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MHR University - The "Show Blitz" System


Some time ago I wrote that I am guessing new Denver defensive coordinator uses one of two systems. One is the "Zone Blitz" system championed by defensive master mind Lebeau. The other is the "Show Blitz", a system used by former Broncos coordinator Coyer.

I tend to think we might go with one of these two systems because we have the right kind of personnel to run either, and because Coach Shanahan has stated he wants to return to Denver's style of defense. Whether that means one of these systems, or whether he just means an aggressive system is hard to know.

The Show Blitz system (spoken as if one is saying, "the team is showing blitz") is a fun system to watch for fans. In a nutshell, the LBs and safeties creep up to the line of scrimmage on many downs and "show" a blitz is coming. At the snap, most of the players either bring an overwhelming blitz, or drop back. In most applications the players go back into zone, but in the Coyers system the players dropped back into man coverage. They staggered their distance from the line of scrimmage to allow lateral movement to cover their principles (targets, assignments), and then went after them. One cute tactic was to stagger only for non blitz plays early in the game, then to eventually stagger on a play that was blitz, which confused the offenses. Once teams saw through this, it lost some effectiveness. Coyer (as great of a coordiantor as he is) also failed to adjust his system, both tacticaly (in game) and strategicaly (over the course of a season).

Let's take a deeper look at the system...

Here is what the fan sees in a Show Blitz. All of the LBs creep up to the line of scrimmage, and one or two of the SAFs. It looks like an all out blitz! But is it? At the snap of the ball, one of two things happens. Most of the time, the defense starts backpeddling into coverages. But here and there, nearly the entire defense comes crashing in on the offense. The blitz gets shown on so many plays that the offense is kept off balance.

In a terrific article by Styg50 called "DJ Williams: Paradigm Shift" I was asked to contribute a little about the Show Blitz system. Here is what I wrote:

First, let’s understand what the Show Blitz system is. Under Coyer, the system is an attacking defense that strives to disrupt the passing game through deception and pressure, and the running game through more deception and either 1) gap control or 2) deep disruption. More on this in a moment. Unlike other applications that are more common, Coyer used his people in more man than zone.

The offense has to deal with choices, typically in two’s, on every play. One, does the defense bring a heavy blitz or not. To sell the "Show" the choice has to be all or nothing. No little blitzes, it’s "all or nothing". If the blitz comes it will be massive. If not, coverage will be excellent and anyone put in to pass block has been "wasted". When the other team tries to get out of the ugly cycle, the defense simply sends the entire defense up against the line of scrimmage to "show the blitz" (which is the most common visable feature of the defense and is the idea behind the name of the system, "showing the blitz").

On passes the offense is always guessing. Do they keep extra people back in pass protection (FB, RB, TE[s]) in anticipation of a devastating blitz, or do they send those people out on routes knowing they are going to be covered heavily? (In some instances, the rush is almost non-existent because even linemen may be pulled back into a zone on obvious pass plays, though this is uncommon).

On runs there are choices as well. Let’s confine our discussion to the OLBs since we are concerned with Williams. On blitzing plays (which are always heavy) one doesn’t want to ignore the danger of the RB slipping through. Thus, in blitzes the LBs each must have a different gap assignment to exploit. The LBs may either 1) penetrate the gap and disrupt the run in the backfield, or 2) failing to get penetration, keep his man occupied to allow another LB or DL to get through. A good OLB in this system must have speed, and the ability to stay on his feet when facing a run block while pass rushing. If he stays on his feet he can still stop the run.

On the run plays the LBs will stop the run by ensuring every gap is plugged and attempting to penetrate (backfield disruption), while the safeties watch for a back to slip through. OR, if no blitz is made, the LBs will play man (under Coyer’s application) . Here again, does a run play have to account for an overwhelming assault on the offensive line, or a DL switching between 1 and 2 gap assignments while each potential runner (RB or FB) is accounted for?

That describes the system pretty much, but I want to cover how it might work differently under Slowik (if we go this route), and what the plusses and minuses are.

First, the concept of running "man" out of a Show system is uncommon. It might be more likely that Slowik uses the Zone - Show Blitz approach. On the other hand, while many people might have thought that the idea of a "Man - Show Blitz" would be ridiculous, Coyer showed that it could be done and tat it brings difficulties for an offense that weren't previously considered.

DJ (as the article by Styg50 explains) is great for the system at WILL. I would offer that our other two LBs would fit the system well too, given the speed that they possess. In fact, Coyer was running the system with three of the fastest LBs the League has ever seen.

I also like our DEs in the system. Doom has the speed and agility to be a pro bowler some day. Jarvis Moss has the potential to be a very good pass rusher too. Crowder is a nice blend of pass rusher and gap plugger, and would also be ideal. Ekuban and Engleberger are both more run stuffers, but have a role.

E & E-light are obvious for short yardage situations. They can also occupy OLmen and TEs to allow other players to penetrate the backfield. But an important thing to consider in the Show Blitz system is that not ever play blitzes or shows a blitz. Those other plays are where you want a change of pace, and that is a role that Ek and Eng can fill very well. While showing the blitz (whether it comes or not) is key on pass plays, it can be used on run plays too (as explained in the section quoted from Styg50s article). Whether the "show" is brought in or not on those run plays, Ek and Eng are effective for the role. Also, don't undervalue run stuffers at DE in pass rush heavy schemes. Ek had a decent 7 sack season knocking OLmen on their butts and getting to the QB. It's not always all about speed!

Whether the system is man or zone, the CBs in such a system play man. They may be used to blitz, and thus at least one good cover SAF is helpful.

Advantages of the system include:

  • Hard to scheme against. Everything the defense does (whether in run or pass) presents the offense with choices that can result in a minor gain or a major disruption.
  • Tires the OL. Like the Zone Blitz systems, this system keeps OLmen guessing and taking a lot of hits.
  • Present multiple chances for turnovers. INTs are common, since the QB faces a lot of pressure.

Disadvantages include:

  • The chance for the offensive to rip off a big play. The advantage of a turnover heavy system is somewhat negated by the chance that the offense guesses right a few too many times.
  • Requires heavy defensive rotation on the DL. The DL will still wear out faster than the OL (the zone blitz evens the odds a little better), and this system works the DL very hard. On the other hand, Denver's lighter 1 gap DTs should do very well keeping up.
  • Can be caught off guard by effective "scrambling" QBs. Major adjustments have to be made against zone blocking teams (oakland) because the penetrating slants are taken away.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of the system? If you want to see Phylis knocked on his goofy butt a few times a game, this is the system for you!

Any questions on this system, or any other scheme? Any questions on football in general? This is the place! Lots of knowledgeable and friendly MHR members are here for you. No question is too simple.