Today’s offenses are spreading the field and using every inch of grass to trying to create space so they can win the numbers game in the box or on the perimeter. In particular, the Air Raid has become the offense of choice that is used to spread the field. This article will focus on defending the base formations of the Air Raid, which has become very popular at the high school and college level. The Air Raid uses a limited number of plays and formations, but what makes them successful is the fast tempo they use to get the defense to misalign or blow an assignment. That is why you must educate your players on the tendencies of the Air Raid and your game-plan must be SIMPLE!!
This article will detail the alignment and assignment of the Bear front against the Air Raid. This scheme uses 3-3-5 personnel and the base coverage is cover 1. Cover 1 has been proven effective against the Air Raid over the years because it takes away space and kills the fast screens that the Air Raid teams love to use as part of their run game. Playing press coverage on the #1 receiver makes Air Raid teams throw a lot of fades, so your corners must get a lot of reps against fade routes in practice. I believe that the corners need to take away the “vertical line” and make the receiver run a more complex route, such as a comeback or an out route. I have Miami and Oklahoma DB drill tapes that illustrate this concept, and I would be happy to share them with anyone who wants them.
The 6 / 7 man box outnumbers the run game of the Air Raid which consists of inside zone, stretch, QB power, inverted veer, and speed option. You still have to stop the run to win football games and the bear front allows you to outnumber the offense in the box and use more “skill” players at the linebacker and safety positions.
Below is an illustration of the alignment versus a 2x2, 10 personnel formation:
The Nose is a two gap player who controls his two gaps by knocking the center back at the snap. The Ends are B gap players and the Sam and Will are C gap players if there is not a TE. If there is a TE, the Sam and Will become D gap players because they are the force / QB players. You can install multiple line stunts and twists, but you have to make sure you rep them enough at practice so your players know their fits. You must keep in mind that an Air Raid team is going to push the tempo, so err on the side of caution when installing line stunts and twists. Lastly, the Mike reads the triangle and is in man coverage on the single back. If there are two backs he is responsible for the fullback. He is the only true “read” linebacker, which allows your defense to play REALLY FAST!!!
The Corners align with outside leverage unless the receiver is outside of the divider, which is the top of the numbers. This is illustrated below:
The Dogs (Outside Safeties) align with outside leverage 7 yards off of the LOS. If there is a TE they will align head up at 7 yards and their run fit is the C gap. Versus 2 backs, the weak-side Dog is responsible for the tailback. They will buzz their feet through the 3 step (fast screen) and run read (EMOL), then get into their backpeddle if it is a pass. Since the Corner is playing in a press technique, there are natural levels so the pick routes are negated. The Free Safety is a hash to hash player that reads the triangle for run / pass. When he sees run, he is an alley run player that cannot over – run the ball carrier. Versus a pass he must defend between the hashes and he can cheat the quarterback’s indicator (front shoulder). You can tag the coverage with 1Q that puts the safety on the quarterback, so he can quickly add himself in the run fit versus zone read, bash (inverted veer) or QB iso.
The other common formation the Air Raid uses is trips (3x1), and there is a very simple adjustment that is used to defend this formation. The Dog to the weak-side will travel to the strong - side of the formation and cover the #3 receiver with press coverage. This concept is illustrated below:
Versus speed option, the Mike has the back because that is his man in coverage and the Will makes the quarterback pitch the football fast and deep. Speed option is the play offensive coordinators will want to run against this scheme; therefore you have to rep it in practice on a regular basis, so your players can execute their assignments without thinking.
The last formation we will cover is traditional empty (3x2). A good adjustment is to keep the Mike over the center and put the Free Safety in man coverage on #3 strong. The Free Safety and strong – side Dog will banjo (in and out) #2 and #3, but everyone else will remain the same. This concept is illustrated below:
Lastly, when a team uses jet motion the Free Safety will take the motion man and the player who was covering the jet man will roll back to the middle of the field and play “Free Safety”. This concept is illustrated below:
Thank you for taking the time to read this article and please do not hesitate to contact me with questions. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and my Twitter handle is zachdavis24. May God bless you as you prepare for this next season!