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Let's Talk About: The Anatomy of a Pick (Cover-1 Variation)


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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.  

 

 

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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.

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And here's what the Falcons are in, straight Cover-1 with the RAT in the hole.  This time the RAT is Campbell.

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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.

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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.

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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...

 

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And right here, he's just being an athlete.  Just an incredible play. You know how it ended.

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Great play by Keanu to get up off the deck and finish the play.

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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.

Edited by PeytonMannings Forehead
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Neal got manhandled by the TE who played the ball to his left, even though it never got there. He falls down trying to make the cut back. I wonder if the play was for the TE to push off and get separation? Bortles looks at him the entire play in the bottom gif.

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Who called the PUSH and why did they call it? Just curious. I'm guessing it's so Alford doesn't have to go around Campbell? Maybe it was obvious and I just missed it.

BTW this is as good if not better than anything I've read on SB nation or any other sports blog. We're lucky to have such a great source of technical football knowledge on here.

Edited by likeriver
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59 minutes ago, Jesus said:

Neal got manhandled by the TE who played the ball to his left, even though it never got there. He falls down trying to make the cut back. I wonder if the play was for the TE to push off and get separation? Bortles looks at him the entire play in the bottom gif.

Does he? There's a receiver running a cross underneath the TE, which is supposed to clear the way for the easy completion to the TE. You can't really tell if he's looking at the crosser or the TE, which is why Alford's play was so remarkable. He looked like he was gonna keep running with the crosser (or at least acted like he did), but then instantly reacted to Bortles as he released the ball.

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18 minutes ago, JerseyNo12 said:

Does he? There's a receiver running a cross underneath the TE, which is supposed to clear the way for the easy completion to the TE. You can't really tell if he's looking at the crosser or the TE, which is why Alford's play was so remarkable. He looked like he was gonna keep running with the crosser (or at least acted like he did), but then instantly reacted to Bortles as he released the ball.

Who knows for sure. You can't see his eyes, but his head is very much focused on the TE. It could be possible he was looking at the WR at the top of the screen. Both he and the TE seemed to be heading up in the same place. On that second hand pump it looks like he pulls down the pass and chooses to not throw deep. I'm just looking at his body language, which isn't easy to catch in the gif, but it looks like he might have been wanting to go deep. 

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2 hours ago, likeriver said:

Who called the PUSH and why did they call it? Just curious. I'm guessing it's so Alford doesn't have to go around Campbell? Maybe it was obvious and I just missed it.

BTW this is as good if not better than anything I've read on SB nation or any other sports blog. We're lucky to have such a great source of technical football knowledge on here.

There are a couple of ways to do it, so it's really tough to know for sure.  Most of the stuff is built into the call.  Banjo for instance, the corners know who to trade off because one guy is designated to take the receiver going inside, the other outside, so there's no verbal call needed.  

In this scenerio, however there very well could be a verbal cue like there is in zone where the outside defender will make an Under call to alert the underneath hook defender that he's going to have company.  Like I said, I don't know for sure, but  it looks like it would be a call made by Alford the same way he would make an Under call...

As to why you make the call, yes one of the reasons is to keep things clean in traffice but also to change up what the quarterback is seeing.  You play down after down of straight Cover-1 Rat and he gets used to seeing Campbell do one thing in that short zone, then all of sudden Campbell runs with the crosser in man and all of sudden Alf jumps into the throwing lane as the Rat; the QB never sees it coming.

You make these small tweaks then the offense never gets a bead on what you're doing.  Very similar thought process on our offense how we'll run the outside zone over and over and over again then start play-actioning off it and the D is scrambling because it all looks the same.

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