The "WHIP" Replacement Pressure
It's one of the more popular paths in the NFL & the Titans ran it to perfection in their Divisional Round loss to Cincinnati.
The NFL’s hashes are narrow, which changes how defenses attack. At the lower levels of football, the hash is what determines field and boundary. Though this sounds elementary, the ball's location is a big deal. Formations into the boundary, as well as how defenses structure alignments around the hash, are crucial. With most teams based out of Nickel (Ni) schemes, how a defense adjusts with their “adjuster” is essential at the levels below the NFL.
Defenses are continually shifting how they align their hybrid players. Some use the passing strength, while others leave their Ni to the field. Regardless, the hash matters. The NFL is different because the hashes are so narrow there is no true field or boundary. The pass strength sets the secondary and coverage scheme.
In most cases, the placement of the Ni usually goes to the passing strength. In the NFL, calls are set off the passing strength (strong/weak) and not the field or boundary. A great example of this difference is in the vernacular of Dave Aranda’s (Baylor Head Coach) replacement pressures. “F” words are designated for the field, and “B” words are for the boundary. When wanting to attack the passing strength, Aranda uses a “P” word. At the NFL, there is no “F” or “B” distinction, just strong or weak, depending on how the defense sets the strength call.
At the NFL level, “W” words usually mean weak, and “S” words designate the blitz to the strong side or the passing strength. The number of WRs determines the passing strength to a side. In many cases, defenses will have a front strength based on a TE (and, if no TE, off the passing strength) and the coverage based on passing strength in a divorced call structure. Not everyone does it this way, as some coaches prefer to have one strength call for the whole defense. More coaches are going to a divorced structure in modern football to get the best of both worlds.
One of the more popular pressures in the NFL is the WHIP replacement pressure. WHIP indicates that the pressure will be opposite the passing strength and “inside” or into the B-gap. Aranda uses this same path in his BRADY Creeper. Below is a look at Aranda’s WHIP Creeper, or BRADY, path to the “weak” side.
The path also shows up in Todd Orlando’s (USC’s Defensive Coordinator) playbook, a derivative of the Aranda system. The concept is the same and attacks the weak side of the formation. However, Orlando adds the addition of a read blitz for the insert. As a result, the insert can loop to the next open gap if the O-line slides to the pressure side (Aranda does this). An illustration of the read-out is shown below.
The ability to overload the weak side of the box allows the defense to bombard the pass protection while not sacrificing coverage ability. The drop-out EDGE is usually responsible for a zone in coverage at the lower levels, thus not changing the pass distribution. In many cases, the EDGE defenders are modified OLBs who understand coverage and are comfortable dropping into zones.
In the NFL, teams run WHIP but use a Fire Zone (3-under/3-Deep) concept behind it and use the EDGE as a “bonus” dropper to flood the “hot” areas of the box. Many times against pressure, QBs will look to quicker developing routes near the box to get rid of the ball. Placing an extra player in the zone allows the defense to combo Spot or Option routes near the box or even cut crossing routes as they work to the pass strength (flood the zone).