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How I Wish the Falcons Defense Would Evolve - From Seahawks to Wide 9 - 4/3 - 2 Deep Safeties


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This is a comprehensive work up of the 49ers' switch from the Seahawk's scheme to the Wide 9 hybrid they use today. So many people don't realize that the secret to the success of the Legion of Boom was All World talent. The scheme itself is flawed, as we Falcons fans know all too well. Robert Saleh, in San Francisco, is a defensive genius, who came from Seattle, just like Quinn did. But Saleh has morphed his defensive scheme into a Quarterback's nightmare. Alex Rollins is a master at breaking down football Xs and Os, and in my opinion this video is one of his best. Even though this is highlighting another team's play and scheme, I've posted it here since it's the same defense we run and I found it to be relevant to our discussability. If the mods deem it is not appropriate for this forum, I apologize. If it's moved, I encourage you to follow it and watch the video. It's really worth your while; although, it WILL make you wish we had coaches that are as forward thinking as Saleh in SF. 

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Great info

This team, as currently constructed, needs to play more Tampa two variations if zone is the preference.  
 

In man coverage, bring back our 2016 Cover Man Robber.  We were savage in those looks once Trufant went down in 2016.  Could also implement Cover 1 Rat...this is Saban’s baby.  Calls it the best defense in football and the No Fly Zone defense proved why it’s so effective . Plus Debo is absolutely tailer made to play the Rat.  

Bottom line: be more physical at the LOS.  Less watching, more *** whooping 

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23 minutes ago, FalconsIn2012 said:

Great info

This team, as currently constructed, needs to play more Tampa two variations if zone is the preference.  
 

In man coverage, bring back our 2016 Cover 1 Rat & Cover Man Robber.  We were savage in those looks once Trufant went down in 2016

Bottom line: be more physical at the LOS.  Less watching, more *** whooping 

I couldn’t agree more with the man Cover 1 Rat and Robber increasing. They were swarming in that alignment. It was way more downhill than this stuff we saw on Sunday. 

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10 minutes ago, UnrealfalcoN said:

The wide 9 is susceptible to runs and we weren't doing too well at stopping the run already. We need run stoppers at LB to run a wide 9 but DQ prefers playing defense with 2 LBs

I agree with you. Our move to wide 9 would take one sound off-season, but could be sprinkled in now. Walker seems to have a high ceiling and KeKe can be brought down in the box to present a wide 9 4/4 look on rushing downs. Man, I just want them to mix it up and come downhill a heck of a lot more at the second level of the D. 

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We run some of the wide 9 concepts now. Regardless of scheme, we aren't well coached.

Im ready for an Offensive minded coach. Jimmy Mora, Smitty and DQ have all been defensive coaches and lead us to poor defenses. NFL is an offense league now, so lets get a fresh creative offensive minded HC and turn the D over to someone who isn't stuck on cover 3/tampa 2 that we fail so hard at.

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2 hours ago, runshoot said:

We run some of the wide 9 concepts now. Regardless of scheme, we aren't well coached.

Im ready for an Offensive minded coach. Jimmy Mora, Smitty and DQ have all been defensive coaches and lead us to poor defenses. NFL is an offense league now, so lets get a fresh creative offensive minded HC and turn the D over to someone who isn't stuck on cover 3/tampa 2 that we fail so hard at.

Belichick is a defensive coach, and New England has done okay, I guess. LOL! It doesn't take an offensive-minded HC to have success. 

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1 minute ago, SoCalFalconFan said:

Belichick is a defensive coach, and New England has done okay, I guess. LOL! It doesn't take an offensive-minded HC to have success. 

Get in the Ravens heads, minds, practice field, locker room, etc. Steal some coaches, they've had a philosophy that has conveyor belted great defenses for the last two decades. 

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2 minutes ago, WhenFalconsWin said:

Get in the Ravens heads, minds, practice field, locker room, etc. Steal some coaches, they've had a philosophy that has conveyor belted great defenses for the last two decades. 

Bro, I couldn't agree more. The Ravens are a juggernaut, engineered and orchestrated by Ozzie Newsome, and now Eric DeCosta. But I suppose Harbaugh had a bit to do with it too. 

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We did change it up in the 2nd half last year and it was part of the reason the defense and the secondary, in particular, played better. Better communication and kicking Jerome Henderson's a$$ out of the DB room helped as well. Here's a breakdown I found. I think someone else posted this article this summer....

 

https://footballfilmroom.com/2020/07/24/turnaround-falcons-defense-critical-in-2020/

 

The Falcons Defense was simply atrocious through the first half of 2019. They allowed 31.3 points per game, went more than 4 straight games without a sack, generated just 4 turnovers, and couldn’t get off the field on 3rd down. It wasn’t just the numbers that were ugly. Atlanta also didn’t pass the eye test, with defenders regularly blowing coverages and giving up big plays. As a unit, they looked lost. The end result was a 1-7 start to the season. With Head Coach Dan Quinn’s job on the line, something had to change. And it did.

Quinn moved wide receivers coach Raheem Morris to defensive backs coach, and turned play-calling duties over to him on 3rd down. The impact was immediate:

Falcons Defense 2019 New Graphic 3rd Down Incl.

The most significant turnaround, and possibly the most important, was the improvement on 3rd down. During the first half of the season, opposing quarterbacks played to a 137.1 QB rating on the most important down. For reference, no quarterback has ever finished a season with a rating higher than 122.5. It’s hard to get off the field when you turn every passer into the best quarterback in NFL history.

With Raheem Morris calling the plays, though, the change was drastic. The Falcons went from the worst 3rd-down defense in the NFL (53.0% conversion rate) to the best (25.8% conversion rate):

2019ATLDGraphic2

So what was the big change? First, Morris got the Falcons away from their previous tendencies. He increased their use of zone coverage and utilized more 2-deep safety looks:

2019ATLDGraphic3

The underlying philosophy of increasing the use of 2-deep safety looks was to win with more underneath defenders in coverage. In zone (Cover-2/Tampa-2), that leaves 5 underneath defenders to protect the first down markers instead of just 4 in Cover-3. In man (2-man coverage), it allows defenders to play inside and underneath their receivers, making those shorter completions more difficult to come by for quarterbacks.

Morris also wanted more bodies in coverage in general. In fact, the Falcons utilized 3-man rushes on 3rd down twice as much under Morris as they did during the first half of the season. Through those first 8 games, opponents converted 87.5% of 3rd down attempts against these 3-man rushes versus just 6.25% in the second half of the season.

And truthfully, that trend is consistent across the board. The Falcons were better on 3rd down in the second half of the season no matter what coverage they played. They were better in zone, better in man, better in 2-safety coverages, better in 1-safety looks, better when they rushed 4, rushed 3, or blitzed. Coverage mix and the change in tendencies certainly played a significant role in the Falcons’ improvement. The ability to execute was just as critical, if not more. And this was where Morris made the biggest difference.

In the second half of the season, Atlanta defenders appeared to have a better understanding of the design and purpose of the coverages they played. They did a better job of playing to each situation. Their communication in the secondary improved as they stopped blowing as many coverages. You can see the contrast on the below plays.

In Week 5 against the Texans, Houston was facing a 3rd-and-3 and aligned with a stack to the right of the formation. The Falcons played man-free coverage, with cornerback Isaiah Oliver responsible for Will Fuller. To deal with any traffic created by the stack, safety Ricardo Allen would drop down to provide help inside.

2019ATLDCoverage1

Fuller went inside initially. Oliver followed aggressively, despite having help inside. When Fuller broke to the outside, Oliver was caught in the traffic, resulting in an easy 36-yard gain.

