Saturday, February 27, 2010


Sorry, I forgot to link my latest Bull Rush post, this time breaking down defensive tackle Roy Miller.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bull Rush

My latest Bull Rush column is up over at joebucsfan. Today's offering takes a look at Tim Crowder. Check it out and leave a comment!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Another Stat Nobody Is Talking About

The Bucs were abysmal last year and nobody could deny that, but did you know that they lost 4 games by 7 points or less? In fact did you know that if you added up all the points they lost by in those 4 games you would only come up with 15 points, basically an average of a little over a field goal?

I'm sure you probably wouldn't because nobody really talks about that. They are too busy trying to convince you that Coach Raheem Morris is "in over his head".

Now to be sure, even if we won those games we would still be only 7-9, which isn't exactly world beating status. But still when you put it in that context doesn't even the most cynical Bucs fan have to be just a little bit more optimistic about this upcoming season?

I know I am.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Choking The Life Out Of The Zombie Talking Point

This evening I had a pretty spirited debate with a Buccaneer fan over on the joebucsfan site about the direction of the Bucs. In the course of this back and forth this particular fan repeated the now familiar tripe about the Bucs not REALLY improving all that much in the last 6 games because they were just playing teams that "didn't have anything to play for". Well I left a comment about that which on reflection probably deserves its own post so here it goes.

Not sure how you think I am cherry picking over the last six games, but since this talking point won’t die let me break it down for you and everybody else.

The Bucs played two playoff teams out of the last six games and played one team twice that ended up with a winning record. When the Bucs played the Falcons the first time, the Panthers, and the Jets, all three were still trying to get into the playoffs. When we played the Saints they were angling for a number 1 seeding. So thats 4 out of the 6 games where the teams all DID have something to play for. The second game with the Falcons they were trying to do something that had never been done in their franchises history. Back to back winning seasons. So that makes 5 out of 6 games. Now the Seahawks sucked ass most of the year so yeah I guess you can write that one off, but I watched the game and I didn’t see them lay down for us. Hell they were WINNING at half time.

As for improvement, understand that I didn’t say we became the Steel Curtain or the Purple People Eaters. I said we improved. And as Jay Z said recently, men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.

In the last 6 games we got 7 picks, 11 sacks and 5 forced fumbles. Our opponents scoring average went down substantially to around 18 pts per for those 6 games. We held the superbowl champs to 17 points which is the same as what the Cowboys held them to the week prior.

Again, still not the old Ravens defense, but how can you look at that evidence and still not admit that they improved in a major way? I understand that there are some folks who are in the media in this area who have tried to poo poo the improvement but mostly thats because nobody ever challenged them on the substance of their argument. If somebody did challenge them most of them would fall on their face.

I root for the Bucs on Sunday from my heart but I blog about them from my head. It is what it is.

I am smart enough to realize that some Bucs fans have already heard this so many times that they won't be dissuaded about it, but at least if they read this post they won't be able to say that nobody ever told them the truth.

Real talk.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

On The Bucs Drafting Eric Berry At Number 3

As I hear the draftniks going into full swing since the NFL season is now officially over I have heard a lot of chatter about who the Buccaneers should pick at #3. Now I know one guy threw a total curveball saying the Bucs would take USF defensive end Jason Paul-Pierre, but that is pretty much unfathomable. In fact, while I like JPP's potential I personally would say the whole scouting department should be fired if they draft him that high. He had a pretty good year this year, but he had only one year as a starter. And while he was good you couldn't make the argument that he was dominant without getting laughed out of the room. I think if there is an established team out there that doesn't have a lot of teams (they are usually towards the bottom of the first round because of their success) then perhaps you can get a guy like JPP as a project for a few years down the road. But the Bucs need a guy who can contribute right away. A homerun so to speak.

That brings me to the guy I have said they should pick all along and that is Eric Berry. Now I know the hype behind Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy is such that they would HAVE to draft one of those guys if they fell to them. I get that much. But if not I think Berry is overwhelmingly the logical choice. He would fill an area of need. He would give us a very dynamic safety tandem with Tanard Jackson. And he is so versatile that he could begin the transition of Ronde Barber retiring by taking over some of his duties as a nickel blitzer.

The thing of it is, I haven't really heard anyone, not one single person, argue that Berry isn't talented enough to be taken at #3. The knock seems to always be that Saftey is a position that just isn't traditionally drafed that high. And you know what, they are right! But I wanted to do a thought experiment for those fans who believe that just because it isn't traditionally done, that we shouldn't do it.

