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By Ted Seay



Page 3

The Concept: Buying -- and Selling -- the Idea

Page 4

The Basics: The Nuts & Bolts of the 2LD

Page 6

The Schedule: Installing the 2LD in Two Weeks

Page 29

The Season: Preparing During the Week

Page XX

The Game Plan: How to Fine-Tune for an Opponent

Page XX

Conclusion: JT and the Mouse

Page XX

NOTE: This document is in the public domain --

no copyright is claimed on any of the author's material herein.

It is free, and freely distributed.


This installation guide represents a labor of love -- an attempt to pass on my knowledge of tthe 2-Level Defense (2LD) to other coaches. Since I first purchased the 2LD textbook, Football Defense of the Future: The 2-Level Model by John M. Thomson and Bill Arnsparger (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1988), I have tried to share this fascinating defense with others. The text and teaching supplement have been so hard to come by, however, that until fairly recently, my efforts have been limited to a small handful of coaches.

Recently, the Internet has given a new lease on life to a number of obscure football concepts from the Yale Formation direct-snap offense to the Gap-Air-Man (GAM) defense. This new medium for exchanging ideas has also revealed a 2LD "underground" -- a small but dedicated group of coaches who have kept Coach Thomson's concepts alive since the beginning.

(I should note here that I mean no disrespect at all to Coach Arnsparger, one of the great defensive minds in football, but -- the 2LD is John Thomson's baby. You won't find reference to the 2LD in any of Arnsparger's other publications, and for good reason: as John Thomson relates it, Coach Arnsparger called him shortly after publication of the 2LD text to say that coaches from all over were bugging him to death about the 2LD. Since he was still coaching at LSU, and attempting to recruit, he basically washed his hands of the whole thing and left the 2LD where it belonged, with its creator, John Thomson.)

(On a related note, there are ridiculous rumors making their way around the Internet regarding why the 2LD is so little known. The most popular version is that a hit by a 2LD Deep Safety left a receiver paralyzed or dead, and a subsequent lawsuit forced the recall of the textbook and its destruction by the publisher. This is pure hogwash -- but it says a great deal about the reputation the 2LD developed in a very short time for ferocious hits by the deep safety. Prentice-Hall only ever published about 2,000 copies, according to Coach Thomson, and most of those were snapped up by institutional buyers -- libraries and universities. I happened to receive a mailing from Prentice-Hall in 1988 offering a number of football texts, and the 2LD book immediately caught my eye. For those coaches interested in obtaining a copy, I suggest you try an inter-library loan and a trip to your local photocopy shop.)

My intent with this installation guide is to pass on my version -- a simplified "subset" -- of the John Thomson 2-Level Defense. I outline the requirements for each position, then lay out key drills and an installation sequence. One word of warning, however: if you aren't willing to line up your deep safety at a depth of +28 yards from the LOS, you should probably find another defense.


There is no way around it -- the 2LD is a startling defensive concept. The first time you see a safety lined up 28 yards deep, you react. Some coaches shake their heads, some blink very hard, and some laugh out loud. Reactions from the armchair intelligentsia (parents, "fans", etc.) can be even more vehement. "What the hell are you playing that kid so deep for? That quarterback can't even throw the ball that deep!" Since this was actually one of the more intelligent comments I have heard regarding the 2LD, I just smiled politely.

There is no substitute for belief in a system of offense or defense -- in order to "sell" it to assistants and players (much less parents and fans), you have to "buy" the concept yourself. With the 2LD, that means first and foremost buying into the use of a deep safety (or two!) at +28. (Note for youth coaches: this depth can be cut down in proportion to the speed and skills of your age group, just as you cut other dimensions down to suit, say, the 10-year-old player. What matters is the ability to enforce an "end line" beyond which the offense is not welcome to operate, not an exact adherence to the +28 depth.)

Before I discuss the rationale behind the depth of the safety, I want to talk about the theoretical underpinnings of the 2LD. Coach Thomson has said that his impetus in designing a new defensive look was the success of the Mouse Davis Run and Shoot offense in the late 1970's and early '80s. Thomson saw the need for a defensive look that could cover the short receivers tightly without sacrificing the deep ball.