2019ATLBadManCoverage

This was a bad job by Oliver of understanding what the offense was trying to do and where his help was coming from.

Fast forward to Week 10 against the Saints, with Morris now coaching the DBs. This was 3rd-and-6. Oliver’s man, Michael Thomas, was again aligned in a stack. This time there was no help inside.

2019ATLDCoverage2 Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

The design of the play was for Thomas to run a crossing route with receivers coming from the other side of the field to create traffic and separate him from Oliver. Despite the fact that there was no help inside this time, Oliver initially remained patient and under control (unlike in the previous example) so he could see the field clearly, read the route combination, and then attack.

2019ATLDGoodvsNOMan

Playing with patience and control allowed Oliver to process what the design of the play was, cleanly avoid traffic, and then make the play. The Saints were forced to punt.

Now to a couple of zone examples. The below play was a 3rd-and-8 against the Rams in the first half of the season. The Falcons would end up playing 3-deep with 5 men underneath (3-man rush). Keep your eye on defensive end Vic Beasley.

2019ATLDCoverage3 Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

He dropped into zone right around the first-down marker. However, instead of hanging in his zone, he jumped the running back, who was 4 yards from the line of scrimmage. On 3rd-and-8. With two other defenders in the area. The result was a vacated zone behind him and a way-to-easy completion for a play where 8 defenders dropped into coverage.

2019ATLBadZoneCoveragevsLAR

That’s a poor understanding of the situation and bad execution, something we saw far too often out of the Falcons throughout the first half of the season.

During the second half of the season, we saw a better job across the board of players understanding both their coverage responsibilities and the situation. On the below 3rd-and-5 against the 49ers in Week 15, the Falcons again rushed 3 and rotated into a Tampa-2 zone (a look we saw a fair amount of in the second half of the season). Focus on cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson.

2019ATLDCoverage5 Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

2019ATLDGoodvsSFTampa-2

Wreh-Wilson understood the situation and his role in the the design of the coverage as an underneath defender. He wasn’t about to allow an easy completion on 3rd-and-5 right at the first-down marker. Instead, he sat in his zone and didn’t even react to the corner route, knowing that his help over the top could take away that route. The rest of the defense played to their responsibilities as well. You can also see that there were more defenders in coverage to clog the short-to-intermediate zones in this Tampa-2 look, as we mentioned earlier.

You may be thinking, big deal. A player did what he was supposed to do. This isn’t earth shattering. And you’re right. But many players throughout the NFL don’t do what they are supposed to. Many coaches struggle to get all 11 players to do their jobs (The Falcons in the first half of the season being the prime example).

This is where coaching comes in. It’s not just about teaching technique and calling plays. It’s about making sure that players understand the design of the play. It’s about helping them understand the purpose of a coverage. This helps defenders feel comfortable playing to their responsibilities and allows them to trust that their teammates will be in the right place.

Atlanta should have a very good offense this season, given their talent. But their defense will need to execute with the discipline they played with in the second half of 2019 if they are going to have any chance in a loaded NFC South. Raheem Morris did a tremendous job turning the defense around in 2019, resulting in a well-deserved promotion to Defensive Coordinator. Getting his defense to pick up where it left off, as well as ensuring that the new additions acclimate quickly, will be critical for succeeding in a division with Tom Brady and Drew Brees.

 

 

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This article was my silver lining all offseason.  It was my sliver  of hope.  But we once again we tried to reinvent the wheel and used training camp to transition to 3 safety scheme.  Last year we wasted the first half of the year in odd man looks.  Now we are trying Big Nickel

Just stick with what worked last year

@Goober Pyle

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8 hours ago, Goober Pyle said:

We did change it up in the 2nd half last year and it was part of the reason the defense and the secondary, in particular, played better. Better communication and kicking Jerome Henderson's a$$ out of the DB room helped as well. Here's a breakdown I found. I think someone else posted this article this summer....

