Week in Review: Bengals Film Study: Zimmer’s Fingerprints All Over Dolphins’ D
By Shawn Maher
Sugar A-Gap Zone Defense
A trick that both Zimmer and Coyle love to create confusion in the interior and occupy blockers is the double A-gap sugar technique. Both linebackers line up on either side of the center, with both defensive tackles lined up in 3 techniques over the guards.
The Dolphins line up with both linebackers in the A-gap looking ready to blitz. When the ball is snapped, one bails to allow the slot corner to be part of a Larry Fitzgerald triple-team.
The linebackers will either blitz or fake it then drop into coverage. In the play above, one linebacker drops into coverage against the bunch formation that the Cardinals run in order to try to create Fitzgerald mismatches. The other linebacker shoots the A gap along with Odrick at defensive tackle, creating pressure and hurrying Kevin Kolb into a throw.
Fitzgerald runs the post route from the slot, where Kolb is expecting space from the blitzing linebackers. When Dansby drops into coverage, the slot corner can play aggressively underneath the route. The two-high safeties converge at the middle of the field on top of Fitzgerald to shut down what appeared to be the right call for the coverage.
With linebackers again aligned in the A-gap, they both bail and unexpected pressure comes in from the safety aligned in the slot.
When the linebackers take a false step as if blitzing and then drop into coverage, this makes blocking assignments hard to decipher for offensive linemen. It is the same principal that Dick LeBeau uses in Pittsburgh, but with a different front.
When the linebackers drop into coverage the offensive linemen expecting pressure up the middle can allow other blitzers to streak in unnoticed with a numerical advantage against the protection scheme.
In this play, Fitzgerald motions from the backfield to the outside of the bunch formation to the right before the snap.
Both linebackers aligned in the A gaps bail into zone coverage at the snap. The running back is expecting pressure from the middle or from the eighth man in the box to his left. While the two receivers to the right run comebacks to the apparent opening in the middle of the field, both linebackers undercut those routes.
The strong safety blitzes from the offense’s right and the tight end chips him on the way to running a hot route. It is all for naught, as the pass is tipped by the strong safety in Kolb’s face.
The Bengals do have a much better offensive line than the Cardinals, but the middle pressure will be a constant concern for the line’s weakness: Faine. The Bengals will likely leave the running back in to pass block, meaning that Bernard Scott may see limited snaps upon his return from a wrist injury.
Andy Dalton is also adept at blitz recognition and buying time in the pocket. With the Bengals offense featuring a variety of quick-hitting plays designed to get the ball out fast and let the receivers run wild, Green and Armon Binns will likely run quick slants in addition to sideline routes in order to isolate them in coverage.
Andrew Hawkins and his nose for finding holes in zones will likely be employed heavily this week. And if Green is blanketed, another big game could be in store for a Jermaine Gresham if he is not forced to stay in and block the Dolphins’ pass rush.