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Let’s Talk Football: Running a Gap 8 Defense

By Coach Tom Bass Tue, 05/11/2010 - 10:44am

Each week Coach Bass brings his 30 years of NFL coaching experience to USA Football. Email Coach Bass your question.

Tommy sent the following question:

I need to see a gap 8 defense.

Hi Tommy,

There can be many different fronts that you can use to play a gap 8 defense as long as you have one defensive player assigned to each gap.

In determining the eight gaps you need to fill, start with a basic offensive alignment using two tight ends. The gaps or running lanes are usually numbered for identification and clarification. Most gaps start with the odd numbers on the left of center and the even numbered gaps to the right of center. The running lane or gap is the area between two players or wide outside either tight end (see Diagram 1 in pictures).

In a true gap 8 defense, we would line a defensive player up in each gap (see Diagram 2). This type of alignment would give you three defensive backs to play pass defense. I do know that some youth coaches use this type of alignment and that it is almost impossible for the offense to run a play. Unfortunately the players who are shooting through the gaps are not learning any of the techniques that they will need if they continue their football careers.

The other problem that you may encounter is if the offensive players block down, they can get blocking angles on your players and then they can use a lead blocker (usually a fullback) to kick out on your end man on the line of scrimmage.

Coaches will often give their linebackers two-gap responsibility in order to play a more standardized type of defense. The linebackers (inside) will go to one gap if the ball comes their way and another if the ball goes in the other direction (See Diagram 3).

In this defense the NT [nose tackle] will be sent into a predetermined gap on either the right or the left of the center. When the ball comes to the side of the inside backer (LB) he will fill either the four or five gap on his side. The inside backer (LB) opposite the movement of the ball will check the center-guard gap not covered by the NT and then move in pursuit. We now have four defensive backs in the game and can have one of them come up if the ball is run wide to their side.

I hope this gives you an idea of how you use a gap defense to stop an opponent.

Coach Tom Bass