Episode Summary

We're breaking down the "Trench Question Of The Day" Big Dawgs. What's the most efficient way to teach the defensive line to play the run, but also be able to quickly react to rush the passer?

Episode Notes

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So, you know our objective is to make sure that as a coach we help you to be the best coach you can be, and as a Dawg we help you to be the best defensive lineman in the trenches that you can be.

So we have our trench questions and the trench questions have been flying in and we have another one that we definitely have to address. This is a question I get a lot from coaches as well as players when it comes to playing against the run-pass option offense. Special shout out to Coach James Marzano, that's my dog call, and the Argonaut Football Program in Jacksonville, California.

Okay, here's the question: what's the most efficient way to teach the defensive line to play the run, but also be able to quickly react to rush the passer? That's a excellent question and I'm ready to dive into it.

Episode number four. I tack into run-pass option offense.

Okay, now let's talk trenches. Let's identify the challenge. The challenge here is that you're dealing with an offense, you're dealing with a smart offensive coordinator and an offense that's doing a good job of trying to be balanced offensively and yet keep you unbalance defensively. I mean, we all know the name of the game is to find the football and tackle to guy with the football. Great offensive schemes will use that to their advantage.

So let's say, for example, I'm an offensive coordinator and I'm running the ball, I'm hitting the a-gaps, I'm hitting the b-gaps I'm running the ball and eventually your defensive line is going to play to that. Why? Because I'm sending the ball up the a-gap. I'm sending the ball up the b-gap. That's where I'm sending that ball. I'm running my stretches, I'm running my zones, I'm running my dive. I'm running powers, bucks. I'm running and I'm sending the ball, I'm kind of dangling that carrot and making that defensive line find that carrot. I'm using the ball to my advantage. And so eventually what's the defensive lineman going to do? The defensive line is going to begin to cheat. Or, they're going to being to adapt themselves to make sure that they begin to play to what they've been getting the last, you know, four or five plays.

So, eventually the defensive line is going to play to the tendency. So, if an offense starts to establish the run and they're dangling that carrot in those gaps that defensive line is going to play to the tendency. They're going to start playing mostly run. And once that offensive coordinator and the offense begins to identify that they now are controlling the football game they're controlling the line of scrimmage and moving the sticks. They're either going to continue to keep running that ball, but at that moment when they feel that they've gotten the defense off balance and playing the tendency they'll come back with a pass or a play action.

See, this is the challenge, right. How do we teach our Dawgs in the trenches to know when to rush the passer and to know when to play the run. To teach them to play the run, to stop the run because if you can't stop the run you can't have no fun. But yet when you attack the run and now you recognize that it's pass, as they're asking how do we teach our guys to quickly rush the passer when your steps and you were prepped for a run play?

Okay. The first thing that I would address are my pre-snap keys. Pre-snap. What are some keys you can identify in your pre-snap? Now, are these pre-snap keys going to tell me exactly what the offense is trying to do? Sometimes yeah they are. Based on your film study, based on what you've seen you know what to look for. But as a coach training your Dawgs in the trenches it's going to sometimes help them and train them to be able to read their pre-snap keys. But is it going to be accurate 100% of the time? Probably not. What we are trying to train our Dawgs to do is to make a hypothesis. Hypothesis. When I say hypothesis I'm saying make a educated guess.

What do you think, based on your pre-snap keys, might happen? Now when I talk to my Dawgs, my do-lineman, I don't say hypothesis. I'll say alert. You ever seen that dog who was sitting there eating out of his bowl and he's eating his food minding his business and all of sudden he hears a noise. Or he senses something and you'll see his ears go up. He'll stop what he's doing and his ears will go up because he's on alert, or he's identifying somethings up. So instead of saying hypothesis I'll say alert. Your pre-snap keys, what alerted you? Alert, alert, alert. In your mind you should be thinking alert. I see something, I sense something and I have a hunch that this may happen.