He also saw that a model for such a defense existed in Bear Bryant's 6-5 goal-line defense. The six defensive linemen (the first level of the defense) attacked their gaps, while the defensive backs and linebackers (the second level) each "mirrored" a potential offensive receiver. The second level played tight man defense, for the most part, while the close proximity of the back of the end zone provided an "end line" beyond which the offense could not operate.

The great leap Coach Thomson made was to imagine a safety placed so deep in "centerfield" that he could effectively intercept at a set depth anything the offense tried -- thus providing the same "end line" & coverage that the 6-5 enjoyed from the back of the end zone. Through "extensive experimentation", Coach Thomson determined that a deep safety (DS) placed at +28 yards could enforce an end line at +18 that would eliminate the deep pass and force the offense to concentrate on medium-range routes. The factor that made this coverage possible was that the DS could cover much more ground than a traditional defensive back because he was running forward -- not back-pedaling meant he could effectively cover twice as much ground.

The next step in the master 2LD design was the play of the second level of five pass defenders. Their basic concept was to play tight man-to-man defense on their respective "mirrors", denying the short pass by playing underneath the receiver after bumping him. This left the offense with a window of opportunity for passing the ball of between +15 and +18 -- the medium range passing game. However, because of the tight coverage by the second level defenders, the quarterback was forced to arc the ball in the air to drop it in between the second level and the deep safety. This is basic 2LD man or "Max" coverage.

The chess game began in earnest with the other basic coverage, a zone scheme called "Cover". Here, the second level (2L) played the short zones at a depth of about +12 - +15, taking away the medium depth pass while conceding the quick stuff. Max coverage would normally dictate a "hard" alignment by the 2L defender on an outside receiver (up to +1, basically right in the receiver's face), while Cover would call for a medium depth deployment by the 2L defender (+3 - +5). If offenses start keying the depth of the 2L alignment, however, we can align them hard and run Cover, or medium and play Max -- giving no clue of our intentions before the snap. Combined with our bumping response to motion no matter what coverage we're in, we provide no pre-snap clues to the offense. They must decide -- are we taking the short pass or the medium pass away on this snap? Will we stunt and/or blitz? If so, what variation of Max coverage will we play behind it? Combined with 13 different defensive fronts which we will jump into before the snap, and the automatic stacking of 2L defenders behind their 1L counterparts when they are mirroring an offensive backfielder in the box (or "Core", as we call it), we make pre-snap reads a nightmare for offensive coordinators and quarterbacks.

I will detail alignments, stunts, blitzes and coverages in the installation chapter, but I will make the point again -- the deep alignment of the DS is crucial to the operation of the 2LD. It is what allows the first and second levels to attack the offensive gaps and receivers with abandon, and to disguise what they are doing until the snap. In short, it is absolutely essential to the 2LD. Coach Thomson does allow for the re-alignment of the DS at free safety depth (+ 8 to +18 yards), but only in certain special circumstances. As a rule, the 2LD absolutely requires a truly DEEP Safety. Minor adjustments for slower or faster personnel, (i.e. from +25 to +30) are perfectly acceptable; however, if you are not willing to accept the basic concept of the deep safety, the 2LD is not for you.



Areas: By definition, the sections of the field on the offensive side of the ball where potential receivers are located. The area between the offensive tackles and 5-7 yards deep is the Backfield; Area C extends 5 yards outside the Backfield in each direction; Area B extends out from Area C a further 7 yards toward each sideline; and Area A extends from Area B to each sideline. Each Area A and C may contain only one receiver; receivers nearby are considered to be in Area B.

Core: An area surrounding the static offensive personnel (i.e., the offensive line), the quarterback, and the First Level (1L) of the defense. It may also include running backs, tight ends, slotbacks, wingbacks, and their SecondM

Level (2L) "mirror" defenders. The core normally extends in an oval with a radius of 5-7 yards from the football.

Numbering: Mobile offensive personnel (that is, potential receivers -- backs and ends) are given a number relative to their position. The receiver closest to each sideline is counted as #1; the next receivers in are #2; while the remaining receiver, regardless of position, is #3. Reading across the field in either direction, the numbering is always 1, 2 ,3, 2, 1. Stacked receivers are numbered from front to back: if the front receiver is #1, the one behind him would be #2, a third in the stack would be #3, and in a quad stack, the fourth receiver at the back would be #2.