Here are a couple of lists I want you to check out and then I will explain afterwards.

1. Charles Rogers, Dewayne Robertson, Byron Leftwich, Michael Haynes, and Jerome McDougle.

2. David Carr, Joey Harrington, Mike Williams, Wendell Bryant, William Green, Phillip Buchannan, TJ Duckett, Ashley Lelie, Javon Walker.

3. Robert Gallery, DeAngelo Hall, Reggie Williams, Michael Clayton, J.P. Losman, Marcus Tubbs, Chris Perry, Kevin Jones, Rashaun Woods, Teddy Lehman.

The first list is guys drafted before Troy Palomalu, the second list is guys drafted before Ed Reed, and the third list is guys drafted before Bob Sanders.

Now I know all three have had some injury issues during their career, but 2 out of the 3 have been voted Defensive Player of the Year, and 2 of the 3 have won a Superbowl. Now ask yourself a question, do you really believe the GMs for the teams that drafted before they were taken wouldn't go back now and pick them instead?

I know that hindsight is 20/20 but by all accounts Eric Berry looks to be in the same class of athlete as all three of those guys. If he runs a good time which at this point I would think would be the only question left, I really can't see how drafting him at 3 would be a bad move.

Now there are no guarantees in life, and definitely not in the NFL draft, but I have seen enough to convince me that Eric Berry would be a solid pick at #3. It is what it is.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bull Rush

My latest edition of Bull Rush is up over at joebucsfan. This time I profile defensive tackle Ryan Sims. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Upon Further Review

Ok, I will admit that I was pretty bummed out about the Superbowl last night. I just really didn't see the Saints beating the Colts, and definitely not in such a resounding fashion. Then to make matters worse I hear the talking heads after the game spewing all manner of hyperbole about the game that I knew even at first glance was BS. So I figured I would watch the game again and post about what actually happened and why.

Here goes.

First of all, if I had a vote for the MVP of this game it wouldn't go to Drew Brees, although he played one helluva game. No, my MVP would have to be Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Over the years I have heard both offensive and defensive coordinators hyped up to unrealistic levels so I generally take it all with a grain of salt. But after watching the game a second time there is no doubt that Williams came out on top of his chess match with Peyton Manning. So that is where I will start this discussion.

The Saints began the game with a true 3-4 defensive alignment and personnel. That means they had one less defensive lineman than usual, and one more linebacker than normal. They inserted linebacker Kevin Mitchell into the line up and for the first quarter or so they stayed with it when the Colts came out with their two wide receiver packages. Now anybody will tell you that switching from a 4-3 defense to a true 3-4 in a matter of two weeks is almost impossible. This wasn't the Saints just going with a 3 man rush. They also had their outside linebackers, guys who were used to playing 5 yards off the ball most plays, up on the line and either pass rushing outside or covering the Colts tight end Dallas Clark and being physical with him.

When the Colts went to their 3 wide receiver sets, then the extra linebacker would go out and a defensive back would come in. The defensive back would then play over the slot receiver while both outside guys still lined up on the line which left Johnathan Vilma as the only inside linebacker in the box.

Maybe the most interesting and important note though is that the Saints decided to play a lot of man to man defense against the Colts. Whether it was 2 man under, Cover 1 or some form of matchup Cover 3, the Saints weren't afraid at all to get up on the Colts receivers and challenge them at the line of scrimmage. The Saints played 2 man in particular a large part of the game and its the main reason why Reggie Wayne didn't have a big day. They tried to funnel him outside and then roll Darren Sharper over the top of him and it worked most of the game.

Of course Peyton Manning is no slouch either so as the game went on he started to make adjustments too. It became apparent that when the Saints went to their nickel version of the 3-4 and Vilma was all alone in the middle that the Colts would be able to run the ball against that set up. So Manning started leaning on Joseph Addai and Donald Brown when he saw the Saints lined up that way. And when the Colts got their running game going then they were able to make the Saints respect their play action pass. On the touchdown to Pierre Garcon the Saints were in some form of Cover 2 or 2 man but Peyton noticed that the safety Roman Harper was rolled up closer to the line of scrimmage than normal. Once Garcon got inside the cornerback it was just a foot race between he and Harper and it was obvious who would win that one. Peyton puts the ball on the money and the Colts have a touchdown.