So, what are those alerts? What are those pre-snap keys that we can teach our Dawgs that'll help them make a great hypothesis or give them a great hunch as to what may happen? Number one, down and distance. Look at the down and distance. Is it 1st and 10 on their side of the football field? Is it 1st and 10 on our side of the football field? Are we in the middle of the football field 1st and 10? Is it 2nd and eight? Is it 3rd and two? Is it 3rd and 15? Now, again, a lot of time this may give us a great indication as to what's going to happen. Alert. 3rd and 15 on their side of the football field, on their side of the 50 they might pass the ball. Now, again, that depends on film study. But based on this particular team and their tendency 3rd and 15 on their side of the 50 may indicate a waggle. A play action. Something along those lines. So, down and distance could be a excellent pre-snap key.

Number two, personnel. What's their personnel. Looking at this offensive teams personnel or their formation what do they do in certain personnel? When I say personnel I'm referring to how many backs, how many tight ends? Are they coming out in a 22 personnel? Two backs, one tight ends. 21 personnel, two backs, one tight end. 12, one back, two tight ends. 11, one back, one tight end. 10, empty. So on and so forth. What's their personnel? In looking at their personnel a lot of times that will give us great indicators as to what's going on if we pay attention to our pre-snap keys, right.

A simple one, an easy one is empty. It's empty. It's five out, five receivers are out and there's nobody in that back field to help block. The quarterback is by himself, his shotgun is empty. Empty, empty, empty. Alert, alert, alert. Let's rush the passer, let's get after him. Okay. They don't have a full protection, it's just the offensive line and I'm one-on-one with that guy in front of me. Let's go eat, let's go have some fun. It's empty. He home alone. He back there by himself. It's time to go to work. Empty. 20 personnel. You got two backs back there and a shotgun. They probably back there to help pass block. Pass protection. So what do you do? Still may pass the ball, again depending on down and distance and depending on their formation, where they're lined up. Once you beat that offensive lineman you know you going to have a running back sitting there waiting on you.

21 personnel. Two backs, one tight end, I-formation. Most the time you get I-formation, especially depending on that down and distance to confirm you're going to get a run play. Most I-formations my hypothesis would be alert run it's I-formation. I can't go wrong guessing it's a run play with an I-formation. So, again, watching film and looking at their offense knowing what they do in certain personnel groups would be great indicators to our Dawgs as to what they might do depending on what personnel they come out in.

Pre-snap key number time, key players. Who are their key players? Who are those guys that make plays for them? Who are they? Is it number 22, the running back? And every time number 22 is in and it's I-formation what are they going to do? They going to run the ball. What about number 80? Big time receiver, leading the team in receptions and yards after catch. Of course they're going to give it to him. If he's in the game and it's 3rd and 15 and he's out there wideout and the balls in the hash and he's to the wide side of the field one-on-one with your cornerback you know what time it is. It's time to get after the quarterback. You know what they going to do. Key guys.

So a lot of times watching film you'll know that offenses will have tendencies and there are certain guys that they're going to go to to make plays for them. They're going to be a certain guy they want the ball in their hands when they need somebody to make a big play. We've seen those guys on film. We've seen those big time running backs, those big backs that run North and South. We've seen those backslash receivers that attack the edges on the jet sweeps. We've seen those quarterbacks that were triple threats and those running backs that'll come in the game and all of a sudden the offense switch to a wildcat. Key players.

