Tuesday, November 30, 2010

One Stop Shopping

Ok so I'm a little under the weather today so obviously no Bull Rush post. So I have made an executive decision to just write everything I'm going to write about the Bucs vs Ravens game in one post almost in a stream of consciousness style and then put the individual D Line break down at the end. I expect it will be longish and I expect some folks may not like it. And I expect I don't care all that much at this point but I'll still do my best.

I think its best if I go by offense/defense and then the breakdowns so guess what, that's what I'm going to do.


-After the game I had an interesting back and forth with one of the Bucs fans who follow me and has been a loyal reader of my blog since last year. His contention was that Greg Olsen's offensive game plan was lacking and that it played a major part in the loss.

I didn't agree with him and in fact I thought it was one of Olsen's better game plans of the season. Understand that I'm not really an Olsen fan and I have called him out previously on this very same blog, so me giving him any props isn't what you would call normal. But watching the game live I thought he committed to running the ball and he called down hill runs which our O Line is much better at blocking. I also thought he dialed up some good play action passes that they just didn't end up converting. It was my belief right after the game that it was the execution that was lacking, not the game plan.

Turns out others evidently also were questioning Olsen's playcalling judging by local sports talk radio and questions lobbed at Coach Morris by the papers. Obviously this was something worth looking into more closely.

So I watch the game again and...

I haven't changed my mind AT ALL. In fact if anything I'm even more convinced now that the game plan was sound. But I also realize that if people watched the game on TV the announcers kept harping on the game plan and offering up the opinion that the Bucs should have gone to a no huddle or a "sugar huddle" (what ever the eff that means) to change the tempo of the game.

Well first let me address the no huddle deal. It's true the Bucs could have gone to a no huddle offense and I can respect people who have that opinion. But here are the facts about that. Fact number one is that the Falcons who were most effective at it DID IT AT HOME. Obviously its going to be easier to run a no huddle offense when you in a dome and your fans aren't screaming at the top of their lungs to disrupt your communication. Fact number two is that the Bucs started going no huddle with 7:43 left in the game. They had an opportunity for a touchdown with 6:19 remaining when Michael Spurlock dropped the touchdown. If they score with that much time left would anybody be saying they should have started the no huddle sooner? Fact number three is that the drive preceding the one that started with 7:43 left in the game started with 14:15 left in the game. I'm going to go out on a limb and say the Bucs didn't think it would be wise to go no huddle for the whole fourth quarter. And fact number four is that the Ravens are a team that is built around defense. If you think that running a no huddle is some kind of magical cure to beating them or that they can't still dial up blitzes against a no huddle you are out of your mind. Going no huddle earlier may have helped but it also could have gotten Josh Freeman killed, especially if the offensive linemen had bad communication.

Now that we got that out of the way let me also talk about Freeman's performance. I know Coach Morris and Freeman himself said he was "off". But I don't know if fans or even some media knows what they meant by that. I would guess that some would take it to mean his accuracy was "off" and in a few circumstances it in fact was. But after watching the game three times what was really off about Freeman was his reads.

Understand that Freeman was getting pressured most of the day so he wasn't always able to go through all of his progressions downfield. But there were times when I felt like presnap he should have had a good idea of who would be open but either didn't hit them or scrambled at a time when the rush didn't really call for it. Of course its easy for me to say that from my couch and I know its different when you are in that pocket and a bunch of 300 pound guys are trying to rip your head off, but I can only go by what I see on the tape.

And this goes back to the argument about the game plan. People see Freeman take a shot down the field on 3rd and 2 and they figure "why in the hell is the Olsen calling that play?!". Not realizing that there were other routes being run, and many times other guys who were open for a first down but Freeman just chose to go for the deep ball.

Now I like Freeman a lot. I think the maturity he has shown this year has been amazing. I also believe he is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league already. But I want to go through some plays during the game, not to throw him under the bus at all, but to illustrate to people who may not know what other options there were available to him.

-10:10 in the first quarter, 3rd and 3. Freeman feels some pressure so he rolls right and throws deep to Mike Williams but it goes incomplete. Nothing wrong with taking a shot early in the game but he over threw Williams who was indeed open. At the same time Michael Spurlock is running a shallow crossing route from his left and he is open for a first down. Don't know if he would catch it but he is open. Whether it was the roll or the read Freeman chose not to throw it to him though.

-6:44, first quarter, 1st and 10. Freeman takes another shot downfield to Arrelious Benn but again over throws the receiver. At the same time Ryan Purvis was wide open in the flat as the Ravens did not adjust when he motioned out.

-2:58, first quarter, 1st and 10. Its a play action pass but damn near every offensive lineman gets beat and once again Freeman has to roll to his right. He ends up throwing the ball away which I have NO problem with. But at the same time John Gilmore slipped out into a route and he was open for a nice little dump off.

-8:56, second quarter, 1st and 10. The left corner for the Ravens was giving the wide receivers a lot of cushion all day. On this play he was at least 7 or 8 yards off. Benn runs about a 7 yard stop route and is wide open. But instead Freeman throws a swing pass to Cadillac Williams which nets about 2 yards. Now this is a play where I believe good quarterbacks see that cushion and automatically hit the WR and let them work. Its definitely what the Ravens did to the Bucs when they played off coverage. But again maybe that wasn't the read.

-6:18, second quarter, 2nd and 7. This was an opportunity for a touchdown. Williams and Benn lined up on the same side with Benn in the slot. Benn ran a skinny post and Freeman tried to hit him in the seam but he couldn't come down with it. However Benn attracted the underneath coverage and the safety while Williams was running his own skinny post. Williams ended up inside the corner and WIDE open. I honestly don't know how he doesn't score there if the ball is thrown to him.

-2:15, second quarter, 2nd and 13. The Ravens blitz and Mo Stovall runs a hot route at about five yards and he's wide open because the corner has once again given a lot of cushion. Freeman however throws to the other side to Williams who is bracketed by underneath and over the top coverage. Thankfully he saw it and made sure it wasn't an interception by throwing it low and outside. But Stovall was good for at least 8-10 yards.

