One key factor to winning a game is putting pressure on the quarterback. Why is this often overlooked part of a game plan key to the outcome of the game? If the opposing quarterback has time to make decisions and throw the ball, your team will be playing catch-up.
The first step in rushing the quarterback is putting some speed on the line. Having speed on the defensive line can cover up some mis-matches in the secondary. Below is a general game play for your defensive line (this assumes league rules allow the quarterback to ran on any play).
1st Series – For the 1st series of the game, the rushers should use a standard outside-contain rush. This is to get a feel for the skill of the opponents quarterback (good arm / accuracy / mobility).
2nd Series – During the second series, the defensive should mix up the rush. Instead of just rushing the outside, now have one or both rushers, pursue inside as well. This can give the quarterback a greater opportunity to run. If you’ve determined you’re facing a running quarterback, you may to skip this strategy and stick to the outside rush.
3rd Series to End of Game – After facing your opponents for a couple series (around 10+ plays), you should have a decent feel for the opposing quarterback’s skill set.
Down and Distance Situations:
3rd Down and 5 + yards – Blitz, blitz, blitz. Effectively blitzing in these situations forces the quarterback to snap decisions that require a fair amount of accuracy. The secondary should consider man defense. If not man, then the coverage should at least be tight to the line of scrimmage. Nothings makes a rush more ineffective then loose coverage in the secondary. I recommend blitzing with a safety. If you decide to blitz with your linebacker, your safety should fill in this area to prevent a quick pass to the center.
3rd Down and Short – Short yardage is the toughest to defend against. The offense has many options. Pressuring the quarterback is still a necessity, but you don’t want to sacrifice a short play. In 3rd and short, try rushing only one (your best rusher). The other lineman should shadow the quarterback to prevent a rushing first down. As before, your defensive backs should consider man.
Goal Line – Generally the same principles as third down should apply.