Home Football Strategies Defensive Fronts to Defend the Run

Defensive Fronts to Defend the Run


There are several defensive fronts that can utilized to defend against run. In this X’s O’s Football breakdown, we take a look at the different types of defensive fronts as it is important that you understand what each front does, rather you are watching real football or playing a football video game.

Types of Defensive Fronts

There are five different defensive fronts that we use to defend the run. Below we give general description of each one, plus one example for each front.

3-4 Front

The 3-4 Front should only be used if you have a solid core of linebackers and a big defensive line. Attacking the run in this defense normally prevents the outside run because the added linebacker puts more speed on the edge and can string the play out sideline to sideline. The disadvantage of this scheme is a lot of teams will run inside on you and the offensive lineman will get on the linebackers causing a mismatch in favor of the offense.

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3-4 Under Defensive Front

4-3 Front

This uses a four man front with three linebackers. This defense is normally run by teams with better pass rushing linemen than the 3-4. The 4-3 provides good run support and pass coverage to the weak, middle or strong side and is good for beginners who are not sure what each 4-3 defensive scheme does. If you are not sure what the defenders are supposed to do, we suggest starting out learning by running the 4-3 Normal defense. The flaw to this defensive set is that you can’t really change the look of the defense because it is a base formation outside using shifts and manually move players. The good news there are plenty of 4-3 front variations to choose from such Stack, Over, and Under.

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4-3 Over Defensive Front

4-4 Front

The 4-4 Front has four defensive linemen and four linebackers, plus three defensive backs. The 4–4 defense strength is stopping the run with 8 men in the box, thus putting those defenders in a very good position to do just that.It’s more versatile defense than the 5-2 defense because not only can it defend the run, but it can also defend the pass. The 4-4 defense is an attacking defense that can used to set up multiple blitz packages despite there not being that many plays to choose from. It can be easily concealed and altered. For example, something we like to do against strong running opponent is to sub in a strong safety at one of the outside linebacker positions. This gives us even more flexibility at defending both the run and pass.  The downside is it can be beat for the big play deep because of the lone safety, who a lot ground to cover. We suggest having 90 plus speed safety playing the free safety position to help minimize the chance of the deep play.

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4-4 Split Defensive Front

46 Front

The 46 Front is defense is a variation of the 4-3 defense but it brings the strong safety down in the box just outside of the left defensive end. It was designed to stop offenses with conventional formations, such as the I-Form Normal, Strong I or Weak I sets. This defense has worked the best when stopping the run,but you must back out of it when the offense goes to a spread receiver set. If the offense gets you in a mismatch based on formation then make sure the pressure gets to the quarterback before the pass gets off. Against the run you will love this set. There are three variations of the 46 defense, the 46 Normal, 46 Bear, and 46 Bear Under.

46 bear thumb Defensive Fronts to Defend the Run
46 Bear Defensive Front

5-2 Front

The 5-2 Front is a defensive alignment that consists of five down linemen and two linebackers, thus making a strong defense against the run. Against players that are strong at running the ball, the 5-2 Defense is excellent choice stop the run. The downside of it, it is very limited at stopping the pass, there is one defensive formation to choose from, and it is  limited on plays to choose from.

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5-2 Normal Defensive Front


  1. Good write-up. Breakdown of the different techniques (alignments) for the D-Line and LBs in each front would be good. 3-4 Odd lines up differently than than 3-4 Predator, for example and attacks different gaps.


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