The most devilish aspect of the Double A is that the linebackers don't even need to blitz to make the play effective. The offense must adjust its blocking scheme on the assumption that the A Gap rushers are going to blitz, and once it does, "the offense tips its hand," says Mikell. "That's the whole thing with the Double A—make them adjust and then attack." Empty backfield sets, with five wide receivers, aren't practical against teams that run the Double A Gap Blitz. Also, defensive backs can sit on pass routes, anticipating quick throws that can be jumped for picks.
There are numerous other variations of the blitz. In '07 Spagnuolo rotated defensive ends Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora into the A gaps and linebackers Antonio Pierce and Kawika Mitchell to the edge, creating an even more daunting mismatch on the inside, with Tuck or Umenyiora on a running back or center. The Giants called that combination Bombs. Other teams drop both 'backers into coverage and rush a safety late, after the offense has adjusted for the A Gap rushers.
The best way to exploit the Double A Gap is to block it effectively, a difficult proposition says Gruden, but "if you're using it against a CEO-type quarterback, like Peyton Manning or Drew Brees, who understands how to pick up blitzes, you can have problems because you're short of personnel in coverage, and they'll get rid of the ball quickly."
Says Trotter, "Teams run quick screens, slants, things like that, because normal pass routes take too long, and the pressure is right on the quarterback. Jim Johnson always told us, 'You take away great receivers by getting in the quarterback's face.'"
They echo his messages in Philadelphia. Around the league they copy his plays. Johnson would appreciate that. During game week he could always be found in his office long after practice, working the coordinator's customary hours, searching for seams in somebody's offense. "He brought an energy and an enthusiasm to figuring things out," says Reid. "The players couldn't wait to hear how Jim was going gash 'em this week."
The best coaches will tell you their work is more cerebral than gladiatorial. The chess game, Gruden calls it. Double A Gap Blitz. One coach's legacy. One move on the board.
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