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Found 6 results

  1. Greetings all! Hope all of my Falcon bretheren, and sisters are having a safe and happy summer. I know I am, but it's that time of year and I'm starting to get that itch -- no, not the kind I need to go to a clinic for -- but the kind that can only be satiated by watching full grown men knock the ever-lovin' sh** out of one another, so here I am. Now it's not very often I find something in a preseason game worth getting excited over, but I caught a nice little wrinkle Saturday and I wanted to discuss it a bit. It's called PUSH. As all of you know, DQ and MM looooove their man coverage, namely Cover-1 with a Rat in the hole. For anyone who needs a refresher, here it is. Very simple. You have press man coverage across the board. Free Safety playing deep middle and (usually) the Mike playing the Rat in the short underneath zone. Nick Saban calls this the best coverage in football. If you've been paying attention since DQ got here, Cover-1 is our bread and butter when we go man. Our defensive philosophy is to close the middle of the field. But even with as steady a coverage as this is, you simply can't run this on a regular basis without changing things up. Coordinators are just too good, and there are too many ways to beat tight man coverage: bunch sets, stacks, pick routes (I refuse to call them rubs)... it's just too easy to get receivers open if a team is going to sit in this all day. So, we answer this my making small changes to the responsibilities of our defenders. This is where the PUSH ALERT comes in. PUSH ALERT: what is the a Push Alert you're probably wondering at this point? We'll I'm glad you asked. It's basically a call built into the coverage that says we're going to trade off who we're covering in the middle of the play so that no matter how the receivers are stacked and try to pick us off, we'll answer by switching who is covering who... kind of like Banjo coverage (which hopefully I can get to later in the season) or a switch in basketball. Stay with me here if you're confused. We're about to get to the pictures. Here's the play in question. The Jags are running double curls at the top of the screen. Now at the bottom of the screen the routes were drawn up wrong. In the picture it's drawn up with Alf's man running the curl and Poole's man running the drag, but it's actually the opposite. It's Poole's man that is running the little curl and Alford's the cross. Note the stacked alignment of the receivers to that side. This is usually how you can get a receiver open because the off man has a free release and the defender covering him has to navigate through traffic. And here's what the Falcons are in, straight Cover-1 with the RAT in the hole. This time the RAT is Campbell. At the snap Poole gets an incredible jam on his man so much so that he can't even get into his route. I never could tell what that receiver was running, a hook or a dig? But you see (and you'll see it clearer in the gif) Alf has to run over the top to track that crosser, and Duke is struggling to get underneath to get to his man, the running back leaking out. But this is excellent coverage across the board. You can see Campbell has his eyes in the correct place, picking up the 1st crosser to help out Alf. Now this is where our alert comes in. Right in the middle of the play, the PUSH call is made. Campbell now picks up the crosser in man to man, and Alf is the new RAT. Now this is the part that screws with quarterbacks. Look at what Blake is looking at. To him, this is man to man across the board right. That crossing route has taken the Rat, Campbell and cleared him out of the middle of the field and Alf was in man to man so he isn't even supposed to be a factor. He's supposed to be running with #10 too. So, Blake is supposed to have an easy throw to his tight end who is matched on Keanu. But not so much. You see Keanu has fallen down (or pushed). Tight end is wide open in the middle of the field for an easy completion. But you can see Alf already sinking... And right here, he's just being an athlete. Just an incredible play. You know how it ended. Great play by Keanu to get up off the deck and finish the play. If anyone remembers the pick 6 on Brady from the Super Bowl, this is almost the same exact concept. This is a very simple defense. We show the same stuff over and over again, but there are a ton of adjustments and communication that allows the defense to stay dynamic and constantly have answers for what offenses throw at them. That's how the playbook stays so thick. I love this scheme. It's so simple on the surface, which allows your athletes to play fast, yet so complex when you start digging underneath which allows your playcaller to play chess.
