The Playbook Abides: Living here in Allentown; Disguised overload blitz

This week we'll continue to examine some of the concepts that new defensive coordinator Dennis Allen will bring to the Broncos.   Last week we looked at the overload blitz.

While Dennis Allen was in New Orleans, the Saints blitzed more than any team in the league on passing downs (52%).  However, blitzing that often can become problematic; one can't always line up eight defenders at the line of scrimmage and yell, "CHARGE!".  Eventually, the offense will adjust with screens and quick passes.

That's why the football gods created deception.  Deception not only separates us from animals (and Raiders fans), but it separates advanced defenses from more primitive ones.

Make no mistake about it--Denver's defense in 2010 wasn't just primitive, it was downright amphibian.  Disguise wasn't something they did well; when the Broncos got pressure, it was often due to coverage, not disguise or creative schemes.

That should change next year - it's safe to say that the Broncos' defense under Dennis Allen won't be the most talented, but you can bet the house that they will be deceptive and creative.  

Here's a defense the Saints featured in their Wild Card loss to the Seahawks in January.  The Seahawks were beating the Saints 34-30 and faced a 2nd and 11 from their own 42-yard line with 7:14 remaining in the 4th quarter.  New Orleans' defense needed a stop in order to give Drew Brees a chance to win the game:

The result of this play was a 6-yard sack of Matt Hasselbeck (8).  It was pure genius.  We can observe the following:

  1. The Saints (as they usually do when they plan an overload blitz) line one of their defensive tackles "heads up" on the center.  He slants away from the overload in an attempt to draw the center away from the action.
  2. The right cornerback shows man-to-man coverage, but it's really a disguised cornerback blitz.  Meanwhile, the strong safety simply picks up the receiver Mike Williams (17) in man-to-man coverage.
  3. Both the defensive end and linebacker to the overload side drive to the inside in an attempt to allow both the cornerback and two remaining linebackers a clearer path to the quarterback.
  4. Both remaining linebackers come on a slight delay blitz around the right edge of the line of scrimmage.  Both of them come free and combine for the sack.

What I love about watching the Saints on tape is that they rarely waste effort.  On this play, all eleven players contribute to the sack - the four non-blitzing defensive backs have important man-to-man coverage with one safety over the top.  The linemen who are opposite of the overload absolutely must drive the center away from the play so that the Saints can get a 5-on-4 matchup.  Lastly, the five remaining players who are executing the overload must synchronize their efforts.

The key to this play isn't the overload blitz; teams expect this from the Saints.  It's a staple of what they do (and something Dennis Allen is likely to make a core of the Broncos' defense).  The real key to this play is the deception.  Hasselbeck probably had a good idea the Saints were going to bring pressure.  He might even have guessed there would be pressure from the right side of the play (his left) because he saw the right corner playing tight man, while the left corner was ten yards from the line of scrimmage.  Yet he could not have known with a good deal of certainty that the cornerback and both linebackers would come from the same side and attack the same precise point in the offense.  

It was a well-disguised defensive call, and we can expect to see more of this from Allen next season.

As a small digression,  it's worth pointing out that in order to run these types of blitzes, having fast linebackers and penetrating linemen is a must.  I think this bodes quite well for Wesley Woodyard, who seems to be exactly the type of linebacker that would fit well in this scheme.  In addition, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if the Broncos decided to select linebacker Von Miller out of Texas A&M at #2.  Teaming Miller with DJ Williams (not my favorite, but still an above average linebacker in space) and Woodyard would immediately provide a linebacking corps that could execute the type of play we've seen here.  Stopping the run could still be an issue, but we'll leave that subject for next week.

I’m glad we had this talk.  Now, vaya con Dios, Brah.

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