How to Attack a 2-3-2 Zone Defense in Flag Football

One of the most common questions that flag football coaches ask is how to attack a zone defense. In fact, it was that very question that led me to start selling my Unbeatable Headache Attack and Defense online over a decade ago. I decided to come up with a set of plays just for this article to show how easy it really is to beat a zone defense.

Here is an example of how the ball can be moved vs. a 2-3-2 zone in a 7-man blocking league. All three plays attack the “bubble” below Safety and between the Linebacker and the Cornerback. This is a very vulnerable part of defending the area.

Play # 1

[Link to play diagrams found at bottom of article]

LSE – Post-corner route with initial break approximately 7 yards deep. Make sure the pole portion of the path points to the opposite sideline at approximately 20-25 yards depth. This is important, as you will see in the next work.

CSR – Post route with the break at approximately 5-7 yards deep.

RWO – Square en route about 5 meters deep. The ball will be thrown into the “bubble” area.

Center – After an initial block, run a 5-yard hook route above the LT.

QB – The readings are simple.

1) First look at the “bubble” and if it is open, go to the RWO running towards it.

2) If the LB threatens the bubble, go to the center. If Safety is threatening the bubble, move to the RSE post in the shaded area in the diagram. Pass a bullet calmly.

3) If the FS moves to help cover the RSE, just move to the back corner of the LSE.

Now, what happens if the curve on the strong side follows the RWO, anticipating the route? That brings us to the next work.

Play # 2

[Link to play diagrams found at bottom of article]

LSE – Exactly like the corner post from the previous play, but without the second break. Continue posting around the field until you run out of bounds.

CSR – Hit a post exactly as you did on the previous play, except approximately 12-15 yards from rest outside the sideline at a point 2 or 3 yards below your rest.

RWO – Run a square as before, but before reaching the middle of the field, turn around and settle in the “bubble”.

Center – Same as the previous play.

QB – Execute this play only when you notice that the corner follows the RWO in the square of.

1) Read the RWO first and make sure Corner follows it. If it doesn’t, move on to the RWO in the “bubble.” If you do, read SS.

2) If Safety is not in a position to defend the RSE break outside, go to him. Because Corner cleared the outside area, it should be open.

3) If Safety is in tight coverage with RSE on your out break, move to LSE downfield for a big profit! Make sure to hit him calmly.

If the LB is inside the “bubble”, go to Center. If the Corner retreats to your zone before you move to RSE, move to RWO in the “bubble.”

Play # 3

[Link to play diagrams found at bottom of article]

Here’s another way to attack that very “bubble”.

LSE – Run a streak or post similar to the one from the previous play.

CSR – Execute a 5-7 yard hook.

RWO – Execute a 5-yard hook, sell it by squaring your shoulders and making eye contact with the quarterback. Then quickly break the field on a streak.

Center – Same as the previous play.


1) Start reading the RWO and (assuming it’s unopened) pretend with it on the hook.

2) Then read the SS. If you are not in a position to plug the “bubble”, move on to the RSE. If the SS is in a position to cover you, read the RWO stripes. The safety reading should be very quick as you don’t have much time to get on the hook and voila.

Of course, if the LB is in the “bubble” it goes to the Center. And if both RSE and RWO are covered, skip to LSE downfield.

As with any game set, you need to practice with every possible reading the quarterback can do so that the readings become second nature. That way, you don’t have to “think”, you just have to “react.” If you just put a QB in the middle without detailed readings, you are bound to fail. You can’t expect a quarterback to be able to look at 4 or 5 different receivers and find the wide open guy (unless, of course, he has a Joe Montana on his team). That’s like telling a checker player to just “catch the king” in a game of chess!

But, if you teach your QB exactly what to read and how to react, then you don’t have to have a bright signal caller, you just need to have one that you are willing to practice. Of course, that means you can’t have too many plays or you won’t be able to execute them properly. That is why you should choose the most powerful plays that can be effective when repeated over and over again vs. the same team.

Beating a zone defense is about strategy, not athletics. It’s about thinking more than your opponent. Start drawing the area defenses on pieces of paper and try to find the weaknesses in them and think about how to exploit them. If you start using your brain, you can easily dismantle whatever defense zones you face!

[Play diagrams can be viewed HERE]

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