 

https://footballfilmroom.com/2020/07/24/turnaround-falcons-defense-critical-in-2020/

 

The Falcons Defense was simply atrocious through the first half of 2019. They allowed 31.3 points per game, went more than 4 straight games without a sack, generated just 4 turnovers, and couldn’t get off the field on 3rd down. It wasn’t just the numbers that were ugly. Atlanta also didn’t pass the eye test, with defenders regularly blowing coverages and giving up big plays. As a unit, they looked lost. The end result was a 1-7 start to the season. With Head Coach Dan Quinn’s job on the line, something had to change. And it did.

Quinn moved wide receivers coach Raheem Morris to defensive backs coach, and turned play-calling duties over to him on 3rd down. The impact was immediate:

Falcons Defense 2019 New Graphic 3rd Down Incl.

The most significant turnaround, and possibly the most important, was the improvement on 3rd down. During the first half of the season, opposing quarterbacks played to a 137.1 QB rating on the most important down. For reference, no quarterback has ever finished a season with a rating higher than 122.5. It’s hard to get off the field when you turn every passer into the best quarterback in NFL history.

With Raheem Morris calling the plays, though, the change was drastic. The Falcons went from the worst 3rd-down defense in the NFL (53.0% conversion rate) to the best (25.8% conversion rate):

2019ATLDGraphic2

So what was the big change? First, Morris got the Falcons away from their previous tendencies. He increased their use of zone coverage and utilized more 2-deep safety looks:

2019ATLDGraphic3

The underlying philosophy of increasing the use of 2-deep safety looks was to win with more underneath defenders in coverage. In zone (Cover-2/Tampa-2), that leaves 5 underneath defenders to protect the first down markers instead of just 4 in Cover-3. In man (2-man coverage), it allows defenders to play inside and underneath their receivers, making those shorter completions more difficult to come by for quarterbacks.

Morris also wanted more bodies in coverage in general. In fact, the Falcons utilized 3-man rushes on 3rd down twice as much under Morris as they did during the first half of the season. Through those first 8 games, opponents converted 87.5% of 3rd down attempts against these 3-man rushes versus just 6.25% in the second half of the season.

And truthfully, that trend is consistent across the board. The Falcons were better on 3rd down in the second half of the season no matter what coverage they played. They were better in zone, better in man, better in 2-safety coverages, better in 1-safety looks, better when they rushed 4, rushed 3, or blitzed. Coverage mix and the change in tendencies certainly played a significant role in the Falcons’ improvement. The ability to execute was just as critical, if not more. And this was where Morris made the biggest difference.

In the second half of the season, Atlanta defenders appeared to have a better understanding of the design and purpose of the coverages they played. They did a better job of playing to each situation. Their communication in the secondary improved as they stopped blowing as many coverages. You can see the contrast on the below plays.

In Week 5 against the Texans, Houston was facing a 3rd-and-3 and aligned with a stack to the right of the formation. The Falcons played man-free coverage, with cornerback Isaiah Oliver responsible for Will Fuller. To deal with any traffic created by the stack, safety Ricardo Allen would drop down to provide help inside.

2019ATLDCoverage1

Fuller went inside initially. Oliver followed aggressively, despite having help inside. When Fuller broke to the outside, Oliver was caught in the traffic, resulting in an easy 36-yard gain.

2019ATLBadManCoverage

This was a bad job by Oliver of understanding what the offense was trying to do and where his help was coming from.

Fast forward to Week 10 against the Saints, with Morris now coaching the DBs. This was 3rd-and-6. Oliver’s man, Michael Thomas, was again aligned in a stack. This time there was no help inside.

2019ATLDCoverage2 Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

The design of the play was for Thomas to run a crossing route with receivers coming from the other side of the field to create traffic and separate him from Oliver. Despite the fact that there was no help inside this time, Oliver initially remained patient and under control (unlike in the previous example) so he could see the field clearly, read the route combination, and then attack.

