So one of my friends asked me in reference to my prior post what I meant by ‘vectoring’ .  This is a defensive philosophy popularized by Jim Bates, who had some success in Denver and Miami with the scheme, but ultimately was run out of town.

The vectoring or Run Control style of defense exists to help the entire team work towards forcing an opposing player into a zone of the field that the defense wants them to be in.  It’s kind of this odd mixture between man coverage and zone coverage, and uses outside linebackers to move players to the middle of the field while NOT making actually making the tackle.  That’s what the MLB is for.

Again, the OLBs do not typically make tackles.  Odd, but it makes sense if you think about it.  Instead of working in a zone or a man situation where one player takes a risk that can or may not success (read: attempting to make a solo tackle), the Run Control/ vectoring system basically uses OLB players as traffic cops to force a player back into the center of the field.  Basically, this increases the likelihood there will be multiple players available to attempt a tackle, and thus reduces the likelihood of missed or broken tackles.

There are some very important things you need to make this system work, however.  

You need big, strong interior linemen to occupy the offensive line.  These players rarely will get sacks, as their job is to simply hold the blockers in place from the other team, so that the linebackers are then free to funnel the play to the middle linebacker (and the rest of the team).   The defensive ends will get multiple sack opportunities coming off of the edge, mainly as a result of the interior linemen creating mismatches (double teams) on the inside.  These players must also be able to peel off on running plays and meet the runner.

In essence, you use your big strong linemen to stop runs up the middle, forcing the team to try to work their way outside of the tackle box.  As soon as they try this, your outside linebackers and corners must funnel the runner back towards the middle, where the rest of the team is waiting.  Eventually, you shut the run down completely.  At this point, your speedy defensive ends tee off on the QB because of the tight man-to-man coverage your corners put on the receivers.

Sounds logical in a way, but it requires you to have a lot of players that are hard to find.  You need two big 2 gap defensive tackles.  Good luck tracking two of those down and being able to afford them.   You need two lock-down corners that can play man-to-man for most of the game.  Again, expensive positions and hard to find the talent.  You need fast, intelligent OLBs who understand the play happening behind them and funnel the opponent accordingly. And finally, you need a tackling machine at MLB.  Everywhere Bates has gone, the MLB in his defense is a top 5 tackler that year.

So when you consider the needs of this defense and you think of the personnel that were in Tampa when he showed up, it’s kind of a head scratcher.  TB had:

  •  Smaller, 1 gap penetrating offensive linemen (1 gap = you are responsible for the gap between two opposing linemen and you tackle whatever comes through it.  2 gap = you are responsible for controlling a lineman in front of you and whatever happens to the gaps to his right or left.)
  • Smaller, faster corners who work well in zone coverage.

TB got run all over.  It was no contest.  They gave up 158.2 yards per game, dead last in the league.  The smaller defensive tackles couldn’t do their job, which made the entire system break down.  Now we’re back to a variant of the Tampa 2 for the Bucs, that take advantage of the smaller size and relative quickness of it’s players.  Over the last half of the season we saw a huge improvement as the team went back to attacking instead of reacting.

So in conclusion:

System Advantages:

  • Speed on the outside (DE and OLB) allows for effective blitzing in the pass game.- Takes away the outside run & forces teams to throw the ball into tight man coverage.
  • Meets the inside run with DTs and a MLB dedicated to run stopping assignments on most every play.
  • Swarm type defense creates multiple fumble recovery possibilities.


  • If the runner beats the defender to the sideline and turns upfield, it’s a bad, bad day.  The rest of the team is waiting in the middle of the field.
  • Requires the DTs to be above average 2 gappers, big, and patient.  Also, they cannot be relied upon to rush the passer.
  • Steep learning curve for the players.
  • In general, requires a perfect set of player types for the system to run well.

Ok, now what?

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