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Plank on the blitz, the 46, the 'Donald Trump' of the NFL

LONDON — The Buffalo Bills plan on blitzing much, much more Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. As inside linebacker Preston Brown said, coaches have simplified the scheme and plan to send a much more vibrant pass rush at the quarterback.

Sunday and beyond.

So for on that, check out BuffaloNews.com later. We'll have more on the blitz online tonight.

One of the voices featured will be former Chicago Bears strong safety Doug Plank, a central piece in Buddy Ryan's famrd "46 defense." And in addition to playing for Rex Ryan's father, Plank coached with Rex in 2009 as a defensive backs assistant with the New York Jets.

On the “46” defense: “From a defensive standpoint, if we could get 11 guys compacted to a small area on the field, then it’s truly to the advantage of the defense because now you can start operating with multiple players blitzing at one time. Overloading a formation. What I mean by that is putting seven or even eight players on one side of the center. So you just blitz so many guys that they can’t all be accounted for. And if the other team can’t adjust and make the appropriate read, then you’re going to get to the quarterback.”

On the struggle vs. a spread offense: “You can’t go too crazy because in essence what you have is two tackles and a center and all you have is your interior linemen. It’s difficult to run multiple blitz schemes against a spread offense. Some people like spread offenses, some people don’t. But I do think when you can give multiple assignments to different players, it changes things up. This is what I admire about Buddy. Although the defensive personnel might’ve stayed the same during a defensive play, a call, the responsibility and assignment completely changed. And what do I mean by that? He would take the linebackers and safeties and have them rush the quarterback. And then have defensive ends pick up the running backs in pass coverage. So it’s a switching of assignments.”

“So think about this, if you’re the offense and you’re expecting the defensive end to come on a blitz and instead he’s picking up the back out of the backfield, it makes it very hard for the quarterback to be able to read that. He’s looking downfield. Instead of safeties being back there to cover, they’d be blitzers.

“When you blitz multiple times, you learn how to get off blocks. It’s a basic game — how long can you sustain a block? How fast can you get off a block? That’s the bottom line of success in football. That’s what it comes down to. They occupy you and you’re like Velcro. If you can’t get off a block, you’re not going to be playing defense in the National Football League very long.”

On blitzing teams today: “You can see now that even Russell Wilson is incurring an incredible amount of sacks this year. Because the defensive ends, regardless of what happens, have to continue to run upfield and close in on the formation on the outside. So when he rolls out, I’ve seen him sacked three or four times this year where he fakes the handoff and rolls out to his right so that left defensive end, everybody’s telling him ‘It doesn’t matter what the quarterback does. You just keep coming off the edge. And you anticipate every play that he’s going to fake the handoff and roll out.’ Because that play can hurt the defense a lot more than a handoff to the running back running off tackle. So they’ve been able to sack him considerably more.”

On the intensity of practice: “I just remember when Mike Ditka came to town, practices changed drastically. Mike was running the offense, Buddy was running the defense. A game in practice could break out at any moment. So when I’d go out there in not-so heavy equipment—especially when the season started—those years under Mike Ditka, you better bring everything you’ve got in practice Wednesday and Thursday because Mike said the toughest defense they played was not any of the opponents. It was the Bears defense in practice.

“And it was because of that animosity and those coaches were almost independent of each other. They were running units. And each of those players on those respective units would do anything for their coach—either Mike Ditka or Buddy Ryan.”

On Rex in the media: “He’s like the Donald Trump of NFL coaches. He’s the apprentice or whatever you want to call it. … He got a lot of criticism in the New York media but most of those guys didn’t even realize that they were being manipulated. That’s what he wanted. He wanted the attention. That’s all part of being the coach — you’re a salesman. How good can you sell your philosophy to your team. Really, you could take the same program, the same strategy, the same plays, the same philosophy and one person could do it differently than another. It’s how it’s presented, it’s how it’s delivered to the team.”

On early struggles in Buffalo: “I know it hasn’t been the kind of year everybody in Buffalo expected but it’s still early and a lot of times it takes a while, especially for everyone to buy in. That was true when Buddy came to Chicago. He wasn’t a well-liked coach his first year or two. All of a sudden, he started converting players to his mind-set and the numbers started growing and it became what it became in 1985.

“Every team goes through hills and valleys as the year goes on. It’d be nice if it was a flat-liner but it doesn’t work that way—you’re going up and you’re going down. You’re getting better or getting worse. A football team is like a tire with a hole in it; it needs to be pumped up every week. I think that’s true for players. They need to be inspired.”

On the 46 at its best: “Buddy thought of this concept of ‘automatic front coverage,’ which meant that whatever down they were on, he gave us a playlist that if they get in this formation, this is the defense you’re going to run. And if they run motion on the play, you change the front and the defense. … percentage basis…. We already had the defense scouted and predetermined in the game that if they got in that formation, a defensive pass rush to stop that play—we’d start calling out the plays when they were running through motions and shifts. That used to freak the offense out because they’d say, ‘How do these guys know?!’ We’d almost take the hand-off from the quarterback we were in there so fast.”

On how people remember him: “I run into guys I played against and, to a man, they all remember who I was. Not because I was a great player but because I hit them. I hit them hard. When you have someone who’s going to bring pain to your body, I remember every guy I played against who could bring me harm.… If I didn’t pay attention, they would run over me, club me, whatever. I remember who they were because when you step on the field, you know where this position is. Maybe they hurt one of your friends or your teammates. So they’d say, ‘No, Doug, I remember who you were.’ … It’s a macho game. If you can bring that physical aspect, wow, it makes a huge difference.”

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