One Gap and Two Gap Techniques

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Updated: September 17, 2012

In this X’s and O’s Football breakdown, we thought we would explain what the differences is between one gap and two gap techniques are in football. For those of you who don’t know, hopefully this will write up will give you a better understanding between the two.

4-3 Defensive Front – 1 Gap Technique

3-4 Defensive Front – 2 Gap Technique

1-gap-defenders 2-gap-defenders
A one gap technique is mainly found out of a 4-3 front such as shown in the image above. When a defensive linemen has a one gap responsibility he attacks a hole and must take care of whatever happens in that gap he is assigned. He is expected to tackle any running back who goes through that hole, or to force the running back to move laterally into the arms of another tackler. If the offense is passing, the defender’s gap is his route to the quarterback. A one gap technique requires a defensive player to take on his man and occupy that space. One gap defenders are generally smaller, quicker, and better pass rushers than two gap technique defenders. One gap defensive schemes are typically used in blitzes and/or definite pass rush situations. If the offense has strong passing attack,  a one gap scheme is more effective at getting pressure on the quarterback. Defensive tackles in a one gap scheme are smaller and can penetrate into the offensive backfield more often. In a one gap defensive scheme, defensive linemen tend to get more sacks and tackles than two gap defensive linemen.Keep in mind, a 4-3 front can run a two gap scheme or combination of one gap and two gap scheme. A two gap technique requires more discipline on the part of the defender. A defensive lineman is responsible for both the A and B gaps on his side of the field. His job is not so much to crash through a gap as to read the play, anticipate which gap a running back might choose, and clog it. A two gap defender must quickly diagnose the blocking scheme to determine which of his gaps is more vulnerable. A two gap defensive lineman is expected to take blockers head on and defend the gaps over each of their shoulders. Two gap technique requires a defensive lineman to fill between two offensive linemen and thus plugging two gaps. A two gap technique is mostly run out of a 3-4 front such as shown in the image above. Two gap defenders are generally slower, bigger, and not as good of pass rushers one gap technique defenders are. Two gap defensive tackles are are larger stronger defensive linemen who can control an offensive linemen, allowing the linebackers to make tackles. Don’t expect the defensive linemen to rack up a lot of tackles or sacks in two gap defensive scheme. If the offense is a powerful run team, a two gap scheme is more effective at stopping the run than a one gap defensive scheme.
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4 Comments

  1. ZAN

    January 10, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    Tommie Harris is a great example of a 1-gap defensive linemen. When he was healthy back in 05-06, he was considered to be the best “disruptive 2-technique” in the NFL. He was the anchor of the Bears’ defensive scheme, which was predicated on generating a 4-man rush in the Tampa 2.

    • Jeff Coffman

      January 17, 2013 at 9:37 pm

      A great example of two gap are the Steelers. Casey Hampton has been the on the nose for years. Controling the center and guard allowing the linebackers to make tackles. Casey is big and strong and when he has the chance will swallow running backs. Kiesel has been on his side for years. It was unfortunate that aaron smith had the injuries that put him out of football. Replacing him has been hard.

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