Fat Camp

Fat Camp: Intricacies of cornerback play

It’s become common in recent times to say that the quarterback, left tackle and rush linebacker are the three most important parts when constructing a team, but that hasn’t always been the case. When John Madden used to talk about team building, he was very firm that the two most important things were your offensive line (especially the left tackle, but you need the whole group to be anywhere from solid to exceptional) and the cornerback slot. There’s good reason to still see things that way.  How important is the defensive secondary? Just consider these numbers:

  • 1977 - NFL teams ran 14,650 times (57.7%) and passed/were sacked 10,741 times (42.3%)
  • 1978 - NFL teams ran 16,075 times and passed/were sacked 12,850 times (55.6% vs. 44.4%)
  • 2010 - NFL teams ran 13,920 times and passed/were sacked 18,399 times (43.1% vs. 56.9%)

You easily get the idea: it’s not news that the NFL’s passing game has been bolstered since the (in)famous 1978 rule change that permitted offensive linemen to hold, as long as it was within certain parameters. That rule change began a long series of decisions that put the power in the hands of the offenses in order to make games more exciting to the fans.

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Fat Camp: Defensive fronts, Part II

After exploring the basics of the 3-4 options in last week's Fat Camp, today we’ll take a tour of the basics of the 4-3 options. This is the direction that John Fox will take Denver’s D - a zone-coverage dominant, bend-don’t-break approach that requires the offense to do the right thing over and over in order to gain territory, and that prevents the big plays that have killed Denver’s chances over the past two years. While some of that has been the lack of a running game or a ball control offense (as well as the offense's struggles in the red zone) to protect the D, the defense has been dropping to the bottom of the league for some seasons now. Having reached that final level of futility, I look for Denver to make a lot of changes over the next two years. One will be the move to a 4-3. 

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Fat Camp: Defensive fronts, Part I

A friend and I got to talking recently about 3-4 and 4-3 formations and systems, and I was a bit surprised when he noted, quite honestly, that he really didn’t know much about the differences between the fronts and how they work. After asking around a bit, I found that my friend was far from alone in that regard.  It got me looking at the issue, and what better way to address it than a session or two at Fat Camp? 

Regarding the differences between variations of the 3-4 and 4-3, new Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen takes much the same public stance as head coach John Fox does. In speaking with Dave Krieger of the Denver Post, Allen said,

"I don't look at it as a huge issue. Each player has a unique skill set and the challenge for a coach is to find out what those guys do well. So we're going to give them opportunities to do the things that they do well, whether it's 4-3, 3-4, 4-4, it doesn't really matter. I think our challenge is finding out what our personnel can do and highlighting those strengths."

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Fat Camp: Thoughts about Dennis Allen

Dennis Allen was hired as the Broncos Defensive Coordinator in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, after I’d wrapped You Got Served and gone to bed - so I didn’t comment on the hiring within that piece.  In between closing the books for January, going to my MBA classes, and turning up at the odd social event, I’ve spent the last few days thinking about the implications of this hiring, and I have to say, I’ve gone from liking it to loving it in that time.

One of the last pieces I wrote on my old site was called What a John Fox Defense Looks Like.  In it, I made the point that Fox is not a technocratic scheme-oriented guy, he’s an old-school football guy.  On both sides of the ball, his coordinators call the plays, within an overall team concept that he sets.  Historically, his defenses have featured 40 fronts and a lot of zone coverage, mostly relying upon 4-man rush schemes.  I’ve said a lot of times that that’s the soundest way to play defense, so I agree with that approach.

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Fat Camp: Clock, timeout, & challenge management

Happy Friday, y’all, and welcome to Fat Camp.  What I’m envisioning for this series is a weekly short-form essay on the football topic of my choosing.  It’s intended to be pretty focused, unlike You Got Served, where I always reserve the right to meander into whatever topic I feel like writing about, whether it be the quality of college basketball game analysis, or my aversion to epaulets in men’s clothing.  I hope you learn something each week, or, at least, think about a topic in a different way.

A football topic which has always interested me is clock (and by extension, timeout) management.  Everybody likes to opine about it, but it’s one of the most poorly-understood football concepts, and as a result, a lot of smart tactics get criticized, and a lot of dumb ones get commended.

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A teachable moment: the screen game

Have you ever noticed how bad the Broncos are at defending the screen game?  Seemingly, for years, it’s been a consistent weakness.  The main reason is that they have mostly had to rush more than four men to get any pressure on the opposing Quarterback.  A secondary cause is that the Broncos have rarely fielded good tackling teams over the last 25 years or so.  Even in today’s victory against the Texans, numerous screens were successfully run against the Broncos.  It’s frustrating, isn’t it?

The other side of that coin is how you can frustrate the other team by maximizing the effectiveness of your own screen game.  This has never really been an area of strength for the Broncos, either, over the last 25 years.  The reason why is the Quarterback, going back to John Elway, and continuing through the recently-ended Kyle Orton era.  The Broncos just haven’t ever had guys who were very comfortable or consistent with setting up the screen game, so a potentially devastating weapon has often not been used much.

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Talking about 30 fronts

Hello again, friends, and Happy Friday.  I’m back with some stuff about 30 fronts today, on the heels of my last post about 40 fronts.

If you didn’t catch that post, you should read it.  Yes, I mean now.  Don’t worry, I’ll wait….

OK, welcome back.  Today we’re going to delve into the two main types of 30 fronts, and as with the types of 40 fronts we looked at, one is fundamentally a one-gap scheme, and the other is fundamentally a two-gap scheme.

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Discussing 40 fronts

Yesterday, I wrote a post about terminology on defensive fronts.  Today, as a follow-on, I want to talk about two of the five major base defensive fronts.  These base looks have variants situationally, but they each lean on certain major concepts.  As we approach more actual preseason games, I thought it would be fun if we got into some technical stuff today.

Remember, the word “technique” in this concept means nothing more than where a player is going to line up, in relation to the offensive line.  The overriding idea behind all of these fronts is that the defense is seeking to dictate to the offense how they want to be blocked.  That may not completely make sense at this moment, but as we go, I hope it becomes increasingly clear.

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What exactly is a three-technique?

During the simultaneously boring/exciting Hall of Fame game on Sunday night, Al Michaels actually asked a good question.  I was as surprised as you are; I mean this is a guy who has made a whole career off of calling the Miracle on Ice, and who usually seems not to even care, at this point.

He asked this good question of Cris Collinsworth, who knows what he’s talking about, and usually expresses himself well on television.  Collinsworth, though, completely booted a chance to teach viewers something about the game.

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