American Football – Part IV; Building the System: The Roster & Player Roles

The constants within a system are the roster and universal tactical goals, which each formation/tactic is designed to deviate slightly to allow for variations in play or match-ups. Because the roster and universal tactical goals will depend on one another, I end up with a chicken and the egg situation. The tactics determine the roster as much as the roster determines the tactics. Because they are so intertwined, I try to think of them in conjunction with one another.

Although I will get into the specifics of the TI and the formations with the next section, I want to give a quick and dirty, high-level analysis of some of the macro team elements before I get into the specific players.

Use and protect the entire field

Generally speaking, whether or attacking or defending, I’m going to want to make sure that I have a threat and defender on every zone and gap. This ensures that if the opposing team is giving up a certain area of the field, I have a player already designed to find it and take advantage. On the flip side, I don’t want to leave that sort of opportunity for the opposing team.

Focus on A,B Gaps

But all that said, the 0,1,2 Zones behind the LOS and the A & B Gaps are my focus. Those zones offer the best chances on goal and the AB Gaps are the easiest route to those zones. Similarly, the 0,1,2,3 zones in front of the LOS (golden zone & half-spaces/channels) are important because they are the easiest access to the AB Gaps. To help control these areas, every formation and tactic are going to feature players (namely DMCs and AMCs) designed to specialize in attacking or defending these Zones and Gaps.

Defense

Defensively I am trying to build that “bend but don’t break” system. I’m going to want the defensive line pushed up a bit to ensure that my players engage early on defense so that I don’t give up easy plays, but I have to be careful to not give up the big play in the process, so I can’t get them too far forward. Additionally, I can use pressure to stop the run and buy time for my players to get back into position and having defensive players with a bit of pace will also help in that endeavor.

Because no one player or group of players can defend all the zones and gaps, I will specialize them a bit to allow them to focus (and hopefully be more effective) at their assigned tasks. My defensive line will be tasked with protecting the zones behind the LOS (cover) and then the gaps. That means they will need to prepared to stop long balls and crosses as these are the biggest threats to get into the zones behind the LOS. Then their job with the gaps will be mainly gap control and keeping their shape to be difficult to play through and keep the opposing team from getting the ball behind the LOS via a through ball or pass. I want the defensive line (particularly the CD) focused 100% on these roles, so I will use other players (mainly my DMC) to protect the zones in front of the LOS, so no stopper roles here.

Offensive

Offensively, although I’ll have players everywhere looking to exploit whatever opportunities present themselves, my focus is going to be creating through-ball opportunities as they are a very low risk, high reward option to attack the AB Gaps. They have a pretty decent chance of success and result in a good shot scoring opportunity when successful because of both the location of the shot and the fact that the scorer is already facing the goal and has momentum when he gets the ball. It’s low risk because even if it fails, it is likely to result in a goal kick, throw, or corner. The defenders are typically facing the goal or their own backline when they intercept a through-ball and between the pressure on the defending ball carrier and the time it will take for them to turn around, it will be difficult for the opposing team to turn it into a counter opportunity. More often than not, they will simply have to clear it away as quickly as possible. (compared to a long ball or cross where the defender could already be facing upfield when they intercept the ball, making an easy counter opportunity).

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: