End-of-Year Defensive Scheme Evaluation

By Robert Pomazak | Posted 1/24/2020

The helmets are hung on the racks with care, and the time to evaluate your defense will soon be here. As all coaches know, there is no offseason in the game of high school football. The games may have ended, but now there is a cache of film that holds the key to your teams improvement for the next season. At the beginning of a season you have an idea of what you want to do, how you want to do it and the expectations of what will happen if it is done well. At the end of season, you have the reality of what actually happened. In the next two articles, we are going to look at how you can reflect, evaluate and improve your defense for the next season. The first article will focus on defensive scheme, a deep look into the X’s and O’s of defensive execution. The second article will shift our focus into the technical and tactical aspects of defensive game planning.

  1. Interrogate Your Defense


Like a suspect under interrogation lights, we must ask the tough questions about our defensive philosophy – play calling, skill development and game day performance. At St. Charles North, some of the common questions we ask are:

  • Does what we called mirror our practice scripts?
  • Did we run what we practiced?
  • Does what we called mirror our installation schedule?
  • Does our investment of practice time correspond with our usage of each call?
  • What changes need to be made to the playbook based on what we called during the season?
  • What do we need to emphasize, de-emphasize or change in our teaching model to account for what we did on the field?


The only way to find the answers to these questions is to take the time to uncover the fine details of the season and then put the pieces together in a systematic and effective report.

  1. Systematizing the Evaluation


At St. Charles North, we have created a systematic approach to our defensive evaluation. Each aspect of the defense is broken into key categories. Workload is then dispersed among the staff so that each coach can become an expert in that defensive area. It has helped to give coaches areas of the evaluation that are similar to their weekly game planning and positional duties. The categories that we will evaluate are listed below.

Defensive Scheme Evaluation


Technical & Tactical Evaluation


This comprehensive process will provide our staff great information, data and access points to begin to formulate our offseason, preseason and in-season practice and game planning philosophies.



In this portion of our self-evaluation, we review the games of each team we played against. An extensive review of the game plan is compared to the actual schemes ran in the game. Personnel groupings, formations and offensive game plan execution are highlighted and then compared to what we initially prepared for.

Key questions:

  1. Was our game plan accurate?
  2. What aspects were well-prepared for?
  3. What did the opponent do that we were not prepared for?
  4. Where did we succeed in our execution and where did we miss the mark?




IV. Front Analysis

We are a multiple front defense, so it is valuable for us to look at each front and evaluate their overall effectiveness. We utilize a simple to complex progression. First, finding out which fronts were used at the highest frequency and then analyzing the success rate of each based off a variety of variables. At the end of the day we want to compare our perceived expectations of each front to what actually transpired and ascertain if there were any accompanying tendencies associated with them.

Key Questions:

  1. How effective was each call (average yards allowed, TDs, TFL, etc.)?
  2. What percent of time was each used?
  3. Does the front usage reflect our philosophy?
  4. Does what we called mirror our practice scripts? Did we run what we practiced?
  5. Does our investment of practice time correspond with the usage of each call?



V. Blitz Evaluation

When evaluating our blitz packages, we use much of the same guided questions to direct our study. Always going from broad strokes to more finite details. Blitz tendency, frequency and effectiveness data allow us to determine which schemes will be developed and possibly what areas of growth we must explore in order to make our blitz game more effective. Cut ups will be made of each blitz but with a particular focus on creating teach tapes. These tapes will be turned into screencastify and then utilized throughout the offseason and regular season.


VI. Coverage Evaluation

The coverage evaluation is done in a similar manner to the front and blitz evaluation. General identification is filtered into more specific categories. Frequency of use, down and field tendencies are all charted. However, more important is the ability to identify specific strengths or weaknesses within each coverage – what plays, personnel packages or formations caused issues. We will use the information yielded from the study to help in creating the defensive package for the upcoming season.

  1. How effective was each call (average yards allowed, TDs, TFL, etc.)?
  2. What percentage of time was each used?
  3. Does the coverage usage reflect our philosophy?
  4. Does what we called mirror our practice scripts? Did we run what we practiced?
  5. Does our investment of practice time correspond with the usage of each call?



VI. Run & Pass Analysis

The run and pass game evaluation begins to look at specific schemes and the success, or lack of success, each had against the defense, regardless of front, coverage and blitz. Quantifiable data is used to isolate specific schemes to take a deeper look into each. A key indicator that we look for is explosive plays. These plays are highlighted to search for common themes in breakdown. Inevitably, the information is used to strengthen the scheme for the upcoming years. Often a single game will not tell the whole story. When looking at all plays of a particular scheme, you can begin to connect the dots as to why you either had or did not have success against that scheme.




The down and distance report begins to move away from specific fronts, coverages and blitzes. Instead we evaluate win percentage of each down. To determine “wins” and “losses,” we use the following criteria. The goal is to always get an offense off schedule and working behind the sticks. Realistically, that will not always happen. The ability to get a game-by-game down report as well as a complete season data break is extremely valuable in correlating winning and losing in my opinion.

First Down - Gain of 5 yards or more

Second Down- Gain half of what is needed

Third Down - Did they get the first down?

Fourth - Convert fourth down attempt


These criteria are the same that we will use during our stress test practices with our players. These metrics are explained to our players and staff as the standard. Simply put, we want to win each down. If we do not or when we do not win, it is important to evaluate why we lost. Looking at individual plays will never tell the whole story but when down losses are stacked up, the picture becomes clearer. Again, the information yielded from the data breakdown will influence scheme development for both the summer and season installations.

VIII. Red zone, two-minute, middle-eight evaluations 

Ultimately all defenses must face a team in the red zone or two-minute situation when their back is against the wall, and the ability or inability to execute can be the difference between a win or a loss. At St. Charles North, we talk about having a bend but don’t break attitude. Success in these situations is often based on the understanding of a game plan and execution of scheme under pressure. This portion of the evaluation is similar to the others, but we also take into account the pressure of the moments. It is important to do a subjective evaluation of our ability to execute under pressure.

Recently, we have added the middle-eight evaluation. This is taking an extensive look at how our defense executes during the last four minutes of the half and the first four minutes of the second half. Games are won and lost during this time. At the end of the first half an offense has had time to make their adjustments, and we want to look at how they have chosen to attack the defense now that the game is into its flow. The opening four minutes of the second half is a great opportunity for us to evaluate our players’ ability to execute directives after adjustments have been made. During the halftime meetings we will note our adjustments and use those notes during the game review of this section. The goal of this exercise is not to pinpoint our players’ inability to perform but to better analyze our coaching staffs’ ability to communicate directives effectively.


IX. Conclusion

As I stated earlier, this is one of two articles that go into great detail about the defensive scheme analysis that we do at St. Charles North. In the coming weeks, I will dive into the technical and tactical evaluations that occurs during the postseason. While laborious and pain staking at times, the ability to have quantifiable data to support your decision-making moving into the coming year is invaluable. Often, what we remember and what actually happens are not the same. Taking away the emotion of game and strictly looking at the analytics will also make you a better coach. It affords you the opportunity to learn from your successes and mistakes. We are all creatures of habit and comfort. Like it or not we are tendency based. The data derived from this work will be bound and given to our staff. We meet bi-monthly from February to May to dissect each topic. The discussion that ensues is the catalyst to the change that needs to occur in order to improve each year.