Monday, October 11, 2010

Bull Rush

That was a great win yesterday against a quality opponent in Cincinnati on the road for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Even though the Bengals haven't set the world on fire so far this year, they are the defending AFC north champions and most people didn't give the Bucs much of a chance of beating them. It wasn't pretty but we made enough plays when it counted to win the game and that's huge. For most of last year winning a game like that against a good team like the Bengals would have been almost impossible. But the Bucs showed that they have matured a lot especially at the end of the game and that's a big reason why we are now 3-1.

Having said that when I watched the game again I saw a lot of issues on defense. For the first time all year I thought the defensive line got pushed around some up front. Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers beat us soundly in week 3 most of the problems we had against the run that game was just a matter of guys not being in their gap. Yesterday however too many times we were getting knocked off the ball.

That's the bad news. The good news is it can be fixed. Its not that we are weak up front but instead its more so guys are just not using good technique. For whatever reason we aren't playing on edges a lot and our defensive tackles are not getting penetrations into their gaps.

Some of the reason is that we are habitually late off the ball. I am not sure if guys are worried about jumping offsides or what but as a group the get off can use some work.

Also when playing double teams guys have to feel when one guy comes off and then expand where that guy came from because that is where the ball is probably going to be run.

And maybe the most important thing is guys have to keep working on escaping off blocks instead of just reaching out for the ball carrier.

Its hard enough to tackle some of the good running backs in this league. You don't need to make it harder by allowing a 300 pound guy to continue pushing on you while you're trying to get a guy on the ground.

Oddly enough the guy who I think everyone should watch and model their run technique after, at least in general, is Stylez G. White. I say oddly because for whatever reason they seem to take him out of the game on running downs at times even though I'm not really sure why. But when you see him play the run you see him getting up the field, on an edge, and ripping off blocks to make plays. His technique is best I've seen on the team and so are his fits. If we could get everybody other than the nose playing more like him against the run we would be much better off.

Also I'll be honest in saying that I personally have a problem with how much the Buccaneers are using our 3-3-5 alignment. Maybe its the defensive lineman in me showing my bias but while I understand wanting to have Quincy Black on the field as much as possible, I just don't think using a 3 man line so prominently helps us as much as it would just mixing it in from time to time. We also saw yesterday what can happen when a team catches us in that 3 man line alignment and decides to run the ball. Some of the plays where Cedric Benson gashed us were against that alignment and we simply aren't gap sound versus the run in that defense.

Using the 3-3-5 to generate pass rush has also gotten mixed results at best in my opinion. Yes Black is fast and athletic but I have yet to see him beat an offensive tackle one on one this regular season so far. In fact most of the time he just runs a TEX with Gerald McCoy who is rushing from a defensive end position. That isn't all bad by any means but it IS predictable. Also because McCoy is running a TEX from that alignment instead of a regular 3 technique alignment it means he has to come inside hard first and try to blow up the B gap almost as if he was instead running an EX game. The problem with that is on a true TEX game the defensive tackle is supposed to have a contain rush.

Now when run well the defensive tackle can have a contain rush by getting to the back of the offensive tackle and then falling off inside of him to make the sack because he has gotten far enough up field to do so. When running a TEX out of a 3-3-5 however the defensive tackle, while having an opportunity to get pressure on the quarterback, generally won't be upfield far enough keep containment.

You can see this on the play where McCoy and Stylez White both almost get a sack on Carson Palmer. White makes a really good outside move on left side and turns the corner. McCoy comes crashing in and gets good pressure as well. But Palmer steps to his left a little to avoid the rush and is able to get the ball off. McCoy ends up running into Stylez and knocking him off his rush (Stylez was getting held by the way), gets a hit on the quarterback but can't bring home the sack. Black in the meanwhile loops inside for the TEX then comes back out of it and almost gets an interception.

On paper its a good play no doubt and we get off the field. But I'm going to go out on an limb and say the Bucs would rather have a sack there than just a pressure by McCoy.

Now we could blitz out of that package but we aren't doing much of that either. I think by my count we sent more than four only one time out of the 3-3-5 alignment yesterday. And this is when you have a statue like Palmer sitting back there who doesn't want to take off running ever and would rather throw the ball away than take a sack. It just didn't make any sense to me that Coach Morris wouldn't run more true four defensive lineman rushes in third and long situations and or blitz more to make Palmer uncomfortable. The truth is the Bucs got bailed out several times yesterday by the Bengals wide receivers just dropping the ball on plays that would have garnered first downs for them.

I am pretty sure it has to do with his philosophy versus mine. I think Coach Morris would rather lean towards coverage being the answer than pressure. That doesn't mean I'm right and he's wrong or vice versa. It just means that I personally think the Bucs should be taking a different approach and that it would give us greater results than we have had so far in terms of getting to the quarterback.