  2. Okay, there is a lot to unpack from yesterday, good and bad. There was so much going on in week one, so much uneven play, I figured I'd just start with the first quarter. The one thing I was looking forward to coming into the season was seeing the growth in how well the zones were being played, namely how decisively they were breaking on the ball, because when you can play decisive and without hesitation, that shows a level of comfort in what you are doing. And it allows you to play with speed. Play #1 - 2nd and 19, this is what Chicago draws up. Just a little something to get you 5-6 yards to make 3rd down somewhat reasonable with the possibility of a big play if you can get a mismatch with the linebacker Jones on #14 the wide receiver. I can't see the safetys, but it looked like Atlanta answered with their Cover-3 Mable coverage, which is their answer when the offense goes to any sort of trips formation, which is what Chicago does. 3 receivers to one side, which puts standard Cover-3 in a bind. What the Mable check does is play man to the single receiver side and Cover-3 to the opposite side. I have Trufant's (at the top of the screen) assignment labeled MEG, which is just another codeword. MEG = Man Everywhere he Goes. Trufant is in MEG on the tight end. Duke Riley has Seam/Flat. His job is to disrupt anything up the Seam, then look back into #3, which is the running back, and carry him through the zone or the flat. Jones next to him is the Hook defender, but Mable is a match coverage. That means you can't just drop to your hook area at 10-12 yards. You have to read and match the route of that #3 receiver. To the bottom, Campbell is Seam/Flat and Alford is in a press/bail. He'll show press pre-snap and bail at the snap, looking to get deep. Now this is the clever thing about this play. Chicago is in their base personnel. That means Atlanta responds with its base defense. Yet Chicago rolls out a formation you'd normally play with three receivers. This would be a problem for most defenses because (take a look at the photo), you've #3 a wide receiver matched up against a linebacker. This here is the benefit of emphasizing team speed. You wind up with linebackers who have range. Most defensive coordinators prefer to play nickel if the offense is going to do something like this. Here's what it looks like right after the snap. Tru mans up instantly and he gets help from Duke who is the star of this play. Duke does his job and helps out Tru, by chucking the tight end up the seam and disrupting that route. As you can see, Cohen #3 is releasing out of the backfield as this is happening. One player over, you see Jones has his eyes on the #3 receiver to his side and is matching him up that seam. And he is in perfect position. This is exactly how you want the hook defender in match coverage to that player. He is positioned about 2 yards inside of him to protect against that deep over route that ate up the zone coverage last year. Can't see the free safety, but I can guess he's helping over the top. #2 who is the fullback runs and little faux wheel route, Campbell does his job by releasing him to the corner Alford who is getting deep and Campbell is looking to pick up Kevin White coming underneath. He does an excellent job of staying disciplined and not jumping that short route. Remember there is a no-cover area of about 5 yards in these types of coverages. White barely steps off the line in that drag route. You let them have all of that if they want it. Here to me is the really beautiful part of this play by Riley. After he chucks the tight end, his eyes instantly go back to his man #3 coming through his zone. You see he is already breaking on him as he clearly sees Glennon's armed cocked to throw. This is what you didn't see early last season with the zone coverage. This is where all those comments about Riley being ahead of where Campbell and Jones were last year are proving true. Catch made and you see Campbell already looking to help. Take a look at the positioning of the two Falcon defenders. What do you see? You see the leverage principles Dan Quinn talks about all the time. Duke is aggressively running to Cohen's inside hip. Campbell is coming to balance to get his outside hip. A year ago this time, and I don't know how many remember, but Campbell was over-running these types of plays. There was an exact play like this where he over-ran his leverage trying to be greedy and gave up a touchdown run off a missed tackle. Here he is playing with perfect discipline. Here is the end result: That set up a 3rd and 13. Atlanta gets off the field the very next play. More incoming...
