Tag Archives: NFL

NFL Defenses Need to Start Doing This

A huge trend on offense right now in the NFL is to flex a running back or tight end out wide.  Some of the best offenses in the NFL are doing this.  Last year, the two teams that did it the most were New England and Atlanta.

NFL Defenses Need to Start Doing This, Xs and Os strategy NFL Defense

Is it by chance that the two best offences are doing this?  Probably not so what do they gain?  Well it is the most effective way to know if it is man or zone coverage.  This becomes even more valuable when you have a matchup problem at these positions.

The offense gains a huge advantage.  If a line back goes out to cover RB/TE then you know it is man.  If the corner stays out to cover the RB/TE then you know it is zone coverage.

NFL Defenses need to have an effective counter to this because tipping your coverages before the snap is gives the offense too big of an advantage.

In order to understand the reasoning behind what I am suggesting, we first have to understand how NFL zones work.  When NFL teams run their zone concepts, especially on third down when knowing the coverage is even more important, they are note simple cover 2, cover 3 etc.  They are vastly complex with so many rules that you need players to specialize in their particular roles to be able to run them effectively.  A solution would be, why not have the line backer follow the TE/RB out and then still play zone.  Well the line backer won’t have mastered the rules to play the outside corner in their zone concept effectively.  On the flip side, if you play man out of a zone look, then you will have a line backer matched up on a WR and that is a big advantage for the offense if they can identify the coverage.

Now getting back to my original point.  I believe that teams should show on film the opposite of what their coverage tip shows.  They just need to do it enough to make the offense believe that it is a possibility that you could be showing man but actually be in zone or vice versa.

Now I know that I am arguing against myself.  But few things to consider:

  1. You’re not going to do this all the time, just enough to make the offense think twice. It might put you at a disadvantage for a play or two if the offense can identify it but for all the others you should be at an advantage
  2. When you initially run it, the offense should be surprised giving you the upper hand. Should reduce the concerns about running it initially.
  3. I believe you can scheme up a coverage that can compete on a small sample size. Let’s walk through them:
    1. Zone – In this case you are going to have a line backer and a corner out of position. The plus of this is it’s on the same side of the field.  You’ll have to go more simplistic on that side of the field but there are a number of variations that you can run to roll coverage to that side of the field.  This will discourge throwing to that side of the field and on the opposite side you can run your more complex coverages.
    2. Man – In this case the mismatch is the line backer on a wide receiver. The plus is you’ll have the flexed out WR or TE covered by a corner which 9/10 is a dominating matchup for you.  You should be able to use your free defenders to help the linebacker.

If you do it a few times you can remove that huge advantage that an offense gets by using formation to know the coverage.  Worth while trade off in my opinion.

NFL Teams Need a Game Management Coach

NFL coaches are really bad at game management.  With how much money NFL teams have, it really doesn’t make any sense why they don’t hire someone to handle this.  And it’s not surprising that some coaches consistently struggle with this.  Take Sean McVay.  His responsibilities include, head coach, Offensive Coordinator and offensive play caller.  With his attention being pulled so many directions, it’s no wonder he has made some game management errors.

Even head coaches that have less responsibilities still struggle with this.  Let’s look at one of those coaches and how his game management blunder cost his team drastically.

NFL Teams Need a Game Management Coach, NFL Head Coach Game Management Dallas Cowboys

NFC Divisional round 2017 – Green Bay vs. Dallas

Coming down the stretch, Dallas had the ball down 3.  They had just gotten into FG range and with the clock running called a timeout.  There was no need to call a timeout at this juncture and the ramifications of this decision lead to there being enough time left on the clock for Green Bay to kick a field goal and win the game.

 

After the game Jason Garrett defended his decision by saying they were going for a touchdown and he felt taking a timeout would result in best chance for that.  Even assuming this line of thinking was correct, which isn’t necessarily the case, it is still am unnecessarily risky and irresponsible decision.  Should Dallas had not taken that timeout, you still have a very reasonable chance to score a touchdown and win the game, but at the worst have a field goal to send the game to overtime.  You could have removed the chance of Green Bay getting the ball back with enough time to win the game.

 

Sure, you would have liked to win the game on the current possession and avoid overtime, but even if the game goes to OT, you should have liked your chances.  Dallas’ offense was rolling and Green Bay’s offense had done nothing recently.

 

The head coach’s job is to put their team in the best position to win.  By taking a timeout and allowing Green Bay the ball with the game tied, Jason Garrett did not do that.

