Meg Brings The Heat, Again
Hello everyone. Got another great column from Meg and figured I would post it. I got one from a Cowboys fan as well that will post in a few hours. Meg takes a sharp eye to the defense and we'll have to see if getting some guys back healthy - or at least relatively healthy - will help cure some of the many things that ail this D. My one big caveat would be that I don't think Marcus could switch to the middle spot midseason - you really have to study the game from that spot for a long time in this system - but I agree that drastic measures might be in order.
Okay, here's Meg's take:
It's obvious to any and all that are defense is in shambles. People run on us at will; people throw on us at will; people score on us at will--and if they so happen to feel like trying out a few practice punts, they do that at their discretion as well, not ours. The free-agent acquisitions: Andre Carter and Adam Archuleta have made next to nothing in the way of an impact; the cornerbacks and linebackers play a special zone defense called 'Go ahead and catch it, then maybe I'll try and tackle you'; the defensive line repeatedly throws themselves to turf at the start of the play in the hopes that it will stop someone, anyone, please?
All of this new philosophy and insistence on bend-but-don't-break and don't-give-up-the-big-play has paid off in the exact opposite manner in constant breakage and plays for huge amounts of yards. Across the board in the passing category the defense is statistically ranked at the bottom of the barrel: in touchdowns they rank 30 out of 32 teams, interceptions 31, and the topper is yards per average: 32. The only reason our run defense isn't so bad is that any pass thrown is almost a guaranteed touchdown reception.
Why is it in a system that is known for bringing the pressure, confusing opposing quarterbacks with multiple schemes and top-notch run-stopping the defense has all of sudden fallen off the map? Why is it that our cornerbacks no longer play a tight man-coverage? Why is it that our linebackers sit five yards deep and wait for the approaching running back to build up a head of steam, only to get flattened as he rounds the corner? Where is the pressure from years past?
Why is Grilliams stressing not giving up the big-play when our style plays right into that? What happened to the guy who said: "My philosophy is to attack. I want the players to play with confidence. I don't want them to worry about making a mistake. If we're going to lose, let's do it by making the opponent beat our best. Let's don't change what's made us successful." And Blaine Bishop, a 4-time pro bowl safety under Gregg Williams, on a defense that he(Williams) coached to the Super Bowl: "We know we're a gambling defense. We know we're hit or miss, We either make the big play or we don't. But even if an offense throws 50 bombs on us, we're going to keep coming after them."
At the moment this doesn't look like a defense that subscribes to the philosophy of attack; it looks like a defense sitting back on their heels worrying about giving up a big pass or run, and they certainly don't look like they're playing with any sort of confidence. I don't think I have the answers to those questions and besides depressing ourselves further, the only thing we have left to do is play armchair quarterback. In this case it's more like armchair linebacker but let's take a look at what can be done with the defense without waiting until next year?
I think that answer can be found from where Gregg Williams came from, and which might also explain why he went out and got Andre Carter and Adam Archuleta in the first place and what it is we can do with them so that they turn out not to be busts. First of all I'm going to make a suggestion that some players are switched around. Let's take Warrick Holdman and just plain yank him. He's gotten trod on by every running-back we've seen so far, no need for a repeat performance there.
But no, we're not going to replace him with Rocky McIntosh, we're replacing him with Lemar Marshall. Marcus Washington switches over to middle linebacker and Andre Carter is moved from defensive end to weak-side linebacker--he already played linebacker for SF so that's not that much of a stretch. We replace Andre Carter's DE slot with Renaldo Wynn: he's had three seasons with 11 sacks which is a lot better than AC's one year of 12.5.
Pull Carlos Rogers and sit him too while we're at it, any more dropped balls and I beginning to think he's allergic to interceptions; let's replace him with Troy Vincent. So, you got all that?
The linebackers now consist of (and strong-side relates to the side with the tight-end for all you non-football geeks): Carter(weak-side), Washington(middle) and Marshall(strong). The secondary consists of: Vincent(corner), Springs(corner), Taylor(free-safety) and Archuleta(strong-safety). What's that you say? We haven't changed much?
And we still haven't gotten rid of the hated non-covering non-pursuing Archuleta, right? Well, we're not. Now, before you go crazy and lynch me, just stay with me for one moment; we're going on a detour and take a look at where Gregg Williams came from. Gregg Williams has never played a down of professional football in his life. In high school he played quarterback and was even a Division I prospect before tearing his rotator cuff, scaring off the recruiters.