At that point Coach Williams makes an adjustment. Instead of having Vilma in the middle by himself when they run their 3-4 look with the nickel back in, he pulls one of the outside rushers back off the line with him, in most cases Scott Fujita, and he leaves the backside of the Colts formation open run fit wise. To be honest with you, the adjustment wasn't fundamentally sound at all. I mean eventually Williams made a little tweak and rolled down the safety to open side of the formation, but the truth is had the Colts noticed or been able to predict when the Saints would go with that defensive alignment, they could have gotten the corner on running plays with ease for big runs. But alas it didn't happen and Williams was able to get away with it. Its part of the reason why the Saints had more success against the run in the second half.

Its important to note here that even with all the personnel and alignment adjustments, Gregg Williams was still blitzing the hell out of Peyton. They didn't sack him and they didn't get any of the big hits he talked about before the game, but I did think a few time he had to rush some throws and maybe not put it where he would have liked.

Having said that Peyton was still masterful most of the game. One one drive he noticed that the Saints were in 2 man a lot and he ended up featuring Dallas Clark the whole way down the field. That is when they scored their second and final touchdown to go up 17-13 and things were still looking up for them.

Another thing the Saints did was go to their base 4-3 defense when the Colts were backed up or in the red zone. That is partly the reason why the Colts were unable to convert on 3rd and 1 before halftime because the Saints had their 4 man line plus a linebacker walked up and they were really stout against the run there. Of course running a fullback dive probably wasn't the best call in that situation either.
The Saints were also great at changing up their coverages at odd times and throwing Peyton some curve balls. He just about threw a pick right to Tracy Porter on an out route to Wayne when Porter, who was lined up on the slot receiver inside of Wayne at the snap, buzzed underneath the Wayne and ened up directly in the throwing lane. If that ball wasn't low and outside the Saints would have had two picks last night instead of one.

Now on the play that sealed the deal for the Saints I have to say that was the worst decision of the night for Manning. The Colts were down at that point 24-17 and driving to tie the score up. The Colts had Collie and Reggie Wayne on the same side with Collie out wide. For whatever reason they decided to motion Collie inside and have both he and Wayne run slant routes. Williams decided to send all 3 linebackers and rush Peyton with 6 guys. What that meant is that there were 5 guys left to defend the pass and the Colts had 3 wideouts and their tight end all out on routes. In theory this was Cover 1 where the two corners, the nickelback and a safety were in man to man with one safety back deep helping on go routes. In reality the one deep safety, Darren Sharper, actually came up to jump the slant route by Collie. Now the reason the decision for Manning to throw the ball to Wayne was a bad one is two fold.

For one, all game the Saints corners had been playing inside of the Colts wide receivers when they took an outside release. Because of the design of the play Wayne stemmed outside first and then tried to slant across Tracy Porter's face. But Porter was already sitting inside of the route and the truth is it didn't really take much of a break for him to pick it off and take it to the house.

For two, and more importantly, on the other side of the formation Garcon had one on one coverage with a rolled up corner who had no safety help. He beat his guy off the line and he was wide open for the deep ball. Peyton's protection held up and he had the time to throw that ball up to Garcon for a big play if not a touchdown. Instead he made the blind throw to Wayne and that didn't work out so well for him.

Now when it comes to the Colts defense against Drew Brees and the Saints offense, all I can say is that it looked like somebody kidnapped Larry Coyer and the ghost of Ron Meeks was coaching the Colts D yesterday. I am probably being generous if I say the Colts blitzed five times the whole game yesterday. And on a couple of those blitzes the nickelback didn't even really rush Brees, but instead kind of got caught in no man's land. Half way into a rush and half way trying to stay back in coverage.

To make matters worse not only did the Colts not switch up their coverages much all game, but they also allowed the Saint's wide receivers and tight ends to get free releases for the overwhelming majority much of the game. It was as if they were so afraid of them that they were scared to touch them.

So they didn't send any pressure to try to disrupt Brees' rhythm AND they didn't chuck the receivers to try to disrupt their rhythm either.
Who the hell thought that was a good idea?!

It got so bad that after spending much of the first half keeping guys in to chip on the Colts' rushers and leak out late as well as putting in a back up tackle at tight end to help out on protections, in the 4th quarter the Saints started releasing 5 guys out into routes on a regular basis without even a hint of chipping. Aside from the one big sack by Dwight Freeney, the Colts didn't sniff Brees for most of the game. And I will tell you this much, if they ever hope to be able to win another Superbowl, they are going to have to get some inside guys who can pass rush.
Also it was embarrassing to see the Colts defense get caught not lined up and confused several times during the game. I mean its not like they were running anything new but yet and still the Saints were able to quick count them and get cheap first downs just because they couldn't get lined up correctly before the snap. And while I am on the subject starting outside linebacker Phillip Wheeler looked like confused damn near the whole game.
That's not about talent. That's poor coaching, plain and simple.