-10:51, third quarter, 3rd and 2. This was the one time all game when I thought Freeman ran when he didn't actually have to. The Ravens ran a pass rush game against the right side of the Bucs' offensive line but it appeared they had it picked up. But for whatever reason Freeman decided to roll to his right again and he tried to hit Caddy in the flat but couldn't. Now it may have been that the play was designed to go to Caddy to begin with because they had both WRs on the right side run crossing routes and then he snuck through the line to go to the right flats. Maybe it was their way of getting him open in space. I don't know.

What I do know is that Ray Lewis ended up picking up Caddy which I'm sure made Freeman nervous about throwing to him and at the same time Sammie Stroughter was open for a first down running the shallow crosser the other way.

-7:04, third quarter, 2nd and 6. Once again the left corner is in off coverage. This time its Williams that runs about a 5-6 yard stop and is wide open. But Freeman decides to try Stroughter in the slot on a skinny post. In fairness Stroughter was open but the pass was a bit off. Still Williams probably gets a first down and then some with his ability to run after the catch.

-2:30, third quarter, 3rd and 2. Bucs line up in a trips bunch formation and it appears that Stroughter is open at the sticks after they all scatter. But Freeman once again feels the pressure and rolls right and almost throws an interception trying to flip it to Caddy.

-12:16, fourth quarter, 3rd and 2. Freeman takes another shot downfield to Spurlock. And Spurlock is once again open on a go route but the ball is just a bit over thrown. At the same time Stroughter gets inside the safety who is lined up on him in the slot man to man and he is absolutely open for the first down.

Now this is the ultimate in Monday Morning Quarterbacking and I understand that. I don't mean to say that Freeman was wrong in all of these situations or even in any of them. The point is that while he may have taken shots down the field that doesn't mean Olsen wasn't calling plays where guys were open for the first down. You never want to take away a quarterback's aggressiveness as long as he isn't throwing into coverage. But the fact remains that just because a bomb was thrown it doesn't mean that was the only route being run.

I personally thought we ran the ball better than expected against the Ravens. We didn't get a ton of yards but LeGarrette Blount and Caddy made their presence felt several times. One thing that killed some drives was penalties though. For whatever reason Kellen Winslow jumped several times and when he wasn't getting penalties he was getting abused by the Ravens defense when he tried to block in the running game. He had a couple of nice catches including a touchdown but overall I thought he had a pretty bad game.

For the offensive line to be as patchwork as it is I thought they performed at a decent level. I thought Donald Penn was outstanding most of the day both run and pass blocking. I thought James Lee held his own at right tackle as did Jeremy Zuttah who was pressed into service at right guard. Ted Larsen did get over powered a bit by Haloti Ngata but hell who doesn't? The offensive line wasn't great but I thought they played winning football for the most part.


I don't really know what to say about the defense. On the one hand they held the Ravens to 17 points and they had an outstanding interception by Aqib Talib and they also came home with 4 sacks including 3 by the defensive line.

On the other hand they blitzed something like 25 times and many times those blitzes were ineffective. There was one situation where Stylez G. White went to drop and ran right into Ronde Barber who was trying to blitz. And of course there was the blitz and the end where somehow Tim Crowder ended up one on one in space with Ray Rice with the game on the line and the defense needing a stop which ended up with Rice getting a first down. Not only did the Bucs go back to using the 3-3-5 extensively, they even went to a 2-4-5 with only two defensive lineman in the game several times. Now I can't say it wasn't somewhat effective but it just drives me crazy seeing Gerald McCoy getting two sacks rushing from an undertackle position but then getting limited reps there because of all these other formations they are sticking him in. But it is what it is at this point.

On another note Barrett Ruud is a guy whom I have defended from what I feel like are baseless knocks against him. But at the end of the game, again when the defense needed a stop, he inexplicably was not in his gap on a one back trap and the result was Rice cutting back where he should have been for a first down. He had a decent game otherwise but you can't be out of position like that when the game is on the line.

I have watched the play where the Ravens tight end Todd Heap catches the 65 yard touchdown and in my mind there is only one explanation. Everyone in the secondary appears to be playing cover 2. Everyone that is but Sabby Piscitelli. He rolled up in the box and then kind of stood flat footed at the snap while Heap ran right by him. I don't know how he ended up that out of position but with both corners rolled up and with Sean Jones on the opposite hash at cover 2 depth its hard to see how the call was anything but cover 2.

No matter what it was an embarrassing play on a day when the defense didn't play bad at all otherwise.

The pass interference on Myron Lewis was a horseshit call. But at the same time I think Coach Morris losing his cool about it might have had a negative effect. We have all heard by now about the verbal altercation between Talib and a ref after the game over the call. I can't help but wonder if Talib felt he was taking his cues from his head coach. Now I love Coach Morris' enthusiasm and see nothing wrong with it, but there are times when adversity hits and in my opinion the head coach has to stay calm so the rest of the team will follow suit. Just my two cents.

Again, it WAS a horseshit call though.

On a positive note the Bucs held the Ravens to less than 100 yards rushing. So there's that.

Now to the individual defensive line breakdowns.

Tim Crowder: I thought Crowder played well with a sack and 3 other tackles. He had to drop so many times he probably felt like a db by the time the game was over. One thing I did notice is that when the Bucs were going to blitz with their four defensive line rush package in with Crowder, White, McCoy and Michael Bennett in they put Crowder at end instead of defensive tackle. That's a tip off that other teams may end up being able to pick up on. Not a good thing.

Gerald McCoy: McCoy had the first multiple sack game of his young career and both rushes were outstanding. On the first sack he beat a double team by the offensive tackle and guard for the sack. On the second he bullrushed and then came off the block inside for the sack. I honestly don't think they could have blocked him one on one all day but again unfortunately he didn't get all that many opportunities to rush from a 3 technique. Still there is no denying that the young man is coming on strong and I think folks who were calling him a bust early on will end up with quite a bit of egg on their faces. Oh he also contributed another tackle by my count and held up well against several double teams.

Roy Miller: Gotta say that Roy is back on track now. He isn't getting pushed around near as much as he was earlier in the season and by my count the guy had 4 tackles and 3 assists on the day. That's damned impressive for a nosetackle/part time 3 technique. He even had a good rush through a double team. The only negative on him for the day was the offsides penalty but I'll take that as a trade off for all that production.