I will say that it was good to see both Brian Price and Michael Bennett getting more playing time yesterday and I thought both guys confirmed why they deserved it during the game. It was also good to see us running a few more run blitzes with the corners and strong safeties on early downs versus run personnel and formations. That will end up helping us in the long run.

One last thing before the individual break downs. The Bucs are running a lot more Pirate this year where the undertackle and the end to his side stunt inside to the A gap and B gap respectively. I like the stunt and believe it can help us against the run but guys are getting cut off from their gaps too much. One of the things that can help with this is if they back up off the ball about 3 inches or so. You don't want to back off so far that its easily noticeable but just enough to give yourself room to operate.

Here's the deal, the closer a defensive lineman is to the ball, the easier it is for an offensive lineman to cut them off from coming on an inside stunt. The point of contact happens much faster and if the offensive lineman is faster off the ball they have an immediate advantage. By backing up just a little bit it gives guys the chance to take a really good step inside, gain ground and rip through the stunt all before contact is made. And if the play happens to be coming to you it gives you the ability to get penetration up into the gap because you aren't having to go as flat on the movement.

Welp that's my tip for the day, now on to the breakdowns:

Kyle Moore: Kyle Moore had a productive day against the run with 5 tackles. But he also was one of the guys who got pushed off the ball too much. For one thing he is habitually late off the ball which always gives the offensive line an advantage. He also tends to end up too down the middle of blockers instead of on their edge. And finally he is just lazy with his hands both in the running game and on pass rush.

Moore has all the physical tools you like to see. He's strong and fast. He has good size. But his technique and get off need a lot of work. As productive as he was he could have had a dominant game. He had a chance to tackle Benson when the Bengals were backed up but he didn't rip off the block and Benson ran through his arms. That ended up being a big play as Benson ended up busting off a big run. Now it wasn't an easy play by any means but it would have been a much EASIER play if he didn't have someone hanging on to him as he tried to make the tackle.

Also he because he is late off the ball he rarely has an opportunity to try to turn the corner against an offensive tackle on pass. He ends up running right down the middle of guys much too much instead of using his athletic ability to make a move. It is rare to see him even attempt to do a rip move on pass rush unless its on third and long and that's just not going to get it done. The Bucs can't wait until third downs to get pressure on the quarterback, we need consistent pressure whenever they try to pass the ball even and maybe especially when its on play action pass.

He did have a really good EX game with White on the right side and got a nice hit on the quarterback. But for a guy who is starting and playing as much as he is he needs to step his pass rush game up a LOT more to justify it.

Gerald McCoy: I thought McCoy played better this game. He almost got his first sack on the aforementioned play out of the 3-3-5 alignment and he had another really good pass rush from undertackle where he got another hit on the quarterback. He also tipped a pass at the line of scrimmage. One thing I noticed is that although they continued to play him at end in the 3 man alignments, he didn't play defensive end in our four man lines even when the Bengals were backed up. I definitely think that is a step in the right direction of letting him develop more at undertackle.

One thing I was disappointed in however is that he fell in love with making inside moves for some reason yesterday. Time after time when he got a pass set he kept going inside and then wound up in a double team. I'm not sure if that was part of the game plan or what but one time when he and Price were both in the game on third down they both came inside and got wadded up at the line of scrimmage.

Part of being an undertackle is getting up the field and putting pressure on the guard to block your speed on an edge. That doesn't mean you can't make an inside move, but it does mean it should only be a change up and not your standard move. One of the major reasons why is that if the undertackle is getting up field, even if he turns the corner a little wide he provides the defensive end to his side the opportunity to fall back underneath him and get a sack or pressure on the quarterback. We used to call it a "natural game" where guys just play off each other to get pressure. But if the undertackle is consistently going inside then it opens up a lane between himself and the defensive end rushing outside for the quarterback to both step up into in order to avoid the rush and to be able to see his receivers down field.

Again, I'm not sure if it was just a part of the game plan but I think McCoy would be better served getting off and getting up the field the majority of the time when he reads pass.

Roy Miller: I'm one of the biggest Roy Miller fans you will find in the Tampa Bay area but I was disappointed in his play yesterday. Playing nosetackle in a 4-3 defense is a very hard job. You have to be able to anchor in and not get pushed off the ball in double teams. You have to be able to play scoop blocks where the back side guard is trying to cut you. And you have to be able to play the center reach blocks and maintain your gap.

That's not all you have to do but just those three things are so different in terms of the technique you have to use that it can make your head swim. Unfortunately yesterday it appeared that Miller's head was indeed swimming. He got pushed off the ball way too much against the double teams and scoop blocks. And he got reached at least three times where he lost his A gap. There is no one thing he was doing wrong because each block is so different.