Offensive receivers are identified with reference to their number and area. By definition, there can be only one receiver in each Area A and C, so receivers stacked behind #1A are automatically #2B, followed by #3B, etc. Similarly, a TE/wingback combination will be numbered (assuming Area A to that side is empty) as #2C and #1B, respectively (see diagram next page). Two important points to note: backfield receivers are identified by number only; and quarterbacks (that is, the most likely passers) are not numbered at all, even in direct-snap (shotgun) formations.

Formations with Area A receivers can be classed as spread formations, and we further identify the set by the number of receivers to one side: Iso, Twin, Trip or Quad. Since Len and Ron always mirror #1 to their side, and Mike mirrors #3, Sam and Will by definition mirror #2 to the strong and weakside respectively. If Sam, for example, is mirroring a slotback to his side, and he sees two backs in an I formation, he can deduce one remaining receiver on the other side of the formation. If his slotback goes in motion across the formation, Sam does two things: he bumps to the Core to stack behind a 1L defender and mirror one of the I-backs; and he calls out "Twin! Twin!" so that Will can be waiting on the other side of the Core to pick up the motion man. Our bump rules (see page 8) protect us if the ball is snapped when the motion man is in the backfield -- if the ball is handed to the motion man on a fly/jet/speed sweep, the 2L defender who has bumped to cover him will pursue him inside-out, while the defender who has switched to the fullback will mirror him for trap and belly plays.

Bump: 2L defenders always react to motion the same way, regardless of the coverage we have called. If Len is mirroring a flanker who goes in motion, Len will follow him across the formation until he encounters another 2L defender -- let's say Sam. Len then physically tags Sam with his hand ands says "bump" -- Sam picks up the motion man, while Len now mirrors the receiver Sam had been covering. The key to effective coverage is that a 2L defender is responsible for his man ONLY unless and until someone comes along and bumps him to another receiver.

In the diagram, Ron bumps left with motion until he contacts Sam; Sam in turn drops back at an angle as he approaches the Core (to avoid 1L defenders) and mirrors the motion man. If the ball is snapped for a fly/jet/speed sweep series play at the moment diagrammed, Sam still has the motion back and will pass in front of Mike if necessary. If the motion man passes in front of the FB, on the other hand, Sam would bump him to Mike and mirror the FB himself.

Wideside: If the ball is scrimmaged from a hashmark, the wide side of the field is obvious; however, by 2LD definition, if the ball is scrimmaged from BETWEEN the hashes, BOTH sides of the field are the wideside. This has distinct effects on several 2LD coverages (see pp. 18-26).


Here are some thumbnail sketches of the requirements for the various 2LD positions.

First Level (1L): Body mass is important, but quickness and agility are vital at Nose and Tackle. This is a fluid, swarming defense, so smaller/quicker personnel should be preferred at these positions to larger/slower (all other things being equal). The Ends should have speed, quickness, lean body mass, AND height. These are by far the best athletes in the First Level, and should be among the best on your team. Julius Peppers is the current prototype. (You've got a couple of those lying around, right?)

The Ends are your principal pass rush threat, yet must be able to plug the off-tackle hole. They almost always crash, and are responsible for the C gaps; the other DL personnel have a one-gap responsibility as well, meaning we leave one gap unassigned at all times, unless we give a DT or the NT two-gap responsibility. Otherwise, we just move the unassigned gap around in a kind of shell game.

The key to all 1L maneuvers is that they begin as pass rush -- everything else is a reaction. When you give the 1L that aggressive mindset, you can still channel that aggression into fighting through blocks to stop a running play coming at them, or tearing down the LOS to pursue. I've found it much easier to teach D-line techniques this way than to teach gap responsibilities first and then pass rush as a reaction.

Second Level (2L): Speed kills, inside and out. A glue-footed Mike (what Coach Thomson calls Gael, the middle LB equivalent in the 2LD) can be caught in mismatches against speedy receivers any time the offense chooses, so you need foot speed at all five 2L positions. The two outside positions (I call them Len and Ron -- CB equivalents) must be burners with big egos -- think Deon. While we rarely hang them out to dry without top cover, these kids just have to be quick and cocky. The middle three positions (Sam, Mike and Will) are similar in requirement to the Ends, but don't have to be quite so genetically superior. Body mass for plugging the inside and height for staying with crossing TEs are important, but again, speed shouldn't be sacrificed for size. If you have to, you can play both a big LB type and a quicker SS type at one of the 2L positions, substituting them according to game plan.

