Bennett, who’s been a defensive coach at Division 1 colleges for four decades, broke down his process for defensive game­plan­ning and adjustments at Blitz 22. As part of his talk, he gave us a peek behind some of the most important categories he tracks on film, and why, when paired with down and distance and/​or field zone, they can reveal so much about your opponent’s offensive tendencies.

Below is a transcript of Phil’s remarks on this topic. If you’d rather watch, skip to the 14:45 mark of the video.

Want to take this on the go? Download the PDF version of Phil Bennett's favorite defensive breakdown categories in Blitz Essentials Vol. 4.

Skip to other parts of this session:

  • The ‘5 Musts’ of defensive football (2:50)
  • What offenses are looking for (8:05)
  • Formation verbage examples (20:10)
  • Bennett’s formation charts (26:10)
  • Bennett’s call library (41:15)

Besides formations, and areas of the field, there’s a number of different breakdowns I want for the offense I’m planning for. These are the first things I look at when I come in on Sunday after a game:

Shot Tape by Down and Distance

The easiest way to lose the game is to not defend the passing game vertically. I want to know, on what down do they like to take shots? Where on the field do they like to take shots? It’s crazy, but you can almost call them out, and how they break down, by places on the field. And there’s things that become ingrained in your mind, of saying, alright, this is a shot place.

Explosive Runs and Passes

Anything over 12 yards is what I consider an explosive run. Explosive pass is 20 yards plus. That tells me right there another area that, if we can keep those numbers restricted, it gives you an unbelievable ideal to see the things they like.

Inside Runs and Perimeter Runs

A perimeter run has got to be a true perimeter run — for instance, an outside zone, a stretch zone, or a stretch run with pullers. I like to show our players on Sunday, just a one-hit tape, most to least, of what they have. 

Play Passes, Boots and Waggles

Play passes mean there's some fake to the back, and the action of the linemen is an aggressive play pass action. 

How do I differentiate between boots and waggles. You can run Boot G, where there's one flow — let’s say the back fakes weak, and the quarterback comes right. A waggle to me becomes a split flow. So if you have a slot tied in, and a back, and you're reading to the back and the slot comes across, that admittedly becomes a waggle. Now you sit there and say, well, those are a lot, but people know if it's boot, it's usually a naked boot or at Boot G. On a waggle, I know that there's a threat coming from across the field. When I talk to my players on the sideline and how we break it down and teach it, they know exactly what the difference is between a boot and waggle. 

FIB (Formation in Boundary)

This game is played on hashes, and this is simply formation into the boundary. And the thing you better understand is you're going to get it, and you're going to get it early, because they're trying to see, will you defend the field? Will you defend the boundary? Can they get your nickel in the box? All the different things. 

You’ve got to understand what they're trying to do to get you to get the matchup that they want. Are you going to flip your nickel to the short side of the field? Are you going to bump? You've got to make a decision on that. And so that's something crucial in our game plan. 

End Over, X Off, and Empty

More and more people want to see, how will you line up to a four-man, five-man surface? X-off, empty, all those different things. We make a one-hit tape where we can look at this thing.

Shifts and Motions

You will immediately start seeing a pattern that that ends up happening off of what they're doing. I tell people this, and it's crazy, but you're trying to imagine, what are they going to run versus the way we line up? Well, you're going to see it. You're going to see the way we line up and they're going to say this is what they like versus this. How you practice and how you rep is going to come off your film breakdown. That's how important it is.

One Shot Tape of All Cutups, Most to Least

It sounds silly, but it's most to least. So, for example, I'm going to go back to the shot tape. First thing, i if it's a first-down shot tape and you set that most to least, let's say the ball's at your 40, and say you’ve played six games. The first thing you can sit there and say is, I’ve got 12 shots at this point on first and 10 at the minus-40. You've got yourself a tendency there.

You've got a tendency of knowing that they like it between the 40’s. The field’s a little bit shorter. It's not backed up. And then vice-versa. It might be backed up where people are playing tight. They say, you know what? We're going to back them off of us, and that's why it's important. 

These are things I think that you could start the weekend and becomes crucial as you start preparing your game plan to try to stop this offense.