Linebacker Analysis: “Scrape to Contain” is a Fundamental

I continue to maintain that, as fans, the more we know about the game of football, the more we will enjoy the game - win or lose. This season has proven that principal to me, as I am learning why the Oregon defense is so bad, which stems the tide of frustration (somewhat). Previously, we have discussed the important “Fill-and-Spill” fundamental for linebackers as they Fill gaps inside to Spill the play outside to defenders waiting to make the tackle-for-loss.

Another fundamental for linebackers is to Scrape-to-Contain,” and we see some examples in this analysis that will help us to understand why it is so important as a base concept for every defense to be successful. It is great fun to learn and to apply this new knowledge to the future to appreciate the great plays that will come as these techniques are executed better by our beloved Ducks.

Let’s learn more football!

Lined up to stop the "heavy" formation....

From Video

Lined up to stop the “Heavy” formation …

Stanford has a wing-back up on the line so that they have four blockers to the right of the center. Oregon is lined up correctly in a Bear defense with three interior defensive linemen and linebacker Troy Dye (No. 35) lined to the outside of the wing-back, which is where he should be as a SAM or strong side linebacker. His job is to crash in and protect the “D” gap, making plays bounce to the outside.

Tyree Robinson (No. 2) is behind and outside of Dye (above); if the tight end blocks down, then Robinson comes up to lead blocker with his right arm and turns everything back to the inside. He is the Contain defender (also called the “Force” player).

So far ... so good.

From Video

So far … so good.

The objective for the middle linebacker or MIKE is to Fill an open gap on the inside to make the running back Spill to the outside. If all gaps are filled, then the MIKE is to scrape or move quickly to the last defender’s outside hip; thus the MLB Scrapes-to-Contain the running back by forcing him to go back inside.

Above you see Dye has correctly done his job of Filling the D gap and Spilling the play to the outside. Now it is up to the MIKE (yellow arrow above) to Scrape outside and Contain the running back – force him to run inside where the gaps are filled.

The MIKE above and a pulling Stanford lineman (red arrow above) are about to meet. You can see how the back-side linebacker (green arrow above) is checking the “A” gap, and then he should move quickly with the play and avoid the lineman (No. 64 for Stanford) who is coming out to block him.

Oh crap ... and everyone else did their assignment correctly!

From Video

Oh, crap … and everyone else executed their assignment correctly!

The screenshot above is frustrating to all; the MIKE (yellow arrow above) took on the wrong shoulder of the Stanford offensive lineman, thus you see two white uniforms between Tyree (black arrow above) and the MIKE. When you have two opposing offensive linemen next to each other? It is a hole for the running back to zip through. The MIKE did not Scrape correctly by attacking the outside shoulder of the pulling offensive lineman of the Cardinal with his own inside, or right, shoulder.

The back-side linebacker (green arrow above) is slow to move and is taking on No. 64 of Stanford instead of discarding the block and getting to the play. Note the help coming from behind (orange arrow above); had the MIKE scraped correctly, both No. 92 and his help from behind would tackle the hesitating running back.

As we have seen many times this season, it was technique, not size, talent or the particular offense that made the difference as to whether it was a touchdown for the opposition, or a tackle-for-loss/no gain play.

A blitz is coming!

From Video

A blitz is coming!

As the play above begins – the OLB (green arrow above) is moving closer to blitz for the Ducks.

Wrong Technique and why wait?

From Video

Wrong technique – and why wait?

The OLB (green arrow above) took the wrong shoulder, as he believes he is the Contain defender, hence he attacked the outside shoulder of the offensive lineman for Stanford. Had he taken the inside shoulder of the O-lineman with his own outside shoulder, the OLB would have Filled and Spilled and the RB would be forced to run outside.

The MLB (yellow arrow above) should Scrape quickly right past the other pulling guard (No. 57 of the Cardinal) and Contain the runner … tackling him for a loss!

Everybody blocked ... again.

From Video

Everybody has been blocked … again.

The problem began with the OLB (green arrow above) incorrectly Containing and thus opening an inside running lane for a Cardinal. The MLB seems slow in his Scrape to Contain because he realizes the OLB’s error.

So in the first example the OLB correctly Filled and Spilled, but the MLB incorrectly Scraped to Contain. In the second example the OLB was incorrect and the MLB got it right.

Thus the saying, “it takes only one defender not doing his job correctly …” and we see the truth of that with the Oregon defense often.

It is a huge gain easily done by the Cardinal and not because their linemen are more talented or their scheme too complicated to defend … it is simply Oregon linebackers not taking the right gap or using the right technique to Fill-and-Spill or Scrape-and-Contain their opponent.

These plays and observations come from none other than the Grizzled Ol’ Coach, Mike Morris, and we are grateful to him for helping us see why the Ducks are terrible on defense while learning about linebacker technique. It will help us later to see our beloved Ducks do it correctly and appreciate the football we are witnessing that much more.

“Oh how we love to learn about college football!”

Charles Fischer   (FishDuck)
College Football Analyst for
Eugene, Oregon

Top Photo from Video

Disclaimer: Readers: Every writer on is allowed to express their opinion in their articles. However, articles do not represent the views of the other writers, editors, coaching consultants, management, or the principals of  Charles Fischer


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