  3. The Rams are a truly horrible offense, but believe it or not, I thought that came in with a solid gameplan on how to attack the Falcons this past Sunday. However, that plan was neutralized not just because they are a bad offense playing with a rookie quarterback -- as many here have often pointed out, Atlanta has made rookie quarterbacks and bad offenses look like world-beaters -- so, no, it wasn't just their ineptitude that left them on the coliseum floor leaking, but the continued maturity of Atlanta's young defense, bolstered by players that are now starting to feel the game and play with anticipation. There was no greater example of this than 9:05 left in the 2nd Qtr. Los Angeles is 1st and 15. Atlanta is in their standard 3 deep look with one variation. Instead of the Buzz coverage, which is most favored on passing downs, they are in Sky. May not seem like a big thing, but it changes who the force defender is on the play and can muddy up the quarterback's read on one side of the field because the flat defender and the hook defender isn't going to be who it normally is in Buzz. Now this is where Los Angeles got it right from a gameplan perspective. They have a slant/flat combo to the top of the screen, and a flat/hook combo to the bottom. This is the type of West Coast staple that gives 3 deep coverages troubles and has been a bug-a-boo to this defense for a chunk of the season. At the snap you see the releases of the defenders. Now I'm not 100% sure the type of progression system they have Goff playing in, so I'm not going to speculate, but this is a quick hitter. Three steps, ball is supposed to come out. In that case you can only read one side of the field and he's reading to the slant/flat combo, which is supposed to be easy money. Here's a bit of a tighter look at what they are trying to do to that side of the field. Poole is the flat defender, he has to go with Austin. Alf is in deep 1/3 so he has to give Kenny Britt that space. What they are trying to do is to throw that slant right into that void as soon as Poole clears with Austin to the flat. At this point, everything is unfolding exactly the way it's supposed to with the exception of one little problem... #45. Take a look at his helmet. Eyes on the quarterback. He saw it the whole way. Anyone remember a few months back I made that thread after the MNF game vs. the Saints where Jones had the pick six? You remember the rule for playing as a zone defender? As soon as you see the quarterback's front hand come off the ball, you break. That's exactly what Deion Jones is doing here. Goff's front hand is off the ball to wind up... Jones is on his horse. Let me throw this in there, though... vs. most linebackers this is still a completion. That play is open and there's no hesitation by the quarterback. These are about as wide open as windows get in the NFL. Linebackers are not supposed to be able to close that much ground in split seconds like that vs. the quick passing game. Atlanta doesn't have a normal linebacker playing in the middle, though. Note the height of the ball as it come in. If some mess like this happens to be in Madden, I'm throwing my controller, turning off my system and going outside. Anyone who wants to wonder where the playmakers are on this defense, or the gamechangers, you have you answer.
  4. First off, if there is anyone out there that has a reflexive hate of the Seattle Seahawks, I'd like to apologize, and suggest you stop reading here. I totally understand, but for the purposes of this thread I had to use one of their snaps from Monday night's game vs. Buffalo. For those interested in continuing to read, I will try my best not to turn this into a total lovefest... but man I love to watch that Seattle defense play ball. For everyone else, here we go. Now as all of you know, the Falcons have struggled mightily in pass defense this season, especially in the middle of the field and the question arose, was it scheme or the youth? So, I just wanted to give a brief illustration of what this scheme looks like when it is fully formed. The biggest problem in this (Falcon) defense is the receivers are not being passes off properly in zone. The young linebackers are seeing a lot of this stuff for the first time and they have been a step late in reacting. Although, I did see a lot better underneath play vs. the Bucs. But here is how it is supposed to be done and what makes Seattle so tough to throw the ball against, even though, theoretically, Cover-3 is supposed to be vulnerable short underneath. First, a look at the defensive call. Seattle is in