Best Zone Offense

Daniel Brown
• Friday, 06 November, 2020
• 8 min read

WIN MORE GAMES with offenses, defenses, plays, drills, fundamentals, strategy, animations, video, Playbook download, youth section... unique, mobile ready. Plays and sets designed to be successful against man-to-man coverage often run into problems against zones.

counter split football youth play wing left cross hb buck plays offense calling running backs misdirection
(Source: coachparker.org)


You must have a zone offense (s) in your offensive arsenal to counteract zone defenses. If it is your team's offensive style, fast-break and push the ball up the floor as quickly as possible, before the defense can get set.

The opposite applies if the defense shows a one-guard front (e.g. 1-3-1 or 1-2-2 zone). In this case (diagram B), use a two-guard offense to flank the single top defender.

If the opponent keeps changing its defense, call out your offensive counter from the bench. Some teams change defenses, and you have to be ready, and you can't call a time-out every time.

Be patient on offense, but take the first open, good percentage shot. Players should move into the gaps and passing lanes in the zone (see diagram C).

As the dribbler sucks that perimeter defender inside, he/she can stop, pivot and pass back out to where he/she came from, which will be open for the 3-point shot. It's OK to take the outside jumper or 3-pointer, but don't settle for the outside shot on every possession (see pointer #4 above).

zone defenses offense packages multiple rental
(Source: www.hoopsking.com)

If the low outside defender gets around the screen and runs to the ball, a quick pass inside to the post is usually there. Make sure your players receive the ball in triple-threat position, ready to shoot, look inside and pass, or penetrate.

Unless there is a gap for a quick attack ('split-step') to the hoop, players should receive the pass in triple-threat position. If there is no shot clock rule and if you have the lead and the opponent switches to zone defense, you can back the ball out and go into a “4-corners” delay offense.

We believe that teaching zone principles will help you the most in the long-run and need to be emphasized. However, there are definitely times during games where you just need a zone play to get a good look at the basket.

Some coaches also prefer to use their best zone plays when they first see a zone defense during a game. The rationale is that if they execute a couple of zone plays right from the beginning, the opposing coach may quickly pull their team out of the zone defense.

Jamie Dixon popularized this play to beat Syracuse's zone defense. WIN MORE GAMES with offenses, defenses, plays, drills, fundamentals, strategy, animations, video, Playbook download, youth section... unique, mobile ready.

offense defense wildcat vs playing moore geoffrey august vc
(Source: wildcat.vc)

My 7th graders were really having difficulty playing against the 2-3 zone, which we seem to be running into frequently in youth tournaments. I dedicated an entire practice session to learning how to beat this defense in a simple way that young players could understand.

I used some visuals and made it interactive for them, instead of me just talking. First, we gathered around a table out on the floor. I let the kids set up the board and helped them with placing the defense in a 2-3 zone.

So every time they would position the offense, I would then move the defense, and then they would have to find the gaps again. Amazingly, the kids came up with the same offensive scheme that I had devised, and it is diagrammed in the drawings below.

Now, on the court, I used hula hoops and some old car floor mats that I threw down in the gaps, so they could see where to move to. One caution: players could trip and injure themselves with these objects on the floor, so we just used them in “walk through” ball rotations, not up to speed.

Dribble only to penetrate a gap, or improve a passing angle, or to get out of trouble. Offensive rebounding is very important since the zone defenders do not have clear-cut box-out assignments (as in a man-to-man).

huddle tempo offense football pack running drills
(Source: www.championshipproductions.com)

Now study the diagrams below, and at the end I will give you just a few simple rules. One tip: your high post O4 might initially be positioned along the lane, and then as the point guard brings the ball into the forecourt, O4 flash cuts to the high post at the free-throw line.

Make sure the wings are high and wide, so that the point-to-wing pass is not easily intercepted. Each move is to fill a gap in the zone where you can get open for a pass and shot.

If the ball is passed to the corner, O4 cuts hard down to the low block for the bounce pass from O5 (diagram B), and O3 moves to the free-throw line area because if O4 does not get the ball, then O3 is often wide open (diagram C). Here's an option where we can attack the zone straight up the middle, by passing, not dribbling.

O1 will try to dribble between (split) the two outside defenders right up the middle and will pull up for a shot just inside the free throw line. You can see that there are certain areas (hula hoops) that we want to fill as the ball moves.

