Stopping Power Football with the Eagle Defense

Alignment Shift Ruffles Feathers of Two-Back Running Attack

San Diego Chargers v Arizona Cardinals
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Offenses sometimes opt to utilize a dual-running back formation. When facing a rushing attack utilizing two running backs in the backfield, adjusting to an eagle alignment is a successful counter move often employed by defenses.

Eagle Set

Some defensive coaches align in the Eagle as soon as it's determined that the offense has two running backs. Other defensive coaches will line up in their base defense at first and then shift to the Eagle as the quarterback goes under center.

Defenses will opt to set up in the Eagle strong side or weak side, depending on the offense’s tendencies out of the two-back formations.

Eagle Strong

When running the Eagle strong, each positional player has strict instructions to follow:

  • Strong End - aligns the inside shoulder with outside shoulder of the offensive tackle in a 5-technique.
  • Strong Tackle/Nose - aligns in a 1-technique, outside shoulder aligned with the guard's inside shoulder.
  • Weak Tackle - aligns the inside shoulder with the outside shoulder of the weak side guard in a 3-technique.
  • Weak End - aligns in a 7-technique, his inside shoulder just outside of the weak tackle's outside shoulder. There should be a six-inch gap between the tackle's outside shoulder and the inside shoulder of the defensive end.
  • Sam Linebacker - aligns his inside shoulder just outside the tight end's outside shoulder in a 9-technique.
  • Mike Linebacker - aligns in what is called a 30-technique, four-yards off the line of scrimmage with the inside shoulder lined up to the outside shoulder of the strong side guard.
  • Will Linebacker - aligns in what is called a 20i-technique, four-yards off the line of scrimmage just inside of the weak side guard.
  • Strong Safety - aligns 7-yards off the line of scrimmage, head-up against the tight end.
  • Free Safety - aligns 7-yards off the line of scrimmage, on the outside shoulder of the weak side defensive end.
  • Cornerbacks - aligns 5-7 yards off the line of scrimmage.

 

Man-to-Man Pass Coverage

The cornerbacks have the outside receivers in man coverage, while the strong safety has the responsibility of covering the tight end off of the line. The free safety is responsible for a running back running a pass pattern weak side. The Sam linebacker must break off his rush if a running back goes to the strong side flat to receive a pass.

Eagle Strong Advantage

The offense has to account for nine players instead of seven. The safeties are in place to stop the running game quickly.

Eagle Strong Disadvantage

An offense which has a good play-action passing game can have success throwing the ball deep.

Coaching Hints

  1. Teach the free safety to watch the weak side offensive tackle's helmet. If the helmet stays low at the snap of the ball, it is likely a run. If the helmet pops up, the tackle is setting up to pass block.
  2. Teach the strong safety to watch the tight end. If he starts to down block, the safety can move to run support position.