Stylez G. White: Stylez had 2 tackles 2 pressures and 2 hits on the quarterback by my count. I thought he played well but he probably could have made a couple of inside moves to get more pressure on Joe Flacco. Another reason why it was frustrating to watch all the blitzing and 3-3-5s and 2-4-5s was that the starting offensive tackle Michael Oher got hurt and I thought White could have really taken advantage of his backup if he had some more one on one pass rush opportunities. I'll let it go one day I suppose lol.

Mike Bennett: Bennett had a really good physical tackle coming off a tight ends block a couple of good rushes and a hit on the quarterback. One thing I wish I could say to Bennett is to lay off the finesse stuff. He is a guy who I believe should be throwing fastballs just about every play. I'd love if he would just stick to one of three moves. A speed rip around the corner, a bull rush to a rip, or a quick inside move. The last couple of games he has started doing all these stutter and go moves which look good but aren't really all that successful. He should be putting tremendous stress on every right tackle he faces because most of the time they aren't all that athletic. I guess I just see so much of what that kid could be that its hard watching him not doing it every Sunday. But I have a feeling that his time is coming soon.

Al Woods: I had Woods down for 2 tackles. I thought he played extremely well in spot duty and held up well at the point. Its funny because the Ravens were supposed to out physical the Bucs but I personally didn't see it at all.

Alex Magee: I had Magee with an assisted tackle on a really good hustle play. He didn't have a whole lot of production but it appeared that he did his job while he was in there.

Well that's all for now. I'm still a little sick so I'm not sure how much blogging I'll be doing the rest of the week so hopefully this will tide you over. If not...oh well lol.

See you in the comments section!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Your Week Eleven Leader

I don't know how he did it but 1Bigg_ER busted out a 119 to not only win the week but also move into first place.


At least I got my respectable 98 and moved back into 4th place. Looks like its anybody's game with 6 weeks to go. Don't forget to get your picks in early for all the Thankgiving Day games. And as always, good luck!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

The Good

- The Defense: Two turnovers, six sacks, hold the 10th leading rusher to less than 25 yards and a shut out on the road. That's what you call an ass whupping!

- LeGarrette Blount: 26 rushes for 82 yards and two more highlight reel runs. If he can just fix that fumbling problem he is going to be a monster.

- Cadillac Williams: He didn't start and only got 7 carries but he gained 51 yards and scored a touchdown. People who think Caddy is washed up are sadly mistaken.

- Donald Penn: He kept Josh Freeman clean for most of the day and he caught a touchdown. Nuff said!

The Bad

- Fake punt: Don't mind the idea but the execution was horrible. I don't think that play had a chance in Hell of working.

The Ugly

- Fox's closeups: I'll keep complaining about this until it changes. I don't want to see a closeup of the quarterback or whichever player the announcers feel like talking about before the snap. I DO want to see the whole got damn play from the wide angle well before the snap. I can't understand who Fox is trying to appeal to with that bullshit.


- About that run defense: Not sure what it was about their offense that gave it away but it appeared the Bucs had a really good handle on when they would be running or passing. And because of that you saw a LOT more 8 man fronts with one of the safeties either walked down in the box presnap or coming down from a cover 2 look at the snap. Cody Grim obviously had a big day with by my count 6 tackles and 2 assists but everyone seemed to be a lot better with their gap discipline from the front four to the back line. That's why there weren't many places for Frank Gore to find to run. Its also possible that the Bucs just didn't fear the 49ers downfield passing game and so they felt more comfortable with a rolled up safety on most early downs.

The only problem of course is that every team won't be as easy to read and so it may be hard to duplicate that success when they aren't able to play as much 8 man front. But hey, I'll take it especially in a win.

- Mike Williams' arrest: I made a decision not to blog about the arrest or the Bucs' decision to play Williams until after more information came out. I know personally that the area he was pulled over in is an area where you can get pulled over for DWB. I have been pulled over at least 3 times but thankfully never charged with anything. And it turns out that all of the most recent information is pointing to Williams not being over the legal limit for alcohol and not having been on any other illicit drugs. So it appears he was only guilty of speeding late at night, hardly worth a full blog post.

- James Lee/Jeremy Trueblood: When Trueblood went down I said that he might end up getting Wally Pipped. Well he was healthy and dressed for the game on Sunday but Lee started and played every snap. Now the Bucs' twitter feed says that they will decide who starts based on who practices better during the week. From my experience there aren't enough reps to go around at practice during a game week for one guy to beat another guy out unless one of them falls completely on their face. So who does a tie go to? Worth watching...

- Ted Larsen: Did Larsen get hurt during the game? I missed it if he did but I noticed that Jerremy Zuttah played the end of the first half and all of the second half. What's up with that?

- Don't forget to check out my Bull Rush post to find out how the Bucs got all of those sacks.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bull Rush

Soooooo all the Tampa Bay Buccaneers yesterday was go out on the West Coast where they supposedly can't win, throttle an offense that was supposed to run all over them, and damn near doubled their sack total for the year in the process.

I'd say that's grounds for celebration!!!

Did I forget to mention that the defense pitched a shut out?

Now that was impressive to watch.

Its funny because before the game I tweeted that the weather and the 49ers style of play might force the Bucs to win by making them play to their strengths. On offense in my opinion that meant leaning heavily on the run and then hitting some nice play action passes without getting Freeman killed.

On defense because the 49ers are so run oriented on offense it meant the Bucs would have to avoid playing so much 3-3-5. And that turned out to indeed be the case as by my count the Bucs only ran a 3-3-5 four times before the the final 3 minutes of the game.

Of course it COULD just be a coincidence that the biggest sack game of the season for just so happened to occur when the use of the 3-3-5 was curbed, but I definitely am not buying that. And while the 49ers don't exactly have a bunch of world beaters on their offensive line, 6 sacks is 6 sacks.

Now I could act like everyone played perfectly and not criticise anyone or anything after a game like that but I am always going to look for ways the defensive lineman can improve. Even after they have a dominant performance.

I am not sure how many people watched NFLN's pregame show yesterday but there was a segment where Warren Sapp talked about how the Giants would have to rush Michael Vick in order to be most effective against him. The same kind of rules could be said for most mobile quarterbacks and they definitely applied to how the Bucs should have approached pass rushing Troy Smith. The truth is the Bucs probably could have and should have had a couple more sacks and or at the least they shouldn't have given up 45 yards rushing to the guy.

