Blind Waivers on MFL

How to create blind bids on MFL

  1. This identifies the group of picks in which you are currently bidding. Group 1 is for a player you most want to add, Group 7 the least. Each group of picks represents your attempt to add 1 player. You can add a maximum of 7 players during our waiver period.
  2. Each group of picks allows you to add 1 or more selections (if you are have a waiver priority of 1 then multiple selections aren’t that important here, but if you’re one of the later priorities you may need to try for multiple players in each group). It’s important to remember that if one of these picks are successful the rest of your picks IN THAT GROUP are lost…..that’s why we need multiple rounds!!
  3. Enter the bid amount here
  4. Enter the player you want to drop if successful
  5. then hit add to list….repeat for this particular group.
  6. When you are happy hit save bids and you’ll be taken to the next group.
Waiver Bid Screen

Waiver Bid Screen

In this example I’m trying to add Cam Newton (i bid $11), but if he’s gone I want Aaron Rodgers (i bid $7) and if they’re both gone then I’ll be happy with Danny Woodhead ($3). As I’m down the waiver order I’d also repeat the pick for Woodhead in Group 2.


How to spot what a defense is doing….part 3

Last time on How to spot what a defense is doing we discussed the versatile Cover 3 and Cover 2 defenses. This time we’ll concentrate on the final basic coverage defense, Cover 1, and touch briefly on the concepts of zone and man pressure. We’ll also touch briefly on one of my favourite defenses, Buddy Ryan’s 46.

Cover 1

The Cover 1 shell uses (almost) exclusively man to man concepts with the free safety being the lone free defender. For a team to routinely play Cover 1 concepts it needs a star free safety with a rare combination of speed and ball skills. Some of the greatest NFL defenses have featured a player of this calibre. Think Earl Thomas at the Seahawks; Ed Reed at the Ravens, Ronnie Lott of the 49ers and the Cowboy’s Cliff Harris. A talented safety allows underneath defenders to play aggressively and this challenges an offense by making passes on short routes difficult to complete.

In general terms the Cover 1 can be spotted by looking for a single high safety positioned far from the line of scrimmage. You can see this clearly in the image below as the Jets adopt a Cover 1 look against the Dolphins at Wembley (circled red). If you’re eagle-eyed you may be able to spot Revis and Cromartie taking an outside shade on their receivers. They use this technique to limit outside breaking routes (those heading to the sideline) and it helps them re-route receivers to the centre of the field (where the help is!)


As the cornerbacks can play off-man or jam at the line of scrimmage it’s usually their shade that gives away the technique they’re employing rather than how close they are to the line of scrimmage (although don’t be surprised to see inside shade technique used if a receiver deliberately position themselves close to the sideline . In fact playing man to man gives the cornerbacks a lot of freedom to pressurise routes by using different techniques. They can do this by playing off, jamming at the line of scrimmage or playing 3 step routes aggressively by crowding short breaking routes early (this requires VERY GOOD corners!). Of course Cover 1 was THE shell of choice for the Glasgow Lions D.

This reliance on man to man coverage allows a defense with good cornerbacks to create mismatches close to the line of scrimmage including using 8 men fronts with the cushion of deeper safety help. In fact early in a play there should be 2 levels of help from the free safety and a spare LB.

Alternatives to the Cover 1 usually involve disguising man to man coverage with zone looks. The Robber (or Rat in the Hole) look uses cover 1 assignments with the strong safety or an athletic linebacker dropping into a hole just beyond the line of scrimmage (circled blue). It can also be disguised as a Cover 2 look and is designed to eliminate inside crossing techniques and catch-out unaware QBs!


Creating Pressure- Zone and Man

We’ve worked through the basic coverage shells and they are the foundations in which a defense combats offensive gameplans. Occasionally defenses need to force the issue and be a little more aggressive and that’s where pressure schemes come into play. We could easily fill the rest of this year looking at pressure schemes, but lets concentrate on the two basic concepts- zone and man pressure. Although the shells protecting the defense are different the concept behind generating pressure is the same- get to the quarterback!

Zone pressure uses zone shells behind the pass rushers and although conceptually it just involves the defenders having to defend slightly larger areas it’s actually slightly more nuanced than that. Initial set-up put as many defenders as possible into the throwing lanes to disrupt and delay short passes. Obviously the longer it takes the extra rusher to get to the quarterback the more pressure it puts on the remaining defenders. Zone pressure schemes also allow for pseudo-blitzes to come from unexpected directions with athletic linemen replacing linebackers in short zones.

