In pass defense, the main function for the front four defensive linemen (Tackles and Ends) is to create pressure and get to the Quarterback. Sometimes they struggle to create this pressure, what do teams do when this happens? They bring blitzes and call for defensive line stunts. Let’s start off with blitzes. A blitz is when a team brings more than four players into the backfield to pressure the QB. This means they would be bringing either linebackers or players from the secondary (Corners and Safeties) to rush the passer.
What goes into a good blitz?
To create a good blitz, a team brings more rushers than there are blockers or they have a player assigned to multiple blockers to allow a blitzer to run free. Teams don’t always have to finish the play with a sack for it to be a successful blitz. If the QB is rushed and doesn’t get a good throw off, that’s a win for the defense as well. Blitzes are risky because teams would be taking players out of coverage to bring more players to rush the passer. If the blitz doesn’t work (they don’t disrupt the QB), then there is potential for a big play to happen. There has to be a healthy balance of playing coverage and bringing the blitz.
Stunts are a little different. To keep it simple, a stunt is when someone in the front seven (Defensive Linemen and Linebackers) switches gap responsibilities. For example, if a Defensive Tackle is responsible for the A-gap and the end is responsible for the C-gap, they switch; the end would take on the A-gap and the tackle would take the C-gap. There are times when there are more than just two players involved in a stunt. The concept stays the same just with more moving parts.
With a stunt, teams are hoping to confuse offensive linemen on what their assignment is. Moving and looping players around makes it harder for the offensive linemen to figure out who they have to block. Two things have to happen in order to have a successful stunt. The first player needs to crash hard into whatever gap he’s going toward, creating a pile of bodies near him. After that happens, the other player involved will loop around and find the opening to get to the QB. Like blitzes, stunts don’t need to bring down the QB to be successful. If the players get in the passing lanes or rush the QB’s throw, that is still a win for the defense.
With stunts involving more than two players, the same thing happens, there are just more players moving to different gaps. There is always a player designated to go first. Normally, the end on the outside of the line will go first since he has the most ground to cover. Next would come the player looping around. They are on a bit of a delay, waiting for the perfect time to come through their gap. The final player would do the same thing, delaying their rush and finding their gap a little later than the first player.
Now we have gone through almost all of the major components of defensive alignment and assignment and how they figure into play calling.