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MHR University - The "TED Block" scheme (and why DJ should play RILB)

A little over a year ago, "Fooch" (Editor of Niners Nation) interviewed me about the Ted position and a nifty scheme that the 49ers run on defense (linked further down). After the 2008 season, former 49ers head coach Mike Nolan came to Denver and brought his (and head coach Josh McDaniels) 3-4 to town.

Flash forward...

Some months ago (Feb 08), I commented under a post that D.J. Williams should move to RILB, and a month later (Mar) I wrote in a story that Williams was better suited for RILB. "Move him AGAIN?"

Flash forward again...

Wednesday, May 27th I read the Associated Press wire that defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is now going to play D.J. Williams at RILB.

Rock Me Amadeus! (Some of you old timers will get the inside joke).

No, my real name is not Coach Nolan. But more of the pieces of the defense are coming together. Could it be that we can have a "penetrating" defense (as stated recently by McDaniels), but might I still be correct in thinking that we will be a 2-gap defense? How can that be? A one-gap defense (such as the "Phillips") is the "penetrating" defense that we might expect. On the other hand, a "Fairbanks-Bullough" defense can be penetrating too, if you use the TED Blocking scheme, and guys are bulking up to play the line. Hmmmmmm.

Read on.....

The TED Block scheme

First, some background.

There are several ways to refer to linebackers in a 3-4. The two guys in the middle are called inside linebackers (ILBs) and the outer two are called outside linebackers (OLBs). MLB (or middle linebacker) is used when talking about the middle linebacker in a 4-3 defense.

Nomenclature (naming system) for football positions are based on the team being referenced. In other words, if I say "Right outside linebacker", I am speaking about the LB on the right of the defense. If you were looking from the perspective of the offense, it would be the LB on the far left.

I use the terms ROLB, RILB, LILB, and LOLB to refer to LBs by position. But other people do it differently, and it is still perfectly correct. In some places (from right to left) we would say Will, Mike, Ted, and Sam. Will ("w" for "weakside", the side the TE is not on), Mike ('m" for middle), Ted (has been ascribed to a former player who played the position), and Sam ("s" for "strongside", the side with the TE).

So what is the TED Block scheme? It's an interesting use of the Ted Linebacker (LILB) on certain plays. Instead of playing "man", "zone", "blitz", or "contain", the linebacker does something completely different. He blocks the way to the QB for the Mike (ROLB)! He has to have the power to perhaps push off an OL, and likely a FB kept in to pass block.

Why is this interesting to us?

1. Well first, new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is associated with the scheme (it was a part of the 49ers defense). You can read a little about it here, where I was interviewed just over a year ago by our friends over at I expect to see it used in Denver, too. I'll leave the details to that link. I think it is kind of creepy that I engaged with the Niners blog on the subject well before Nolan headed to Denver.

2. And second, it becomes important because of another coincidence...

Why should D.J. Williams should play at RILB?

Some months ago I had the audacity to write (both in a story and in comments under other stories) that I advocated Williams be moved to the RILB position. Some folks may have felt that he should stay at WILL (ROLB). I thought he was a good candidate for RILB for a few reasons. One, he is a proven force at both ROLB and MLB in a 4-3. Second, Andra Davis (slower and more of a run stopper) is a better fit for LILB (the area where most runs go to). Third, Davis can block the way for Williams if we use a TED block (playing to both players' abilities perfectly). Davis the big blocker, and Williams the speedy blitzer and LB commander. Sounds good, right?

Lo and behold, the Denver Broncos coaching staff must have liked my thinking. From our friends at Yahoo Sports (AP writer Graham) on Wednesday came this news:

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP)—The Denver Broncos value D.J. Williams’(notes) versatility at linebacker even if at times it’s vexing for him.

This season, he’ll be asked to relocate to another new linebacking spot, his fourth change in six seasons.

But he’s not grumbling because Williams feels like he just landed a plum position. With Denver switching to a 3-4 formation, Williams will play inside and away from the tight end...

That's right. Williams will play RILB, and I think it was the right call. This is a major piece of the puzzle out of the way for those of us who love to prognosticate over the depth chart. Now we know Williams is at RILB instead of ROLB, and this makes Davis my top contender for LILB (the TED blocker on some plays).

Read the entire article here. It tells a lot about how Williams is happy with the move to RILB, and goes on to tell how the new guys (Brian Dawkins, Renaldo Hill, and Andre' Goodman in the secondary) are eager to make the defense something special in '09.

Now all that's left is for us to guess at the OLB and DL spots.

(Josh Barrett has been practicing at SS and even at LOLB, and claims he can cover any TE in the league! Boss Bailey is still in contention, as is Wesley Woodyard. Spencer Larsen may give Davis a run for his money. I like Dawkins and Hill to start at safety for the full year. The big question is which safety will play free and which will play strong. Darcel McBath will get his chance next year, unless Hill stumbles).


I'm putting together a piece on "sky" and "cloud" coverages, two-zone defensive plays that are common in football at both the high-school and pro levels. I'm also putting together a story on the oft misused "H-Back" term. Let me know if there is anything else you might be interested in by using the comments section below.

All the best,