First off i just had surgery and thoughi i am no longer taking 2 percoset every 4 hrs i am still taking some so that might be why unlike everyone else i am not down on this defense. I will explain the D philosophy as i see it and though its not my philosophy it will work well and we also have the personnel to do it. Also how the season and the playoffs will be vastly different for D and why ours is perfect for the post season. all of this after the jump so you can see other more interesting posts and skip this one.
OK so first overall football philosophy. BB as a Parcells desciple believes that a lot of games are lost by one team or the other. This being said if you simply do not make mistakes eventually the other team will and lose the game. This will get you to 9-7 if you are an average team and never make any mistakes. For a good illustration of this see the 03-07 Ravens they had a stellar D and tried to play mistake free offtensive football. They often did not do this but generally when they did not make mistakes and give away turnovers they won the games. I like their D and love to watch their brand of this philosophy. It doesn't work for them because their offense was poop. So This philosophy basically says that if two teams play about the same the turnovers will change the game giving one team a short field or more changes for points. I can concur and like this philisophy.
This was our team in 01-04 except that unike the Ravens our D was a slight notch less and we had a clutch QB and decent offense. Also clutch kicker is needed for this type of philosophy.
Now how to relates to our current team is this; we have a strellar offense where we often do not make mistakes while still scoring a lot of points. This is an amazing thing which gives the defense all of the opportunities to play average and still win most games. If they play well we should win BIG. If we play our game can beat most teams if they play their game, if they make mistakes and beat themselves we don't let them back into the game we put them away.
This philosophy is even more in focus on the defense. We want to force the other team to make mistakes to get off the field. We did this in 01-4 with personnel and schemes, we confused the offense and had the personnel to get big turnovers and stall drives on third down. We didn’t play %s we just schemed and knew we could FORCE the mistake.
Now how this relates to our current team; we play %s by keeping everything in front of us and not gambling much. If they have 75 yards to go for a TD we want them to have to string together a 17 play drive with 6 first downs to score. We want to play the % that if we can get to 5 3rd downs they will make a mistake on one of these and end the drive. Couple in turnovers and all the better. If they manage to get 4 first downs they get 3 points and have to get 6-8 for a TD. We are building the personnel to play this type of game.
Here is how our personnel allow us to play a % game and eventually play it well. This also explains why certain players are not seeing the field and why we did not go after some players at the trade deadline. Ok so we have our hybrid 4 man front with basically 1 DE/DT 2 DT and 1 pass rushing DE. We do this so that without having to substitute personnel we are very very strong against the run on all 3 downs. On first and second the LDE is to set the edge and play the run here while the DT try to get penetration for either run or pass. The RDE just rushes the passer and looks for the run as well, he kind of sets the edge by outside rushing to some extent depending upon the depth he takes. So here if the opposition is a running team they should find themselves behind schedule to get to a manageable 3rd down often. This will change their play calling and this is our goal.
We have the perfect personnel for this front we have Ellis/Deadrick (makes sense) as LDE with Cunningham seeing less time here because he is a traditional DE and weaker against the run. Also if we sub him on 3rd down every time we identify what we are doing to some extent. DT is our strong position with a good rotation of Vince & Love and Albert & Brace/Warren. I think Brace should excel back as a more traditional DT position as he did at BC next to Raji. At RDE we have Carter and Anderson rushing the passer. All of this depth here allows us to rotate these players and the offensive line constantly has talented and fresh D linemen to content with. This coupled with the % game means that we will wear down the O line as they play ever play to our 60/40 rotation.
If anyone is on the bubble for the D line its Cunningham as he just doesn’t fit the scheme in any way really which is a shame, if he gets cut that would such as such a high pick but he just doesn’t fit at all right now and isn’t seeing the field.
OK so the rest of the front 7 is the LB positions and here you have the two outside and the middle position. The middle is perfect for Spikes, I didn’t like him that much in the 3-4 middle but he is perfect for a Mike in this scheme, he is not a sideline to sideline but few except the elite Ray Lewis in his prime truly are. Spikes is a stud inside the hash marks and this is all that this scheme needs him to be. Fletcher is a great backup for this position as well and should be able to sub for a rest though you want consistency in the M LB most of the time.
On the outsides you have Mayo and Guyton and Ninkovich as a backup or rotation player. I like Mayo over Carter because he can cover the run as this is the weak side of the line against the run. Guyton over Ellis because the responsibility here will be more in pass defense as ellis/deadrick will be stout against the run. LB is not the strength of the D but can hold their own. Here is an excerpt from another post where I talk about Spikes creating miss matching by blitzing.
We have been having spikes take the center in blitz or blitz feints. This should continue. With teams with weak centers and good guards, have Vince line up on the center and spikes blitz off an A gap to occupy their best guard. Though he won’t get pressure, but by being blocked by their best interior lineman you free up Vince and Albert/love to be 1-1 with a center or guard and they will win this match up. When it’s a feint it will at least delay the double team and leave both of them singled up initially and hope this is enough to get pressure.
