This content is a personal interpretation of elements of Rex Ryan’s book on the 46. The diagrams come from scans from the book.
The front is a 6-2. Two linebackers, each of which lines up over the opposition tackle, give it a distinctive appearance that can’t be missed. There is a nose guard who plays a two gap style, there are two defensive tackles that play a three technique that shade outside the OGs, there are two defensive ends that play outside the line, and then there is the adjuster, a lineman who plays just inside the tight end and keys off the tight end for his play.
The adjuster has pass defense responsibilities and so he has to be fast. In a traditional 4-3 transition to 46, typically the weak side 4-3 linebacker is given this role. He has to be tough enough to rush if necessary and yet he may cover that tight end 30 yards downfield. You would want someone with good pass cover skills to play that role. Someone like Kevin Burnett would be ideal.
The onside linebacker is usually your 4-3 middle linebacker. The defensive ends are the Sam 4-3 and the RDE, or in our case, our OLBs. The defensive tackles and nose would translate into the 3-4 DEs and NG. The offside linebacker is a “umbrella” strong safety, and he has to be able to play linebacker skills for this scheme to work.
Coverage can assume many forms, with the simplest being a 3 deep zone, with 4 linemen (2 ends, 2 lbs) falling back into short zones as well. This leaves 4 men rushing, and is kind of a maximum protect in this kind of defense. The pressure option is quite different however.
If you wish to apply the most pressure with a 46, you use man-free coverage, in which case:
* corners cover the WRs.
* the adjuster is responsible for the TE.
* the LBS are responsible for the RBs.
* The free safety is the “man free” in the middle.
The players then respond to how their keys behave. 5 of the 6 linemen will rush. Now, in man free, if your key player blocks, you rush. That means:
* If the running backs pass block, it’s a 7 man rush.
* If the RB and TE pass block, it’s an 8 man rush.
It’s not a blitz, it’s a response to the read, but yes, you send the whole house and toss in the sink in the event its man free coverage in the 46, and the team maximum protects.
Note: This is adapted from an old forum post I wrote. Since no one reads old forum posts it’s time to move this information to something a little more searchable and sortable.