Deep Safety (DS): This can be one of the most average athletes on the team. Reasonable speed is an asset, but intelligence, timing and football sense are all very important. The only critical trait is that he must LOVE TO HIT. He will get opportunities to lay the leather on receivers who are stretched out reaching for passes while looking backward, and he will be expected to make the most of these opportunities. We see very few deep Post patterns by teams after a few good shots by the DS -- most teams stick to the shorter stuff after one or two "rifle shot" collisions.

We don't coach brutality, and I certainly do NOT teach head shots to my kids, but the laws of physics dictate that a DS running forward can cover twice the ground of a FS backpedaling, and will arrive at the point of impact with much greater momentum.

ALIGNMENTS (Note: The Deep Safety aligns 28 yards deep at the midpoint between the two widest receivers, but always between the {high school} hashmarks.)

First Level: I'll give the two alignment rules for each 1L position, then demonstrate with diagrams.

Nose: Rule #1: All odd-numbered calls -- 11, 3's (3 Left and 3 Right), 33, 5's, 55 -- the Nose aligns ODD, over the center.

Rule #2: Even-numbered calls -- 2's, 22, 4's, 44 -- the Nose aligns EVEN, on the guard to his Left or Right, depending on the Ends' call. (Corollary: In 22 and 44, Nose aligns EVEN, but stacks behind a Tackle, again depending on the Ends' call.)

Tackles: Rule #1: All double-digit calls, alignment is pre-determined: In 11, OPEN, over offensive tackle; in 22, 33, 44 or 55, CLOSED, over offensive guard.

Rule #2: All single-digit calls, (2's, 3's, 4's or 5's), Tackles align according to the Ends' call at the LOS: "Left", left Tackle is OPEN and right Tackle is CLOSED (both aligned to the left); "Right", left Tackle is CLOSED and right Tackle is OPEN (both aligned to the right).

Ends: Rule #1: All calls starting with a 1, 2 or 3 (11, 2's, 22, 3's, 33), Ends align LOOSE, outflanking the offensive core.

Rule #2: All calls starting with a 4 or 5 (4's, 44, 5's, 55), Ends align TIGHT (outside eye on offensive tackle).

Note: When aligned opposite a tight end, a Loose End will play a standard 9 technique on the TE's outside shoulder, rather than the slanting stance shown in the diagram above, which is normal for a Loose End outside an offensive tackle.

The Ends' Calls: As the offense breaks its huddle, both Ends will call out a directional indicator decided by game plan: "Left" or "Right" in response to formation strength, field width, and/or other factors. In order to give the defense as much flexibility as possible in aligning before the snap, we provide an additional bit of information in the huddle. When we call a single-digit front in the huddle, we may add the word "Away" -- for the benefit of the Ends only. Thus, if we call "5" in the huddle as the 1L alignment, and the offense lines up with its strength to the left (as previously defined by that weeks' game plan), the Ends would normally call out "Left! Left!" and the 1L would align in 5 Left (see diagram next page). If the huddle call was "5 Away", however, the Ends would call out "Right! Right!" -- AWAY from offensive strength -- at the LOS, and the 1L would align in 5 Right (see diagram next page). Thus all 13 alignments are available to the defense at all times, no matter how the offense lines up.

In Odd fronts, the Nose has two-gap responsibility; in Even fronts, the Tackle opposite the Nose has both gaps. All other linemen have a single gap to defend.

(Please excuse the quality of the diagram. Ends are further outside offensive tackles when aligned Loose than the pictures indicate, and the angle of slant is wrong, too.)

Second Level: There are two basic areas where 2L defenders deploy: out wide mirroring immediate receivers (in Areas A and B); or mirroring backs, TE's or tight slot/wingbacks (in Area C or the Backfield). In the latter case, the 2L defenders are considered to be within the Core, and are almost always stacked behind 1L teammates at a depth of up to +5 yards.

Unstacked: 2L alignment outside the Core consists of two components: shade (Inside or Outside the receiver) and depth (Hard, Medium or Soft).

Shade: From an Outside shade, the 2L defender will aggressively FUNNEL his receiver to the inside, denying outside (i.e., Fade) routes; from Inside, he will STEER the receiver outside, denying the inside release and crossing routes.