This going forward will create interior pressure and disrupt offensive line protections for the other team.
For Pittsburg look for spikes to blitz at Pouncey leaving the other 4 all on single teams especially good for the DT. At least once Ben will look to escape this and turn into Ellis or Carter for a sack.
So for our front seven it’s about match-ups not scheme and trickery. It’s also about our depth and that after drive after drive against fresh DL every down the offensive line with weaken and allow more pressure. If we are leading this will force them into passing situations where we can focus only on rushing the passer and with fresh players this will become more effective later in games.
So this leaves what many believe is the weakness of this D, the DBs. I don’t see it as a glaring weakness and it is really what the area that can take this D to the next level. The front seven is there to take the other team to 3rd down. Here on obvious passing downs the DBs need to step up. Over the last two weeks they have done so. It will get better as the DL depth is healthy and can sub in ala hockey lines and create fresh pressure more often. The DBs need pressure up front not sacks, everyone will boo our lack of sacks as a statistic but Arrington has 4 picks and McCourty will get his because of their good play and pressure not sacks.
OK so DB philosophy mirrors both the overall and the D, %s. We want everything in front of us and then tackle. If we do not give them 20-40 yard plays then they need to have 10 3-7 yard plays. These will not ruin us, we count on the opposition to drop a ball here and there, have one knocked away here and there and maybe the INT to end a drive. If the front 4 do their Job and we do ours on 1-2 downs then we have lots of 3rd downs. Here we need to play situational football and know the 1st down yardage.
What I would like to see here is the DB line up 3 yards shy of the 1st down and therefore know that after 3 yards of back peddling they are at the 1st down marker. We have too often seen them give cushion and then back peddle well past the 1st down marker. I do not know if the CB do not believe in the Safety help but this is one thing I think needs to change. We need to challenge the offense to beat our coverage for the first down, keep it in front of us but only until the first down marker, after that challenge them to get it perfectly over you.
In terms of personnel they just have to play to their players strength, don’t have McC press cover let him take a cushion, Ras I should be able to press cover. That type of thing. I do not think one is particularly better than another for this D just the DB need to understand where the safety help is.
For the safeties I want 2 deep often with man underneath where the DB/LB on TE can play tight at the first down marker and almost let the player go past that due to safety help. With Meriwether gone they should keep some confidence that the safety isn’t doing his own thing just because he wants to. This is the role of the safety in this defense to me, to be a safety net for the DB. Once the DB feel more comfortable and the starters at FS/SS are more cemented the DB’s won’t turn their hips and ID their coverage so early and can sit on the first down yardage more firmly. In terms of personnel we need ultra reliable Safeties who can tackle. Odd as it is a freelancing great like Ed Reed would not fit this scheme, nor Palamalu. We need safeties deep who can come up and tackle. Merriweather was a BAD fit for this. Chung is perfect, opposite him needs to step up. I think Ihegdibo can be OK if he understands his role and his limitations. He can tackle witness his ST time. They can certainly improve here through the draft if they stay in this type of system.
OK so this is long and ranting at times but that is where we are as a D, a bit of a transition as I think. Previously BB always wanted to return to a scheme and trick the offense style bend but don’t break defense. This became a losing fight as this required four 3 down LB to play a 3-4. These 3-4 LB are much harder to get now because more teams are playing 3-4. No longer can you get 1st round 3-4 talent in the 3rd rd because no one sees the talent in a 4-3 centric NFL. The talent is now more abundant in a 4-3 system particularly the one we are running with 3 DT type players. This transition made TBC useless as the elephant or whatever and might render Cunningham as a wasted pick as well, only time will tell but I think so which is too bad. Also players like Asante who was avail would have worked in the old system where he could gamble for INTs but would be a disaster in this system. Also Jared Allen would be worthless because he could only fill Anderson/Carter’s role and they have this taken care of.
I think late in the season and into the playoffs this system will work wonders. It will play % and ramp up the pressure on the opposition to perform. It forces them to play lights out and error free. All but the best offenses will falter against this and usually those great offenses come with suspect defenses so in these games our offense needs to help the defense with long methodical drives. Between the two units this team is set up for the post season, the season will be important but only as a means to perfect this scheme for January. This is the opposite of the Jets and gamble defenses like theirs. This one is frustrating, cerebral, never racking but if done correctly will show good results. The stats may always have up bad at this or that but at the end of the day whomever scored more points wins and if we can limit the opposition to under 24 pts we will 9/10 times. If you made if this far please comment on any or all of this.
*** I’m camping for the bye week otherwise I re-watch the 3 SB DVDs of those seasons. If you have those give them a look over the bye, this usually satiates my need for the patriots.