Peregrine 3-4 - WR Shutout

WR Shutout has very quickly become one of my top 5 favorite defensive plays, and it might become one of yours as well after you see the frustration build up on your opponent's face. While no play can completely take away the ability for wide receivers to make plays, WR Shutout comes pretty close (at least when matched up against standard 2 WR formations, when the WRs are both split wide). It all starts with the outside linebackers who are lined up directly across from the WRs in most basic offensive sets. By playing flats zone coverage the OLBs apply automatic press coverage, disrupting the WRs immediately and with greater effectiveness than most cornerbacks can usually achieve. They also help take away quick hitches and curls, while providing supplementary coverage against running backs on swing and flats routes out of the backfield.

Once the WRs get behind the OLBs the CBs take over in man coverage. If the WRs run short routes anywhere around the numbers or close to the sideline the OLB and CB team up for an effective double team. For deeper routes this idea continues with the safeties playing deep zone coverage. Although the safeties' initial close alignment means that they are a little slow getting back deep, the press coverage early ensures that they can get back before the receivers can. This is also the case with play action passes, where the OLB bumps give the safeties and CBs time to recover if they bite on the run fake. Between the LBs close, the safeties deep, and the CBs everywhere the WRs are effectively bracketed by a rolling double team. Shallow crossing routes might get away from this somewhat, but still leaves man coverage and an inside LB in middle zone to deal with.

The lockdown on WRs is great on its own, but the rest of the play benefits from this feature in what I call complimentary effects. Because the WRs take about one extra half to full second to really get into their routes, the quarterback is forced to hold onto the ball for maybe a second longer. This allows a fairly average pass rush an extra second to get upfield to apply effective pressure with only a four man attack. The route disruption also makes WR Shutout one of my more successful turnover generating plays on defense.

As much as I love everything I've told you so far about this play, it does make its tradeoffs just like every other football strategy. Spreading the LBs wide helps shut down the pass but exposes some weakness against the run, mainly just off tackle where a RB can gash the defense for big gains, but also up the middle to a lesser degree due to lack of bulk. Runs to the outside are usually strung out fairly effectively, though this can lead to cutbacks with similar effects as runs off tackle. Fortunately, D-line shifts before the snap to the offense's strong side can compensate for most of this deficiency. Pass coverage over the short to medium deep middle is also a bit lacking with only one LB in coverage. A good pass catching TE can make up for what is taken away from the wideouts for the offense. A 3 WR set is generally worse yet, with no good answer for the slot receiver. For this reason I really can only recommend this play against standard 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE sets.

Player Assignments

Position Action
D-Line Base
ROLB Flats Zone Right
ROLB Flats Zone Right
RILB Hook Zone
LILB Blitz Middle
LOLB Flats Zone Left
Right CB (CB #2) Man WR2
Left CB (CB #1) Man WR1
FS and SS Deep Zone

See the Madden Playbook Guide for a description of these symbols.




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