Video:What Is the Nickel Defense in Football?with Jonathan Stewart
The nickel defense is one of a basic defensive lineup designed to stop pass plays. Learn more about the nickel defense, including its history and how to implement it.See Transcript
Transcript:What Is the Nickel Defense in Football?When it comes to the nickel and dime and the sport of football, we're not talking about coins. Whether you're just learning the game or hoping to get a better understanding of common play formations, you will soon know the nickel as one of modern football's basic defensive lineups.
Basic Set-Up of the Nickel Defense in FootballThe nickel defense is a defensive formation whose primary purpose is to stop the football from being effectively passed, without leaving itself completely vulnerable to the offense's running game. Players in the formation generally include four down lineman, two linebackers, and five defensive backs, instead of the usual four. The fifth back in this formation is known as the nickel back.
History of the Nickel Defense in FootballThe nickel defense was developed in 1960 by Philadelphia Eagles defensive coach Jerry Williams. He saw it as an ideal formation that would defend against the Chicago Bears tight end Mike Ditka. Later, the Bears' assistant George Allen coined the term, the nickel, and claimed this formation as his own idea.
The 4-lineman version of the nickel defense puts two defensive tackles on the line of scrimmage flanked by two ends. Behind this defensive line are two linebackers whose primary job is to defend against the offense's running game. The receivers from the offense are covered by two cornerbacks and the nickel back, with two safeties bringing up the rear.
Uses for the Nickel Defense in FootballThis defense became widely used in the 1970s, and is still used today, generally in situations where a pass play seems likely, or when the opposing team commonly uses four receivers as part of its offense.
The nickel defense's biggest weakness is defending against an audible running play, since it takes defenders away from the front line, leaving them more vulnerable if the offense decides to suddenly call off the pass play.
Try the Nickel Defense Against Strong Tight EndsYou may also see the nickel defense -- also sometimes called the nickel package -- when an offense has a particularly strong receiving tight end. Since this guy is usually covered by the strong side linebacker, who is typically a pretty big guy, better at stopping the run than chasing a fast tight end, it's the nickel back who takes over this role. But again, once the offense catches on, the nickel can become the target of a last second running play.
So there you have it, the nickel in a nutshell. I'm Jonathon Stewart, with About.com.
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