a Bear front to answer Buffalo who has 7... YES 7 offensive linemen on the field. Two tight ends. One receiver. One back. Some people may look at this and see a 3-4. It's not. It's Bear; right out of Buddy Ryan's playbook. Seattle actually uses this as their go-to front against run-heavy teams that like to use a lot of tight ends. The call is a 5 man rush with Cliff Avril in contain. That leaves 6 in coverage vs. the usual 7. It's still a Cover-3 shell, only now you lose a flat defender. Here is the offensive call and it's actually a really good one against a team that runs single high coverage. To the top of the screen the two tight ends run verticals which swab out the underneath coverage to that side of the field. The linebackers should be matching and giving a lot of ground to those routes. To the bottom of the screen is where the beauty of the design is because there is a simple drag route that should come wide open. Then there's Shady McCoy on a swing route. Nothing special there. In essense... if the linebackers come up on the playaction, there's an easy throw into the seam to the tight end. If the linebackers don't bite and match the verticals, the crosser will be wide open. Here it is in action. At the snap, Taylor play-actions to McCoy. Now this is what makes Seattle so good. The linebackers don't bite. They didn't even take a read step. They were like "Whatever". And this is another thing I love about Seattle that I want to see more of here; Sherman showing press on the receiver, even though it's zone. Even though he doesn't jam, this alignment helps take away the short hitch, and quick slants. Sherman mirrored the route of #19 for about 5 yards then fell off into his deep zone. At this point the Strong Safety #33 (filling in for Chancellor) picks up the receiver, matching his route. Wagner has vision on the quarterback and the two verticals to the top of the screen -- well there's nothing there. Now this is the part that separates Seattle's defense. This is what makes them great. This is what the Falcons have to get to... communication. #33 makes the "Under" call alerting Bobby Wagner he's got a crosser coming his way. Wagner immediately picks up the #1 receiver in his zone, and he runs with him. This completely screws up the play for Buffalo because this is probably where Taylor wanted to go with the ball, after he saw the linebackers didn't bite on the play-action... and that crosser should have been wide open. Against most teams in this coverage it would have been wide open because the middle linebacker wouldn't be in such ideal position. He'd probably be another 3-4 yards downfield. Taylor is in a lot of trouble here and his eyes have come down to the rush so he doesn't see Shady. Wagner and Wright have the receiver bracketed perfectly. Wagner still has his eyes on the QB so he can break for Shady the split second he sees Tyrod look that way. QB's eyes are elsewhere here so Wright holds ground. Taylor looks go get something going with his legs, but by now it's too late. And look at Bobby Wagner at the top of the screen. He is still matching the receiver. The original design of the play, Wagner was supposed to have the hook zone at 10-12 yards, but because of the "match" concept, he has run with a wide receiver all the way across the field and is now turning up the sideline to stay with him. No explanation needed here... This was an incredible sequence of football here, especially from the linebackers, and it gives you a little glimpse of where this thing is going. On display was athleticism, communication, and experience. The Falcons cannot do this yet, but it's not because the scheme doesn't work. It's because while they have an abundance of athleticism, they are lacking in communication and experience. Right now the zone defenders are not quite trusting what they are seeing. They are giving too much ground and are a little late reacting underneath. You can't get to the level of defensive play the Seahawks are at without playing together for a long time. Wagner trusts his eyes. He doesn't give too much ground to the vertical routes because he trusts Earl Thomas over the top. McCray trusts that Wagner will react to the "under" call and pick up the receiver, so he can do his job and drop off into the hook. Soon enough this is what we will start to see from the Atlanta Falcon defense. Seattle takes away the quick seams from the tight end running the vertical route by perfect positioning by the linebackers not biting on the play-action... then they take away the underneath route by matching. Perfect defense.
