Since we conquered the world of techniques in yesterday’s post, we’re going to leap right into another slightly-more-than-basic concept today: having “8 in the box.”
It sounds like the start of a good nursery rhyme.
Here’s what it actually means:
“The box” is the defensive area directly across from the offensive line (the 5 man line consisting of the Left Tackle, Left Guard, Center, Right Guard, and Right Tackle). It’s the space occupied by the defensive line and the linebackers, or the dark blue and light purple areas of this visual:
Usually, there are 7 players in the box. Depending on the defensive formation a team is running, those 7 players consist of either 3 defensive linemen and 4 linebackers or 4 defensive linemen and 3 linebackers (learn more about 4-3 and the 3-4 defenses here).
When a defense is anticipating a running play and wants extra protection up front, they’ll put “8 in the box” – meaning they’ll add another player up front to help guard against a running play. They’ll also bring another player up front if they want to blitz the quarterback.
Who is the extra player? More often than not, it’s the strong safety (the safety who is playing on the same side of the field as the tight end). He’ll come down from his usual position upfield where he defends against the pass and will “shake down” into the box instead. This gives the defense the advantage of having an extra man in coverage near the line of scrimmage.
It can backfire if the offense decides to pass instead of run or if the quarterback gets a pass off before the blitz arrives. The defense now has one less defender upfield in pass protection, which makes it much easier for the offense to find an open receiver.
9-techniques and 8 in the box. Done and done. You guys are pros.