Stacking the box in football refers to having more than seven players in “the box”. The box in football is an imaginary area in front of the offensive line roughly three to five yards deep.
Teams stack the box when they believe their opponent is going to run the football. Having more players near the line of scrimmage helps to defend against rushing plays.
Typically there will be a total of seven defensive players lining up in the box. Whether it is a three-four defense or a four-three defense the defensive line and the linebackers will be lined up in this area of the field.
The box is considered stacked when more defensive players are added to this area. Generally, it is a safety that comes from deep into the defensive backfield to take a position in the box.
This way they will be able to meet the runner quicker ultimately reducing the number of yards they gain.
Having this extra player in the box can also throw off the blocking scheme. On rushing plays, each defensive player is usually accounted for with a block.
Having this extra player in the box generally means they are unblocked and can often disrupt the plays.
When Do Teams Stack The Box?
Now that you understand what stacking the box means in football it is time to break down when teams use this defensive strategy.
Stopping An Effective Ball Carrier
One of the most common reasons a team stacks the box is in reaction to a running back gaining yards against them.
If a team is able to consistently run the ball against a defense it is incredibly easy to move the ball. For this reason, teams must adjust their defense when their opponents are running against them successfully.
The easiest way to adjust is by stacking the box. Having this extra defender near the line of scrimmage makes the defense much more likely to stop their opponents.
Though adding this extra player to the box is going to make your pass defense more susceptible. Unfortunately, this is a sacrifice teams have to make when they need to stop an effective rushing attack.
In fact, teams will often rush the ball in order to force teams to commit more defenders to stop the run game. Moving these defensive players closer to the line of scrimmage can create more opportunities for the offense to complete a deep pass.
Force A Quarterback To Throw
Another reason that teams will stack the box in football is to force the quarterback to throw the ball.
Whether it is an inexperienced rookie or a backup that got thrown in due to injury defenses will attempt to capitalize on poor quarterback play.
By stacking the box they are taking away the opponent’s ability to run the football. This will give the quarterback an easier time throwing the ball but will force him to make passing the primary option for their offense.
The defenses will rely heavily on their cornerbacks in these situations as they will often be playing without safety help.