The main thing on the reach blocks is that he needs to be strong with his outside hand and keep his hips turned inside instead of allowing the center to get him turned toward the sideline. You have to recognize what the center is trying to do and while not taking off running towards the side line you have to work more lateral than upfield to maintain your gap.

With the double team he just has to play lower and keep his feet in the ground. Trust me, I know its easier said than done. But once he feels the double he has to make sure he doesn't get pushed off the line of scrimmage and then feel the guy coming off to the linebacker and expand in that direction.

With the scoop block I know its hard because of the threat of a backside cut block but he has to be able to play off the guard and rip off so that he can get up into the gap and either make the play or make the running back have to go lateral rather than being able to continue down hill.

Miller has the ability to do all these things. I know because he has done them before. But yesterday he just seemed to consistently get pushed 4 or 5 yards off the ball. That's not winning football and he needs to get that fixed ASAP.

He did notch 1 tackle and 2 assists so it wasn't all bad.

Stylez G. White: I have been saying for weeks that White has to start making inside moves to get offensive tackles to stop setting for his outside rush. And for weeks nothing has changed. Now Stylez did some good things against the Bengals. He had an assisted tackle. He had a great EX game going with Moore where he comes in and blasts the left guard and takes out two blockers to free Moore up. And he also had that great outside rush from the left side which I talked about earlier.

But I'm going to make a point here. I counted 7 times when Stylez had an opportunity to make an inside move. By opportunity I mean the left tackle took a wide set, the B gap was open, and the left guard at least initially was not looking for him to come inside.


With a damn statue back there at quarterback!

Stylez won't have a better opportunity to sack a quarterback who has no inclination to try to move very much in the pocket. And Palmer isn't the type of guy to hold on to the ball and allow you to get to him consistently with an outside rush. And yet out of those 7 opportunities Stylez didn't try even once to take what the Bengals were giving him.

Maybe the most egregious opportunity squandered was with 45 seconds left in the first half. The left guard literally turns his back to the B gap and the left tackle opened up so wide with his shoulders turned towards the sideline that he practically had a neon sign flashing "SPIN ON ME PLEASE!!!" Instead White tried to go around the horn again...and didn't get there.

I have always had confidence in Stylez as a pass rusher. I was one of the ones who agreed with his assertion that he would have double digit sacks this year. But right now he is giving away sacks and pressures. Left tackles should be sending him thank you cards because he is letting them off the hook. And the defense is not as dominant as it should be because he continues to focus solely on beating guys outside.

There isn't a premier pass rusher in the NFL at defensive end who does not make inside moves several times again. Not a single one. Simeon Rice who was one of the most productive and fastest defensive ends in Buccaneers history would make three or four inside moves a game at least. You HAVE to do it not only because it gives you an opportunity for quick pressure, but also because it gives left tackles more than one look so they can't be comfortable in their pass sets.

Its just like a pitcher. If all you throw is fast balls, even if you throw heat, people are going to knock your shit out of the park. But if you throw a change up here or there you keep guys off balance. And you make it a lot easier on yourself.

Until Stylez starts throwing change ups our pass rush isn't going to consistently scare anybody. And there is absolutely no chance he will get to double digits.

It is what it is.

Michael Bennett: Bennett finally gets activated and all he does is go out there and get five good rushes and a pressure. When I say five good rushes I mean he beat his guy with a pass rush move. He only got one pressure because every other time Palmer got rid of the ball and it was completed. Its probably going to be ignored by most but his pressure came on third and five right before the half and forced Palmer to throw early and erratically to his receiver who couldn't haul it in. Instead of a first down the Bengals had to settle for a field goal and considering the final score and the fact that the Bengals had driven all the way down to the red zone with relative ease, that ended up being a pretty big play.

An interesting thing to note is that all of his good rushes came in the first half. Its not that he started rushing bad in the second half but more so he wasn't given many more opportunities. He did play some on base but other than a few plays inside he wasn't in the game much on 3rd and long.

Hopefully after they watch the film that will change because there is no doubt who had the best rushes on the team yesterday at defensive end. Bar none.

But all was not perfect. Even though he did get some good penetration in the run game, he also got shook out of his shoes on one play by Benson when he was unblocked. I'm sure he will catch some grief in the film room over that one.

He also pissed me off by running a shitty TEX. I don't know what they are teaching over at One Buc but it would do my heart some good to see just one defensive end get THREE STEPS or more up the field to set up the offensive tackle on a TEX game just once. I mean damn, there are college defensive lines running better TEX games than the Bucs D Line.

For the umpteenth time, the further the defensive end gets up the field, the better chance the TEX game has of winning. For everybody.