Depth: Hard: Up to +1 -- in the receiver's face;

Medium: +3 - +5;

Soft: +7

2L defenders in Area C may line up at a Hard (Outside shade) or Medium (either shade) depth; in Area B, all combinations of the three depths and two shades are possible; while in Area A, both shades are possible from a Hard depth alignment, but only an Inside shade is played from a Medium or Soft depth.

The Hard Area C Outside shade results when a TE or slotback is present and the 1L End is aligned Tight (over the offensive tackle). If Mike, for example, is stacked behind that End in a 2 Stack, Sam (who has responsibility for the TE or slot) will AUTOMATICALLY move up to a Hard Area C Outside shade, which we call "JAM". The Jam position allows Mike to mirror his man outside without colliding with Sam.

Stacked: 2L defenders will Stack in the Core at three possible locations: a 1 Stack over the center; one or two 2 Stacks over the offensive tackles; and one or two (Area) C Stacks over a TE or slotback.

1 Stack: The 2L defender stacks behind Nose in Odd alignment (over center).

2 Stacks: The defender stacks behind a Tackle or End opposite the offensive tackle, or behind a Tackle or Nose opposite an offensive guard.

C Stacks: The 2L defender stacks behind an End opposite a tight end or slotback. (See explanation of Jam technique on page 13.)

Obviously, combinations are possible. The following example shows how both 2L defenders are protected from offensive line blocks by the 1 and 2 Stacks.

Some combinations of stacks and 1L alignments are shown below against different offensive formations.


We distinguish between Stunts by the 1L and Blitzes by the 2L, even though there is some overlap.

Slant: Involves the Nose and one Tackle slanting in the same direction to disguise the final alignment of the 1L, even after the ball is snapped.

From odd-numbered fronts (11, 3's or 5's), the Nose and the Tackle away from strength will Slant toward strength, aiming for the spot where the back foot of their target offensive lineman (the one toward whom they are slanting) is lined up before the snap. Even-numbered fronts (2's, 22, 4's or 44) mean that the Nose and the Tackle who is aligned Closed (in 22 and 44, the one the Nose is NOT stacked behind) Slant away from strength -- the Nose always toward the center, and the slanting Tackle away from him.


Twist: Two maneuvers involve changing gap responsibilities between 1L defenders: the Tackle-Nose Twist (TNT) and Tackle-End Twist (TET). These are not primarily pass-rush maneuvers, but we will use them to disrupt man-blocking schemes.

TNT is executed by the Nose and an adjacent Tackle (either in Odd/Closed or Even/Open alignments). The Nose slants outside, away from the Center, then the Tackle crosses behind him.


TET similarly involves a Tackle and adjacent End, but requires an Open Tackle and Loose End. As with TNT, the inside 1L defender (the Tackle in this case) slants out, and the End loops behind him.


Once again, combinations are possible.



Three 2L blitzes provide the DC with more means of disrupting offensive plans. Blitzes also complement 1L stunts for a very practical reason -- a stunting 1L defender may be assigned two gaps in a particular front, but can only fill one of them -- making 2L blitzes a practical way to fill the undefended gap at unexpected moments. All blitzes must be VISUALLY VERIFIED at the LOS.

Dog: 2L defender mirroring a Backfield receiver MAY fire through a gap AT HIS DISCRETION.

The Dogging 2L defender is never wasted on a futile blitz. If his mirror back sets up to pass-block or moves laterally toward the perimeter of the Core, the defender is free to fire IF HE THINKS IT WILL BE EFFECTIVE (his mirror will be picked up by an End -- see page XX). If his back dives ahead, however (either immediately or after starting across the formation laterally), he must continue to mirror until he is sure the back is neither carrying the ball nor sneaking out on a pass route.

Cushion: At the Snap a Loose End attacks and Maxes a TE or slotback, while the 2L defender with mirror responsibility crashes outside-in.

Cushion is particularly effective against outside running plays -- sweeps, quick pitches, options, fly/jet/speed sweeps, etc. Cushion is ONLY verified at the LOS by a TE or slotback in the offensive formation.


Switch: Against TE/2 Backfielder formations, Switch crashes the End and a 2L defender outside-in.