 

Week 2 2017 – Dallas vs. Denver

There were a number of situations where Jason Garrett’s decision were poor.  Perhaps the worst part is that they don’t fit with one another.  At one point of the game, Dallas had a 4th and 3.  They punted signaling that Jason Garrett wanted the game to be an onside kick game.  What this means is they would rather stay in the game and hope they can recover an onside kick, rather than risk going for it and conceding the loss if they do not make it.  This is the conservative approach.

Later on, they had another 4th down with the opportunity of kicking a field goal, keeping the game theoretically winnable.  In this situation, he decided to take the aggressive approach and go for the touchdown.  They did not convert and any hope of winning the game was lost

Ultimately, in this game the cowboys were outplayed and that’s why they lost.   However, Jason Garrett made the wrong call in the first situation and then showed no constancy.  In the first situation, converting a 4th and 3 is much more likely than winning an onside kick game.  You go for it.

In the 2nd situation, going aggressive after choosing to be so conservative makes no sense.

Ultimately it is not just Jason Garrett struggling.  Many head coaches do in this regard.  I just don’t understand why they just don’t admit it and hire someone to manage this.

 

The NFL has a Serious Quality of Play Issue on it’s Hands

The first two weeks have resulted in some unwatchable football.  Some of this is part of a larger issue (limited practice time, poor offensive line talent) but some of it is the NFL’s own fault.  The schedule for primetime games has been pretty poor.  Granted, some of it is due to teams underperforming expectations but The NFL certainly not doing themselves any favours.  There were a number of intriguing games that I would have been more interested in viewing.

 The NFL has a Serious Quality of Play Issue on it’s Hands, Quality of Play NFL Issues Football

Larger Issue – Limited Practice Time

 

Many of the offenses have look inept so far, this season.  Points are way down this season.  And don’t get me wrong, I more than happy to watch a defensively dominated game.  But I want it to be that the defense is dominating rather than the offense just being bad.  Which is the case so far this season.

Timing is such a big thing in today’s NFL.  The best offenses look like well oiled machines, but so many of offenses look out of tune.  One theory for why this is, is that they don’t have time to practice.  The first part of the season is really just a time for them to get the reps in that they need to sort all this out.

Defenses have such an advantage in the beginning part of the season now because they are less dependant on timing.  Defense is much more reactionary making it is so much easier for a defense to be top notch early on.

I understand why practice time is limited but this issues of poor offensive play is not going away.  Offenses will continue to struggle at the beginning of the season, resulting in some pretty bad games.

Larger Issue – Poor Offensive Line Play

 

Part of the reasoning for the inept offensive play really has to do with the offensive line play.  Lines across the league now are so bad that they are destroying offenses.  Offensive coordinators are left with the choice of running a reduced playbook consisting of quick timing throws, or running their full playbook with a very realistic chance of the play being blown up before it fully develops.

If you look at the worst offenses so far this season, the major common theme is that their lines are some of the worst in the league.  Cincinnati, NY Giants, Houston, Seattle, Indianapolis are some of the worst lines and they are all bottom of the league in points for this season.

Talent coming into the league for offensive lines is at an all time low.  Now this could be a blip on the radar and talent could return to the average but there are a number of theories that suggest that this is not an outlier.

Time will tell if this is the case or not but let’s say that this issue persists.  The demand for competent offensive linemen does equal the supply.  Offenses will have to adapt and change their style of play.  This will give defenses a huge advantage going forward if this problem is not corrected.

NFL’s Own Fault

 

Regardless of the state of play across the NFL, some of these scheduled primetime games are ridiculous.  The reality of the landscape of today’s NFL is a viewer can watch any game that is live.  This means that even with play being poor, during the 1pm and 4pm time slots, you can find a game worth watching.  During the prime time games, where there is one option, if the game is bad you’re stuck watching it.

The NFL needs to look at the games the schedule in primetime.   I write this heading into week 3 and if you included the Thursday night game from week 3, 3 out of the 4 primetime games are pretty much unwatchable in my opinion.  Sure, Cincinnati and Houston looked a lot better before the season started but is it all that surprising that it was a dud?  Cincy had a bad offensive line last year and they let their two top linemen walk.  Houston has an incredible defensive front.  I’m not say it was 100% obvious that it would have played out like this but it is not at all surprising.

The NFL needs to be picking games that have a good chance to be intriguing and putting those in their primetime slots because right now Sunday is the only day I want to watch football.

