to the QB.
Technically, this is not a sim pressure from a three-man front and only a four-man rush variation since the boundary OLB is not a traditional rusher, but I will still group it in the Sim Pressure family.
1. LSU – like I mentioned in my last article on sim pressures, these pressures cause a large amount of QB scrambles as their normal hot throws are not there, nor are there any holes in coverage like you would see from five-man fire zone pressures. The result is a sack.
2. Army – the edge player uses my favorite pass-rush move (chop, dip and rip) to get around the edge and make the strip sack.
3. Georgia – Drew Lock makes a nice throw on the back-shoulder fade but gets hit.
4. Iowa State – the Memphis QB makes a nice throw on the Glance RPO but those QB hits add up at the end of the day.
5 – Miami – here is a bluff look to the opposite side of the pressure to get the OL to slide that way, resulting in a QB scramble and incompletion. The short distance for the S to blitz makes this effective vs. trips like the previous three clips.
The Fire 3 sim pressure is easy to run and very effective. If you have questions, ask me on Twitter at @BarryHoover.
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