Switch is ONLY verified visually at the LOS by the presence of a TE and two Backfield receivers (meaning two 2 Stacks by the defense, and a 2L defender in position to Max the TE as the 2L defender who would normally do so crashes).


Max (man) coverage is the heart and soul of the 2LD. I know of a number of 2LD coaches out there who only use Max and its variants. However, I have always used, and recommend using, Coach Thomson's Cover (zone) scheme, albeit with a few simplifications.

Max: Tight man coverage on the five potential receivers by 2L defenders with the DS enforcing the end line at +18.

Variations include Max/Double, where the DS and a 2L defender double cover a wide receiver, while other 2L defenders play loose man coverage from a depth of +7 (with no end line in effect); and Max/Tight Cushion, where an End and a 2L defender double a TE or slotback (with the DS end line in effect).


Max/Double calls the DS to provide "top cover" double coverage to a specified wide receiver. It tells certain other 2L defenders they must play Max Soft (i.e., traditional man coverage) techniques from a depth of +6 or more. The exceptions for playing Max Soft are for 2L defenders mirroring backfield receivers and for the 2L defender mirroring the receiver being double covered. In order to maintain integrity against the run, and because the deep passing threat is less immediate, defenders mirroring backfield receivers stay at their normal depth; however, they must always be aware that when Max/Double is called, there is no end line in force. The 2L defender mirroring the called Max/Double receiver (the 1A receiver to the defensive right in the diagram below) will attack and funnel or steer that receiver (depending on the game plan). The DS sprints forward at the snap to provide double coverage over the top of any deep routes -- fades, posts, etc.


Max/Tight Cushion is an excellent mechanism for double-covering a TE or tight slotback. It requires an End aligned Loose next to an Open Tackle, who assumes the End's contain responsibilities. At the snap, the End bumps the TE and Maxes him from an underneath position; the 2L defender mirroring the TE/slot then plays a Max Soft technique on the receiver, double covering him all over the field. Because the DS end line is in operation, all other Max assignments are executed as usual.


Cover: Zone defense by the 2L, DS and Shortside End.

I have taken several of Coach Thomson's concepts and combined them. His Cover is the basis for my zone coverage against normal (i.e., no more than two receivers on each side) offensive formations.

11 COVER (from right hash)

When the ball is scrimmaged from a hashmark, Cover becomes a four-under, three-deep zone with four 1L defenders rushing the passer. The wide flat is always left empty in Cover, which is a big reason we don't play a steady diet of Cover -- we always mix it up with Max. Len, Ron and the DS cover the three deep zones, while Sam, Mike, Will and the shortside End cover the Wide, Middle and Short Hook and Short Flat zones, respectively. In the event of a 2B receiver to the shortside, Will (in the diagram below) would mirror that receiver before the snap and drop to Short Flat after it, while the End would drop to Short Hook instead. This allows us to maintain maximum disguise -- lining up the End over that 2B receiver would tip off Cover versus Max.

From between the hashmarks, however, there is by definition no shortside on the field -- so both wide flats are left open. This frees up both Ends to rush the passer, but it also means short flat routes have a much higher completion possibility. This has to be factored into the defensive game plan, and makes it even more imperative that Max and Cover be mixed up when the ball is scrimmaged from between the hashes.

Again, the information on Cover on pp. 20-22 applies only to offensive formations with no more than 2 receivers deployed to each side. For formations that line up in or motion to Trip or Quad sets wideside, see pp. 22-23.

3 LEFT COVER (between hashmarks)

The diagram below shows the effect of the offense sending Trips receivers to the wideside of the field. Even though Cover has been called, defenders respond to Sam's call of "TRIPS WIDE! TRIPS WIDE!" by repeating the call, and by executing their Trips assignments: Len drops to the deep outside 1/3 on the Trips side, while Will, Mike and Sam drop to the Trips-side Wide Flat, Wide Hook and Middle Hook, respectively. The DS moves up under control to cover the remaining deep 2/3 of the field, while Ron Maxes the now-isolated backside wide receiver. The backside End executes a technique which is not quite a zone, called Shortside Square: if the remaining receiver who is in position to threaten the shortside of the field, the fullback, releases shortside, the End drops and plays his Square responsibilities (see page XX). Quad receivers would produce the same result, whether the offense lines up that way, or shifts and/or motions into a Quad formation wideside -- with the sole exception that the shortside End would be freed from the possibility of a #2 receiver releasing to his side, and could crash as usual. If crossing routes were causing problems, of course, we could still game-plan dropping that End to Shortside Square to wall off crossing receivers.

