Defensive End Hat Read Change Up

By FirstDown PlayBook on Sep 18, 2023
NFL Coaches On 6 Youth Football Defenses

Regardless of the level of football you coach you are going to be better off if you give your defensive players’ keys. As a youth football defensive end or tackle, that key is often the hat of the lineman or tight end that they line up over.

We saw a play in the Florida Tennessee game on Saturday that reminded us of this point. We will draw that play up for All 22 Tuesday tomorrow but this is a good lead in.

Almost all young defensive linemen will initially want to peak into the backfield to find the ball. As we all know this can get them in a world of trouble and eventually they learn to trust the helmet key over them. It is rewarding for them and you when the hat read takes them to the football.

At some point in their development however, a youth football player will run into an offensive line coach who will begin to use their keys against them. In the play below this is happening. The tight end is getting a bigger split and arc releasing up on the strong side outside linebacker.

The defensive end is recognizing the hat outside as a reach block and is squeezing it inside out because he is playing a 7 technique (maybe a 6I for you youngsters).

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You are coaching him to get his eyes back inside vs an outside release but that’s not enough. The fullback is on him before he can squeeze the C gap. It could just as well be a pulling Guard. FirstDown PlayBook wants to know what is a simple adjustment you can make with the defensive end to help him out with this? Don’t cheat. Look at the first diagram before scrolling down.

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Some coaches might endorse slanting into the C gap or running a Pirate stunt. This is certainly an answer but you have to be careful not to over commit to the C gap run and expose your flank.

This is why we would teach the defensive end to read the adjacent hat of the offensive tackle. This way it gives him a chance to always be right. As you can see in the big drawing below, it puts him a better situation to take on the fullback if he steps inside when the offensive tackle blocks down.

In the three diagrams at the bottom from left to right, it also gives him a chance to be in good position vs 1. An out block scheme 2. A zone scheme 3. A pass protection scheme. Remember this article tomorrow when you take a look at the All 22 Tuesday play for this week.

Change Your Defensive Ends Hat Key