The basic premise is that you don't want to run behind a mobile quarterback because then you have no shot of getting any pressure on them. You have to adjust your pass rush, especially at defensive end, to be more power and inside moves so that you can have a shot to get a mobile quarterback on the ground or at least flush him to your buddies. But as Sapp said if you run deeper than the quarterback you might as well "buy a ticket" to watch the game because you have made yourself a spectator.

It's a point I made last week in my quick scouting report but I figure maybe coming from Sapp it holds more weight with people. Unfortunately even on a day when the pass rush was humming, several times the defensive ends "bought tickets" to the show. And that's why I said they could have had at least two more sacks because with better rush lane discipline Troy Smith wouldn't have had anywhere to go.

Having said that the criticisms I have today are definitely nitpicking. At the end of the day the Bucs are 7-3 and one game out from the division leader with 6 games left and they just shut out a team that was coming off a two game winning streak and they just shut down the NFL's 10th leading rusher and held him to 23 yards and less than 2 yards a carry, on the road. It doesn't get much better than that.

On to the individual break downs.

Tim Crowder: Crowder had 2 tackles two good rushes and a hit on the quarterback. He seemed to be snake bit though in that he missed two sacks. On a day when seemingly everyone else was getting the quarterback on the ground, Smith managed to break out Crowder's grasp twice. I know it had to be frustrating for him but I thought he played a really good game and I also thought he had a much better showing rushing inside on 3rd downs.

Gerald McCoy: The big guy finally got his first sack and I'm sure he is happy to get that monkey off his back. But that wasn't the only play he made. I had him with 1 tackle 5 assists, two pressures and four other good rushes. I'm not sure why but it appeared that his pass rush was a lot better early on in the game and then fell off a bit at the end. The 49ers were jumping him at the line a lot and he did a great job of coming off the ball, getting his hands on them, and quickly coming off with a rip or an arm over. He really was giving both guards fits with that approach. But later it seemed like he might have started making too many finesse moves.

I don't necessarily think McCoy should be a bull rush only guy, but I do think that some times it might be better for him to really work his power on the guards and then get off them quickly and just keep doing that until they start sitting on it. If he can force them to change their pass set THEN he can start working more finesse moves and be more effective with them.

Still there is no denying that his pass rush is getting better and he is giving interior linemen headaches at this point. Consistency will be key for him the rest of the season.

Roy Miller: After a rough patch it appears that Roy Miller is getting back to playing the way I always thought he could play. He still got pushed around twice on Sunday but you aren't going to win against every double team. The more important thing is that the majority of the time he stood his ground or got penetration. He had a tackle for loss 2 other tackles and an assist by my count. He also forced a penalty on an offensive lineman by getting quick penetration on the snap. On another play he got good pressure on Smith and forced him up into the pocket to be sacked by one of his line mate.

The Bucs have finally wised up and now they are allowing Miller to play some undertackle when McCoy goes out also. He isn't the pass rusher that McCoy is but he does have a quick get off and he knows how to get up field. I think allowing him to play some undertackle will insure that the Bucs are getting the most production that they can out of him.

Stylez G. White: After 2 sacks a pressure and an assisted tackle what can you possibly criticize???

Well I'll tell you what.

Stylez getting those two sacks was awesome and it upped his season total to 5 which means he still has an outside chance of getting to double digits with 6 games left. But you know what? I think he could have had 4 sacks.

I'm dead serious.

I counted four times when Stylez made a wide outside rush instead of using power or making an inside move when I think he could have at least gotten a hit on the quarterback. And there was one other time where he made an inside move but didn't really commit to it because Smith started scrambling to the other side. But eventually Smith changed directions and came back his way but at that point Stylez was pinned inside and couldn't come back out of it.

Its hard to argue that he had a bad game with two sacks, and in reality he didn't. But I just look at the fact that he left some opportunities out there on the field. Opportunities that don't come around every day. And I'll bet when he turns on the film he will see exactly what I'm saying.

On his first sack he had a really nice long arm bull rush to a rip that shortened the corner and put him right on track to sack Smith. On the second sack he made an inside move on the tackle out of the 3-3-5 alignment and ended up on Smith's back. If he just added power and or an inside move into a few more of his opportunities he doesn't end up behind the quarterback and Smith doesn't end up being able to step up and either throw the ball away or take off running.

But again, 2 sacks is 2 sacks so I salute him. Even when I'm pushing him for more.

Michael Bennett: I had Bennett with a sack 2 assisted tackles and 3 other good rushes. But if there was one guy I was most frustrated with watching the game again last night it was him. I don't know why but Bennett didn't do many power rushes at all when he was at left end. Instead he opted to try to stutter and go a lot with an offensive tackle that was setting to ride him by the quarterback every time. If there was one thing the Rams tape showed it was that Anthony Davis did not like to get bull rushed. But for what ever reason Bennett let him off the hook for most of the day. He didn't even make many inside moves which are usually a staple of his. And again its not like he had a bad day rushing the passer. He did make some decent moves and he did get his first sack of the season after all.

But his pass rush plan just left me scratching my head. There's no doubt in my mind that had he done more bull rushes Bennett would have had a multi sack day. Instead Smith was allowed to step up in the pocket time after time after time as he went by.

Al Woods: Al didn't have that great of a game this week but that's to be expected. He was a little soft at nose tackle against some of the double teams and he did get full on pancaked at least once. He did have an assisted tackle though on one of Stylez's sacks. At least that's how I recorded it. When I played the first guy to the quarterback got credit for the sack but that may or may not have changed. I still like Woods potential a lot but he still has work to do on his technique.

Alex Magee: After not impressing me much against the Panthers, Magee definitely showed me some flash against the 49ers. He had a sack a pressure and a really outstanding tackle on a reverse to his side. He also missed another opportunity he had for a sack when Smith ran out of his tackle. But the biggest thing that impressed me this go around was his awareness of the level of the quarterback. Out of all of the ends he was the guy who probably had the best most consistent rush plan. And that's even though his individual rushes weren't necessarily all that good.

The thing about his rush is that he always ended up where Smith was going to be, up in the pocket, instead of where he started. That's what allowed him to run what we used to call a "natural game", falling in behind Miller who was getting up field at undertackle, and for all intents and purposes running a TEX game without it being called. And he got a sack on that play. He also had a good play that probably will get over looked where he sniffed out a tight end screen and prevented Smith from throwing it which led to another sack.