Man pressure generally sees the defense sending more than 1 extra rusher with the rest of the team taking up man to man matchups (generally without help). Defenders will attempt to prevent inside breaking routes as this forces the QB to make more difficult outside or deep throws. It also allows the defenders to use the sideline as an alternative to safety help.

The key to both pressure concepts is disguising the defenses intentions and thus creating maximum surprise and confusion to hopefully lead to big plays and turnovers.

46 Defense

“Some say the 46 is just an 8 man front. That’s like saying Marilyn Monroe is just a girl!”

….And that brings us to the Buddy Ryan’s 46 defense. Made famous by the Chicago Bears Super Bowl win in 1985 and later perfected by the 1991 Eagles defense the 46 was born out of Ryan’s desire to play aggressive football and to endanger the most important position on the field, the QB.

Starting as an assistant with the Jets during their Super Bowl season before moving on to coach one the greatest ever defensive lines at the Vikings. Ryan finally got his chance to coach his own defense when he got to the Bears in the late 70s. It was several years of development before the fully fledged monster appeared, but when it arrived it changed defensive pressure schemes and offensive gameplan forever.

Named after safety Doug Plank (#46) the 46 is  an 8 man run stop front (that is 8 men occupy the line of scrimmage) with a Cover 1 shell. But, as Ryan eloquently described the 46 is more than a simple pressure front. It positively dares an offensive to throw because of its almost complete shut-down of the running game.

Doug Plank teaching the 46

Doug Plank teaching the 46

The defining feature of the 46 is the reduced front. The weakside defensive end lines up outside of the offensive tackle in a wider pass rush position, while the other defensive end and the defensive tackles set up directly over the guards and the center. This forces the interior offensive linemen into awkward and difficult one-on-one matchups.

The innovation didn’t simply end with the linemen. One of the key concepts of the 46 is although it appears to employ Cover 1 concepts it creates pressure based on offensive protections e.g. if the RB stays to protect, the defense rushes 6 men. If the offense uses 2 players to help out the offensive linemen, the defense rushes 7 and so on thereby effectively using the offense’s own protection scheme against itself.

By having so many defenders close to the line of scrimmage the 46 allows the defense to disguise it’s blitzers and extra rushers. This makes it difficult for the QB to find the weak spots as the 46 rushes defenders as a response to reads given to it by the offense and this means it is essentially NOT BLITZING allowing safer zone coverage to be employed.

So what happened to the 46?

Defenses had been reactionary for most of football’s history. “Bend but don’t break” concepts were common through much of NFL history  to combat run first offenses. The 46 was designed primarily as a run stopping defense and it had spectacular success in that era.

However, as offensive innovators like Bill Walsh and Don Coryell led the NFL to a pass first league it became too risky to employ the 46 as an every down defense and it slowly faded into the background. But don’t be fooled into thinking the 46 was a 1-hit wonder defense. It’s legacy of pressure concepts and aggressive defense lives on in Arizona, Baltimore, Buffalo, Carolina, Kansas City, New York and almost every other modern NFL defense. Perhaps it’s time we heralded Buddy Ryan as the father of the passing league.


tampa bay superbowl defense in huddle

How to spot what a defense is doing….part 2

Last time on How to spot what a defense is doing we discussed the Cover 3 defense, one of the most popular defenses used at the High School and College level. This time I’ll look at the Cover 2. It’s a versatile shell that has both man and zone forms and I’ll try and explain how it’s key advantages and disadvantages work to defend an offense. I’ll also look at one of the most popular variants that’s just clinging to relevance in today’s NFL; the Tampa 2.

Cover 2

The basic form of the Cover 2 is a zonal defense which like the Cover 3 has four defenders assigned to rush the quarterback and seven to defend the pass. The main difference between the 2 shells is that in Cover 2 the two safeties are responsible for defending deep zones splitting the field in half. The other five defenders are responsible for shorter zones (see image 1 below)

Cover 2- Jets at Miami (London)

Image 1- Cover 2 Jets at Miami (London)

This, of course, is an over simplification of the Cover 2 which can be an extremely versatile defense. If you look at the image above you can see one of the key advantages of the Cover 2 is the protection the 2 safeties provide to the short zone defenders. It allows the short zone defenders to be extremely aggressive in trying to force turnovers and support the run.

