“Bear or Double Eagle”
The bear defensive scheme or front was created to bring more pressure on the QB and trying to make the QB make quick decisions under pressure. The scheme, however, also places pressure on the defensive perimeter, aka secondary, and requires players with good fundamentals and the ability to play in space.
Buddy Ryan is famously known for creating the 46 defense during his time as the defensive coordinator with the Chicago Bears. Arguably the greatest defensive team in NFL history, the 1985 Bears defense was built on pressure and aggressive play at the line of scrimmage.
The scheme made its way into the college ranks and became popular in the 1990’s with the University of Arizona’s “Desert Swarm” defense. The Wildcats used this defense for most of the 1990’s and allowed only one TD in two contests vs. No. 1 ranked Miami Hurricanes and No. 1 ranked Washington Huskies.
Ryan used the bear front to give his defense a consistent 8-man box and one on one pass rushing matchups for his pass rushers. The important adjustment by Ryan was the “T-N-T” alignment of the defensive linemen.
With the emergence of the spread passing scheme, especially in college football, the bear front is typically used as a variety front or in run situations. The bear front allows the defense to place 8 defenders within 5 yards of the line scrimmage, which gives an advantage to the defense vs. the run.
Despite the pressure the bear front puts on the secondary in passing situations, it also provides the opportunity to get talented pass rushers one on one. As the NFL is going to more 4 and 5 wide receiver sets, the bear front is allowing defensive coordinators to disguise who pass rushing and who is dropping into coverage.
When defenses can disguise their coverage along with their pass rush, it makes it much more difficult for the QB and offensive line to be able to have the right protection called. Also, with one-on-one pass rush matchups, the defense now forces the offensive to either win all those matchups or keep a tight end or running back in to protect; this doesn’t allow them to release into routes.
The vulnerabilities of the bear front come by way of man coverage in the secondary. There are multiples routes, including crossing routes and isolation routes, offenses use to beat man coverage. Wide receivers must beat press coverage and hit their landmarks to beat the bear front as the QB must get rid of the ball on time. Even holding the ball one second longer allows the defensive line time to get to the QB.
One route concept that is used versus man cover is the post dig concept that is generally run out of a 3-wide formation. The post dig is a two-man route combination that force the free safety to react and the QB makes his read off that reaction. A dig/inside vertical combination, also known as a dagger, is also used to beat press coverage with a single high safety.
This is just one of many schemes and concepts that will be discussed and analyzed. For more information on this scheme or formation, check out the inaugural "Inside the Box" podcast featuring Anthony Davis.