He played as a part-time starter for Northeast Missouri (a Division II school) and by all accounts was one tough sob--playing his entire senior year with a stress fracture in his right forearm, which he had broken lifting weights. From there he moved over to coaching high school football. In 1998 he was hired by ex-Redskins coach Jack Pardee who was then coaching the University of Houston. When Pardee was hired to coach the Houston Oilers he took Williams along, handing him the job of quality control coach. Williams, with his relentless work habit, rose quickly in Houston and in 1993, none of than Buddy Ryan came to the Oilers to take over as defensive coordinator.
Buddy Ryan, besides being a colorful character, a great source for outrageous quotes and having a reputation for punching uppity offensive coordinators, is also known as the architect behind the '46' defense or "Bear" defense, a defense that helped the Chicago Bears win the '85 Super Bowl and is widely considered to be one of the most dominating defenses of all time. Ryan's defenses played smash mouth football, literally, and were widely known for beating the stuffing out of opposing teams quarterbacks, frequently leaving them bloodied and unconscious on the field.
The '85 Bears ranked number one in almost every defensive category; they went on a streak mid-season shutting out two opponents in a row; the first being the Cowboys in Dallas where they won 44-0, the defense scored two touchdowns, intercepted four passes, recovered a fumble and knocked out Dallas quarterback Danny White not once, but twice.
The second time he had to be carted off the field with a neck brace. In the playoffs the defense made good on Ryan's promise of a shutout not once but twice: first to a Parcells led Giants, and next the Los Angeles Rams. And by the time they had won Super Bowl XX, they had held 14 of 19 opponents to 10 points or less. Ryan only spent one year with the Oilers before moving on to be the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, but Jeff Fisher, who had once been a player in Ryan's system and had became his disciple and 46 devotee, took over the job as defensive coordinator for Houston.
Grilliams and Fisher hit it off together and when Fisher was handed the head coaching position, he promptly promoted Grilliams to defensive coordinator. Fisher and Grilliams were like two kids turned loose in a lab with the old scientists blue prints: they took the 46 and ran with it, terrorizing quarterbacks across the league with its obsessive focus on pressuring the offense and dictating the flow of the game. They tinkered with it, added and subtracted to it, played with it like silly-putty and morphed it into various unrecognizable forms into something that eventually became their own.
By the '99 season when the Titans made the Super Bowl, Fisher and Grilliams claimed that they ran a standard 46 only about 15-20% of the time. Buddy Ryan, retired by then, claimed the two of them had ruined his defense. So why this detour? Why do we care about a defensive scheme that Grilliams probably does run, at least some of the time?
And what's with the recommendations on the players above anyhow? To answer all that we need to take one more short detour and look how a straight-up, original, additive-free 46 is played and, more importantly, the philosophy behind it. The '46' philosophy is all about pressure. Pressure on the line of scrimmage; pressure on the ball carrier; pressure on the quarterback. Almost all defenses today are read and then react; the 46 is defined as a read on the run defense.
Most defenses packages are contain-based packages; the 46 is considered an attack-based package: it focuses on never giving your opponent breathing room. It's prime directive under Buddy Ryan was to get in the quarterbacks face, knock him down, sack him, do anything to rattle and unsettle him and the entire offense: make them adjust to you, not the other way around. How exactly does it do this then?
For that we need to take a look at X's and O's. And yes I know, there is no chalk board here in the blog, so you're going have to follow along; I'll try and make it as simple as possible and cut out all the extra fluff like where lineman's legs go and how many feet off the tackle people shade. At its base the 46 is a 4-3: meaning 4 down linemen and 3 linebackers. In the 46 though, one of the DTs lines up over the center in the noseguard position.
The other tackle lines up across from the weak-side guard and the strong-side DE lines up across from the strong-side guard. This gives you three across the guard-center-guard, giving you one heck of a push straight up the middle. To finish off the linemen, the weak-side DE (Wynn now) lines up across and to the outside of the weak-side tackle.
Now comes the trick with the linebackers: the two outside linebackers (strong and weak) line up on the strong side, directly across from the tight-end. That's correct, both of them on the same side, and the middle linebacker lines up across from the strong side tackle, about 4.5 yards deep. The strong-safety, on the other side, lines up across from the weak-side tackle, 4.5 yards deep just like the linebacker.