The other key advantage to Cover 2 is the ability of the defense to flood the shorter zones and make passes much more difficult. The “flats” (the areas behind the line of scrimmage near the sideline) are much better protected than in the Cover 3 with the presence of the cornerbacks close to the line of scrimmage.

In fact the cornerbacks are generally described as “hard corners” in Cover 2. This means they are relied upon to support the run more so than in Cover 3. Although the cornerbacks have responsibility for a short zone they are still key defenders against the deep pass. They must protect the safeties by forcing receivers inside and preventing completions to the 7 route (see image 2 below). This is of course opposite to where they want to route receivers in the Cover 3.

route tree

Image 2- Wide Receiver route tree

As I’ve discussed above the Cover 2 is an extremely versatile and strong defense, but it also has some key weaknesses that can be exploited and it’s one of the key reasons why the “vanilla” version of the defense is rarely seen at the higher levels.

The most obvious disadvantage is the weakness between the two safeties in the deep middle of the field (coloured yellow on image 3) and the 2 flag routes (or 7 routes) behind the outside short zones and in front of the two deep zones. This weak point is extremely vulnerable to “seam splitting” tight ends (essentially quick, athletic pass catching receivers) and becomes even more so when an offense has two dangerous deep threats on the outside.

image showing the weak point between the 2 deep zones

Image 3- Cover 2 weak point

The second weakness of the Cover 3 is the number of defenders near the line of scrimmage to defend the run (seven as opposed eight in Cover 3). Off-tackle runs are also a particular problem for Cover 2 defenses (reliance on smaller cornerbacks to “seal the edge” i.e. take on lead blockers and stop runs heading to the sideline). The third major weakness is the reliance on the 4 rushers to generate pressure on the passer. Blitzes are rare (and dangerous) in Cover 2.

With that said the Cover 2 is not a defense that has stood still. A number of evolution’s of the basic defense have taken place which adapt the basic advantages and protect the weaknesses of the Cover 2.

Tampa 2

The Tampa 2 defense made famous by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers SuperBowl winning team in the late 90s was resurrected to hide the weaknesses of the Cover 2. Originally created by Bud Carson (defensive coordinator for the Steelers) in the 1970s where he used future Hall of Famer Jack Lambert to drop deeper into the centre of the field to help the safeties. This in turn allowed the safeties to concentrate more on defending the weak sidelines and allowed the rest of the defenders to play more aggressively. An example of the Tampa 2 is shown in image 3 below. As you can probably see it’s very close in design to Cover 3.

image showing the tampa 2 defense

Image 3- Tampa 2

The Tampa 2 evolved as an antidote to the proliferation of short timing route offenses, but as defenses evolve so do offenses. Today the number of offenses using 3 and 4 receiver sets has almost assigned the Tampa 2 to the history books.

Our second adaptation of the Cover 2 is

Cover 2 Man

Cover 2 Man is an adaptation of the basic underneath zone coverage of the Cover 2 where the safeties provide deep help and the underneath defenders match up with receivers in man to man coverage. This allows a number of advantages to the defense including the ability to use blitzes and double coverage (2 defenders to a single receiver).  It also allows defenders to “bump or press” receivers at the line of scrimmage (this is effective in disrupting timing). However it has a significant weakness in defending the run and exposing linebackers against good receiving running backs.

image showing cover 2 man coverage

Image 4- Cover 2 Man

So how do you spot the Cover 2 defense?

The first key is position of the two safeties. They’ll naturally take up positions near the hash marks and be at least 10-15 yards back from the line of scrimmage.

The second key is the positioning of the two cornerbacks. Generally they’ll take an outside position to the receivers (back towards sideline or head facing QB) and will attempt to delay the receiver at the line of scrimmage. If they’re in a man scheme they’ll immediately take up tight coverage and try to force receivers outside rather than inside if they’re in a zonal scheme. Of course motion by receivers will usually identify a man scheme pre-snap.

For the Tampa 2 the linebacker allocated the middle zone will become an additional key read. On pass plays they will immediately take a deep drop towards the centre of the field in an effort to protect the weak point in the defense.

That’s the end of our second article on defensive coverage shells. Next time we’ll look at man-to-man schemes such Cover 1 and Cover 0.