So for my coaches that wanted those pre-snap keys, those indicators, those alerts that should get our Dawgs ears up and on alert. But coach, Big Dawg, I got to be honest I've coached some guys that just wasn't that smart. And there was no way I was going to ask them to go through a list of things to look for in their pre-snap keys. Now, I've taught certain guys that was that smart. I've taught guys that would actually look at those things. Smart kids, smart young men that was able to look at the indicators, look at the pre-snap keys and make great choices prior to the play. I have coached those guys. But I've also coached those guys that could not do that or for them the game was happening so fast for them that they didn't have the chance to do that accurately. So I'm with you that, that's not my initial approach. Yes I do teach those things, read your pre-snap keys. Look at your pre-snap keys and they will indicate to you what they are going to do. They will indicate to you what they are going to do. I do teach that, I do go over that. But, I don't spend a lot of time on it.
Before I get into what I really want to talk about, what I've been itching to talk about, I want to ask you a question first. Here's my question. Is it possible for a defensive lineman to attack an offensive lineman, and the offensive lineman never get where he wants to go, or never do what he was trying to do? Is that possible? Let me ask that again. Is it possible for a defense lineman to attack an offensive lineman, and the offensive lineman never get to where he was trying to go, or never do what he was trying to do? Is that a thing? Does that happen, or can that happen?

Now, this is a very interesting question to me. I've had conversations. I've done consultations with colleges, junior colleges. I've had these kind of conversations. The reason why I'm bringing this up is because, when I played, I was taught to read your keys. Read your keys. I was taught to look at the L of the offensive lineman's shoulder pad, look at the V of the neck, or sometimes I'll teach read the letter. When I say read the letter, I'm talking about priests now. When I was taught to read the keys, I was taught to read the keys. Post now. So in other words, when that ball snaps, wherever the V of the neck turns is where I go. So, I'm waiting the read the V of the neck, or some coaches teach read the hat, whatever it might be. Wherever the hat goes, wherever the V of the neck goes, that's where I now go. So, I'm reading in my post now.

I'm not saying that's a bad thing. I'm asking is there a better way? Is there a better way to teach our defensive linemen how to attack that guy, in front of him? Now, yes. I understand we're still talking about how to deal with that run pass option offense. I'm going to answer that. Actually, I'm answering it, right now. Is part of the problem that we're teaching them to wait for a read? "I can't go anywhere, until I wait for a read. I'm gonna wait, until I get the read I'm looking for." Once I get that read, I now have to decide what to do, now that I've read.

For some of my Big Dawgs I think that's too much. For some of them, they can't handle that kind of brain functioning. Some of our Big Dawgs can't make that decision quick enough. They have a hard time processing what's going on quickly, and then making that decision. So, we look at our Big Dawgs in the trenches and we're thinking, "What's taking you so long to make a decision?" When you make the decision, it's not the right one sometimes.

Well, maybe the problem is that we're asking them to read. Maybe it's taking them too long to read, and react. To read, think about it, make a choice, and respond to what they're reading. Maybe, they're taking too long, and we're thinking, "Gosh. My guys are playing a little bit slow." A lot of times, when you think too much, and you have to read too much that takes too much time to do. What if we could take the reading out of it? What if we can take the reading out of the post-snap and put it in the pre-snap? So, in other words, "Yes. I want you to read the keys." "What keys?" "Your pre-keys. Read your pre-s."

Read your pre-s. Look at all of the pre-snap things. If you wanna look at anything, look at the down, and distance. Look at the personnel. Identify the key player. Where is he, right? That should take you seconds to do. That we training our dogs to say, "Look at these things." They should take you seconds to do. "Look at the guy in front of you. Identify the guy, in front of you. Identify your POA." We know that mean point of attack. After that Jack, that's all you're doing. You playing football.

Once you put your hands in the dirt, it's time to go to work. There ain't no more reading. We attacking now, at this point. What if we could teach our defensive linemen to not read post-snap, but keep the reading in the pre-snap? Think about that for a second. I'm gonna just sit here. I want you to think about it.

Are we asking them to read at the wrong time? Is the fact that we're teaching them to read their keys. Is the indicator, or the reasoning behind why they're not reacting the way we want them to? You may say, "Yes. You may say, "No." I'm willing to bet. That you're basing that off of the player. You're thinking about the players you have, and you're saying, "Well, Johnny over here, does a good job of reading his keys, responds very well, but over here, David, over here, doesn't do as good of a job as Johnny, over there, when it comes to reading the keys."

