Linebacker reads and keys are the single most searched for keyword on Joe Daniel Football. It seems every coach is looking for the perfect reads for your linebackers.
I have coached just about every type of linebacker reads imaginable. Keying guards, keying backfield. I have cross-keyed the backs, keyed the 2-man surface… you name it, I have tried to coach it.
Skip all the hassle. Get the complete guide to Linebacker Reads in this episode of The Football Coaching Podcast.
Part 1: What Linebacker Reads and Keys Do
- Linebacker reads only get your linebackers going in the direction of the play. Consider linebacker reads as getting you 2 steps closer to the point of attack.
- Your reads will never be perfect. No matter what you decide to read, there is a way to counteract it with misdirection, influence traps, or even just plain sloppy offensive play.
- Eventually, you’re going to have to find the football. There is no way around it. The reads are just one clue to where the ball is going.
Part 2: Pro’s and Con’s of Linebacker Reads and Keys
- Keying the Backfield is the most basic linebacker read.
- This is a fast key, and easy to teach. Probably the most natural read. Chase the guy who has the ball.
- Backfield reads can get much more complicated based on backfield flow, read options, and other looks.
- Unfortunately, running back reads are also the least accurate. Every offense has multiple plays using misdirection.
- Guards are also simple linebacker reads and keys to teach.
- The Guards tend to go where the ball is going. Most gap scheme offenses will also pull the guards in the direction of the play.
- Guard reads are more accurate than backfield keys most of the time.
- But guards don’t carry the football. Eventually, you have to pick up the running back on a run play.
- Teams will influence trap with the guards. You cannot completely sell out to a guard read.
- 2-Man Surface Linebacker reads and keys can raise the accuracy of lineman keys.
- 2-man surface usually uses a guard and an adjacent lineman (Center or Tackle).
- You can find the point of attack based on if the 2-man surface moves together or splits.
- These reads are more complicated to teach, although coaches can make any read overly complicated.
- Much like the Guard reads, you eventually have to find the ball carrier anyway.
Part 3: What Reads Should You Coach?
- Linebacker reads and keys always must involve a primary key and a secondary key.
- We either teach the primary key as the backfield, and secondary key as guard pulls OR primary key as guard pulls and secondary key as backfield.
- The decision is usually based on whether or not you have someone to cover for you on faster, but less accurate, backfield key reads.
- Quarters Coverage as primary coverage: Primary key is backfield, secondary key is guard pulls.
- Cover 3 or Cover 1 as primary coverage: Primary key is guard reads, secondary key is backfield.
- A recent JDFB Quick Clinic focused on Linebacker Reads for the Odd Stack Defense: https://joedanielfootball.com/qc216/
- Season 6, Episode 12 of The Football Coaching Podcast focused on Linebacker Reads for the 4-3 Defense: https://joedanielfootball.com/2020lbreads43/
- Read The 5 Step Progression to Developing Great Linebackers.