For example if it is third and 8 and we blitz the middle linebacker there is a natural hole in the middle which has to be filled by either a D lineman dropping back in coverage or a safety filling the spot in the zone coverage when we bring 5 rushers.
There are no players that are more important than another on that play given that one mistake and there is a busted coverage or the blitz was useless.
The better question is, which players can be less than stellar and still allow us to be effective in this scheme? This defense is predicated on forcing teams into adverse situations by taking the action to them instead of being reactive to what they are doing. So on running plays we want to have good run fits in the gaps, turn the play inside and stone them for a loss. We want to put them in long passing situations where we can turn the blitz loose, force then to throw underneath and stop the runner before he can get upfield for a first down.
So what is criitical for that? Obviously pressure on the quarterback. Does it matter whether it is from strong DEs on the edges or from DTs who can collapse the pocket. I think the answer is that either works well so one is not better than the other, of course you want both if you can get it. While you want a strong undertackle, you have to have a strong nose tackle who can take on double teams against the run and collapse the pocket when he is singled. You have to allow the MLB the ability to roam and blitz roughly 60% of the time. If you have strong DTs you can be fine with good DEs who are good against the run and decent against the pass. But they have to be able to drop into coverage and play decent in zone coverage. You also need them to be able to jump the passing lanes and get their hands up if they aren't going to get to the passer.
Linebackers are the key to this scheme. They have to be able to tackle, blitz, drop into coverage, move laterally and run to the ball. Without 3 very good ones, you can't be aggressive and you look like we did last year. We were soft, slow, tentative and reactive. Is anyone more than important than the other? In theory the Mike is the key but lets be honest here, teams will exploit your weakest link so you can't have a journeymen in there all day without having to use someone else like a safety to prop them up. Unless of course you want to get abused at that position.
The secondary has to be good as a group but not everyone has to be all-pro. If we get no pressure on the QB or can't stop the run this group is going to take a beating. Zone blitzes work when they get there and force the QB to throw early and short. If it doesn't get there, then the zone is totally ineffective and the result is a big play. Whether we play man under, cover 2 shell up high, Cover 1 zone under, or some other variation the key is covering up the receivers long enough for pressure to get there (2 or 3 seconds at most), not to cover for 5 seconds or longer. everyone in the secondary needs to know their responsibility and what to do when the offense goes high low to the outside flooding a zone, or who is going to need help depending on how the offense lines up. In general they need to contest balls when a receiver enters their zone, they need to be good jarring the ball loose and need to be able to aggressive creating fumbles or turnovers. They need to be good tacklers and able to limit the yards after the catch.
So for me it is more about the skills sets each player or group of players need to possess rather than who is most important to the scheme.
Edited by panthers55, 29 February 2012 - 01:37 AM.