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Old 04-04-2007, 08:19 PM    (permalink
bored of education
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Default Next Defensive Trend Article. I loved this article. Awesome

One of the most prevalent themes before Super Bowl XLI was that the Indianapolis and Chicago defenses were mirror images, units that specialized in the Tampa 2 scheme developed by Colts head coach Tony Dungy during his tenure with the Bucs and handed down to his former protégé, Lovie Smith.


It made for good copy. It made for hundreds of queries from the assembled masses looking for an easy angle. And it made for good laughs from the people who knew better.


"The people who watched us knew we weren't playing as much [Tampa 2] as everyone seemed to think we were," Indianapolis defensive coordinator Ron Meeks said. "I mean, just go back and look at the tape. The whole idea that it was like the 'Tampa 2 Bowl' … I can't speak for the Bears, but I know we weren't using it as much as people thought."


Truth is, the Colts evolved in 2006 into more of a Cover 3 defense while retaining the basic principles of the Tampa 2 scheme. The Bears, at least over the second half of the year, played nearly 50 percent man-to-man coverage in the secondary. It's simply the way things are in the NFL, where trends don't last particularly long, and coaches understand that if they aren't changing on defense, they probably aren't winning.


About 10 years ago, the zone blitz scheme, popularized by Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, was the rage. Teams still use elements of the zone blitz, which drops linemen off into the short cover zones and brings blitzers from all kinds of exotic angles, but more as part of a wider package. And the Tampa 2, while it remains the most deployed scheme in the league, is used more in conjunction with other strategies.


There simply aren't, Super Bowl XLI notwithstanding, many pure Tampa 2 defenses in the league anymore.


The scheme has been tweaked and bastardized, with coaches putting their own twists on it, to the point that not even the guys who created the principles of the scheme recognize some of the variations on the theme.


"It's just the natural order of things," Dallas coach Wade Phillips said at the NFL owners meetings last week. "Things change. Twenty-five or 30 years ago, the 3-4 was the defense that was most popular around the league. Then people got away from it. Now you're seeing it more and more again. It's making a little bit of a comeback. But then something else will get hot and everyone will jump to that."


Indeed, the NFL is the ultimate copycat fraternity, a league in which thieves prosper by borrowing ideas from their coaching colleagues. If the NFL ever enacted a copyright law, a lot of coaches would be out of luck, and perhaps out of jobs, too. Said one general manager last week: "They say there's never anything new under the NFL sun. That's because it's all been stolen and repackaged."


So with the reduction in the prevalence of Tampa 2 schemes, what is the next hot trend on the defensive side of the ball?


A survey of coordinators and position coaches this week didn't elicit an overwhelming sentiment for anything dramatically new on the horizon. But the common denominator from many of the coaches was that changes continue to be made more in the secondary than in the front seven. For years, as the NFL toggled back and forth between the 3-4 and the 4-3 as the defenses of preference, the emphasis on change was up front. Now the focus seems to have switched to the secondary.


Clearly, the best pass defense is one that knocks down the quarterback before he can throw the ball. But there aren't many new blitzes or rush angles to be developed, and so the move is more toward camouflaging coverages.


"There's definitely a lot of emphasis on changing things up in the back end," Carolina coach John Fox said. "Sure, everything starts up front. But you're seeing so many more combinations and mixes [in the secondary] now. It's kind of shifted that way some, really. That's where the evolution is right now."


Actually, it's more a de-evolution, as teams rely increasingly on Cover 3 and man-to-man packages. And that means, of course, a shift in the kind of personnel that defenses want to employ. A priority for every defense now is a safety with some cornerback-type cover skills, a guy who can move out and take on a wide receiver aligned in the slot. And coaches are again seeking cornerbacks who can come up in press coverage and play man-to-man.


In the past five to seven years, the focus had been on Cover 2 cornerbacks, edge defenders who could play great run support and whose coverage deficiencies might be hidden a bit by the scheme. But the move now is back to the basics, from both a schematic and personnel standpoint. Simpler, it seems, is becoming better.


There will always be situational defenses, of course. But, in large part because of the increase in no-huddle offenses and audibles at the line of scrimmage, the defensive emphasis of late has been to get away from the mass down-and-distance substitutions of the past 20 years. The more teams can succeed in their base defenses, the better, and that means having safeties and cornerbacks with varied skill sets.


"I don't know if that's a trend or not, because you're always looking for guys who can do a lot of things for you," Meeks said. "But I think, especially in the secondary, we're looking for those guys more than ever. That's where the game is going."


Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

---

not always a fan of his articles
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What's with the hate on Ricky Stanzi? Those youtube clips of him with the hulk hogan theme music instantly make him better than Luck.
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Old 04-04-2007, 08:36 PM    (permalink
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He really didnt say much. Of course teams arent gonna run the same play every play. Thats just dumb. The Colts are still the simplest scheme in the NFL. They only have 2 base packages. 4-3, and nickel. They dont even have over/under packages.

And Tampa 2 the play and Cover 3 are almost the same plays anyway.

As far as disguising coverage, sure, thats been happening. Because teams cant hold like they used to, they have to confuse the qb as much as they can. Thats where coverage disguises and schemes like the 3-4 defense shine.

Teams line up in man and drop in zone alot nowadays. This is nothing new. Neither is the safety's increased role in coverage.

As for increased blitzing and man coverages coming back, thats a direct result of the evolution of the game.


In the mid 90s, the WCO was the big deal offensively. Cover 2 became more prevalent to defeat these schemes.

So what did offenses do? They started evolving more vertical natures to their game again to exploit the weaknesses in the Cover 2 coverages. Mostly using a TE who can run down the hash.

