Before he become what many consider the most outspoken head coach in the NFL, Rex Ryan found some time to develop a five hour bible of sorts on the finer points of coaching the 46 defense. Ryan is, of course, the son of Buddy Ryan who developed this scheme during his time with the Chicago Bears. While the Bear Front is somewhat of a maverick scheme to base out of, a major benefit of the scheme is that it is highly adaptable to nearly any personnel grouping you put on the field. This is why I’ll be taking the next few weeks to break down Ryan’s lengthy DVD. No matter what system you base out of, I believe you can find something in this DVD to make your defense better.
Over the course of the DVD Ryan discusses everything from defensive line block destruction to rotational coverages. Therefore, within this series, you can expect to see keys for each position, pressures used by Ryan, and coverage options out of the 46 Defense. First stop? The basics of the 46 defense.
Ryan’s version of the 46 defense bases from a 4-3 scheme. You’ll notice the core of this scheme is the placement of the three defensive linemen covering the center and guards combined with the double team over the tight end. Personnel for these positions changes based on who you talk to. However, by looking at the diagram you’ll see that Ryan’s defense shifts the four man front to the weak side of the formation while using two linebackers to cover the tight end. The Mike linebacker and strong safety will align over the tackles to create an eight man front.
The following are the rules given by Ryan in teaching this front:
The three techniques have two simple rules. The first rule for these players is that they cannot get reached. This will be discussed later when we look at defensive line technique, but essentially Ryan teaches his linemen to work their hips into the hole to avoid the reach. The second rule for these players is to not allow what Ryan refers to as a “jump through”. Many coaches refer to this as a “scoop” block or use other terminology, but the idea is that the guard cannot get a free release to the linebackers. In terms of teaching stance and alignment to these players Ryan simplifies things by stating he doesn’t care what hand is down or if they are in a four point stance as long as they follow their two rules. Likewise, shading the guard is a starting point that needs to be worked into an ability alignment. The defender needs to line up as wide or tight as possible so they can follow their core rules.
The zero technique Nose will play a 2 gap technique. Ryan explains that the Nose will attack the center head up and then work off him based upon the center’s steps.
The weak side defensive end will align two yards outside the tackle. Again, he has two simple rules and his alignment can be adjusted in order for him to follow his rules. The first rule for the defensive end is that any Run To Read turns him into a force player who must keep everything inside. The second rule calls for the defensive end to be responsible for what Ryan calls “BCR” or boot, counter, and reverse.
The Sam linebacker will align with his outside foot on the tight end’s inside foot. His job will be to overplay the tight end’s block. Ideally he has C gap, but if he crosses face it is Mike’s job to make him right. On plays away Sam will squeeze down through C gap to eliminate the cutback.
The Jack backer will align with his inside foot on the tight end’s outside foot. At this point the tight end is double covered which should make for a long night for this player. Jack will work to maintain outside leverage similar to the weak side defensive end.
Mike and the strong safety will both align in 40 techniques, or heads up over the tackle. Their depth off the line will begin with them placing their toes at 4.5 yards. As always, this can be adjusted, but 4.5 is the starting point. Their job is to key the near back and fill on a downhill path. Specific reads will be discussed in more depth in later articles, but in essence if their key comes to them they will fill to the Sam or defensive end and make that player right. If they read run away, they will get their eyes on the opposite guard to look for a high hat (pass read) or pull (counter read).
Ryan begins his free safety at 10 yards depth over the weak side guard. He admits this player will move based on coverage and gameplan, but this is the starting point. Regarding the corners, Ryan again leaves much of this up to ability, gameplan, and coverage. More on these players will be covered when we reach the articles on coverages.
Additional 46 Defense Resources: