The most difficult position on the field for most defenses is outside linebacker. In a typical 8-man Front, like the 3-5-3 or 4-2-5 defenses, these players have two responsibilities.
The outside linebacker is primarily responsible for containing the run, forcing the ball carrier back inside on edge runs. It can also force the ball carrier to bubble and work laterally towards the sideline, allowing the chase to get there to help.
The second responsibility of the OLB is to cover the floors at the pass. Typically 8 man fronts will run Cover 3 as base coverage.
Most defensive coordinators use a combination of zone and man coverage. The OLB will normally be locked on receiver n. 2 next to it on deck 1 or deck 0, a slot or a closed end. When a player is locked in man cover, he cannot be considered part of the running defense.
The lineup of the outside linebacker will depend on his defense and his skills. Usually it will be somewhere in the range of 3-5 yards outside the End Man on the Line of Scrimmage (EMOLS) and 2-5 yards outside the Line of Scrimmage (LOS).
If there is a receiver n. 2, the OLB commonly uses a vertex alignment, 5 yards from the ball and midway between the EMOLS and the slot. Depending on the slot’s gear and skill, you can choose to line it up closer to the slot to deter passing or closer to the EMOLS to aid in the running game.
Keys and feedback
The primary key to OLB is EMOLS, a Tackle or Tight End, for a High-Hat, Low Hat reading. High Hat, which means that the OT’s helmet appears as in a passing game, tells him that the play is a pass and that he must open to the planes (but this will be dictated by the cover call). In a low hat reading, when the OT shoots flat back, he is assuming he is running. The OLB should be thinking about running unless it gets a definitive high hat pass reading.
You can help the OLB get your readings by studying the EMOLS movie you will be reading. Different teams employ different techniques to block passes and runs.
After getting a low hat reading, the OLB verifies its secondary key: the broker. You need to attack the run appropriately by reading the run block and backfield action:
EMOLS hard block the inside, RB for you: attack the line of scrimmage to replace where the EMOLS left off. Wait for an ejection block from a RB or by pulling the guard. Do this with your inside arm, keeping your outside arm and leg free and your shoulders in line with the line. Constrain the running line inward and prepare to make the ball carrier’s tackle bounce out.
The EMOLS unit blocks the defensive side, RB for you: shuffle up and in, but don’t get completely close to the line of scrimmage. Maintain outside leverage until the RB calls in, then retreat to make the tackle. If it bounces out, box the play.
EMOLS reaches you, RB flows fast outwards: attack the line of scrimmage but keep your width. If you have a # 2 receiver, decide if you can beat him to the point of attack or need to defeat his block. If you have to defeat his block, go through it, roll it back, and work your way out to contain the game.
EMOLS Zone or Reach away from you, Backfield Flows – Maintain your depth, bend inward to stack the Defensive End. Check the action of Counterattack, Reverse, Smuggling and be ready to work. Don’t pass the defensive end until the ball is declared away from you.
Play Action Pass can put a lot of stress on your sponsors. If the OLB reads run, it should attack because it is a first player to run. But once he is aware of the pass, usually by the action of the secondary key, he must break it to get back into his area of pass coverage. Never give up on a play!
Train outside linebackers
The individual techniques required for OLBs are similar to those of any defensive player. They need to be able to read their code and react, defeat a block, make a tackle, drop and cause turnovers. All these skills should be worked on in a collection of 5 daily exercises, time permitting. Add other exercises to work on your weaknesses.
Group work is essential for the external supporter to understand their role. He will work with the Safeties, Corners, Defensive Ends and Inside Linebackers. Organize group drills each week that allow you to see your role in advocacy with each of these groups. Make sure group exercises are relevant to the opponent you will be facing that week.
Understand that offensive coordinators will make fun of your outside linebacker. He is the player who conflicts more easily. Offensive plans will try to thwart you and make you guess.
Your outside linebackers will make mistakes! Train them to trust their keys, physically play and run to football at all times to have the best OLB game possible.