  5. This is partially inspired by last night's game where Keanu Neal got beat for a touchdown, and some of the panic I saw that ensued. Thought it might be interesting to dig a little deeper into the varieties of man coverages that are out there and the nuances of what Quinn likes to do with his version since I have heard to expect a little more of it this season. Here is the vid of Neal getting beaten. It came off a rare 5 man pressure from the Falcons. Straight man coverage across the board with one safety deep. Essentially, it was a Cover 1 blitz. Very much against tendency for Dan Quinn, but this is the part of the preseason where you try stuff out and see what works and what doesn't. Now there are one or two things to note since Neal has drawn comparisons to Kam Chancellor. First, Seattle doesn't typically ask Kam Chancellor to play a lot of man coverage... even when they are in man coverage (more on that later). Second, that was just a great call and even better execution. You don't expect a tight end to run a wheel route out of that formation, especially with a pressure on. The thinking from a defensive playcaller's POV is that if the route is a vertical straight up the seam, the safety will be there to help. You can live with Keanu covering a short in or out breaking route, but you don't expect the QB to have enough time to throw a wheel route to the pylon with the offense in an empty formation. In that instance THE BLITZ HAS TO GET THERE. Hats off to the protection on that one and RGIII who made the call to slide the line but a quarterback in empty formation with all five receivers going out should get his clock cleaned 9 times out of 10. Now on to the man coverage. There are really only three types of base man coverages. There is man with two safety's high, also known as Man/Under, then there is Cover -1 and Cover 0. Two Man Under: Everyone underneath plays man while the two safetys stay high and split the field in a cover 2 look. Simple. There is Cover 0 which is an all-out blitz. No safety help anywhere. Five defenders take the 5 eligible receivers. Everyone else, decapitate the quarterback. This is the riskiest call in the NFL. Not one you see too often for obvious reasons. And then there is Cover-1... which brings us to the part that applies to the Falcons. Cover-1 is exactly how it sounds with one safety high. But what makes it special is the variations you can run out of it with regards to the responsibilities of the safetys. You can have the strong safety play high while the free safety plays man somewhere or vice versa. You can have one play high while the other plays a short zone, or blitz, etc. Where the two high look is more about protecting deep along the hashes, Cover -1 is designed to take away the deep middle of the field where statistically most big passing plays are given up. The two most popular forms of Cover-1. Cover-1 with a rat in the hole and Cover-1 Robber. COVER-1 RAT One safety high. An underneath defender in the short zone over the middle (usually a linebacker) and everyone else man-to-man. You can play your corners off or press out of this. Quinn likes to press. The advantages are of course you can protect deep middle and you force the quarterback to make a tight, contested throw to the outside. Nick Saban calls this the best coverage in all of football. Carolina likes to do a lot of this when they play Cover-1 with Kuechly as the RAT. It can be annoying for the quarterback (especially in playaction) because he is taught to look at the safetys to diagnose the coverage and you can easily lose sight of the linebacker underneath. And then there is the variation that is Pete Carroll's favorite. Cover-1 Robber. Same setup as the Rat... only this time the safety (usually the Strong Safety) is going to come down in the short zone and "Rob" those short routes over the middle. Incidentally, this is where you get most of those "green dog"/"delayed" blitzes. If for example the linebacker sees his man stay in to block, he has the option to blitz. In some cases the coordinator will have that guy spy vs. a mobile quarterback. But this Robber coverage is how Seattle likes to protect Kam Chancellor from having to play too much straight man coverage... even when the call is man coverage, and this is more or less how I expect Keanu to be used. This is what it looks like in action. This is how you want to use your big hitter in the secondary. Note how pre-snap Seattle actually has two safetys high. This is another advantage of Robber, the ability to disguise coverage. At the snap you see Earl Thomas rotate deep, and Kam robber down to knock the ever-lovin' **** out of the crosser. He just reads the quarterback's eyes and let them take him to the ball. In closing, a lot of this stuff is still evolving. Coaches throw a lot of stuff against the wall in preseason to see what sticks. Anyone who was shaken last night by Neal getting beat in man, fret not, the staff knows what they have to do to protect him. This is just something to look for as the season nears. And here is a link to the two other threads on line stunts and Buzz Mable as a little refresher since the season is approaching.
