Thursday, January 27, 2005

Defending Horizontal Stacks

It seems that most of the top open teams have gone to some sort of horizontal or spread type offense. The most obvious benefit of these types of offenses is that they open up huge downfield cutting lanes – most notably, the deep lane is pretty much constantly open.

An additional concern for defenses is that called plays out of a spread formation are more resistant to transition defenses (zone to man, junk to man) than traditional straight stack plays. The reason for this is that the spread formation resembles a traditional zone offense formation and it’s pretty easy for an offense to simply call “after they transition to man, run the play.” That’s not to say that defenses should abandoned transition zones against spread offenses – I think it just means that defenses should rethink the point in time when the transition should occur. For instance, maybe you stay in you transition until the offense reaches a certain point on the field rather than a specific number of passes. Perhaps paradoxically, spread offenses become considerably less threatening the closer they get to the end zone they are scoring in.

I think the most effective strategy for playing man against spread offenses is to poach off the dumps and mark flat. The handler defenders should work very hard to contain the frisbee in the handling zone. What I mean by that is you want to invite the three guys back with the frisbee to just keep hitting the open reset, while poaching like crazy to make throws downfield uninviting. I hear handlers saying all the time, “let’s just sit back here and hit the open resets all day.” That’s great for the defense because while the handlers are throwing their swing passes and racking up the touches without breaking a sweat, the cutters are downfield running. Fitness becomes an issue surprisingly quickly. If you think about how most teams train it makes sense. Generally, teams are focusing on short sprint workouts and are just typically not training for marathon points. Their reason for doing this is pretty sound – most of their offense points are involving 2 passes and then a bomb to isolation. Given this style of offense it makes sense to train for explosiveness over endurance. As a defense we want to use this against them. I usually feel if we can go out there and make them throw 6 or 7 horizontal reset passes the cutters are going to get tired and they’re either going to stop cutting all together or more likely, they’re going to keep cutting, but they’re going to be more prone to make errors.


wood said...

One method I've used for defending spread offenses is to just fall into a zone as soon as it's recognized. So, you're playing man, run down after the pull, notice they're setting up for a spread O and then you just fall into zone defense. Because the spread O's resemble zone O's already, it is pretty easy to get your defensive players into position. The particular zone I've used is a 3-3-1. I like this zone for this purpose because it isn't immediately obvious that we've gone to a zone defense. The offense will probably still make their set cuts and think we're just poaching.

In the 3-3-1, the 3 markers generally mark flat and poach the lanes like crazy, much like you describe. The next 3 play under their men, so we've basically got 6 guys between the handlers and the receivers. There is one deep to take away the hucks. It's really easy to fall into this defense off of a man call. Even in mixed I've done it, you just have to make sure you set up intelligently, with a valid deep. Pretty much anyone can play the marker or wing positions.

I really like the idea of transitioning from zone after passing a certain point on the field rather than after a certain number of passes. Spread offenses are definitely less effective the closer you get to the endzone. This is likely easier in open than mixed, as matchup up with mixed genders is tough. On Rival we've tended to just stick with the zone for the whole point. Maybe we'll look to change that this year.

aj said...

That reminds of something I was wondering about the other day - one of the biggest weaknesses with transitions zones in open is the potential for the creation of unfavorable match-ups. This problem seems like it would be amplified in the mixed game due to gender match-up issues. Have you tried transition zones in mixed? Any luck with them?

Marshall said...

Perhaps a long-abandoned thread, but yes, we have tried some transition zones in Mixed, with, well, somewhat mixed effectiveness. The transition frequently requires that a woman be able effectively to slow down a throw to a man (e.g., by making him change his cut or by poaching the throwing lane while getting to her person).

I find it often more difficult to switch out of a 2-3-2 in mixed than it to switch out of a 1-3-3, where for some reason it is more likely that the women will get to the offenders faster. Maybe we just need to position women/men differently in 2-3-2, and maybe it's because 1-3-3 is a little more conservative anyway.