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.