We continue to build the roster strengthening our defense and enhancing our special teams.  To this end, we now focus on linebackers as they are both lateral mobility and downhill players that will be your biggest play-makers.  At the high school, college, and in the Canadian Football League (because of the limited roster size), starting linebackers need to be on two special teams units, one cover and one return squad to get the most out of your roster.  In the National Football League it is not as necessary to play your starters on special teams as much but if you are in a rebuilding situation empowering a special teams unit with proven play-makers is warranted.

We have always contended that if a player becomes fatigued during the course of the game, he can regroup by taking a few plays off on defense and never on special teams.  These players are your gladiators.  They are required to be adept at both stopping the run and in coverage.  They are to hold the point and make open field tackles.  Their intelligence level and poise should be superior to any other corps on the defense as they will adjust calls and disguise alignment responsibilities.  These men are tough and hard-nosed.  They are:

                                                                            LINEBACKERS

KEY & DIAGNOSE                              Recognition and reaction to run/pass, nose for the ball, react immediately to key vs play action and misdirection, football aptitude, calls signals, makes adjustment calls

INSTINCTS                                            Natural ability to find the ball and make plays, anticipation

WARD OFF/SHED                              Engage blockers, use of hands, forearms (flipper), pad under pad relationship, knee bender/sinks hips, separation, catcher vs attacker, body position, balance, stays on feet, low protect, slips blocks, run around, tie up with blocker, on the move in pursuit, use of hands through traffic, agility through trash, arm length, special awareness

VS INSIDE RUN                                  Strength at the point of attack, stack, defeat lead blocker, use of arms and hands to take on, control and shed block, hold ground on plays directly at him, scrape and fill hole, reaction to cut back, size, bulk, toughness, splatter, willingness to initiate contact

LEVERAGE/STRENGTH                  Knee bend/sink hips, play strength, flexibility, take on blockers at the point of attach (POA)

VS OUTSIDE RUN                              Range, speed, lateral quickness, pursuit to the boundary, make wide plays, step over trash, open field tackler, keeps leverage on ball without over running the play, pursuit angles, burst to finish plays, run down focus

LATERAL PURSUIT                          Quickness to shuffle, makes plays parallel to LOS, knee bend/sink hips

RANGE                                                   Distance covered after the ball is in the air, pursuit, effort, attitude, speed, anticipation, urgency

TACKLING                                           Type: hard hitter or grab and drag down, explosiveness, break-down, open field, wrap up arms, doesn’t give ground, likes and desires contact, arrives at the POA with authority, rise through the numbers, angle or head up, arm length, up the field tackler, attacks

ZONE COVERAGE                              Recognition and react, drop, turn and run ability, depth, quick feet, vision, speed, anticipation, adjust to the ball, body position, closing quickness, burst after final move, discipline, instincts

MAN TO MAN COVERAGE             Quickness, speed, hip flexibility with smooth turn, acceleration, catch-up speed, position to recover, timing, play the ball, handle TE’s and RB’s, use of hands

BALL REACTIONS                             What the defender does after the ball gets close to the receiver, knock-downs, interceptions, interference

HANDS                                                      Type: soft, stiff, body catcher, extend to the throw and frame, adjust, intercepts or knocks down catchable balls

PASS RUSH/DOGS                             Quick take off, use of hands, speed, strength, adjust on the move, change of direction (COD), burst to QB, timing, anticipation, type of moves (speed, vertical push, defeats blocker with leverage, acceleration off block, innate ability plus coaching, power rush, explosive first step, active off the edge, counter, battered balls

ACCELERATION                                  Burst to close, amount of time it takes to be at top speed, ability once you’re moving to get to a higher rate of speed

                                                                                  CRITICAL FACTORS

OUTSIDE BACKERS

SPEED                                                       40 time, burst, acceleration, catch-up speed to close

EXPLOSION                                               Force generated when delivering a blow, strength to strike, minimizing time-lapse between initial movement and contact, quick movement out of transition to break on ball, suddenness

QUICKNESS                                            Ability to move feet and body in rapid succession, ability to change direction suddenly, knee bender/hip sinker

TOUGHNESS                                           Degree of mental and physical hardness, aggressive, competitive, willingness to initiate contact, perform at a high level of competency regardless of situations or opponents intensity, plays through pain

MAN TO MAN COVERAGE                 Ability to individually engage on or off the line of scrimmage, hips, feet, COD

INSIDE BACKERS

KEY AND DIAGNOSE                          Football intelligence, ability to acquire and retain knowledge, ability to adjust and think on the move, instincts, reactions

SPEED                                                       40 time, burst, acceleration, catch up speed

EXPLOSION                                             Force generated when delivering a blow, strength to strike, minimizing time-lapse between initial movement and contact, quick movement out of transition to break on the ball, suddenness

TOUGHNESS                                          Degree of mental and physical hardness, aggressive, competitive, willingness to initiate contact, perform at a high level of competency regardless of situations or opponents intensity, plays through pain

QUICKNESS                                            Ability to move feet and torso rapidly, COD, knee bend/hip sink

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