I wasn't sure at first that he was athletic enough to play defensive end in the Bucs' scheme but yesterday it appears that he is. I can't wait to see more of him as the season goes on.

One last thing. I was somewhat disappointed that the Bucs didn't run any pass rush games. I thought running games would be a pretty good way to keep Smith either in the pocket or make him move laterally instead of gaining yards up the middle. Again, I know I'm nitpicking but I just don't get why they didn't run any games at all.

Ok that's enough for today. See you guys in the comments section.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Quick Scouting Report On The 49ers

NFLN happened to have the 49ers Vs Rams game on as one of its replay games this week. I wanted to share some of the things I saw. Remember however that this is just one game and so it doesn't mean what they did against the Rams they will do against the Bucs. But for the sake of argument I will also give some ideas on what I would do if the 49ers' game plan is similar this week.


- It appeared they almost exclusively pulled their left guard Mike Iupati. Not sure if they saw something about the Rams defense or if that's just how they roll but most of the power Os and traps were definitely to the defense's left.

- It was hard to tell which way the center would slide in pass protection. I would need to see more than one game in order to notice any tendencies, especially since the 49ers are such a run heavy team and even when they pass its not always or even usually out of shotgun. The one thing that was noticeable though is that the guards love to jump guys at the line of scrimmage and punch them.

- Starting left tackle Joe Staley is out and the guy backing him up for this game was evidently Tony Wragge who is listed as a backup center. It appears that veteran Barry Sims, who is the guy actually listed as Staley and who hasn't been active for a game all year, will get the start. From what I recall Sims has good feet but has never been a really strong guy.

- Troy Smith is mobile but he didn't look to take off running down the field much against the Rams. Rather he moved around in and outside the pocket to buy time to throw the ball down field.

- The 49ers use 2 tight ends quite a bit and they will run or pass with that personnel but they are especially good running the ball. They will put a tight end on either side of the formation and try to spread the defense wide and then run up inside or hit the backside edge and force the corner to make a tackle.


- I would use a lot of under defense this week, especially when there are 2 tight ends in the game. Under, or what some people call an Odd front, gives you three defenders on the line of scrimmage to the strong side. It also gives you a 3 technique and, if there's a tight end there, a six technique to the backside which helps to protect the backside edges. For a team that likes to run a lot of powers and traps it generally gives them fewer options and those plays a lower chance of success. Also because the 49ers feature tight end Vernon Davis so much that will allow the Bucs to keep their regular defense on the field a lot instead of having to go to nickel on early downs. That also means that our Sam linebacker will have the chance to get physical with him on the line of scrimmage on play action passes.

- I would throw the Pirate stunt out this week and instead use Over stick when I wanted to run a stunt. Because the guards jump the defensive tackles on play action pass the B gap is generally going to be wide open on the weakside and an Over stick gives the defense an opportunity to get quick pressure on Smith right off the snap. That's important because on early downs when the 49ers go play action pass they kept a lot of people in to help block against the Rams.

- I wouldn't run any TOM games this week because, again, it was hard to get a tendency on where the center would be sliding and if you guess wrong its probably not going to end up well.

- I WOULD run EX games on both sides. Again the guards short setting makes it a situation where they are on a different level with the offensive tackles who tend to be setting back and that's perfect for EX games. Also if you pressure the quarterback double ex games will probably force him outside rather than allowing him to scramble up the middle. That means Smith who doesn't really want to get down the field anyway will likely end up with only one side of the field to throw to. As long as the defenders know to stay back and cover and let the rush track him down unless he crosses the line of scrimmage it should be a win for the defense.

- Last week Rams defensive end Chris Long gave 49ers rookie left tackle Anthony Davis the business at the end of the game. The primary reason is because he had been setting him up all game. Davis has a soft set where he sets back, doesn't punch and basically just wants the rusher to get up field so he can ride them by. Long recognized this and instead bull rushed the hell out of him over and over at first. Then after Davis got tired of eating bull rushes and started sitting down in anticipation of them Long started beating him with speed rushes around the horn. At that point Davis was totally screwed and Long hit him with the spin move and left him standing in his tracks.

But the key is the bull rushes at the beginning which set everything else up. Now I don't know that the Bucs have a left end that can rush as well as Chris Long right now nor do I know that they will even be given an opportunity to do so. But my advice would be if they do get that chance to I'd tell them to run right up his numbers for most of the first half and then start breaking him down in the second half. Also there is something that Long does that I think all of the left ends on the roster would benefit from watching. That is how he escapes from a bull rush by keeping one arm straight to keep the guy off him and using the opposite hand to grab the blockers elbow or wrist and get it off of him. He looks a lot like Michael Strahan when he does it and its an excellent way to keep from getting stuck when you bull rush someone.

- Speaking of that the 49ers keep Davis in some to pass block at times and Long did an excellent job of rushing him. The key seemed to be to use power with him and then come off inside. The ends that tried to rush him outside ended up just getting washed by the quarterback.

- This would be a game when I would tell Gerald McCoy to make mostly outside moves. He can counter back inside at the level of the quarterback if he doesn't win at the line of scrimmage, but trying to make an inside move on the line of scrimmage this week is probably a fools errand with both guards short setting so much. Rip, run, and make them try to catch up with you.

- I would be very disappointed with Stylez G. White if makes many pure speed moves this week. I don't know how well Sims will be as a blocker but the inside move is going to be there regardless on account of how the guards block down inside. And even if Sims is giving up the outside rush, Smith is going to step up in the pocket so he won't be there even if White wins. Bull rushes and inside moves, bull rushes and inside moves, bull rushes and inside moves. That would be my plan for him.

- Although it will probably mean giving up a lot of yards I wouldn't blitz the 49ers much. For one they don't use a lot of formations that are vulnerable to blitzes. For two when they do use those formations they tend to call plays that happen to be blitz killers like all kinds of screens. I would put 8 in the box a lot by walking one of the safeties down but other than that Id make them show they can march down the field on a consistent basis without getting any big plays from their passing game.

I know Frank Gore is a monster but I also know that the 49er offense lacks discipline.  Make them run enough plays and they are sure to rack up some penalties wwhich will help to kill their drives.

Well that's all I've got based on one game. I just love playing Monday Morning Quarterback BEFOREhand lol.

