Successful Strategies For Defending Flare Motion, Quick Motion

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By Cody Alexander, Cornerbacks Coach, Lovejoy High School, Lucas, Texas, & Author, Coaching Blog,

Offenses utilize quick motion as an effective way to get defenses out-leveraged. This fast, pre-snap motion that occurs serves as “eye candy” to linebackers and safeties – distracting those defenders with the speed of the receiver – and causing the entire defense to over shift. 

Jet motion, in particular, forces a defense to try and cut off the motion – due to the tempo at which the motion attacks. To combat Jet motion, many defenses use a technique of turning and spinning toward the motion so the overhang forces a cutback. Though this technique usually works short term, over time, spinning toward the motion tends to leave defenses vulnerable away from the spin safety.

As offenses have evolved, quick motions have become an integral part of spread concepts. In a traditional motion, the wide receiver (WR) changes from one side of the formation to the other on a flat path.

The speed of the WR depends on the route he will run. For the most part, traditional pre-snap motion involves the WR jogging across the formation.

As the spread has evolved from traditional motion to Jet motion, however, offenses have learned how to attack a defense’s reaction to motion – such as by utilizing another pre-snap motion of flaring the running back (RB) out of the backfield.

Flaring the RB out of the backfield, forces the linebackers (LBs) to push and gain width between their run responsibility and the man they are responsible for covering in the pass game. This width creates conflict, and as all defensive coaches know, offenses LOVE conflicted defensive players.

Defending Flare, Quick Motion

DEFENSIVE RULE: “Defend the formation created – not the original set.“

Most offenses that utilize flare and behind motion, run them out of a two-back set. This tactic allows an offense to get the defense to line up in an Over Front – at which point, they’ll quickly motion the RB out of the backfield and create a 3×1 set.

This now puts your Mike LB in a precarious defensive position. The Mike LB must relate to the No. 3 WR, while also defending the A-gap. Worst of all for the defense, is that this moment happens suddenly, within a split second.

As such, it’s important to remember that a key to defending motion is to NOT overreact.

When your preparing to face a team that utilizes flare and behind pre-snap motion, it is critical to study, analyze and make note of where the motion player is at the snap of the ball.

As stated earlier, most offenses use this type of quick motion out of a two-back set because it causes defensive conflict in the box. When that occurs, an opposing quarterback (QB) will be in position to make an easy read off the leverage of the Mike LB and Will LB. As the RB goes behind the QB, and out of the box, he is, in essence, creating a 3×1 set.

To position your defense in a cover down the front needs in order to be set in a sound “Under” alignment, there are two tactics you can utilize to force this to happen.

  • Signal a move call as soon as the RB goes behind the QB.
  • Use post-snap line movement.

DIAGRAM 1:  (20) Gun Split Twins Open / GN Trips Open (A Behind).

Offenses dislike post-snap defensive movement because it changes the blocking scheme as the play unfolds.

To alleviate the conflict for your Mike LB, and get your defense back into its basic alignment to defend 3×1, the defense must be aligned in an Under Front.

With this strategy, it is important to note that the LBs do not push the opponents out of the box. Instead, simply install a designated HOT word that signals for a line stunt – which allows your Mike LB and Will LB to “plus” their alignments without being out-leveraged by the motion.

In Diagram 1 (shown above), note how the interior line movement allows the Mike LB to be positioned in his base 3×1 alignment (“hip”).  The Will LB has the freedom to align himself in a  “zero” position.

With Mike LB and Will LB positioned in this manner, it offers your defense protection as the RB pushes to the field side and neither LB becomes too far removed from their base position.

When your team’s defensive staff breaks down an offense who utilizes quick motion, it is critical to note and label the offensive formation at the time the ball was snapped – NOT the original, pre-snap formation.

By having an understanding of an opposing offense’s time-of-snap formation, it prepares your defenders to have a better understanding for how they need to react.

No matter which running back flares to the field, when one of them does so, it invariably results in the offense ending up in a Trips Set formation (See Diagram 2 below.).

DIAGRAM 2: (20) Gun Split Twin Open / GF Trips Open (B-Flare).

Without a vertical threat to account for, your defense must treat the motion like it is an automatic flat route. At that point, the front-side coverage stays the same because the flaring back is not a direct vertical threat.

This also allows the secondary to stay static and the LBs can focus on the underneath exchanges.

Offenses that utilize RPOs, use flaring back motion much in the same manner as Jet motion.

The quick tempo of this motion forces the hand of the defense. If the LBs don’t “plus” their alignment, then the QB most-likely will opt to throw a flare screen.

It is a tough situation to defend. If the LBs remove themselves from the box, it may leave your defense exposed to the run. Spinning toward the motion may help gain full box coverage, but it will also compromise the defense’s backside fits and coverage.

As seen below in Diagrams 3 and 4, the same basic defensive adjustments can be made to any 2×2 flare or behind motion.

DIAGRAM 3: (20) Gun Split Twin Open / GN Doubles (A-Flare).

DIAGRAM 4: (20) Gun Split Twin Open / GN Doubles (B Behind).

Be Prepared – And Make Adjustments

The key to defending flare/behind motion, or any quick pre-snap motion, is to move defenders as little as possible.

Again, it is critically important to remember that when you prepare your defensive game plan and break down an offense that utilizes quick motions, the key is to break down the offensive formation at the time of the snap – and not the beginning set.

Doing so allows your defensive coaches to adjust according to the final set. If the defense runs an “Under into 3×1 sets” – then your defenders can easily adjust to  the offense’s quick motion by readjusting the front or using post-snap line movement.

Cody Alexander is the Cornerbacks Coach at Lovejoy High School in Lucas, Texas. He is also the author of the coaching blog,

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