Defense Sets: Man-to-Man vs Zone

When setting up your defense, most teams play either a man-to-man or zone. Below are their advantages and disadvantages.
Man-to-Man:

Advantages:
  • Coverage Responsibility – Before a play starts each defender knows who they are covering.
  • Increased Quarterback Sacks – Playing man-to-man should allow your rush some more time to get to the quarterback since the receivers will be covered on the line of scrimmage.
Disadvantages:
  • Quarterback Coverage – When playing man-to-man, the defenders will lose sight of the quarterback more as they running with the receivers. This can allow for some quarterback scrambling.
  • Susceptible to Big Play – If facing a fast receiver and the rush is not getting to the quarterback, your defense could give a big play.
Zone:

Advantages:
  • Area of Responsibility – Defenders generally stay in a designated area.
  • Facing the Quarterback – For the most part in a zone, all eyes will be on the quarterback. This can be good against a quarterback who likes to rush a lot.
Disadvantages:
  • Coverage Confusion – Players may cover receivers into another zone leaving their area open. A cornerback may let a receiver go thinking he has safety help behind him. However, the safety may be covering another receiver if the offense sends two into his zone.
  • Death by Nickels and Dimes – Play zone usually means receivers will be open early in their routes. This can allow a good offense to use a short passing attack and work their way up the field against your defense.