Your Week Ten Leader

Yeahhhhhhhh Boyeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Got my name back up in headlights this past weekend with an impressive 63 points.  Unfortunately it didn't help me at all in the standings.


I do have one amazing announcement.  For weeks we thought TopDog's lead was insurmountable but it appears he didn't get his picks in and the beneficiary of his misfortune is...wait for it..


Congrats on being the new overall leader homie, but we are coming after you!

Make sure you get your picks in today because there's another Thursday night game tonight. And as always, good luck.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Does The Bucs Defensive Line Lack Talent?

So I got a question in the TGTBTU comments section, well it was actually a question and a comment, that I thought I would address in a post. It went like this:

Maybe the use of the 3-3-5 and the 5 D-lineman on goal line is directly correlated to the fact that we basically have a terrible D-line group.

Isn't it generally considered a good idea to put your best players on the field? Aside from a few exceptions, that group is lacking in that category.

Now the logic of the first part is flawed in my opinion and I said so in addressing the question in that thread, but the underlying sentiment that the Bucs lack talent on the defensive line seems to be accepted as conventional wisdom in some corners of their fan base and even in the media. And the thought that the lack of talent is why they are using so much 3-3-5 is also settling in as a "fact".

But is it true?

Well there are two aspects that I want to point out when it comes to this subject. First we can talk about the players and their strengths and weaknesses as opposed to their peers. Secondly, and maybe more relevant, we can talk about the position as a group on this team in contrast with other position groups.

So lets talk about who we have on the team. Starting line up has been:

Kyle Moore: Bucs 4th round pick from last year. Hasn't been dominant but has shown flashes of skill. Needs to work on getting off the ball, pass rush especially on early downs, and on getting being more explosive upfield in his gaps and against the tight end.

Gerald McCoy: Number 3 pick overall this year. Has been inconsistent but at times is close to unblockable. Has really come on strong the last three weeks in all areas of his game.

Roy Miller: Bucs 3rd round pick from last year. Has a very good season a year ago as a back up. Has been pushed around too much for most of the year but has also shown the ability to hold the point well at times. Needs to play with better technique and pad level and needs to be more attentive to detail.

Stylez G. White: Elder statesman on the D Line. Had 8 sacks his first year as a Buccaneer. Led the team last year in sacks with 6.5 and has 22.5 for his 4 year career . Is currently leading the team in sacks again this year with 3. By far the best pass rusher on the team on a consistent basis but was not using any inside moves to start the season off and that hurt his numbers. Underrated against the run.

Now the backups.

Tim Crowder: Former 2nd round pick. Came in last year and immediately became the primary backup at both defensive end spots. Is a consistent performer with very good technique. Maybe not flashy athletic ability but he makes the most of his tools.

Brian Price: Bucs 2nd round pick this year. Showed a lot of flash as a pass rusher. Slowed by injury all year before being put on IR.

Ryan Sims: A much better nosetackle than undertackle but not especially good at either. Can hold the point well against double teams but is lacking in pass rush ability. Has been hurt the last two games. Worth mentioning that when he came out he was the 6th pick of the draft in 2002. Just thought Id point that out.

Michael Bennett: Has all the tools to be a dominant player according to his athletic ability but is still learning to play the game within the confines of the defense. Best get off of the group, really explosive with his hands on tight ends, has a knack of making plays and shows great hustle running to the ball.

Al Woods and Alex Magee: Magee was the 3rd round pick of the Chiefs last year and Woods was the Saints' 4th round pick this year and Magee A little too early to make an informed assessment but I like what I have seen out of Woods so far.

So to recap the defensive line sports two top 10 picks in the draft (although obviously Sims is kind of a misnomer), two 2nd round picks, two 3rd round picks, and two 4th round picks out of 10 players.

Accepting that draft status isn't necessarily a good arbiter of talent, still I don't think there is anybody that the Bucs have on their current roster that couldn't make most other teams roster providing they also run a 4-3. I'll point out that last year people didn't think much of Jimmy Wilkerson but the Saints signed him as a free agent when he was still rehabbing a torn ACL.

Now I understand that none of the guys has had what you would call a dominant year this year, but that doesn't necessarily mean they don't have talent. I know people who will claim Stylez isn't a good pass rusher because he only has 3 sacks but if I point out that Justin Tuck and Jared Allen only have 4 sacks then they will claim that it isn't just about sacks. Look there's a lot in this world I don't know, but I DO know defensive line talent and the Bucs have it. I can't account for how they are using it though.

I want everyone reading this blog to seriously think about this question though. What defensive lineman for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the last 5 years would you say got better and progressed as his career went on?

Its a serious question, especially when lack of production is being blamed on lack of talent.

Could the Bucs have been that terrible at evaluating defensive linemen? Or is something else at play?

Well look at other positions on the team. Just about every where else other than defensive line you have players that weren't initially held in high regard who are now out performing their draft status. You look at Sammie Stroughter, EJ Biggers, James Lee, Geno Hayes, Ted Larsen, Cody Grim, Donald Penn, LeGarrette Blount, all players that have outplayed their draft status at this point. So why is it that in at least the last 5 years you would be hard pressed to come up with someone on the defensive line that improved in a comparable fashion?

I think maybe the closest you could come is Bennett but then you have to remember that he WASN'T EVEN ACTIVE for the first few games of the season. Stylez doesn't count because he had been player of the year in the Arena League when he got to the Bucs and his numbers have actually gone down since that first year.

At the end of the day there's only two ways to look at this from my perspective. Either the Bucs need to fire everyone that they use to scout defensive linemen or maybe its not the players. I'm very much leaning towards the latter.

For what its worth, its really hard to credibly say that the Bucs are using the 3-3-5 because they can't get a rush with four defensive lineman for one important reason. They never committed to rushing with four defensive lineman to see if it would work before they went with the 3-3-5 as their lead 3rd down personnel. And they certainly haven't always used their best pass rush combinations on the rare occasions when they did use a 4 man line. Earlier in the year when Price was still active, seeing him and McCoy on the field at the same time on 3rd down was a rarity. Instead Moore always was lined up inside which never made any sense whatsoever. Even on Sunday when the Bucs sparingly used their four man rush they had Crowder inside at tackle where I can't remember him ever having pass rushed even though both of his sacks this year came at left end rushing against the Panthers. And they had Bennett rush from left end which isn't all bad except for the fact that he was probably the best option to rush inside along side McCoy and not Crowder.

