Even and odd dime packages have been a staple of “...and long” situations for defensive coordinators for years. In order to offset the run & shoot stylings of the 90’s Houston Oilers and Atlanta Falcons, teams would roll out an additional defensive back. They did the same against pass happy approaches like the Buffalo Bills, Houston Cougars, BYU Cougars, and even the Dan Marino led Miami Dolphins.
This video of Brett Favre finding out what a Nickel defense is will be the best thing you see all day. pic.twitter.com/mvVek2izdu— Saturday Down South (@SDS) July 19, 2019
Brett Favre fondly recalls not knowing what a nickel defense was, back when he played with Ty Detmer on the Green Bay Packers. Detmer, the son of a coach, was a Heisman Trophy winner who almost threw for more yards during his junior campaign in college than throughout his 14 year NFL career. Detmer was just lacking the physical attributes that Mr. Favre had to offer. I’m recalling this story because in all honesty, sometimes this crap just doesn’t matter, however it is fun to think about.
Why someone would run the Tite front
In 2013 I ran into an issue as a head football coach and defensive coordinator. I was the head coach of a program that had around five players who were the size of actual defensive linemen. I knew that playing four down linemen, and trying to find even two guys to back them up would be futile. I also knew that I really only had one linebacker on the roster, and a ton of defensive backs.
Essentially, we ran the Tite front that Iowa State has made so popular over the past few seasons. I sold / gave away many copies of the 3-2-2-4 defense to other coaches who had the same issues- small guys that were quick but not enough size to go around. It looks a hell of a lot like a 3-4 defense, because as Joe Daniel of the Football Coaching Podcast says- truthfully there are only four defenses (check out episode 80 of his podcast here).
In 2013, we ran a variety of looks, even walking an outside linebacker down to defensive end to create a four man line against 3x1 personnel groupings. There’s hardly a reason to have three pass defenders to a one receiver side, right? So we would walk him down and allow our flat defender to blitz and make our coverage to that side (split field coverage) cover 2.
In the GIF below, you can see our outside linebacker walked down to provide pressure. We move around a lot pre-snap adjusting to the look, but also to disguise our coverage and pressure.
When you don’t have size you have to maximize speed. Our much smaller, faster defenders swarm the ball carrier (a Notre Dame signee) and while it takes 3-4 to bring him down that’s the method that’s needed here.
The Tite front
The big difference between the typical 3-4 and the Tite front is that my outside rushers don’t look like James Harrison or Kevin Greene and they’re not lining up off of an h-back or tight end or the offensive tackle that often. Instead, defensive coordinators are going to back those players off and make them more of a question mark on whether they’re blitzing or dropping into coverage.
Perusing the internet for material, I stumbled across a great article from Match Quarters on the tite front (check it out here). In the image above, the defensive line is taking away the A and B gaps to the best of their ability. The c-gap is open at the line of scrimmage. But you’re never sure where Iowa State is going to bring pressure from. As an offensive coordinator, you also have no idea where the defensive line might slant to, which makes plays like inside zone read very difficult to run.
Ian Boyd of Football Study Hall also covered the ISU defense (click here). Inside linebackers in the tite front can play extra aggressive against the run since there are six defensive backs behind them eating up space. Of course there are holes in the scheme such as had Grier pulled the ball in the GIF above, there wasn’t a Cyclone defender around for 10 yards.
Pros and Cons of the Tite or Dime for Miami
Why it makes sense at Miami
It makes sense at Miami because Zach McCloud has been rocky in pass coverage as a striker slash sam linebacker. McCloud hasn’t been the ball hawking athlete many of us had assumed or proclaimed he would be. Miami typically has a ton of team speed. Consider when Antrel Rolle and Sean Taylor, two NFL stalwarts, couldn’t even get on the field back in 2001. Miami has highly touted defensive backs like Trajan Bandy, Gurvan Hall, Al Blades Jr, and Amari Carter along with incoming transfer Bubba Bolden. So yes, there are talented guys in the defensive backfield.
In the GIF below- you can see how blanketed teams are with smaller, faster players running in coverage versus bigger linebackers.
Why it doesn’t make sense at Miami
Then you have the striker position and the 4-2-5. In the 4-2-5 the ‘Canes strength, defensive linemen, are on the field and their two best linebackers can roam in Michael Pinckney and Shaquille Quarterman. If Miami has John Ford producing as rumored to be so, Pat Bethel, Gregory Rousseau, Scott Patchan, Jonathan Garvin, and the list goes on- why take one of those elite pass rushers off the field?
In the GIF below- You can see more of the strengths of speed and swarm over size.
Canes DT Nesta Silvera to have foot surgery, Miami announces... pic.twitter.com/Mp10nPvmFi— Christy Chirinos (@ChristyChirinos) July 31, 2019
Your answer could be the same reason I ran the Dime ala Joe Lee Dunn back in 2013- depth. With Nesta Silvera out maybe Miami doesn’t trust their depth at defensive tackle. This puts just one DT on the field with two DE’s, and adds speed and smoke & mirrors from outside pressure. Blake Baker and Manny Diaz love pressure and havoc players. They like to disguise coverages and run a lot of different coverages. I’ve blamed this at times for the confusion in the defensive backfield that’s busted open big plays.
The 3-2-2-4, the Joe Lee Dunn 3-3 blitz packages from his days at Mississippi State, the Tite front at ISU, or “shit,” no matter what these extra defensive back based personnel groups are they’re just another thing for an offensive coordinator to game plan against as Miami ushers in The New Miami era of ‘Canes football.
Hopefully the Hurricanes can return to a speed-first approach and outrun opponents whether by blitzing Trajan Bandy and Shaq Quarterman or by lining up with four guys down and doing it the old fashioned way via Jon Garvin.