The 4-2-5 Defense is one of the most popular defenses today at all levels of football. There are two reasons for its popularity. The 4-2-5 Defense is simple for players to grasp. You can install a complete Defensive package in a matter of just a few days. Second, the 4-2-5 is incredible versatile. It can be easily adapted to face any Offensive attack. While there are more glamorous defensive schemes out there, none can match the ease of installation and the endless adaptability of the 4-2-5 Defense.
4 Myths of the 4-2-5 Defense
We are going to take a look at how to align the base defense with a simple coverage package, that will let you have your defense up and running in less than an hour. But first, let's take a look at some of the myths of the 4-2-5 Defense.
1. The 4-2-5 Defense gets speed on the field. Because you have only two Linebackers, you have only two players who have to take on blocks from the Offensive Line or isolation blocks by backs. Your Overhang Safeties are essentially a linebacker, but not in a position where they are often threatened by direct blocks. Therefore, you can use faster and more active players here, who tackle well in space.
2. The 4-2-5 Defense can stop power running attacks. The 4-2-5 in its basic structure is a 4-4 Defense. You cannot convince me otherwise. If it makes you feel better, start calling your two overhang safeties “Outside Linebackers” and rename this thing a 4-4 Defense. Tighten them down further and put their hand in the dirt, and you are running a 6-2 Defense. You could conceivably have 6 players for these two positions, and never teach another player a different technique.
3. The 4-2-5 Defense is easily adaptable to a variety of coverages. The 4-2-5 is built for Cover 3, because of its nature as an 8-Man front with a single high safety. But you can also adapt it to a Robber Coverage (Virginia Tech did this with their 44 “G” Defense), a Quarters Coverage or any number of other coverages.
4. Simple blitz packages and line movements can make the defense more exciting for your players. It is very easy to install a complete, simple blitz package with either a Man Coverage or a 3-under, 3-deep fire zone coverage behind it. Additionally, you can use simple line movements to confuse the offense and excite your own players by mixing it up.
The Alignment of the 4-2-5 Defense
Now that you know why you should install this defense, lets take a look at how to align your base defense. You can get your players aligned properly in no time, and be able to defend most formations on Day 1 if your players understand a few simple rules.
Defensive Line Alignment
To keep it simple, play your Defensive Linemen on the left and right side. You want to put their inside hand down to improve their ability to get off and strike the Offensive Line, so let them get used to having the same hand down.
All of our Defensive Linemen play in an outside shade on the Offensive Linemen, so they are interchangeable between all four positions if necessary.
The Defensive Tackles will be in a 3-Technique (outside shade of the Guard) on the strong side, and I a 1-technique (shaded on the Center) on the weak side. You may consider flipping these guys if they can handle it, and you have one physically dominant Defensive Lineman that you want to play at the 3-Technique on the strong side.
Our Defensive Ends also do not have to flip. On the strong side, we play in a 7-Technique (Inside shade of the Tight End), and in a 5-Technique on the weak side (outside shade of the Tackle). If you were to flip these guys, the stronger of the two would be on the strong side and the faster, more athletic player would place the weak side.
Positioning Your Inside Linebackers
There are few defenses where playing Inside Linebacker is as simple as it is in the 4-2-5 Defense. Both Inside Linebackers will be aligned in 30-Techniques (outside shade of the Guard, 5 yards off the line of scrimmage). This alignment rarely ever changes for them.
You want the Inside Linebackers to play fast, above all else. So as with the Defensive Line, you want them to have the same picture on every play. Your front 6 players almost never change their initial alignment, unless you want them to. The Offense cannot force these players into uncomfortable situations.
Teaching Alignment for the Overhang Safeties
As simple as the play of the Inside Linebackers is, the play for Overhang Safeties, or Outside Linebackers, is just as difficult. This is the hardest position to play on your defense. Therefore, you should look for a player that is athletic, but intelligent enough to handle the responsibilities of the position.
These players are sometimes called “Hybrids” because they are part Linebacker, and part Safety. They are the only players that you should probably flip on the defense, though it is not absolutely necessary if you are going to run a simple Cover 3 coverage.
Our Strong Safety is going to be aligned on the strong side of the formation (Tight End side), 3 yards off and 3 yards outside of the End Man on the Line of Scrimmage. Against heavy running teams, we will tighten him down to as much as 1x1 off the Tight End.
The Weak Safety plays 3x3 off of the Offensive Tackle on the weak side of the formation. He is more athletic, and less likely to take on the power running game than the strong safety. If you want to use a 2-High Safety coverage such as Quarters, this is the player you will roll back to play the other deep safety position.
Be aware that many Offensive coaches try to put a player in conflict. They look for the player who is asked to be a 50/50 player – 50% Run, 50% Pass. Our Defensive Line and Inside Linebackers are committed to the run, while the Free Safety and Corners are committed to the pass. Your Overhang Safeties are the players that will most likely be targeted by these types of schemes. They are the contain player against the run, and the flat player versus the pass in your Cover 3 Coverage.
Installing a Basic Cover 3 Package
The final step to installing our base defense quickly, is to use a Cover 3 Coverage. For coaches who are strapped for practice time, particularly if you need to spend a bulk of time on your Offense, the simplicity of the Cover 3 cannot be beat.
In the Cover 3, our front 8 will use the alignment you installed with your base defense. The only adjustment is for the Overhang Safeties. If there are two wide receivers on the strong side, the Strong Safety will split the difference between the #2 Receiver (Slot receiver) and the Offensive Tackle or Tight End. The Weak Safety follows the same rule. Both players will play at a depth of 5 yards when they split the difference.
The Weak Safety and Strong Safety are responsible for the Flat Zone, 10-12 yards deep and stretching from halfway between the hash and numbers to the sideline. They read the End Man on the Line Of Scrimmage for a run/pass read. If they see a high hat, pass block (or route release by the TE), they open up their hips and drop to the top of the numbers.
The Inside Linebackers read their Guards for a run/pass key. If they get a high had read, they open up their hips and sprint to the hash marks, at a depth of 10-12 yards. Remember that we are using spot dropping because we want to install this defense quickly and keep it simple. In many cases the time cost of pattern reading is not worth the benefit when time is limited.
The Cornerbacks play inside shade of the #1 Receiver, at a depth of 6-8 yards. They are responsible for the Deep 1/3 of the field from the hash mark to the sideline on their side. On the snap of the ball they are back peddling or sliding out, depending on which technique you choose to teach. I would recommend the open slide, or basketball slide, because of the ease of teaching this skill. They must stay deeper than the deepest receiver.
The Free Safety plays the middle of the field, between the hash marks. Nothing can get behind him. You can have him read the End Man on the Line Of Scrimmage, the Guards or the backfield action to get his run/pass key. Some coaches like to keep their Free Safety as an aggressive run player, running the alley between the Defensive End and the Outside Linebacker on outside run plays. This is an effective run-stopping strategy, but you must be aware of what you are sacrificing in pass defense and in the security of having that deep player.
With the base front installed and the Cover 3 Coverage, you have a complete defense ready to run in about half a practice. Use the rest of your time to teach fundamentals of tackling, block destruction and pursuit to make your defense a dominant force.
Joe Daniel is the author of Football-Defense.com and
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