In our eighth part of this series, we are going to take a look at the Green Bay Packers’ heavy “Hippo” defense. This formation is obviously used in short-yardage situations, particularly on third and fourth down where a running play is expected. It adds an extra lineman by sacrificing a defensive back, usually a corner.
Explaining the Formation
So far we’ve been moving towards defensive packages with more and more defensive backs. With the Hippo defense, we are going to do a complete 180-degree turn and look at a personnel grouping with only three defensive backs. The Hippo is a 4-4-3 defense that aims to get more big bodies along the line of scrimmage to block up running lanes.
The front line of this heavy defense consists of two defensive tackles, two defensive ends, and two outside linebackers. That’s some serious beef for the offensive line to try to move. Behind them are the inside linebackers, and in the secondary are two safeties and a cornerback.
Without getting into any sort of complicated player technique and tactics, the primary goal of the front six is to disrupt the blocking lanes and prevent the offensive linemen and tight ends from getting to the second level. These guys are going to get as low as possible to control the point of attack and, in many cases, simply take out the legs of the opposition.
The inside linebackers and safeties are, in essence, the clean-up crew. They flow towards the ball and continue to clog up any running lanes left behind by the line. Their reaction has to be quick and their angles sure in order to get to the running back and make a successful stop. Let the ball carrier get past the linemen, and it’s probably going to end up being a conversion.
Obviously, the defensive assignments can vary depending on the tendencies of the opposing offense. The threat of a pass could tie up the cornerback and one of the safeties, preventing them from helping in run support. At that point, it’s up to the defensive coordinator and players to rely on their film study and opposition scouting to make the right call.
The Hippo Defense in Action