2019ATLDGoodvsNOMan

Playing with patience and control allowed Oliver to process what the design of the play was, cleanly avoid traffic, and then make the play. The Saints were forced to punt.

Now to a couple of zone examples. The below play was a 3rd-and-8 against the Rams in the first half of the season. The Falcons would end up playing 3-deep with 5 men underneath (3-man rush). Keep your eye on defensive end Vic Beasley.

2019ATLDCoverage3 Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

He dropped into zone right around the first-down marker. However, instead of hanging in his zone, he jumped the running back, who was 4 yards from the line of scrimmage. On 3rd-and-8. With two other defenders in the area. The result was a vacated zone behind him and a way-to-easy completion for a play where 8 defenders dropped into coverage.

2019ATLBadZoneCoveragevsLAR

That’s a poor understanding of the situation and bad execution, something we saw far too often out of the Falcons throughout the first half of the season.

During the second half of the season, we saw a better job across the board of players understanding both their coverage responsibilities and the situation. On the below 3rd-and-5 against the 49ers in Week 15, the Falcons again rushed 3 and rotated into a Tampa-2 zone (a look we saw a fair amount of in the second half of the season). Focus on cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson.

2019ATLDCoverage5 Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

2019ATLDGoodvsSFTampa-2

Wreh-Wilson understood the situation and his role in the the design of the coverage as an underneath defender. He wasn’t about to allow an easy completion on 3rd-and-5 right at the first-down marker. Instead, he sat in his zone and didn’t even react to the corner route, knowing that his help over the top could take away that route. The rest of the defense played to their responsibilities as well. You can also see that there were more defenders in coverage to clog the short-to-intermediate zones in this Tampa-2 look, as we mentioned earlier.

You may be thinking, big deal. A player did what he was supposed to do. This isn’t earth shattering. And you’re right. But many players throughout the NFL don’t do what they are supposed to. Many coaches struggle to get all 11 players to do their jobs (The Falcons in the first half of the season being the prime example).

This is where coaching comes in. It’s not just about teaching technique and calling plays. It’s about making sure that players understand the design of the play. It’s about helping them understand the purpose of a coverage. This helps defenders feel comfortable playing to their responsibilities and allows them to trust that their teammates will be in the right place.

Atlanta should have a very good offense this season, given their talent. But their defense will need to execute with the discipline they played with in the second half of 2019 if they are going to have any chance in a loaded NFC South. Raheem Morris did a tremendous job turning the defense around in 2019, resulting in a well-deserved promotion to Defensive Coordinator. Getting his defense to pick up where it left off, as well as ensuring that the new additions acclimate quickly, will be critical for succeeding in a division with Tom Brady and Drew Brees.

 

 

Excellent post, brother. 

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2 hours ago, FalconsIn2012 said:

This article was my silver lining all offseason.  It was my sliver  of hope.  But we once again we tried to reinvent the wheel and used training camp to transition to 3 safety scheme.  Last year we wasted the first half of the year in odd man looks.  Now we are trying Big Nickel

Just stick with what worked last year

@Goober Pyle

Same. And it's not like the Big Nickel is some super complex alignment, but it's one more wrinkle, with I'm sure, many variations. I would've left them in their comfort zone; especially, approaching a season like this one, with late camp and no preseason. We have the perfect personnel for Monte Kiffin's Tampa 2, which is what Morris runs, I believe... why muck with it?

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It’s why resumes mean jack****e.

If you can’t teach a skill and the players understand it your screwed.

Bill Walsh did exactly that he’s the guy with the overall vision all he needed was good teachers to teach it.

This is where the good coaching comes in you have to have a guy T the top of the tree who understands this.

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18 hours ago, SoCalFalconFan said:

Belichick is a defensive coach, and New England has done okay, I guess. LOL! It doesn't take an offensive-minded HC to have success. 