Well, they're not the same player. We have to understand that there are different levels of learners. There's a different level of functioning thinking, where one person may take a lot longer to make a decision, because their brain processes differently. So, do we train them to do the same thing and equip them to play the same way? That's not fair. That guy may take too long to read and react.

So, how about we take the reading away from them or shift it to the pre-snap? Okay. So, then what am I saying? I'm glad you asked. Let me reach over here and grab my Big Dawg bible. Here it is. Here we go. Playing the re-pass option. The proverb reads, "Read your pre-s, but always attack your keys." That was good. So, I'm gonna say that one more time. "Read your pre-s, but always attack your keys." Should we teach our defensive linemen to read, then attack, or attack, then read?

Well, in my opinion, according to the Big Dawg bible, we should teach our defensive linemen to attack, then read. Read. Your pre-s, but attack your keys. So, why do I say that? What's the distance between an offensive lineman, and a defensive lineman? In most cases, it's about a yard away, give or take a little bit less, or a little bit more. How quickly does that distance close, when the ball snap? That small window, that real small space closes in a hurry, when that ball snaps. So, how much reading, do I want my defensive linemen to do, when the ball snaps? Do I want him to be able to read to see, if it's a run, or see if it's a pass, or to see what kind of run it is? Do our Dawg have that much time to see exactly what's going on, and to make a decision?

I can hear some of my high school coaches say, "Well coach, we have our sidelines yell run or pass." Though for some systems it may work for you, but when it comes to the development of that Dawg, we're not developing them to make the right decision, to train their instinct to make the choice, in that situation, and to properly teach their mechanics, and train their muscle memory to make the right choice, given the situation.

Read your Pre-s, but attack your keys. I want to give you an analogy, and I want you to think about something, coaches, Big Dawgs, for a second. I love to ask this question. If you were to put your hand on a stove, what's gonna tell you first that the stove is hot? Your eyes, or the sensory in your hands? So, let me ask you, one more time. What's gonna tell you quicker that stove is hot? Is it gonna be your eyes, or is it going to be your hands? What's gonna tell you that the stove is hot? What's your answer? I want you to think about it, for a second. Your hands, or your eyes, which one?

What's your answer, Big Dawg? I'll tell you my answer. It's going to be your hands. Now, the reason why it's gonna be your hands is because, if your eyes knew it was hot, you wouldn't have put your hand there, in the first place. That's my answer.

What am I saying? Sometimes, when we train our defensive linemen to look at too many things, and sometimes we're not training them to look at too many things, they're just looking at too many things. So, they can't tell whether it's hot, or not. They can't tell. They can't tell, if the stove is on, or is off. Sometimes, they don't know what to look at, because they're trying to find that carrot, and the offensive coordinator has been dangling that carrot ,A B and C, and they're not sure what's going on.

So, right now, the offense has done a good job of making sure that defensive line is not balanced. Yes. If your eyes are everywhere, you're probably not balanced. So, they're doing a good job of that.

So, they can't tell, with their eyes, what's going on, but what can indicate, or what can figure out, if the stove is hot or not, if it's a pass or not. Come on. Talk to me. What is it? If you put that hand on the stove, and that stove is hot, you're gonna pull that hand off. If the stove's not hot, you're gonna keep your hand on. Well, what's was going to tell you without looking at it what's going on? Sometimes, you can't trust your eyes. The offense hopes that you're looking with your eyes. Sometime, the offense hopes that you're playing with your eyes. They are hoping that you're watching the game, and not playing the game.

I tell my defensive linemen, "Stop watching the game, and play the game. You're watching the game. You're standing straight up, like a statue, and you're trying to find the ball. Even if you see the ball, you can't get to the ball. Even if you see the quarterback is dropping back, you can get to him, Jack. So, it don't matter what you see. It's about what you can feel. Is it hot? I don't know. Let me put my hand on it. Ah. It is hot. Is it on? I don't know. Let me see. Let me put my hand on it. No. It ain't on, 'cause it ain't hot."

