Cowboys X’s & O’s: The Over Front

The off-season is the perfect time to dig deep into the X’s & O’s and the mechanics of the game we all love. This article is an excerpt from, “Nuts & Bolts: A Guide To The 2015 Cowboys” an upcoming E-Book publishing in Mid-July. “Nuts & Bolts” will be your go-to guide to Cowboys’ offensive, and defensive schemes, the strategies behind them, and how they will put the player in position to succeed.

Note: The off-season is the perfect time to dig deep into the X’s & O’s and the mechanics of the game we all love. This article is an excerpt from, “Nuts and Bolts: A guide to the 2015 Cowboys” an upcoming E-Book I will be publishing in Mid-July. “Nuts and Bolts” will be your go-to guide to the Cowboys’ offensive, and defensive schemes, the strategies behind them, and how they will put the player in position to succeed. Stay tuned to CowboysHQ for more excerpts, and to be the FIRST to know when the full version comes available.

Despite the fact that the NFL has increasingly become a passing league, it is still true that the game is won in the trenches. That being said, it is important to first understand the alignments of the front-seven players in Rod Marinelli’s base 4-3 defense. The base group features four down linemen, three linebackers, and for defensive backs. The linemen and line backers make up the front-seven, and they will show two primary alignments when the offense is in a standard formation. As we cover their alignments we will also get an understanding of the positions in the front-seven, what their primary focus should be, and who we can expect to play these positions in base situations for the Cowboys in 2015. In terms of assignments, there will be various responsibilities, but we can get a general idea of their post-snap responsibilities with the rules I’ve outlined below.

The two base fronts in this defense are the “Under” front, and the “Over” front. The Under/Over designation specifically tells the defensive tackles which side they should line up on, which infers the alignments for the remaining members of the front-seven. Now we will examine the Over Front.




Here are two examples of the Cowboys in the Over Front in 2014



RE: Open (Weak) side seven or nine technique. Rush the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle, stop runs to his side on the way to the quarterback, pursue down the line to close down cut back lanes on runs away from him, while maintaining position to shut down a quarterback bootleg in case of play action.
UT: Closed (Strong) side three technique. Rush the outside shoulder of the offensive guard (can take either side in pass rush situations). Squeeze the strong side A gap against runs away.
NT: Open (Weak) side one technique. Penetrate the open side A gap (between Center and weak side guard).
LE: Closed side seven technique. Rush the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle, keep contain. Play the D gap (outside of the TE) on runs to his side, pursue down the line to close down cut back lanes on runs away from him, while maintaining position to shut down a quarterback bootleg in case of play action.
W: Align to the closed (strong) side, heads up with the offensive tackle at a depth of five yards. Protected by the Under Tackle and the Closed (Strong side) End, play the C gap (between the Tackle and Tight End) on runs to his side, and flow to the ball on runs away, while maintaining his leverage to prevent a cut back. His responsibility against the pass will vary based on the coverage call, as we will study later.
M: align heads up on the center at a depth of about five yards. fill closed side A gap on runs to that side, and to flow to the ball on weakside runs, maintaining his leverage to prevent a cut back. His responsibility against the pass will vary based on the coverage call, as we will study later.
S: Align to the open (weak) side, on the outside shoulder of the offensive guard. fill the open B gap (between the Guard and Tackle) on runs to his side, and flow to the ball on runs away, while maintaining his leverage to prevent a cut back. His responsibility against the pass will vary based on the coverage call, as we will study later.

For a detailed look at the Cowboys in the 4-3 Under Front, read the first of this series by clicking here.


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