  6. In light of some of the exchanges I had yesterday, and Kayoh's 4-3,-3-4 thread today I felt a little inspired to give this a try and contribute by discussing one of the "specialty" coverages that Dan Quinn brought from Seattle. Now as everyone (I assume knows), Dan Quinn and the Falcons base out of a single high safety look. From that you get either some form of Cover-1 (Rat or Robber), and Cover-3 (Buzz or Sky). For anyone who does not know what Cover-3 is; it is pretty much the most basic coverage in all of football. It's the first coverage you learn to play when you put on pads at any level from pee-wee all the way up to the first day of mini-camp in the NFL because it is so easy to understand and execute. Basic design: Three deep defenders (both corners and a safety) playing 1/3's, two underneath defenders playing the hook zone, and two playing the flats. For those Madden players, this is what it looks like. For some of the older heads whose eyes like it drawn up; this is what it looked like the first time I saw it drawn up on a chalkboard many moons ago. The beauty is the ease that it can be taught and executed, but the flip-side is that it is also easy to beat, especially at the NFL level, which is why it fell out of favor for so many years. Run your tight end and your Y receiver to the flats, taking the 2 flat defenders with them and run the Z and X vertical pushing the coverage, then stop on a curl route (easy money). Also the seams destroy this -- especially anything from a trips formation. Run every receiver vertical and suddenly you've got 4 receivers deep vs. three defenders. Here is one of those that Sean Payton is notorious for. Note the three eligible receivers to the bottom of the pic. The Free Safety is a dead man in this pic. The coaching point was to split the difference between the #2 and the #3 receiver and play both routes. Now it always sounds good in theory but in practice, In a conventional Cover-3 that's a lot to ask; especially when you were using spot drops and take into account the free safety will also be glancing over at the single receiver side. For anyone who doesn't know what a "spot drop" is. If you are a defensive player and you have a hook zone at 10-12 yards. You drop to 10-12 yards at the snap and look... no matter what. I don't care if you see Jesus offering you a cup of fruit at the line of scrimmage. At the snap, you drop to your zone! This is what it looks like when it doesn't work. It's not vs. trips but you see how easy the throws are when the patterns aren't being matched. Receivers just run right by you. Now being totally honest, I don' t know if Worrilow was spot dropping or pattern-matching and just got beaten. If he was spot dropping then he was doing his job and the play design just beat the defensive call. It happens. But this right here is why I thought I would never see a team base out of Cover-3 in the NFL again. Al Davis in his last few years was widely mocked because he insisted the Raiders play single-high football. I remember Warren Sapp saying how archaic his thinking was... that was until Pete Carroll made his way back into the NFL and evolved the old Cover-3. Just for the sake or brevity, I'll get into the differences between Buzz and Sky or Rat and Robber in another post for anyone who is interested... But this brings me to what I wanted to discuss: Cover 3 Buzz Mable -- Mable means Man. This was Pete Carroll's answer to the NFL. This is how the Seahawks tweaked the old cover 3 "spot dropping" so that it could answer anything. Instead of a straight zone concept in the secondary now you have a split-field coverage: cover-3 buzz on the three receiver side. Man-to-Man on the single receiver side. AND we are now going to match the patterns instead of spot dropping. Now the free safety can focus on the three receiver side. In the "old" version, the buzz, the 3 receivers to the bottom of that pic stressed the free safety, because he technically looked to help on both sides of the formation. Here, the concept has been tweaked to a pattern-matching concept. For anyone who does not know what pattern-matching is: it's exactly what it sounds like. Instead of having a hook zone at 10-12, you are now reading the release of your receiver. In this case, let's say you have the #3 who is a tight end. If that tight end releases to your area, you take him, matching his pattern. If he goes out or stays in to block, you now get depth and start looking for #2 to match him or bracket. Now if you see Jesus release at 6 yards into the pattern with that cup of fruit you can take him. Now when Sean Payton runs those verticals, instead of the underneath defenders dropping to 10 yards no matter what while the receivers jet pass them to the safety, now they match the route and go with him. Now instead of off coverage at the top of the screen, which is what you usually get in Cover 3, now it's a contested throw. Now to that three receiver side, you've got 5 defenders looking at the quarterback ready to break on anything. Now there isn't 3 defenders for 4 vertical routes. The coverage has now re-balanced everything back in the defense's favor. I remember Trufant being used as the MABLE quite a bit last year; the Houston game I remember vividly. Nothing revolutionary. But I thought it was interesting to see some of the small tweaks that get made that wind up making all the difference in the world. (James Light runs a great blog on all of this stuff; seems to be down at the moment, but that's where I got the Seahawk pics. Just wanted to give credit.)
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