Happy Tuesday, friends. Assuming the Broncos can take care of business against Cleveland and Kansas City in the next couple weeks, it’s looking like the Patriots will be in line to make a trip to SAF@MH in the divisional round of the playoffs. I thought it might be fun to think through some ideas for defending them, the next time they play the Broncos.
First of all, I’ve been advocating playing straight-up Cover 2 against New England, and hoping to get some stops. After Sunday night’s 49ers-Patriots game, not so much. If anybody could be successful playing zone, the 49ers would have been the team. They did play pretty well in man-to-man, though, and that tells me it can be done. Let’s start this exercise with that thought - that good man-to-man coverage can be effective.
The Patriots are difficult because both their talent and their scheme are outstanding. The parts fit well together, and Tom Brady always has somewhere to go with the ball quickly if he gets blitzed. Let’s say that blitzing very often is a bad idea, based on the evidence.
Happy Friday, friends. We got a question about the productivity of Elvis Dumervil from a reader the other day, and along with Doc, I am coming off the other edge to help answer it. It’s hard to contain a rush that’s coming off of both sides.
Doc took the position that Elvis has fine numbers, and I agree with him completely. I’m going to come from the schematic angle, and talk about how team strategy is directly feeding into his numbers, and the tactics he’s employing.
If I use the term Wide-9, what does that mean to you? Over the last couple of years, NFL talking heads have decided that it was a scheme that was being employed in Philadelphia. In the true sense of the term, Wide-9 simply means that a defensive player is aligned on the outside shoulder of a second TE, if there were one. He’s very far outside the offensive tackle.
Today, I want to briefly look at a play from the Raiders game that went for good yardage, and talk about why it worked. I'm going to try to start doing this at least every week to stimulate thought and discussion.
The situation in last Thursday's game that we're covering is a 1st-and-10 from the Denver 36, right after the Broncos have received a third-quarter punt. The score is 23-7:
Happy Tuesday, friends. After the shellacking that the Patriots put on the Texans last night, it’s time to take stock of both teams, since it’s likely that the Broncos will play at least one of them in the playoffs, and maybe both.
There were some noticeable things on display in the game that will be of interest to us in the coming weeks.
Here are five for each team:
Happy Wednesday, friends. Yesterday, a decent brouhaha erupted in my former stomping grounds of Cleveland, Ohio. It’s pretty widely assumed that, with the change in ownership, head coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert will be let go at season’s end.
New owners like to do their own thing, and when Jimmy Haslam hired Joe Banner to be team president, he brought in a guy who is going to certainly change the structure of the organization.
Banner was very successful in Philadelphia as the guy who ran the business end of things, and who oversaw contracts, financial, and cap strategy. I would expect that will be his role in Cleveland as well, and I'm interested to see how he comes out on Shurmur and Heckert, both of whom he knew from Philadelphia. If the Philly rumor mill is to be believed, the organization wasn't all that sad to see Heckert leave for Cleveland when he did, and that would seem to match the color of the smoke that's now coming out of the chimney.
I love freedom. I’m not going to cry about it like Glenn Beck, but I am feeling a little verklempt today, after reading a breathtakingly stupid comment on TJ’s Tebow post, and it has stirred up my patriotism for American freedom. I know what some of you right-wingers are thinking – liberals don’t like freedom, and they aren’t patriotic.
You’re free to believe that stupidity if you want to. (I’d like to see you serve four years in the military.) The commenter on TJ’s post is free to call us religious bigots if (s)he wants to. If (s)he’d gone further over the line, we’d feel free to delete their comment and ban them. Freedom is a good thing; nobody is going to throw any of us in jail for doing any of those things.
This is not going to be much about football. I’m free to write an article about another topic, and you’re free not to like it. Incidentally, I couldn’t care less whether you do or don’t, so spare me the whining about it.
Did you get a load of this, from Doug's most favoritest football writer Alex Marvez?
27 Pro Football Hall of Fame semifinalists. No QBs nominated. Hasn't been one voted in since 2006. But plenty of o-linemen!!! #fail— Alex Marvez (@alexmarvez) November 30, 2012
This is a guy who used to be a voter for the Hall of Fame, as president of the Professional Football Writers Association, but doesn't presently hold one of the 44 seats. Other reporters, such as his FoxSports.com colleagues John Czarnecki and Nancy Gay, do get to vote. Remember my Rule Number 1 of sports: anything which is decided by reporters voting is diminished by that fact, and I'd go so far as to say it's inherently worthless.
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.
Oakland is expected to waive Rolando McClain today, which prompted the following from Bill Williamson:
McClain never lived up to his billing on the field. He was out of shape, slow and often out of position. He didn’t show the instincts expected from a top-10 pick. He was convicted on a gun charge last year, but it was recently overturned on an appeal, according to his attorney.
The new Oakland regime was charged with salvaging McClain’s time in Oakland. He didn’t make improvements and his playing time dwindled in some games. Now, it is over.
McClain will be the 27th player to leave since new general manager Reggie McKenzie took over. Last week, fellow starting linebacker Aaron Curry was cut.
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.