Bringing the Thunder: Same-Side Blitz Pressures with Combo Coverage

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By Ryan McCartney, Associate Head Coach & Defensive Coordinator, Seymour (IN) High School

One of our favorite pressures is to send an Outside Linebacker (OLB) and Inside Linebacker (ILB) from the same side while utilizing a slanting defensive front. In our playbook, this tactic is called “DOG.” As defensive coordinator, if we want to activate the left-side OLB and ILB, we call that, “Thunder,” and to do the opposite, you would simply call, “Lightning.”

A major key, of course, is to make sure that the front defenders take up gaps that will allow the OLB to come off the edge while the ILB comes from B- or A-gaps.

If the blitz comes from the Tight-End side, for example, the defensive end (DE) would automatically slant into the C-gap. Our defensive tackle would then slam into the B-gap, therefore allowing the strong-side LB to blitz the A-gap.

DIAGRAM 1: Thunder Blitz

To ensure that this is the blitz you are looking for, you would set your front to the TE side. If you blitz from the boundary side, set your front to the boundary and then slant away (we call this tactic, “Bench Army Thunder Combo”).

For coverage behind the blitz, we implement the COMBO coverage – which is the same as 2-Read / Palms. That is a coverage based in route reading, where our defensive backs (DBs) align head-up and 5-yards off the wide receivers.

We use a rule that says if the receivers cross within the first 5- to 8-yards, then the DBs must switch responsibilities and play man coverage. Accordingly, if wide receiver No. 2 releases inside, we also utilize an auto-switch to man coverage. When this occurs the weak-side LB must defend the RB with man coverage (vs 2×2 sets).

You can easily adjust which defenders play an assigned receiver OR who reads because you still have 5 defenders in secondary coverage, no matter the formation. The key to doing this correctly, however, is to use proper alignment. Defensive Players MUST place themselves in position to get their eyes on to their vision keys – while simultaneously defending run/pass from depth.

For us, we utilize these blitzes from MOF or Boundary (which is less risk). We also (at one time) used to switch the call based on formation. If a team placed trips to the boundary side, for example, we would call out “River” to switch from a “Thunder” call to a “Lightning” call.

As a defense, we always want to blitz – and as such, we try very hard to keep our blitzes ON instead of calling them off, pre-snap.

Ryan McCartney is Associate Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator at Seymour (IN) High School. He also runs Swarm Football Defense Clinics – which has an upcoming 2017 clinic in Chicago (Ill.) on April 8. For more info, visit:

On Twitter at: @rmacblue.

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