The diagrams below show red circles that should be filled when the ball is in that location. When the ball is at the high post, duck under the zone into the paint for the pass down low.

madden lamar jackson mahomes zone patrick factor superstar chiefs kelce hawk every ps4 factors xbox abilities archetype travis ravens baltimore
(Source: realsport101.com)

Look to penetrate from the wing, and make good passing decisions, avoid unnecessary dribbling. Look for the shot, and when the high post is at the elbow, the opposite wing drops into the gap on the weak-side.

Keep the ball moving, with little dribbling, except to penetrate or open a passing lane. Look for an opportunity to dribble and split the two top defenders, and if they collapse, dish out to either wing.

Responsible for staying back (on top) to prevent the fast break. We can obviously sort by points allowed and see what defenses are doing the best job at keeping opposing offenses out of the end zone.

When we see a team dominate in points allowed, we will often see them at least top ten against the run and the pass. On the flip side a defense could be good against the pass, and you can become more vulnerable against the run.

Defenses that force a lot of three and outs is a big piece of the pie for how good a team can be. On occasion, you will see a team play a bend and don’t break style of defense where they actually do allow a hefty amount of yards, but really shut things down in the red zone.

patriots madden playbooks chart ratings england roster depth player playbook offense
(Source: realsport101.com)

Each column is broken down by defensive stats, and where each teams ranks within the league. You can flip through the AFC and the NFC to see where defenses rank within their own conference.

With points and yards allowed being the big indicator of a defense, you can see who dominates these areas, but also who struggles. Red zone numbers and the ability to stop teams on third and fourth down are also shown.

Turnovers and sacks are also important stats to see what defenses are producing. Sometimes a defense is going to have things stacked against them, such as a poor offense on their own side.

A high turnover offense is going to put your team in bad situations, which could be simply field position. Offenses that turn the ball over or are continuously going three and out put their defense on the field more than they should be on.

Even an offense that puts up plenty of points can make a defense look worse than what they are. Offenses that jump out to leads and put up big numbers force teams to throw the ball.

plays hybrid football flag
(Source: bestflagfootballplays.com)

Because moving the ball through the air is highly correlated with scoring at higher levels, you can see more points because of this. When looking at it from the offensive side, we know red zone stats are very important.

There is not much more deflating than moving a drive down to only kick a field goal, or worse, come away with no points. The Chiefs were like this in 2019, where they were in the bottom third of the league in volume for opposing offenses, but they ranked 9th in red zone touchdown percentage.

Scoring inside the 20 is tough, because the field shrinks quite a bit, and there isn’t a lot of room for passing routes. Being able to come away with stops is a big momentum killer for an opposing offense and to state the obvious the defense is going to want to limit points anyway.

Looking at the matchup for your running back, is that defense allowing a lot of yards or touchdowns is a common question asked. Teams that are allowing a lot of rushing attempts against their defense will help you project volume, which is a higher weight for bigger fantasy production.

Teams that are allowing a lot of rushing attempts could simply just have a bad run defense where opposing teams just decide to pound the rock, or they are constantly losing games. This can be because they have a very good run defense, or this could be because they are often playing ahead and that forces teams to throw more.

defense zone slideshare
(Source: www.slideshare.net)

Sometimes teams can negate this by controlling games with their offense where they milk long drives to take minutes off the clock. Defenses that struggle to get to the quarterback can make things easier on a pass offense as well.

If you are looking at matchups and see a quarterback struggles in a not so clean pocket, he might have some issues that week if he is facing a good pass rush. Of course, we want to face those defenses that allow a lot of red zone opportunity, because the production will follow.

Maintaining a strong defensive roster is important to keeping up team success. They also view most players dispensable, because the turnover rate for the Patriots is higher than other teams.

Failing to resign certain players was a big part of that, as a GM is going to be in charge of keeping those guys together. Paying those big contracts in general can put a team in a bind.

Injuries to a team will also limit a defense, especially if it is a shut down corner, or a big time edge rusher. If a team had some good luck on their hands, they might fall back down to earth a little.

defense trips defending defend formations coaching adjusting
(Source: joedanielfootball.com)

This can work both ways where a defense could have some bad luck, and the next season they get the results they deserve based on their production. There were four teams tied with 18 interceptions, the Dolphins, Saints, Patriots, and Steelers.

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