Matchup Zone (3-1-1)
A Matchup Zone defense combines the best features of both a Zone defense and a Man-to-Man defense. The Matchup Zone “matches up” your best defender against your opponents best player, with the added support of a zone defense throughout the rest of the field.
The Matchup Zone is the football equivalent to the “Box-and-One” defense in basketball, where one player mans up against the best player on the court, while the other four teammates play a zone throughout the rest of the court. By shutting down the best player on the basketball court, and in this case, the best player on the football field, it can severely cripple the offense’s ability to score.
This play is best used when your opponent’s team has one player who is clearly the best player on the team. If a team runs the majority of their offense through that one key player, then pull out the Matchup Zone concept to shut down that player and disrupt their entire offensive strategy.
Prior to each play, it will be imperative that your matchup defender is quickly able to identify where the key offensive player lines up for the play. Therefore, your team must not only be prepared for a variety of different formations that this play may encounter, but your matchup defender must also be prepared for all of the different locations in which the key offensive player may be positioned on the offensive side of the ball. Your matchup defender should line up 4-6 yards downfield from the target player. This will allow the defender to be close enough to prevent a quick toss to the player that gets him the ball in the open field, while also providing enough distance to make it difficult for the defender to get beat deep.
The rest of your team plays a Cover 2 zone that not only guards the rest of the field, but also allows them to provide additional defensive support against the key offensive player. Make sure your best player knows that his only responsibility is to guard that one key offensive player because if he can shut him down, then your team will win the game.