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46 Defense - Correcting the Flaws
Submitted By:
Preston Schweitzer &
Art Tornabene-Zalas
The title describes exactly what it says. It corrects the basic flaws with the 46 defense, which is that you have to have superior athletes to run it effectively. What this entails is a way to run the 46 with an average athletic team, and still maintain the basic effectiveness of the 46 that the Chicago Bears ran so amazingly during the 1980's. Their success was due to a superior linebacking corps, and unbelievable talent at man coverage in the secondary.
The first problem that we mean to fix is the need for man-to-man coverage at the cornerbacks. The strong safety is man locked on the tight end at all times, this is the only man coverage NEEDED to run this defense. One of the linebackers will immediately drop 5 yards on the snap of the ball into a medium zone on his side and make a play read from there. The other defensive backs will all take medium drops and play a read zone in an area from 5 yards from the line of scrimmage to 20 yds. deep. Anything deeper than that, the nearest man takes coverage responsibilities, how this problem is solved is with the use of the 46 principle, which is that of at least 6 guys pressuring the quarterback at all times.

Our next problem to solve is the necessity for an outstanding linebacking corps. We have to solve this in 2 parts: (1) running situations and (2) Passing situations. In running situations, this is where your defensive line becomes the most important position on the field, specifically, the defensive tackles. In this style of defense, the defensive tackles need not be the most talented or the most overpowering on the team, however, they must be disciplined and among the largest individuals on the team. The reason for this is, their responsibility (unlike the DE's, whose job is, at all times, to go for the QB) is to sacrifice themselves to occupy the 3 middle OL. How they would do this would be to line up in a head on (or 2 technique) and slanting towards the leg of the center, their main priority, in all basic principle, would be tackling the center. The benefits of this are: (1) leaving the MLB unblocked and able to roam free and (2) takes up 3 lineman for the price of only 2 of yours. This is where the discipline comes in, they must not be tempted to attack the ball and try to do too much, their job is of a SACRIFICER. They need to understand this point, without that, this defense does not work (it is preferable, but not necessary, that these guys play only one way because of the fatigue involved with taking on 3 to 2 every single play). The outside backers, again, need not be the most talented individuals on the field, but, again, they must be disciplined, they must maintain their outside contain positions on the run turning the play back towards the roaming MLB (the MLB should be your most talented defensive player, but again, not necessary, he must be a disciplined tackler). The OLB's second priority is making the tackle, his first is turning it back to the inside, the strength of the defense.
The second part of fixing the linebacking corps problem is using lots of stunts with the DE and OLB during passing situations and also with the DT and MLB during passing situations (i.e. as shown in diagram 1). This allows for the basic principle of the 46 which is at least 6 men pressuring the QB limiting his time to throw the ball anywhere deeper than the designated zone area, or make a read progression. Note that you can also use a variety of blitz and coverage schemes based on your personnel and prior defensive scheme, but you still may maintain the 46 presence w/o other blitz packages and coverage schemes by using it in the matter we described. As you can see this defense does not take a number of talented players to efficiently run this defense, it takes extreme discipline. Like any other defense, w/o discipline, this defense does not work. It must be made clear to your players that defense is imposing your will on the offense, and forcing them to play into your strengths. Your players also must be perfectly clear on each positions specific job. (Specific responsibilities below)
DE'sAttack the ball at all times while maintaining lanes
DT'sSacrifice themselves to occupying as many blockers as possible, mainly the interior lanes
MLBReading the flow of the ball and making all tackles from OT to OT, the leader of the defense unless designated as the dropping zone LB
OLB'sMaintain outside contain as first priority, second priority is as a cleanup crew, tackling the ball carrier outside of the OT's unless designated as the dropping zone LB
SSLocked man-to-man coverage on the TE at all times, unless blitzed
FSMaintain zone designated to him on each play
CB'sMaintain outside zones designated to each individual after the 5-20 zone