Happy Friday, friends. I was going to write an article today breaking down the Broncos-Bucs game, but Andy Benoit did a really good job of it yesterday for Football Outsiders, and I don’t really feel like it’s necessary to go over the same ground he just plowed.
Instead, I want to write about a topic I’ve been meaning to get to for a few weeks, which is the unusual multiplicity of the Broncos defense this year. Two passages from the aforementioned Benoit article get to this topic. Here is the first one that jumped out at me:
Laudable as Denver’s offense has been, it’s the defense that has this team looking like Super Bowl favorites in the AFC. It’s almost fruitless trying to analyze this scheme, as John Fox and Jack Del Rio have sprinkled it with so many different flavors.
The Broncos are really doing a bunch of stuff on defense this year. They’re switching their fronts, and subtly adjusting their alignments, and mixing up their coverages, and varying their blitzes. It’s to the point that offenses can’t really get a good read on what the Broncos are doing defensively, because they’re doing a bit of everything.
Happy Monday, friends. I wanted to talk a little bit about something that both Doug and TJ made mention of in passing, and that was the strange decision by the Broncos to use a lot of nickel personnel in yesterday’s game against the Chiefs.
I haven’t seen any snap counts published yet, but when we do, we’re going to see that both Chris Harris and Tony Carter played a lot of snaps, and that the Chiefs didn’t play very much in three-WR personnel. Usually, a defense will match the offensive personnel grouping, with a third CB coming on the field to match a third WR. The fact that the Broncos chose to use Champ Bailey, Harris, and Carter as much as they did, and irrespective of the offensive personnel grouping, seems to tell us something interesting.
The best reason to use offensive sub packages is that it usually forces a defense to remove a LB from the game who is a better football player than the DB who replaces him. Since it’s easier to find effective WRs than it is to find CBs, the general assumption that third WRs are better than third CBs is typically a sound one.
I read the USA Today article that Doug linked today, which amounted to an interpretation of a Peter King tweet. Only KSK should be interpreting PK, because this reporter follows him down the path of wrong.
They mention "legal chop blocks," but there are no such things in the NFL, nor have there been any in quite a few years. The problem is apparently confusion about what "chop block" means.
Allow me to explain.
A chop block is when a blocker is engaged with a defender up high, and a second offensive player goes low on the same defender. There must be two blockers on one defender, and one must go high, and the other low, for it to be a chop block. That's a 15-yard penalty on the offense.
Happy Wednesday, friends. Today, since we’re at the halfway point of the season, I want to revisit the series of articles I wrote in March and April about the Manning offense, and update them. If they’re going to live on as strong reference material, they deserve an update.
In advance, let me say that you shouldn’t take this as a victory lap, although I was right about a lot of stuff. And don’t even get me started on how right I was about the results of the Presidential election. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
Here is a set of links to the whole series of articles:
Happy Friday, friends. For years, even when it seemed like I was the only guy out in the wilderness, I’ve maintained that Alex Smith can play QB well enough to win a Super Bowl.
The last two seasons, as he’s had some consistency in coaching for the first time in his career, he’s looked a lot like I was right. Now, all of a sudden, after his only bad game in two seasons last week, and one ill-advised throw last night, people are starting to say it’s time to dump him in favor of Colin Kaepernick.
It’s a bye week for the Broncos, so I just decided to run with this topic, because I think it’s absurd. If you watched the game between Seattle and San Francisco last night, I’d question your grasp on reality if your takeaway was that Smith struggled. If you didn’t see the game, and you just looked at the numbers- sure, they’re pretty average looking.
On Friday, I wrote that the Patriots' alleged "blueprint" for beating the Broncos was really a blueprint for beating any defense in the NFL. I didn't think it all the way through, though, and an important point was left out.
The one-word fast running game only works when it's quiet enough for Tom Brady to call out that one word. At Seattle yesterday, the Patriots couldn't play as fast, because Brady had no ability to communicate the play as quickly as he could at home.
CenturyLink Field is the loudest outdoor stadium in the NFL, and Brady may have an easier time in stadiums with less noise. But for the moment, I'm going to say that the one-word run game is only something New England can consistently rely upon at home.
Happy Friday, friends. Today, I’m going to respond to an excellent question posed by longtime reader DCJ1 in the comments from yesterday's article:
Any time a football team has a good day against another football team, media types always seem to like to proclaim that a “blueprint” was found for beating the losing team. This is primarily a product of the media guys not understanding football very well, and arrogantly thinking that because they saw something that they hadn’t thought of, the coaches must not have realized that an up-tempo running game may be successful. They also wrongly assume that what the Patriots did would be easily replicated.
Happy Tuesday, friends. I’m still feeling good after the Broncos blew out the Raiders, and I’ve been thinking about ideas on defending the Patriots. Expect some words and maybe pictures on that topic later in the week.
For today, I wanted to talk generally about route-running technique. Every receiver who gets drafted into the NFL is within a certain range in the areas of size, speed, quickness, and catching ability. There’s a range of variance on talent, but it’s not really all that wide. What really separates receivers in the NFL, when you look at their ability to affect an overall game, is technique.
In my last job, I was a controller for a business within Xerox that sold custom learning solutions to large businesses. A lot of the people I worked with had Master’s degrees and PhD’s in the area of adult learning. There’s a lot of research done, and theories derived, and models built in the service of understanding how adults learn, and how to best improve their performance.
Every time you turn around, somebody is reminding you that the NFL has become a passing league. Through a combination of offense-friendly rule changes, innovative passing concepts, and vastly improved QB coaching at the high school and college levels (not to even mention the excellent private tutoring out there), passing offenses in the NFL are better and more efficient than ever.
I agree wholeheartedly that passing rules in the NFL. It’s easy to hear that, and read it, and conclude that the running game doesn’t really matter, though, and that’s not the case. In fact, I would say that the ability to be very sound in run defense is the most important factor in defending the pass.
That may be tough to get your head around, but let’s explore the idea, by first beginning with offense. The offense is going to do something, and all 11 guys generally know what that something is. The defense is reading keys, and trying to figure out what it will be, but they never really know until the play is underway. This is the fundamental advantage of the offense.
Embed this thought - you can lose games just as easily on defense by failing to stop the run, as you can by failing to stop the pass. The reason for that is because failure to stop the run very often causes failure to stop the pass.
Happy Football Monday, friends. Because I’m a swell guy, I decided to write a quick article about pass coverage relating to tonight’s game between the Broncos and the Falcons. As we saw last week, the Chiefs got lit up, and I’m going to talk about why that happened, and what the Broncos should (and certainly will) do better.
In Week 1, the Chiefs were without their best CB Brandon Flowers, and their best pass rusher Tamba Hali. That puts you at a disadvantage against a team with good passing weapons from the jump, especially a team like Atlanta, whose protection weakness at LT went unexploited. The Chiefs were also seemingly very worried about the Atlanta running game, and they played eight in the box quite a bit.
If you’re dropping the eighth man, you basically have two choices of coverage shells. If you want to play zone, you can use a three-deep shell, and if you want to play a lot of man-to-man, you can used a one-deep shell. The Chiefs chose the latter option a week ago, mostly using a very deep single-high safety, and man-to-man coverage.