Teams That I Believe Will Regress this Season

This post is the complimentary to other post I’ve made about teams that I think will improve.  Once again, this will be in order of most to least confident

Teams That I Believe Will Regress this Season, NFL

Detroit Lions

This is more about Detroit not being anywhere close to their record last year.  The amount of fourth quarter comebacks they had last year is not sustainable. Their defense is devoid talent and for them to win, their offense will have to continue to make comebacks.  The law of averages says this won’t happen.

Dallas Cowboys

Dallas’s defense was not good last year and they’ve lost several players, meaning chances are they will be worse.  This means their offense will have to carry them again.  Now, their offense is super talented but I’m warry on a few different fronts.  Firstly, they were pretty healthy last year. All it takes is an injury or two to a key person and it can go down hill really fast.  Secondly, the strength of their team is their line.  They have the three studs who are going to dominate.  But with an offensive line your weakest link is just or even more so important than your strongest.   If either of the two remaining spots do not work themselves out, it will be difficult for Dallas to dominate on the offensive front like last year.  Lastly, I am concerned about Dak.  He plaid amazing as a rookie last year.  But now coaches have time to analyse what he’s good and struggles with.  The game should become a lot harder for him.  It would not surprise me if he turns the ball over more this year.

New York Giants

The New York Giants won games on their defense last year.  But here is the odd thing.  They had a terrible pass rush.  This means they dominated in the secondary.  And when they played Green Bay in the playoffs and had injuries to the secondary you saw what happened.  DRC is a hugely important part of their secondary as he plays the slot in their nickel packages.  I don’t believe that he will stay healthy.  If their defense takes a step back their offense will have to pick up the slack. I really like the additional of Brandon Marshall but their line is still awful.   I believe that is too big of a short coming to pick up the slack from the step that the defense will take back.

Other Notes

Quickly, I believe that Oakland and KC will also take steps back.  I really like both teams but 12 wins is had to accomplish.  The division will be tough as well as playing 1st and 2nd place schedules.  Wins will be cannibalized

Teams I Think are Going to Improve

Below are some teams that I think going to improve a lot over last season’s record.  I’ve structured it from most confident about the turnaround to least confident.

L.A. Chargers

This division should be one of the toughest in football this year and I think the Chargers are going to compete for a title.  Last year they were decimated by injury as well as found a way to lose games they should have won.  Chances are this won’t happen again.  In terms of talent, Teams I Think are Going to Improve, NFL forecastI think they are up there with all the other teams in the division.  Their defense is super underrated.  They have 2 legitimate pass rushing options as well as great cover corners on the back end.  This allows tremendous scheme flexibility and gives them the ability to match up with any opponent.  On offense, their biggest weakness is their offensive line.  They addressed this in the draft by adding two of the top guards in this class.  Every other position group they have above average talent.  Mark my words – if the Charges can avoid the insane amount of injuries they had last year, they are going to compete in this division.

 

New Orleans Saints

The Saints Issue last year was their defense.  Every level was terrible but their secondary was particularly poor.  Not only did they draft the first cornerback taken in the draft but they get Delvin Breaux back from injury (the one corner who has shown starting NFL caliber level of play) and they drafted a safety who should come in and start.  This should do wonders to their secondary as their adding 3 starters.  On the defensive line, they are adding their first-round pick from last year who missed the regular season due to injury.  That’s a large talent injection to their defense.  If they can get decent play from that until they have a chance to be good as their offense is always one of the tops in the league.

Cincinnati Bengals

Their offensive line still scares me but I think they have the weapons to overcome it.  With A.J. Green and John Ross on the outside, Defenses should be playing a lot of 2 high safeties.  This makes life a lot easier for the line as blitz looks are a lot less complex and in theory less concerning.  It should also help Andy Dalton, in addition to just having more talent around him, as one of his biggest weaknesses is when the pre-snap look changes post snap.  If teams are in 2 high safeties then they won’t be able to disguise as much and change the post-snap look.  Also in adding Joe Mixon, they added a running back that can make the line look better than it is from the running game perspective.

The problem last year was their offense.  I think after this offseason they can become great again and if that happens then they should be back in contention for the AFC north.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I really liked Tampa’s offseason.  The only reason I don’t have them higher is because they already had a winning record last year and getting to double digit wins in the NFL is tough.  Also, take into their schedule.  I think that everyone in their division improved and they are playing the second-place schedule instead of the last place. That being said their defense should be about the same but their offense took leaps forward in my opinion.  Adding Jackson opposite Evens (who also is a fast receiver) creates the same look as Cincinnati where teams are not want to bring the extra safety down into the box.  This should help the line as well as the running game.  The other offensive player they added was O.J. Howard an excellent in-line TE.  Why this is important is it will allow Tampa to play in base personnel, simplifying the game for Winston, and still give them the flexibility to create mismatch opportunities.  They have a great f-type TE in Brate who they can move around the formation if they so choose.  This will make them an almost impossible team to match up to, which is why I think they will improve.