Enough said.

Brian Price: I love Price's get off but I hate his technique. Once he actually learns how to play nosetackle though he is going to give people fits. Right now he has to understand that some plays aren't his plays and instead they are opportunities for him to open it up for someone else.

He also needs to stay off the ground. He wasn't on it much this game but every time he is on the ground that is an opportunity to go and make a play hustling to the ball that is lost. As fast as Price is he should be racking up assisted tackles down the field. But you can't do that if you're lying on the field with some guy on your back.

As a pass rusher though? That guy is a MONSTER. He had two really good rushes and a hit on the quarterback when he rushed from the nosetackle position. Mind you he went from being over the nose to rushing and beating a guard on those three plays. You may not understand how hard that is but trust me its damned impressive.

Hell on the play where he gets hurt in the second half he beats the guard and just about gets to Palmer on a quick pass even though the guy literally tackles him. That's how he got hurt in the first place. It was amazing that the penalty wasn't called but still it was a very very impressive play by him.

On the negative side we had a zone blitz where he was supposed to cross the center's face to the opposite A gap. He did that initially but then came back into the the A gap he initially started in. The only problem is Moore's assignment on that zone blitz is to be in that A gap and so he created a bit of a log jam. That's why its important for guys to know WHY they are doing something on any given defense. He may not have gotten pressure in the opposite gap but there's a chance he would have opened things up for Moore and the other guys blitzing.

He also did not loops around for contain on a Pirate. That's a problem he has had since the preseason and it needs to get corrected. Otherwise we are giving up all containment to the quarterback with the line stunt and that ain't good!

All in all a good day for the rookie though. And I imagine his playing time will continue to increase. Of course if we played more four man line on third and long we could get to see what Price could really do when he doesn't have to start lined up over the center.

Just throwing that out there.

Tim Crowder: I had Crowder down for one tackle and two good rushes with one hit on the quarterback. He played a solid game like he always does. Sometimes Crowder doesn't fill up the stat sheet but then you go back and watch the game and he always seems to be where he is supposed to be. He didn't set up his TEX game but see my earlier rant on that one. Other than that not much to complain about his time in the game yesterday.

Well that's it for this week. If you have any questions just leave them in the comments and I will get to them as fast as I can.

Great win this week but now we gotta get ready for those Saints to come to town. Its definitely going to be a bigger challenge. You can count on that!


  1. Great read my man. From an article of, Ian Beckles' comments on McCoy: “It wasn’t pretty, Beckles said. “He is not physical at all. He was getting ragdolled a lot.”

    Do you find his comments right?

  2. Nice analysis. I agree with everything you said and to a degree you agreed with what I was saying to you. When I mentioned that Bennett could be better in run stop I pretty much meant the D line as a whole. But because Bennett was the guy being focused on it sounded like I was making him the goat.

    Overall, good write up. I appreciate the insight.

  3. Can you explain TEX?

  4. Also Steve, I know you are a defensive guy, but how about our franchise QB? Right on the money when it counted. As much as I love Bucball, I would LOVE to see an explosive offense for Bucs.

  5. @Jonny

    No I don't agree with Ian. Not at all. McCoy had one play where he got mashed in a double team. But the point of a double team is to mash someone. For the rest of the game he did fine against the run. Of course I'm sure Ian has been saying he isn't strong since the combine so I don't expect his story to change no matter what happens.

  6. A TEX game is a pass rush game where the defensive tackle rushes the B gap between the guard and offensive tackle trying to get to the offensive tackles back. At the same time the defensive end outside the offensive tackle runs up field to get the offensive tackle to focus on him then loops inside of the guard to the A gap between the guard and center. The hope is that you create a situation where you have two guys against one guard trying to block.

  7. @Jonny

    See my new The Good The Bad The Ugly post on Freeman.

  8. Thanks Steve, as always, great read, great information.

  9. Great read as always. It seems like the majority of our lineman seem to have flaws in their technique. Is that something that is the fault of the d-line coach, or is it something that just takes time to correct due to their youth?

  10. Steve, did you see Donald Penn's De-cleater on Adam Jones. I forget who the short pass was to, but Penn got out front and lifted up Adam Jones and slammed him down. It was an excellent lesson in the "Law of Gross Tonnage". You have may referenced this in GB&U which is where I'm heading next. No one can say this team isn't entertaining.
    Thanks, much enjoyment.

  11. I would love to be a fly at the wall during a Q&A session with you and Raheem talking about the DL play. Any way for you to get a official interview with him which you could feature here?

    Maybe he could give some insights or take some of your suggestions?!

    Thanks for your awesome column.

    Oh, one last thing... why the hell are you not writing for the NFL network etc. yet?