Oh right lets just go get a Belichick. wonder why no one thinks of that!? You see way more teams like the rams, 9ers Houston, GB, NO, Philly, KC, Broncos with Manning, and indy in the playoffs than you do teams with defensive mind sets. The rules have changed and while having a good D is NECESSARY, getting into and running deep in the playoffs tends to favor offenses.

 

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1 hour ago, runshoot said:

Oh right lets just go get a Belichick. wonder why no one thinks of that!? You see way more teams like the rams, 9ers Houston, GB, NO, Philly, KC, Broncos with Manning, and indy in the playoffs than you do teams with defensive mind sets. The rules have changed and while having a good D is NECESSARY, getting into and running deep in the playoffs tends to favor offenses.

 

I wasn't suggesting we "go get a Belichick." My point was clear; a HC doesn't have to be offensive-minded for the team to win a SB. There are myriad of examples throughout NFL history to support my statement. No rules have changed. Getting and running deep into the playoffs favors good coaching. Period. Regardless of scheme or side of the ball. And hey... easy there, fella. It's okay if others have a different opinion than you do. ;)

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29 minutes ago, SoCalFalconFan said:

I wasn't suggesting we "go get a Belichick." My point was clear; a HC doesn't have to be offensive-minded for the team to win a SB. There are myriad of examples throughout NFL history to support my statement. No rules have changed. Getting and running deep into the playoffs favors good coaching. Period. Regardless of scheme or side of the ball. And hey... easy there, fella. It's okay if others have a different opinion than you do. ;)

Rules haven't changed? Its an offense based league where defense gets flagged for tackling with leading with the  helmet,  defenseless WR, Pass Interference, hitting the QB to the head, slamming the QB to the ground, illegal contact past 5 yards. Other teams have understood this and the fancy D coordinator isn't the hot coach. The Kyles and the Sean Mcvays the Doug Peterens and the Matt Lefluers of the league. Thats also why Eric Benenmy is hotly talked about.

Outside of Belly which D minded coach is winning superbowls? Andy Reid, Doug Peterson, Gary Kubiak. Sean Payton, Mike McCarthy are all offense coaches. The one outliler is Pete Carroll.

So yeah, your NFL history isn't supporting much. Instead of looking at the steel curtain of the 70s, you may want to look at todays game and see where things are. Offense is the way the league wants it. Scoring = ratings its just the way it is. TV dollars make billionaires and they arent changing that.

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On 9/16/2020 at 11:39 AM, runshoot said:

We run some of the wide 9 concepts now. Regardless of scheme, we aren't well coached.

Im ready for an Offensive minded coach. Jimmy Mora, Smitty and DQ have all been defensive coaches and lead us to poor defenses. NFL is an offense league now, so lets get a fresh creative offensive minded HC and turn the D over to someone who isn't stuck on cover 3/tampa 2 that we fail so hard at.

We'll see what Raheem is made of this Sunday. He said we better believe they will be ready

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27 minutes ago, runshoot said:

Rules haven't changed? Its an offense based league where defense gets flagged for tackling with leading with the  helmet,  defenseless WR, Pass Interference, hitting the QB to the head, slamming the QB to the ground, illegal contact past 5 yards. Other teams have understood this and the fancy D coordinator isn't the hot coach. The Kyles and the Sean Mcvays the Doug Peterens and the Matt Lefluers of the league. Thats also why Eric Benenmy is hotly talked about.

Outside of Belly which D minded coach is winning superbowls? Andy Reid, Doug Peterson, Gary Kubiak. Sean Payton, Mike McCarthy are all offense coaches. The one outliler is Pete Carroll.

So yeah, your NFL history isn't supporting much. Instead of looking at the steel curtain of the 70s, you may want to look at todays game and see where things are. Offense is the way the league wants it. Scoring = ratings its just the way it is. TV dollars make billionaires and they arent changing that.

Pipe down, bruh. You seem to have way too much invested in this. It's gonna be okay. 

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