And I know I know, the run defense still hasn't been fixed so its OBVIOUSLY all the defensive line's fault.  Except that the only guy on the defensive line that has had problems playing the run consistently has been Miller which is odd because he was actually pretty good at it last year.  Moore isn't the greatest run stuffer either but he hasn't been a liability.  Everyone else has been pretty good for the most part.  There are, after all, more than just four people involved in defending the run on any given play. 

There has been so much about the defensive line rotation on third down that hasn't made any sense all year that it makes my head hurt. But unfortunately all most fans hear about is that they don't have talent.

Sorry but I'm calling bullshit on that.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

The Good

- Josh Freeman: So at this point aren't we talking Pro Bowl? Yes I'm dead serious. This kid has impressed me more than any young quarterback in a very very long time.

- Gerald McCoy: Very good day for the rookie and you can read all about it in my Bull Rush post.

- Offensive Line: They kept Free clean for most of the day and opened up some huge holes in the running game. If they can play consistently like that I'm sure the wins will keep coming.

- Sean Jones: I thought it was Jones' most productive day since joining the Bucs. I had him with 3 tackles, 5 assists, a fumble recovery and a pressure. It appears the Bucs are getting him more involved in the game plan and blitzing him more and he is taking advantage of it.

- Kellen Winslow: What a sick touchdown catch! And as usual K2 helped the team keep moving the chains on several key drives. For as much as Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn have been praised this year, and rightfully so, I don't know where this team would be without Winslow's clutch catches. He is still a matchup problem for any defense.

- Geno Hayes: A tackle for loss, 6 other tackles and 2 assists, and a pressure made for a very good day from Hayes. But the real reason he's on the list is because it appears from the TV copy that he was the person primarily responsible for stopping the Panthers on the two quarterback sneaks at the end of the game.

- Cadillac Williams; They way Caddy picked up blitzing linebackers against the Panthers he should be an honorary lineman. Of course linemen don't run for 65 yards and a touchdown on only 6 carries. There was also the big time first down he made on the screen pass. He may not be the starter for the rest of the year but he continues to play a vital role on the team doing the little things to help them win.

- Barrett Ruud: 6 tackles and 4 assists plus a sack and a pressure, Ruud showed up big time against the Panthers. And that's a team that normally has his number.

- John Gilmore: His numbers weren't earth shattering but for Gilmore catching 3 balls for 52 yards is HUGE. Maybe the only reason Jerramy Stevens lasted on the roster so long for the Bucs is that they didn't believe they had another receiving option after Kellen Winslow. Now Gilmore is showing that he has the total package and teams can't just assume the Bucs are running because he is in the game.

The Bad

- 3-3-5: I don't really get what the Bucs are supposed to be getting out of this alignment but statistically it appears to be pretty hit or miss. I really wish they would tear it out of the playbook and throw it in the incinerator but it appears I will just have to get used to seeing it.

- Penalties: I can deal with aggressive penalties like a holding penalty or a facemask penalty, something that just happens while a guy is trying to make a play. But on Sunday there were too many illegal procedure penalties from the offense. They are clicking on all cylinders now but penalties can end up derailing even the most potent of offenses. Hopefully that gets cleaned up quick as its generally only a lack of concentration that's the culprit.

- Special Teams returns: Michael Spurlock is really starting to make a name for himself as a receiver for the Bucs. But the guy looks like a catastrophy waiting to happen on kickoff return this year. I don't know who can replace him but he makes me nervous every time I see him. Not only were the returns unproductive on Sunday, there was also a turnover due to the ball hitting one of the Bucs blockers. I really blame Spurlock for that because he wasn't forcefully telling guys to get away from the ball when he saw it would fall short.

Can't have that.

The Ugly

- Fox videography: I damn near pulled my hair out having to watch the replay with these clowns doing close ups on different players, mostly the quarterback, and then missing the wide shot of the play starting. Its enough to give you vertigo trying to figure out what is going on after they flash from a close up on Jimmy Clausen to a running play already in progress. I ask again, who in the HELL thinks that's a good way to shoot the game???


-After what I thought was a pretty disappointing game against the Falcons, James Lee bounced back well against the Panthers. He was really impressive and thing you have noticed over the last three games is that the running game has picked up and the pressure after Freeman has cooled off. I don't know how much longer Lee will be allowed to start for Trueblood but I really don't see a need to switch back.

- Another player Bucs fans should be voting in to the Pro Bowl is kicker Connor Barth. Every weekend a team loses a game they should win because of their kicker missing a chip shot. Barth is money and I don't know of a kicker in the NFC that I would take over him right now.

- Al Woods appears to be fitting in very well so far to our defensive line. You can read about my positive first impressions of him over on my Bull Rush post.

- I thought Adam Heyward and Dekoda Watson filled in well for Quincy Black. Neither guy had a monster game per se but neither were a liability either as far as I could tell.

- I know players don't normally lose their position due to injury but I would think the Bucs are at least considering continuing to let Tim Crowder start or giving Michael Bennett a shot. Make no mistake, the left end position was better yesterday with Moore out. The question at this point is if the Bucs are willing to admit it.

- Even though I put the offensive line in the good category I do have to point out that if there is one offensive lineman who has been getting beaten this year pretty regularly its Davin Joseph. He gave up a sack on Sunday and it wasn't pretty at all. But for most of the day he was ok. It's just kind of odd to me that even though he has a couple of plays a game, every game, where he gets abused badly that nobody in the local media is saying anything about it. I mean hell I like Davin and I think he has been and hopefully will continue to be an important part of the team. But there is no doubt in my mind that he hasn't looked like the same guy this year. Whether that's because of injury or something else, it is what it is.

- I can't be the only one that's really curious as to why Elbert Mack continues to be active while Myron Lewis is deactivated. I mean is he THAT much better than Lewis on special teams? Jeeeeeeeeez

- One of my pet peeves last year about the defense was that in short yardage and goalline situations they used a five man line with a guy over the center rather than a six man line with the A and B gaps filled. This preseason however the Bucs showed that they had gone back to a six man line and to me it was a major reason why they didn't give up that touchdown right at the end of the game. At that point it likely wouldn't have mattered anyway with so little time on the clock but still a goal line stand on the one inch line for two plays is damned impressive.