Minnesota Vikings

This one is more logic.  They can’t have as bad of an offensive line as they did last.  If you add an improved line and potentially great back, that can create on his own further helping the offensive line, to their dominate defense and that should equal success.

Jacksonville Jaguars

If you take the QB position out of the equation then they have a really talented roster.  Last year their defense was really good, they just got off to a bit of a rough start and it threw off the data a bit.  During the offseason, they added more talent to their defense.  They have the talent to be a top until in the league.  If they can get to that level and have a decent running game they’ll be in a lot of games.  Also note that when Blake did have his best season, he was really good on play action.  A good running game can help the play action game but it’s more about the philosophy and playing out of running sets that can help a play action game.  Logically they should be in contention for the division.

Philadelphia Eagles

They added a lot of pieces to their already talented team in the offseason and they just happen to address a lot of their areas of need.  Based on that I think they will be better than last year.  The reason I have them at the bottom of the list is I’m not sure that the issues that hindered them last year won’t this year as well speed at wide receiver, offensive line depth, and corner talent.  Torey Smith is fast but not a good NFL receiver so I’m not sure that solves the problem.  I am a fan of the Jeffery signing and think he helps the team, but he doesn’t address the speed issue really and he has been unavailable for a lot of games recently.  Not sure you can count on a full season from him.  Last year when Lane Johnson went down, Wentz struggled.  They didn’t add any depth on their offensive line.  They added a lot of corner talent but due to injury, it might not be super impactful this season.

2017 NFL Draft – Round 1 Reactions

2017 NFL Draft – Round 1 Reactions, nfl draft NFL

Oddly enough, yesterday was one of the premier dates on the NFL calendar even though there is no football being played.   But I fall victim to it as well as I think it’s a lot of fun!  Below are some of my thoughts on the first round.  I think draft grades are silly, especially after the first round when you haven’t seen the team’s complete strategy unfold, as you should wait a few years to see how these players pan out.  However, there are some things I liked, things I didn’t like and some things I found interesting without getting too snap judgy.

 

Cleveland Browns:

Overall, I liked what they did.  Yes, they still need a QB but Mitchell Trubisky was not worth the  1st overall pick, especially when you consider the alternative in Myles Garrett.  I’m making a bit of an assumption that Trubisky was their guy.  Once he was gone trading up from 12 to draft one of the other 2 qbs would not have been smart just so you can say you drafted a qb.  I am surprised at the next 2 players they chose given their analytical approach.  Both are more projection players so we’ll have to wait and see how they work out.  But given that they have lots of time to develop players they do have time to let them develop so that’s a positive.

Chicago Bears:

It’s a bit of an odd strategy they are implying here.  The signing of Mike Glennon makes a lot less sense now.  I guess what they are hoping for is that he plays well and then they can trade him next offseason when Trubisky is ready to take over.  If that works out then sure, I guess that is a great strategy.  However, I feel this is rather unlikely.  First of all, their receiving core is a mess and now that they’ve traded away their midround picks I doubt this will change.  I feel they should have signed a placeholder qb and either rolled over the $11 million savings to next years cap or signed some other free agents.  The reason they are picking so high is they have holes on their roster.  They are not going to be filled this offseason.  Trubisky might work out and be a franchise altering qb which would be great for them, but it doesn’t mean the process was correct.

San Francisco 49ers

Great on them for picking up 2 mid round picks and still getting the guy they wanted.  You can defiantly make the case that they should have drafted for need a little bit more as their last 3 top draft picks play the same position essentially.  But if it comes together than this isn’t and issue.  As for Reuben foster, he’ll either be a great player or wont be able to get himself together and will flame out of the league.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

I am very weary of this pick.  Ultimately, he needs to produce at the level that Adrian Peterson did when he came into the league.  Anything short of that and it’s a mistake – time will tell but that’s a high standard.

Tennessee Titans

I like what they did.  It would have been nice if they could have traded out of that pick but you still need someone to trade up to be able to do that.  Given the run on receivers that happened after, their guy would have been gone by 18.  You can’t fault a team now for taking their guy when the drop off in talent is so large for when they would get to pick again.