What am I saying? Is it a pass. I don't know. Let me put my hands on it. "Oh. It is a pass. Let me get after the quarterback." Is it a pass? I don't know. Let me put my hands on it. "Oh. You almost got me, here, with a screen." Stick my cleats in the dirt. Let's look for work. Did you hear a common denominator? Put your hands on it. Put your hands on them. Put your hands on them. Attack him. Attack him. Attack your keys. Don't read your keys. Attack your keys.
When you attack your keys and you put your hands on it, you know exactly what's going on. As a matter of fact, you might stop him from doing what he was trying to do. If he was trying to reach you, he couldn't reach you because you put your hands on him and you kept him from out-leveraging you to the position from reaching you. They tried to pull along you, and the center was supposed to come down but you got off the ball so fast trying to attack the guard in front of you that you knocked the guard off, and causes sending a miss on a down block. He tried to pass block you, but you got your hands on him so quick that he was able to bull, pull, bullshit, slingshot. He was able to work right off once you got on. Let's reread the question.

What's the most efficient way to teach our defensive linemen to play the run, but be able to quickly react to rush the passer. The error in that question is the word react. Let's not teach our defensive linemen to react, let's teach them to proact. React can mean be reactive, we don't want them to be reactive. We want our dog to be proactive, that means that we are on the attack. We attack first, let the offensive line react. We attack. Let them react and we will attack. Every time the ball snaps, we don't react, we attack. That's what we have to teach our Dawgs to do. They are Dawgs, they attack. That's in their nature to attack, not react. You understand what I'm saying Big Dawg?

So my thoughts are going back to the Proverbs from the Big Dawg Bible, read your [inaudible 00:26:00] and attack your keys. If we attack our keys, we are being proactive in our trench activity. We're determining how the plays going to go and where it's going to go, and if it's going to be successful or not, that's for up to the side depending on how we proact our activity once that ball snaps. Attack, see that's the beauty of attacking. You can't unbalance an attacking defensive linemen. You can't get on a defensive lineman to be off-balance if all they do is attack. It's a run, they attack him, as a past they attack in any way. It doesn't matter what you do. When you train your Dawgs to be proactive and attack, not react but attack. It does not matter what that all for the line is trying to do. Does not matter what the offense the coordinator is dangling, doesn't matter.

I have a job and my job is that once the boss snaps I don't react, I attack. I'm being proactive and this is my plea. I think that philosophy, that psychology is extremely important and I'm confident that that's going to make a world of a difference. To attack first and re second gives our Dawgs the green light to be aggressive off the ball, to have that flat back at contact which brings great impact. Flat back at contact brings great impact, and we're giving them the license to be aggressive, to be proactive. Not reactive, but attack. Remember our Dawgs do not react, they attack. Alpha, attack first is what we're doing. The moment we get our hands on and we attack, and we punch, and strike off the ball, then we'll know what they're doing or what they're trying to do. Then we'll feel when things are happening, we'll know if it's a pass or a run, we'll know when it's a double-team, we'll feel that.

We'll know if it's a stretch, we'll know when we're trying to get reach, we'll feel that. Once we attack, we'll feel that. Once we attack, we'll feel that and we're trying to train our Dawgs to feel, not watch, not look, not find. No more watching the game, we have to play the game because now in our reading, as we teach them to read and the post snap, now they're reading too much. Eyes in the backfield peeking inside, peeking over the shoulder, all those different things as opposed to allowing our hands, and a century and our hand to tell our brain what's going on. That's going to be always quicker than our eyes trying to decipher, our minds trying to decipher through our eyes what we're looking at. Is it hot or is it not? Get your hands on it and it'll tell you if it's hot or if it's not.