This gives you 6 across the front line, with only the middle linebacker and strong safety playing what we normally think of as the linebacker positions. So what is the point of this setup? Well, the defensive line play is setup to clear lanes for the linebackers to sweep in untouched and make tackles. Holdman can't tackle and we've gotten rid of him. Washington is by far the best of the lot and we've moved him into a spot where he can make more plays.
Carter wasn't playing well from the defensive-end position, try him out at linebacker and with Marshall along side him see what kind of havoc they can wreck on people. The 46 demands just the type of run-stopping safety that Archuleta has been known to play: his sole responsibility in this defense would be blitzing and playing the run. At first the weak-side looks soft with just Archuleta playing out there, but anyone running to that side has to first pass Wynn, Archuleta , and by that time Washington and then Taylor coming up from the free-safety position.
Blitzing Archuleta is going to be going up against a running back, Wynn will be handling the tackle on that side, so we have his ineffectiveness against 300-lb'ers fixed. Any run going to the strong-side has to deal with both outside linebackers (Marshall and Carter) and Washington right away. On a passing situation you can blitz any of the three linebackers (Marshall and Carter coming from the outside, giving the option to Washington to come up the gut or from the outside as well).
The number of stunts that the defensive line and linebackers can do from this setup should more than enough for an O-line to handle in a day. Buddy Ryan used this setup almost all the time, every single down; yes he did vary it up from time-to-time, but for the most part this is what he stuck with. It's great against the run and in passing downs the front three give a huge push up the middle, which forces the quarterback to the outside, right into the blitzing linebacker(s) or the strong-safety.
And from down to down, no one on the offense is quite sure who is going to be coming: there is no need to disguise your blitzes when they play what looks like a blitz package all the time. The 46 has been criticized as a gambling defense, we aren't playing zone defense here after all with its built in safety nets. But to be fair, you can run zone coverages from the 46, but that's getting away from the basic philosophy of it which is to attack.
The main thing that worries defensive coordinators, ties their stomachs into bloated, distended knots and sends them running for the nearest porcelain convenience is that the corners have to play man coverage. But let's face it: Springs and Vincent have been around long enough to handle man coverage, and if they can't the free-safety is back there.
The free-safety in this scheme effectively plays center-field (thank Gawd baseball is over with, yay!): picking and choosing who he is going to lay his shoulder into. That style of play remind you of anyone? So how is the defense that Williams uses any different than Ryan's? For one, Grilliams uses a lot more formations, bouncing in and out of various schemes depending upon what the offense is doing. His basic philosophy is to play good, solid defense on first and second down and to set up third down as a passing down. On third down is when he brings the blitz.
The blitz packages are often disguised, the offense never quite sure whether the corners are going to roll into a coverage shell or come on something as exotic as a double-corner blitz. Whereas Ryan was considered reckless, Williams is considered "creative." WaPo columnist Michael Wilbon called what Williams does "a lot of Buddy Ryan with a little reduction sauce." I think it's pretty clear, that this year, the reduction sauce is over-done, watering down what was left of the "Buddy Ryan."
It's time Williams takes a step back, return to his roots, and play a more basic style attack-based defense: yank out all those nasty coverage schemes that Ryan disapproved of and just go after the quarterback. Sure, there are going to be times we get burnt, and burnt bad, but at least make them pay for it. So why would we want to play this against the Cowboys and Bill Parcells?
Aren't TO and Glenn going to eat us alive if we play them in man-coverage? To beat Parcells you have to change things up, throw something different at him, something unexpected. Honestly, I don't think we're any worse off playing TO and Glenn up against Springs and Vincent man-on-man. If they're going to beat us, let those two earn it; they have more than enough experience finding the soft spots in zones.
Play man-coverage with the bump and run; make it a physical game. Parcells is going to have the best prepared quarterback on the field, he's not going to be flustered by anything Grilliams throws at him. Even against all the blitzes the Panthers threw at Romo, he calmly stepped up into the pocket and made the throw (something we all wish Brunell would do). Romo is athletic but he's certainly not Michael Vick.
And stepping up in the pocket against the 46, with its huge rush up the middle, is a mistake. It forces the quarterback out of the pocket, outside the tackles, right into your blitzing linebackers. If Romo is going to beat us, let him beat us using his physical skills under a severe amount of pressure. Let's not try and confuse him with a myriad of coverages: he won't be confused (we haven't confused anyone all year) and he has the patience and the wide-receivers to defeat that style of play. Jason Witten is another major concern.