 L.A. Chargers

Bit of a luxury pick given the talent they have at WR, but given their needs they could wait until a later round to address and get a similar player.  If they don’t address their needs than maybe something more can be said about this pick.  That said, they must really like Mike Williams or really fear injuries at that position because he really isn’t that much of an upgrade over what they have.  I’m really interested to see what scheme they end up playing.  If it is the Seattle style that everyone says than maybe passing on Malik Hooker will come back to bite them.  But their current personal is more suited for a man scheme, which Hooker would not nearly have the impact in that scheme so that would make more sense.

Carolina Panthers

I’m very concerned with this pick.  I believe that Christian McCaffrey is worth a top 10 pick, but to a team that can maximize his value and I do not believe Carolina’s scheme will do that.  Time will tell if I’m wrong but those are my thoughts.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

They have a scary group of skilled position players now especially if they can add a running back in the later rounds.  I expect them to play lots of 21 personal now.  This should simplify the game for Jameis reducing his interceptions as well as really help their running game.  With Jackson and Evens on the outside opposing defenses will be very reluctant to play with only 1 deep safety.

New York Giants

It will be interesting how they deploy him.  The Giants have 3 good wide receivers so you would imagine they’ll want to play 3 wr sets.  Assuming that they go that route, they’ll be asking Engram to be an in-line TE which he is undersized for.  If they detach him the only things they can run are quick strike passing concepts as they otherwise their line will get exposed with no help.

Other Thoughts:

With the depth at corner they really got pushed down.  A lot of offensive and defensive line players went higher than expected.  Makes sense as teams feel they can get a similar player later in the draft.  With multiple teams, I believe using this strategy I expect there to be a run on them in the second round

Can’t wait to see how the rest of the draft plays out!  This will give you a few more clues to the team’s strategy as well up coming plans.  After the draft is complete we can judge the team’s strategy much more effectively

image: pixabay

Building an NFL Team

It’s draft season and with it comes hope for every NFL franchise.  They bad teams are hoping to use the draft to makeover their roster and set them up for future success.  The good teams are hoping to add that one difference maker to put them over the edge and give them a shot at the Super Bowl.  As a fan, it can be tough to take the emotion out of analyzing the moves of your favorite teamBuilding an NFL Team, NFL Draft, but here is a strategy to consider, most of which use cold hard data, before you criticize too much.

 

Offense over defense – Offensive success correlates more to team wins than defense.  I’ve looked at, what I think, are two of the most important team metrics; DVOA and red zone scoring (TD only).  Both correlate very well to overall team wins and conceptually this makes sense.  What’s nice about these stats is the offensive and defensive contributions can be isolated.  Comparing the offensive and defensive contributions to team wins, both offensive metrics correlate a good amount higher than defensive.  What this means is a team with a good offense should have more wins than a team with a good defense.  A good example of this in action is the most successful team of the current generation, the New England Patriots.  In the recent years that have taken to trading away all their defensive talent.  Yes, there are salary cap considerations but they have retained their offensive talent so it would make sense that they are following this strategy.

 

Now that’s not to say to only focus on offense and just sign undrafted free agents to play on defense.  What it means is that a team should prioritize having a good offense over having a good defense.  And I would further break it down to be a team should prioritize having a good offense over having a good defense apart from pass rush.  I haven’t looked into the numbers on this to see if this theory actually is valid but I feel the concept behind it is sound.  Assuming a team has adopted the above philosophy it’s unrealistic for them to have a dominate defense.  I believe that if a team puts a few recourses into having a good pass rush and is not absolutely terrible elsewhere on the defense they can be a bend but don’t break defense. The reason this is important is it goes back to the red zone metric described above.  On defense, you want to reduce the amount of red zone TD’s given up per game based on this metric.  I believe that if you have a good pass rush, a team will be able to have a low red zone td percentage which will lead to few red zone TDs conceded.  The reasoning for this is in the red zone the space a defense must defend is a lot less.  With each defender having to defend a smaller zone (assuming zone defense will be played as it is unlikely for a team that doesn’t have great corner’s to be playing man) it should take longer for receivers to get open, allowing more time for the pass rushers to get home.  If you have a good pass rush this should be a recipe for stopping teams once they get to the red zone.

 

There was a lot of theories and numbers outlined above, but what you should take away from it is if your team goes into this season with a good offense and pass rush, chances are they are going to be in playoff contention.  And as a fan, what more can you ask for!

 

image: pixabay