Now that you have the right personal its time to focus on game-planning. That being said you are going to have to come up with a cohesive formula for success that everyone is on-board with. If you have any starter or someone who plays significant time not on-board, you are in for trouble. If you have some people on the team who have played 11v11 football their entire lives and are unwilling to adapt, your team will fail. This is not due to lack of talent but rather lack of respect for this game. On the same spectrum if you have an entire team that played 11v11 football and they all want to play a more traditional game of football, you should be successful.
How you utilize your linebackers is going to be so extremely critical. I talk about this example because it can be so different on every team. Some teams line up with two middle linebackers, others with one. Some play a traditional zone, and others assign responsibilities based on whether or not the lineman release. While a lineman release is similar to a TE release, it would not account for 2 lineman releasing off of a 3 person line. Since lineman in flag football are the MOST different aspect of flag football vs real football, your linebackers will need to know exactly what to do and when. More often than not? It is a gut decision. However your corner-backs, safeties, and even lineman (to an extent) need to know how your linebacker plays. My cautionary tale is this. We had an amazing safety, and an amazing corner-back who both played college football. Our middle linebacker played soccer and a TON of flag football. He was our best athlete, and often went with his gut on who to cover. Our safety and cornerback would often expect him to stay in his zone when he had to go cover a releasing lineman or mark the scrambling QB. They did not understand that he could not stay in that zone if he was a lone MLB. Luckily after game 3 we were able to sit down and talk about every hypothetical and decide who will go where and when. Establishing how your MLB will play was very important. You will need to adapt between 1 and 2 MLB based on their offense. If the QB doesnt have an arm and is hitting short slants, push a safety up to MLB and you will be able to cover that better.
Pass Rushing Strategy
Rushing 2 or 3 players on every play is a must. There is no way around it. I have seen teams rush one person and play a strong zone. Do not do that. It will never generate the pressure you need and even a bad QB will find an open man given enough time. I believe you need to start every game rushing 2 people. You will gauge a lot of things about an offense by doing that. First you will see how you match up against them. Fast rushers can exploit guys with slow feet. If you have that, you should be ably to cause a fit for the QB. If you find that there is one of the lineman going out on passes every play you can do one of two things. Put your fast guy on his side and let him come in clean. This will make the QB yell at the guy and tell him to chip. Chipping will disrupt his route. If you cannot get in fast enough to disrupt the QB before he gets it to the releasing lineman, you need to put your big guy on him. Then your big guy can bull rush him. Go right at him and hit him hard every play. No one can get out for a pass if they are forced to stay in by the rusher.
When would it be best to rush 3? It’s simple. If the center is the one going out for passes, and the two outside blockers are SOLID, then you rush 3. Rushing three will force the center to snap and get up quickly. That is a very hard thing to do. In this case put your fastest rusher on the center. They should be able to exploit that hole all day. If you do this. I would recommend a bull rush from both outside rushers so you do not allow the other lineman to release right away. It also ensures that you control the outside which is where the QB will likely scramble after being flushed.
Coverage is often considered to be your entire offense. Man Free, Cover 2, and Cover 3 are often the 3 defenses teams will run.
- Man Free is pretty simple, every WR is covered by a cornerback, there is then a MLB and a free safety. This is a great strategy if you have great cornerbacks. If you beat a team running this all day, you will need cornerbacks that do not play offense (or who are in great shape). You will also probably be MUCH more athletic / fast than them.
- Cover 2 is what you will see more often than not. Defensive backs will play the short zone on each side. There will be 2 safeties over-top and then a middle linebacker. This is good if you are all very disciplined and know how each other play.You will need to know when to let someone go and trust that the zone they ran into will be covered. Your MLB will be key in this as teams will often go after this by running two men into the center of the field.
- Cover 3 is another zone defense. This is where the two cornerbacks on the outside will cover the deep zone, but will only go deep if someone comes into their deep zone. They go as deep as they need to. There will be one safety who covers the deep middle zone and will most of the time help out both cornerbacks. There will be two middle linebackers in this set. You will either each play a zone or line up one of the MLB’s on the slot receiver. Mixing that aspect up is helpful. Cover 3 is what is usually run if you are going to rush 3. That way you only have one MLB and rush 3.
Surprised that defense has so many different sections but offense only gets one? That is because specific play calls will be the final part in the 3 part article.But I will give you a taste of the broad interpretations of strategies I have seen work.
- Pitch the ball as often as possible. There are no fumbles in flag football. So run hook and ladders. Look to pitch ALWAYS and likewise you need to follow up behind people and look for a pitch.
- Set up plays. Run hitches often. It will get people to play tight which will let you go long later.
- Call routes that help get ONE person open. If your 3 routes are not called in order to help each-other, you have done something wrong. You need people getting guys in coverage tangled up. Confuse them on who has who and you will win.