I don't want to take anything away from Brees' performance last night because it was truly awesome. But I bet you dollars to donuts that by the 4th quarter he had to be feeling like he was throwing against a scout team. He had plenty of time on most of his throws and he was hitting guys who were wide freaking open. Marques Colston was killing the Colts in the seams, especially when he lined up in the slot, but you never saw the Colts adjust and try to get physical with him at the line of scrimmage. In short the Colts defense made it too easy for a quarterback like Brees and an offensive mind like Saints head coach Sean Payton to march up and down the field.

Still even with the performance by the Saints offense, I would have to give my game ball to Coach Williams. The reasons are as follows.

1. Sean Payton called another silly ass end around that lost 8 yards and almost took his team out of scoring range. It ended up not being a big deal per se because they picked up a first down on the next play putting them on the 3 yard line. But from there they weren't able to get the ball in with 4 tries and had to turn the ball over on downs.

2. Even the folks who picked the Saints to win probably never could have imagined that they would hold the Colts to just 17 points. I know I didn't. Coach Williams' ability to adjust as the game went on was the deciding factor in the game in my opinion.

Now for all of the bullshit analysis you will hear over the next few days about how the Saints "dominated" the Colts and out played them for three quarters, lets be clear about a few things. For the overwhelming majority of the first 3 quarters the Colts were leading the game. In fact going into the 4th quarter the Colts were still up a point. And with a little over 5 minutes left they were driving to tie up the score at 24 all. In fact one play in particular in the 2nd quarter could have changed the whole complexion of the game. On 3rd and 2 the Saints blitzed Peyton again and played man to man but this time the Colts had the perfect play on. They ran a bunch of crossing routes and had Garcon run a crossing route in the opposite direction underneath them. He got off the line well and Peyton hit him in stride right in his hands. If he doesn't drop that ball he had nothing but green grass in front of him. Sharper, was going in the opposite direction trailing one of the deeper crossing routes and was in no position to make a play on him. It would have been a foot race at that point that would have ended in either a touchdown or a very long gain.

That didn't happen of course and instead of going up 17-3 or even 13-3 the Colts ended the half only up 10-6. And because of that the onside kick they recovered right out of the halftime took on a much bigger significance.

All in all it was a great game and the Saints went out and took that win. But don't be fooled by the chattering classes, that loss fell on more than just Peyton Manning for the Colts. I hope at some point someone asks Coyer what the rationale was for not blitzing Brees especially when his best pass rushing defensive lineman was less than 100%. It made no sense to me and contributed greatly to the Saints not only scoring but possessing the ball for long stretches of time.
On the flip side my hats off to Gregg Williams. On the biggest stage in the NFL going against one of the best quarterbacks to ever do it, he is the one who ended up with checkmate.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Tale Of Two Halfs

The first half of the Superbowl went almost exactly how I envisioned it. The Saints moved the ball but couldn't get in the endzone. Dwight Freeney started the game and got a big sack. The Saints ran another ill advised reverse/end around that ended up not hurting them but still lost 7 yards. The Colts got up 4 points on them and they were going to get the ball first in the second half probably to go up 11 points. And then, with an onside kick to start the second half, the game totally changed.

Once the Saints were able to turn the tables and go up on the Colts everything worked in reverse. Not only did Peyton end up throwing a pick six with his team down seven and him pressing to make a play, Matt Stover missed a field goal while his counterpart on the Saints Matt Hartley made all 3 of his. I was even right/wrong about the winning team winning by a touchdown or more. Just in this case it was the Saints, not the Colts, winning it going away.

I take my hat off to the Saints, they made the plays when they had to. They showed incredible moxy coming out down against the vaunted Colts offense and doing what they had to do to change the game. Drew Brees was almost flawless and Pierre Thomas had a HUGE day for them. Their defense also made big plays at critical times including stopping the Colts on 3rd and 1 right before the half which forced them to punt and set up their second field goal to cut the Colts lead down to 4.

I admit I called this one wrong, it happens to everybody I guess. But I don't have to like it!


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Superbowl Prediction, Colts Vs Saints

I had too much to say so I had to break it up into two videos. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Best I Ever Had

So I am on Hulu looking through their videos and it turns out that they have a section of NFL Films now. I ended up finding the Buccaneers 1999 season recap, my best season by far, and I figured I would share.