Most typically seen out of a 3-4 defense the zone blitz is a pressure package that employs a zone coverage with a covered blitz. The most famous example of zone blitz base teams are the Steelers and the Chargers.
Come inside; let's learn more:
The Defensive backs are utilizing a zone coverage, but unlike the Cover-2 we are all so familiar with, they are responsible for only the third of the field that they are on (i.e. the strong side corner is responsible for the strong side third of the field). The safeties split the middle of the field; one shallower and one as a true safety. They do not always employ bump and run tactics, that is at the discretion of the DC. They do this because they will most likely not have the safety help over the top.
This is where the scheme gets tricky…. The linebackers are responsible for their own zone, the two outside backers the flats and the two inside backers split the middle. But the blitz package is such that the non-blitzing linebackers are required to fill the zone vacated by the blitzing backer. The safety then has to fill the remaining hole in the zone leaving the other safety with the deep middle of the field. From the 3-4 there is usually a designated linebacker for blitzing (Harrison on the Steelers and Merriman on the Chargers). That makes the blitz fairly predictable and teams will line up a chip against them.
Space Fillers; that is all that these guys are. They are there to force double teams, they will prototypically be big and strong. More than one lineman can handle by themselves, they are responsible for keeping O-lineman off the linebackers.
Against the run:
The zone blitz is fairly stout; the hoss D-lineman force double teams, which allows the linebackers to scrape and flow to the play. It also forces the SS into the box to assist the linebackers.
Against the pass:
This defense is marginal. The defense is focused on pressure created by the blitz but if the blitz is picked up effectively the zone has holes the most common is the fly pattern from the Z wideout combined with a out pattern by the slot receiver, the corner can only cover one the wideouts so if he steps up to the out pattern he gives up the fly, and if he stays with the fly he will give up the out pattern with a blocker next to him and almost no safety help.
I know that a lot of people are screaming to move to this type of defense because it is “sexy”, but we do not have the personnel to employ the switch over; the only players on our D that could handle it are Harris, Urlacher and Briggs. Harris moves to End and Briggs to middle and Urlacher over to rush linebacker. None of the others in our front seven have the necessary build to make the switch over.
Yes, we already do some sort of zone blitz from our base D. The difference is that we blitz from a Cover-2 man, which is the two deep safeties but man-to-man everywhere else. We also employ the zone blitz in nickel situations with Manning acting as the Rush linebacker.
Overall the zone blitz is useful provided you have the personnel (which the Bears don’t) but it is definitely not worth switching over unless we are long-term rebuilding