Looking Back At Arizona’s “Desert Swarm” D: The double-eagle flex is born
November 20th, 2008| by Lost Lettermen
The double-eagle flex is born
After the 1991 season, the Wildcats were ninth in the Pac-10 in just about every major defensive measurable. Statistically it was the worst yea ever for an Arizona defense. So the coaching staff did something about it in the offseason.
The defensive staff flew to Texas A&M to study the NCAA’s No. 1 ranked defense in 1991. Then defensive coordinator, Larry MacDuff, traveled to New Orleans to study the NFL’s No. 1 defense in 1991, the Saints. The team also invited former Houston Oilers coach and special teams legend Rich Smith for more ideas.
The result of all this brain storming was the double-eagle flex (shown above). The unique formation places defenders in just the right position to make it very difficult for blockers to create any large holes. The cog created by the down lineman usually allows the rest of the defense to “swarm the ball carrier.”
Stay with us. Using the picture as a guide, this is basically why the defense is tough to play against. If you run the ball to the strong side, the “W” and “T” players on the weak side swarm the play over the top. You can’t run to the weak side because the “N” player is near impossible for the center to block based on his positioning, again allowing the weak-side players to swarm the ball.
Running straight is difficult because the tight end will have trouble blocking the “S” player, creating a logjam at the line. Finally, pass blocking is an issue because you almost always have to double-team the “N” player, leaving a gaping hole for a linebacker to rush the quarterback.
This defense can be exposed by a spread offense but at the time most schools used pro formations, which played right into the strengths of the double-eagle flex. Prior to the season linebacker, Sean Harris knew that 1992 would be a special year for the Wildcats: “This is the year that we make ourselves known.”