origins of the defensive key

Discussion in 'NFL Zone' started by dwmyers, Jun 6, 2013.

  1. dwmyers

    dwmyers Well-Known Member

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    So, when did keying defenses emerge, those that had automatic/programmed responses to a specific formation, or specific read of the play of a certain player (fullback, lineman, etc)?

    These have to be distinguished from tells, which is where arbitrary player X tips off the play (e.g. Dan Fouts and his feet in 1979). This is not the same as stealing signs either.

    In Dana Bible's 1947 book, there is no mention of defensive keys. By 1956, we have full blown, in the NFL championship no less, a working 1 gap key reading 4-3, probably the first mature defensive system based on a 4 linemen and 3 linebackers.

    Some 4-3s are used before this time (e.g. 1952, first Cleveland versus Detroit game), but they are no one's base defense. Middle linebackers are uncommon, and the middle guard is the common position.


    Above: a 5-2 being played in the 1953 NFL championship, Cleveland - Detroit.

    Middle guards are not clones of the modern nose guard. See this bio if you think otherwise..

    Bill Willis in Wikipedia

    or here..

    Bill Willis on HOF site

    They had a role akin to a nose backer in one of Fritz Schurmer's Eagle defenses.

    Things I think (no proof, just think they are reasonable propositions)..

    1. Without film study, you can't be sure enough of your opponents to set up a keying defense.

    2. Without separate offensive and defensive platoons, coaches won't have enough time with players to easily set up a keying defense.

    Anything that can shed light on these kinds of ideas would be appreciated!

  2. Future

    Future Intramural Legend

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    I'm not sure what exactly you are looking for, though there is some cool information :laugh2:

    I think both the things you mention are right, but players just having the intuition to be able to recognize patterns and trends in a game is always important when it comes to keying on what the offense is doing.
  3. dwmyers

    dwmyers Well-Known Member

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  4. dwmyers

    dwmyers Well-Known Member

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  5. Wolfpack

    Wolfpack Well-Known Member

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    Very cool stuff!

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