Let's take this even further. Now the question is how? If I'm going to teach my Dawgs to attack coach, how do I do it? Now let me explain myself. I'm not saying that they such as hit the gap. Some defensive coordinators teach their guys to attack the gap, or hit the gap. If that works for you fine, but that's not necessarily what I'm saying. I'm saying to attack the guy in front of them, that's what we're attacking. If I'm in a three technique, then I'm attacking the outside shoulder of the guard, I'm attacking that. If I'm in a four I, for me that's inside shoulder of the tackle, I'm attacking that. If I'm in a four as head up, I'm attacking the tackle head up over the tackle, and so on and so forth. I'm talking about punching plates, I'm talking about gaining control.

I'm talking about re-establishing the line of scrimmage, because he who controlled the line of scrimmage, controls the football game. Attacking the line of scrimmage by attacking the guy in front of me, that's what I'm talking about when I say attack. Now how do we attack? We attack with two hands. When we're not sure whether it's going to be a run or a pass, we're attacking with two hands. We are striking cloth and we work off, we strike cloth and we work off. That's the safest and the smartest thing to do, and it puts our defensive lineman in a better position to deal with the run or the pass. Whether it's run or pass, when they strike with both their hands two by two. In episode three, we talked about two by two and two by one. In this case, dealing with this run or the past, the smartest thing, the best thing to do is to strike that guy in front of you with two.

Hey Big Dawg, not sure what to do? Strike that guy in front of you with two. That's in the Big Dawg Bible as well. If you don't know what to do, striker with two. If you don't know what to do, strike him with two. When we teach our Dawgs to strike that guy in front of us, to attack and to strike him with two hands, there is a plethora of options. We can now train ideal with the linemen and Big Dawg. There's the plethora of options that you can use. Remember you've trained your animal and coaches, we've trained our defensive lineman to do certain moves based on what they feel. What they feel with their hands does that all for the linemen giving him high hands, top hands, wide hands, or low hands. Well when we get our hands on that guy and we don't know what to do, we strike him with our two.

Once we strike him with the two, then we feel our way through right off the bag. We don't know what to do, we strike him with our two and we feel our way through. That's what I'm referencing when I say attack, then read. Once we teach our Dawgs as coaches to strike him with two and feel his way through, that's when the art of rushing or the art of the game happens. Trench warfare at it's finest. When you strike him with two and you feel your way through, your feet will know what to do. Let me say that again Big Dawg. If you don't know what to do, strike him with two. Feel your way through and your feet would know what to do. Boy that's the truth. When you teach a defensive lineman to be more on the attack side instead of the react side, but be proactive in their attack and you're training the muscle memory, and you're training their senses to make choices on the go, you've got to do some real Dawgs in the trenches.

I'm talking about the mad junkyard Dawgs. Them stingy ones, the ones that don't let nothing get past them, talking about those. That's what you got in the trenches when you teach them to play the game, and not watch the game. They told Big Dawg as we talked about now what moves we can do when we strike with two. What are the moves now we can do once we strike with two. That's on another episode. As always Big Dawg, I appreciate your time. I know time is precious and I appreciate that you shared it with me, like two wise men under the tree hoping to teach these young man how to work the turf and stay out of the street. Big Dawg Trench Talk, I know we got better today. Good it's not good, when better is expected. Thank you again for subscribing to our podcast, Big Dawg Trench Talk.

Remember if you have a question, feel free to email me at That's Send me an email Big Dawg, and let's talk trenches. Remember, your progress is our success. When you got some time and the trenches is on your mind, make sure you head over to and subscribe to the grind. It is the Netflix of D-line content. Whatever you're looking for, we got it. How to play the run, how to rush the passer. The proper stance, the proper start and combat, you name it. We got everything you need and counting. Knowledge is power and we never stop learning at Join the community and the mission of getting our Big Dawgs better. All right Big Dawg, enough talking. You know what time, it is time to stick our cleats in the dirt, and let's go to work.