X's & O's: Handling A-gap pressures

Every NFL defense has unique wrinkles to it -- something every offense it takes on must be ready to account for.

In the case of the Dolphins, one such example is a reliance on double A-gap pressures, which often involve their two inside linebackers sliding through the gaps adjacent to the opposing offense's center (the pressures can also involve defensive backs or other linebackers).

"It puts six guys really on five," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said of A-gap pressures. "Your tackles, guards, and center are against their four defensive linemen and two guys in the A gap. You have to determine how you're going to handle those six players. Sometimes they come, sometimes they don't. Sometimes they line up in there and bring people off the edge, so there's actually a seventh guy that's not part of that six."

As Belichick notes, the double A-gap pressures can involve a multitude of wrinkles and variations that put stress on an opposing offense to find ways to block them.

The Patriots had protection struggles against Miami during a Week 7 matchup, surrendering three sacks of Tom Brady, all registered by defensive linemen.

Spinning things forward to tomorrow's matchup, plenty of attention has been (justifiably) paid to the Dolphins' intriguing group of edge rushers, led by Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon, who has surprised with 11.5 sacks already this season.

But not to be overlooked is the importance of protection from the interior of the Patriots' offensive line to ensure that the Dolphins aren't able to penetrate through the A gaps, the most direct line to a quarterback.