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Sugaring the A-Gap explained

This is a term you hear about defensive alignments, and now we break down what it is

Baltimore Ravens v New York Giants Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

As the New York Giants continue through their offseason, we at Big Blue View resume our glossary index. You may have seen the phrase ‘sugar the A-Gap’ or ‘sugaring the A-Gap’ on Big Blue View, and I wanted to quickly examine what that exactly means.

Sugaring the A-Gap — A pre-snap alignment when one or two defenders that are off the line of scrimmage - typically linebackers or safeties - position themselves in the A-Gap (between the center or either guard) in a manner that gives the impression of a blitz-only to drop into coverage.

This tactic forces the offensive protection to account for the potential threats, which can isolate defenders in one-on-one matchups or create free rushers on the opposite side of the play. It can also lead to communication issues on the offensive line.

Wink Martindale frequently used these alignments in passing situations. Aligning seven defenders on the line of scrimmage is no uncommon occurrence when Martindale is calling the plays.

In the Giants’ Week 2 19-16 victory over Carolina, Julian Love (20) sugared the A-Gap on this third-and-4 before dropping to a Cover-3 Match look. This was also the play in which Dexter Lawrence (97) embodied the energy of Usain Bolt; kind of, not really, but let’s enjoy:

That’s sugaring: when you entice and sweeten the protection package only to drop into coverage. However, one reason why the protection is stimulated is due to the occurrences when the blitz actually manifests.

Here’s a third-and-8 play late in the third quarter of the Giants’ 27-22 international victory versus Green Bay. Tony Jefferson (36) is sugaring the A-Gap until the snap. It doesn’t seem like much, but right after the snap Royce Newman (70) takes a step inside and flashes his eyes at Jefferson, who bails into coverage.

With the tackle focused on Kayvon Thibodeaux (5) and the center opening toward the 2i-technique, who released inside (Jihad Ward, 55), Newman is late to engage and isolated against Lawrence. The tackle attempted to help but had to quickly abandon assistance to block Thibodeaux, and Lawrence easily dominated the advantageously aligned rep for a sack.

This is an example of when pre-snap sugar turns to post-snap gold on this third-and-eleven play against Houston. Dane Belton (24) aligned himself between Lawrence and Leonard Williams (99) with seven defenders on the line of scrimmage. At the snap, six of the defenders pressure, with Oshane Ximines (53) staying in front of the tight end on the left side of the screen.

There are six men in the protection package - a hat for a hat, right? No, not really. Rex Burkhead (28) is the running back in protection, and he saw Belton come through the A-Gap. The guard took Belton, and Burkhead became isolated on Williams (yikes). Thibodeaux’s designed pathway was inside to force the tackle to step into the B-Gap, which left Jason Pinnock (27) unblocked.

The Giants schemed a four-on-three to the right of the center, with Ward occupying two blockers to the opposite side and Lawrence taking on the center. Martindale is known for these types of looks and pressure packages, but there were plenty of times throughout the season when he sugared the A-Gap, and the offense was forced to account for the sweetness.