Parcells has always had great tight-ends, but this year Bledsoe wasn't utilizing him enough. Enter Romo and Witten becomes his best-buddy, his safety-valve. The Skins can't afford to let him off the line. Playing a 46, one can bump the tight-end with both outside linebackers, and even the middle-linebacker, before he even gets five yards. The Skins need to bloody him early and take him out of the game plan. Putting Taylor in the roaming capacity of the free-safety in the 46 frees him to do what he does best.
Which is take a flying head-start at the running backs, and be able to line up teeth-rattling shots on TO when he crosses over the middle. Need I say more? Grilliams strikes me as a stubborn man, insistent on doing things his way. His old high school coach , Sam Brown, tells a story about Grilliams when he played quarterback for him: "He was always changing plays on his own," said Brown. "We had a big, crucial game, and I kept calling a play and he'd keep changing it. Finally I just said, "You know what? You just go ahead and call the rest of them. You take it. I'm not even going to call any more.' He was smart and he could see what was happening. We won the game. He always wanted and needed the reins."
And no doubt Buddy Ryan was just as stubborn an old mule: "I can get along with anybody, as long as they do things my way." But I'm going to make a desperate plea here, for once, just once oh great Grilliams: just do it Buddys way.
Posted by: 4th Floor | November 3, 2006 1:03 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Bart | November 3, 2006 1:13 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Bored out of my Mind | November 3, 2006 1:14 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Too long | November 3, 2006 1:15 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: BT | November 3, 2006 1:17 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Dorf | November 3, 2006 1:17 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Joe in Raleigh | November 3, 2006 1:17 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: BT | November 3, 2006 1:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Skinz | November 3, 2006 1:27 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Bucktown Skins Fan | November 3, 2006 1:31 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: 4th Floor | November 3, 2006 1:32 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Bucktown Skins Fan | November 3, 2006 1:33 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: skinswest | November 3, 2006 1:39 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Joe in Raleigh | November 3, 2006 1:41 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: CO Skins Fan | November 3, 2006 1:41 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Da Truef | November 3, 2006 1:42 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Who Cares anymore | November 3, 2006 1:53 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Megskin | November 3, 2006 1:54 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Bucktown Skins Fan | November 3, 2006 1:54 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Cliff Huxtable | November 3, 2006 1:55 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Skinz | November 3, 2006 1:57 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Lavar Walt Clark | November 3, 2006 1:58 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: rain man | November 3, 2006 1:59 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: LWC | November 3, 2006 2:00 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: re: who cares anymore | November 3, 2006 2:03 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: BOOFER | November 3, 2006 2:06 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Borat | November 3, 2006 2:10 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: bbpt89854726 | November 3, 2006 2:13 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Skinz | November 3, 2006 2:15 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Max | November 3, 2006 2:29 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Harvey Martin's Funeral Wreath | November 3, 2006 2:29 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Max | November 3, 2006 2:30 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: all-american corner | November 3, 2006 2:36 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Max | November 3, 2006 2:37 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: loco mullin | November 3, 2006 2:37 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Skin Patrol | November 3, 2006 2:44 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Go Skins Go | November 3, 2006 2:46 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Megskin | November 3, 2006 2:54 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Harvey Martin's Funeral Wreath | November 3, 2006 3:16 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: FlimFlam | November 3, 2006 3:21 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: SallieMae | November 3, 2006 3:30 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: SallieMae | November 3, 2006 3:31 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Skinz | November 3, 2006 3:37 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Joe in Raleigh | November 3, 2006 3:38 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Redskins Suck | November 3, 2006 3:43 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Max | November 3, 2006 3:47 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: GmBrZ | November 3, 2006 3:49 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: red-dude | November 3, 2006 3:50 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: FlimFlam | November 3, 2006 4:08 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: QFB | November 3, 2006 4:24 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: RMilot | November 3, 2006 4:34 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Skins Fan in New Orleans | November 3, 2006 4:38 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Joe in Raleigh | November 3, 2006 4:39 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Jason La Canfora | November 3, 2006 4:39 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Jason La Canfora | November 3, 2006 4:40 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: GlorySkins | November 3, 2006 4:45 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Franky Four Fingers | November 3, 2006 4:48 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: loco mullin | November 3, 2006 5:00 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: X.Hog | November 3, 2006 5:02 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: FlimFlam | November 3, 2006 5:21 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Casual Friday | November 3, 2006 6:05 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Ray | November 3, 2006 10:54 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: skinsfan@8KaboveMSL | November 5, 2006 2:20 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.