5 LEFT COVER vs. WIDE TRIPS (right hash)

Finally, if we call Cover against a team which motions to or lines up in a Trips or Quad set from between the hashmarks, we end up with the situation diagrammed below -- no shortside means no Shortside Square, so both Ends crash; while Ron must (by rule) Max the isolated receiver he is mirroring. Otherwise, the Cover Wideside Trips rule is in effect, so Len, Sam, Mike, Will and the DS all maintain their same assignments against wide Trips.

11 COVER vs. WIDE TRIPS (between hashes)

Two-Deep: The insertion of a second DS (by removing one Tackle). Can be used with Max or Cover.


The Two-Deep adjustment is not really a coverage, but it sure affects how you play your coverages. Tactical use of a second DS should occur for sound defensive reasons, since you are eliminating 20% of your 1L pass rush. Against some teams, the use of a second DS or other variations (see Clemson adjustments, page XX) can provide an entire range of tactical challenges for offensive coordinators to meet -- from maximum pressure to dropping off eight defenders.

In the above diagram, the left Tackle has been substituted with a second DS who shares Max Double responsibilities with Len on the 1B receiver to the left of the formation. The other DS enforces the end line across the entire field as usual. All other Max techniques remain in force as usual.

While none of the coverages above may seem extraordinary (with the exception of the Deep Safety position, of course), it should be mentioned that the uniqueness of the 2LD rests with techniques and alignments, as well as with their application. In Max, for example, the 2L technique brings defenders underneath receivers to take away short routes. Beyond that, the skillful intermixing of Max and Cover with stunts, blitzes, and 2LD variations such as Two-Deep and offense-specific adjustments (see page XX) make the 2LD a very tricky proposition to attack. The game becomes a chess match between offensive and defensive coordinators, with the advantages of surprise and unfamiliarity almost always on the side of the defense.


I will attempt to consolidate information from certain sections before moving ahead. It's a habit I follow when installing the 2LD, and I recommend it to you highly when dealing with any complex, new information.

To review:

The offense consists of the following elements:

5 STATIC personnel (linemen)

5 MOBILE personnel (backs/receivers)

1 QB

We define the offensive line gaps as those which separate the 5 STATIC personnel ONLY. We only define A, B and C gaps to each side -- no D gap. (The gaps in the diagram are numbered for illustrative purposes only -- we do NOT number the gaps in our system.) The gaps are the primary responsibility of the 1L to defend.

The Core is the area which contains the STATIC personnel and QB, as well as the 1L defenders -- it MAY also contain MOBILE personnel and their 2L mirrors.

The 2L will MIRROR the MOBILE personnel wherever they line up: if within the Core, they will normally stack behind a 1L defender; outside the Core, they will align in an Inside or Outside shade, at a Hard (+1), Medium (+3-5) or Soft (+7) depth.

Normally, the DS deploys at a depth of +28 and enforces an End Line at +18. In certain coverages, he may instead double cover a receiver, or cover the deep 1/3 or 2/3 of the field.

There are 13 1L alignments possible in the 2LD, and five possible locations for 2L defenders to stack behind them. The combination yields a theoretical total of 242 possible 2LD fronts -- all from a two-digit (at most) 1L alignment call.

The 1L has three Stunts available to it -- the Slant and two Twists, TNT and TET. The 2L can use three Blitzes -- Dog, Switch and Cushion.

Coverages fall in two types: Man (Max, Max/Double and Max/Tight Cushion) or Cover. Cover changes depending on the lateral placement of the ball (hashmark or middle) and on the offensive formation before the snap ("normal" vs. Trip/Quad receivers).


The following schedule is designed to get a bare-bones 2LD up and running within two weeks, assuming 20 hours are available for defensive practice. (It is even possible to do so in 5 days if four hours a day are available for defense.)

Special attention is given to the drills Coach Thomson invented to teach the particular skills involved in playing the 2LD. Each practice schedule is preceded by a Chalk Talk script which covers the concepts to be taught on the field.

v. 1, 05/17/02