This resulted in the Air Coryell coming back to the NFL. It was prevelent in the 80s, but died down in the 90s.

Now, as a result, the heavy blitzing is back to negate the benefits of Air Coryell. Thats why you see alot of 46 Bear elements back in the equation today.

Thats why you see defenses like Pittsburgh and SD who blitz heavy have alot of success against todays pass attack. Same with Philly. Cover 0 and Cover 1 are back.

The WCO shined in the 90s specifically to attack the blitzing nature of defenses. Its just one big revolving door.

Dont be surprised if teams use alot more short pass/WCO elements again once heavy blitzing becomes predominant among defenses again.
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Old 04-04-2007, 08:48 PM    (permalink
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I think its a great article to learn the basics of the coverage schemes. Not a fan of his writing but its good for someone who doesnt know **** about football to read.
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What's with the hate on Ricky Stanzi? Those youtube clips of him with the hulk hogan theme music instantly make him better than Luck.
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Old 04-04-2007, 08:54 PM    (permalink
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I don't mind the article, but you can say what you like, I'll take a defense that can execute 90/100 than one that has the greatest scheme but only executes 50% of the time.
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Old 04-04-2007, 09:05 PM    (permalink
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bored of education View Post
I think its a great article to learn the basics of the coverage schemes. Not a fan of his writing but its good for someone who doesnt know **** about football to read.
Definately true. I would like to see espn take a more X and O approach to breaking down football. Less zomg!!! and more analysis please.

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I don't mind the article, but you can say what you like, I'll take a defense that can execute 90/100 than one that has the greatest scheme but only executes 50% of the time.
Of course. Im just an X and O junky so I love talking about the schemes.

I think in today's NFL, todays league of parity, I think versatility is the most important aspect of both sides of the ball.

Having the ability to do everything at a solid level is what you need to be a good defense/offense.

Thats why NE is always in it. Regardless of the team they play, they possess the ability to counter their opponent's strategy. They can do a little bit of everything. And thats what you want. Versatility. Versatility is the name of the game nowadays.
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Old 04-04-2007, 09:08 PM    (permalink
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True about less zomg. I wish they wouldnt cater to people who know NOTHING. Maybe I need insider ZOMG!
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What's with the hate on Ricky Stanzi? Those youtube clips of him with the hulk hogan theme music instantly make him better than Luck.
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Old 04-04-2007, 11:11 PM    (permalink
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I think the article is crap. I don't think he understands the Cover 2 defense at all. Of course teams use many variations to disguise what they are doing, nobody is going to just drop into a cover 2 and say beat me. They are going to use a lot of variations, every defense does that. However the basics of a Cover 2 don't change, minimul blitzing, a ferocious pass rush by the front four attacking the gaps and very little man to man coverage. Ron Rivera was blitzing way too much for Lovie Smith and he fired Rivera. Anybody who thinks the Cover 2 is disappearing after the 2 teams who play it made it to the Super Bowl is an idiot. The NFL is a copycat league and your going to see more teams go to the cover 2 not less.
The reason defenses dramatically change is quite simple. Sometimes it is rule changes like the no bump past 5 yards rule, sometimes it is just a response to limited personnel. When Pittsburgh and New England were the only teams playing a 3-4, it gave them a huge edge in personnel because they got all the 3-4 players available even in rounds 4-7, now that more teams play it, you only get great 3-4 players on day 1 and the best in round 1. Cover 2 teams had that edge for awhile, but as more teams switch to it, players that suit it will be far harder to come by. This is by far the main reason clever HC's switch methods, to get a huge edge in the draft. Also the fewer teams that play a system, the harder it is to prepare a defense or an offense to play against it. The player can view film all they want but they simply lack much experience playing against it. Once they get to see and play against, a lot of teams playing it, it becomes much more simply to recognize what is happening and react to it.
Defenses are undergoing changes all the time, they have to in order to stay ahead of the game. The next wave of changes may come on offense as they adjust to the Cover 2 and 3-4, but you can bet that once teams have adjusted, a new type of defense will appear to take advantage of how teams have changed their offenses.
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Old 04-04-2007, 11:16 PM    (permalink
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"Also the fewer teams that play a system, the harder it is to prepare a defense or an offense to play against it. The player can view film all they want but they simply lack much experience playing against it. Once they get to see and play against, a lot of teams playing it, it becomes much more simply to recognize what is happening and react to it"



Verrry True. Would you say to win in the NFL is sometimes about adapting to a system and exploiting its weaknesses, using the right personel...?
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<+BOE> Scott, with Burfict's character concerns (whether legit or not) you think Pioli would draft him. :D
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What's with the hate on Ricky Stanzi? Those youtube clips of him with the hulk hogan theme music instantly make him better than Luck.
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Old 04-05-2007, 04:20 AM    (permalink
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The article is decent and just speaks on the nature of defensive schemes in the NFL but yeah it really does state the obvious. It would be a lot more interesting if it was to go in depth and really break down in specifics the differences between how different teams are running the cover 2 today based on game film and stuff like that.
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Old 04-05-2007, 01:56 PM    (permalink
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You simply can't find in-depth coverage of the NFL anymore these days. The closest thing I've found in the mainstream is Scouts inc. and/or KC Joyner. Even those guys don't really do much of it, either.

You would think that someone who really, really knows the vernacular and all the schematic variations would come along and offer that kind of coverage, but it simply hasn't happened yet. I'll bet if something like that was available, the providers would be shocked with the level of response from the public. I'm just holding out hope that it will happen one day.
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