Alright, that's it for this week. See ya in the comments!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bull Rush

First congratulations to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who doubled their win total from last year with a win yesterday over the Carolina Panthers.

I imagine there are some folks today who still aren't ready to give the Bucs any credit because they have supposedly played a weak schedule and then there are others who will argue that they are going to win the division. I find myself somewhere in between at this point. I have to admit that even for all my optimism I didn't predict that they would sweep the Panthers. On the other hand I do see areas in need of major improvement if this team wants to truly get into the playoffs this year. So while I still think that 8-8 is about right, I am hoping to be pleasantly surprised by a 9-7 or even a 10-6.

I definitely think either record is now in reach and that's a testament both to Coach Morris and his staff having a good plan and the players believing in and going out and executing that plan.

As for yesterday's game I have just a few thoughts before the individual breakdowns.

First its obvious that all the talk about showcasing Gerald McCoy last week was just that, talk. The Bucs didn't do anything new that could possibly be construed as "showcasing" his talents as far as pass rushing goes and if anything to me they just stayed the course.

Second because we are winning more than we are losing I am willing to accept that the Bucs will continue to feature a 3-3-5 alignment. What I am not willing to accept is the notion that they ALSO care about getting sacks. The two are just about mutually exclusive at this point. If they want to keep running the 3-3-5 that's fine, but at least admit that the goal in that case is to cover, not pressure the quarterback.

Yesterday out of 14 non two minute 3rd down plays the Bucs used a 3 man line 9 times. That doesn't mean that they only rushed 3, but it does mean only 3 defensive linemen were in the game. All year they have run the same thing and they had 1 sack to show for it from Quincy Black. Now they have 2 thanks to Ronde Barber.

So you do the math, two sacks in 9 games, none by a defensive lineman, but they used it 9 out of 14 times on third down against the Panthers.

Thirdly it appears that the Panthers did indeed slide their center to the 1 technique each time and they few times McCoy was at a three technique with a four man line he got one on ones.

And fourth, the Bucs actually ran a TOM game yesterday....once. It was at the end of the game and for whatever reason they blitzed Geno Hayes to the same side as the looper, but it definitely happened. If you want to see it for yourself its the last Panthers drive with 50 seconds left to go in the game after Aqib Talib was hit with a bogus pass interference call. And coincidentally enough the Bucs ran it with McCoy at the 1 technique...like I drew it up, and had Tim Crowder as the penetrator at three technique.

Aye man, I'll never know for sure if anybody is reading my posts over at One Buc but I do know some things are looking mighty similar on film.

Of course I still have to criticize it because McCoy didn't pop the center to make him sit down for a count before he looped around. Because he looped around on the snap Crowder wasn't able to really get penetration the way he could have because the center followed McCoy right into Crowder's penetration.

But hey, at least they tried!

Having said all that, the defensive line still had a very productive day so on to the individual breakdowns.

Tim Crowder: Crowder started in place of an injured Kyle Moore and I thought he really played well. He wasn't perfect but I had him with 2 tackles and an assist to go along with four really good rushes including one that forced a holding call. About the only criticism I had was that he lost contain twice but I'll continue to say that, injury or not, he and Michael Bennett are better options to start at left end than Moore.

Gerald McCoy: It's really hard to criticize a guy who had 3 tackles and 1 assist, a caused fumble, 2 PBUs, a pressure, a hit on the quarterback, and 2 other good rushes.

But I will do so anyway.

McCoy had some plays where he was in the backfield but he also had some plays where I felt he got pushed off the ball a little too much. He also got caught peeking inside twice where the ball ended up running right through his hole and one of those runs went for 18 yards. And while he didn't get as many one on one pass rushing situations with a four man line, he has to make more out of his handful of opportunities.

In my opinion McCoy had a really good game against the Panthers, but he could have had a great game and that's what I am looking for out of him.

Roy Miller: I have been on Miller's ass for the last four or five games so its only fair that I show him some love when I think he's played well. He still got pushed around a couple of times yesterday but it was a rarity instead of the norm. He ended up with a tackle and two assists by my count but more importantly he held up well against the double teams and reach blocks and didn't allow himself to lose a lot of ground.

He did, however, forget to loop around on a Pirate AGAIN. I don't get why he keeps having that brain fart but sooner or later the Bucs will pay for it big time.

But aside from that I was really impressed with Miller's play yesterday. Hopefully he can find some consistency now.

Stylez G. White: I only had Stylez down for one tackle which was a tackle for loss. But on the other hand I had him with 2 pressures, a hit on the quarterback and 3 other good rushes. As much as I talk about McCoy the biggest loser in the 3-3-5 on third downs might be White. Every week he proves that he is the Bucs best and most consistent pass rusher but with the inside gaps open in the 3 man alignment then unless the Bucs blitz he is generally looking at a double team every time. Not the best thing for a guy playing for a new contract I'd say.

It was nice to see him almost get that sack with a quick inside move though. More of that on early downs will definitely help his productivity.

Michael Bennett: Bennett saw an expanded role both on regular defense and on third downs. And with that expanded role I had him with 1 tackle 4 assists, and 2 good rushes. He also showed a knack for getting up field and forcing the ball back inside to his help. One thing he still needs to work on is losing contain when he goes inside from the left. McCoy probably gets a sack on one play if Bennett stays outside on an edge rush. But at the same time its hard to knock him because he beat his guy clean and got good presure on the quarterback as well.

If the kid keeps progressing and keeps getting more reps he's going to be a problem. Seriously.

Al Woods: I'm really starting to like this Woods kid. Its only his second week with the team and he's a rookie but you can't even tell watching him play. And for the second week in a row he was productive with a tackle and 2 assists. Obviously he still has to get better, a lot better, technique wise. But so far he definitely looks the part of NFL defensive lineman. Color me impressed.

Alex Magee: Magee was active but didn't play as much as Woods and I think I saw why yesterday. Evidently the Bucs are trying to make Magee into an end rather than an interior guy and lets just say....I don't see it so far. Doesn't mean he can't change my mind. But at the moment he doesn't appear to have the athleticism I would associate with a 4-3 defensive end, especially in the Bucs kind of scheme.

By the same token he didn't look near as big as I thought he would either so maybe he is more of a tweener type. I guess time will tell though.

Well that's it for today, I'll look for you in the comments section.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Your Week Nine Leader

Fatmosh did it again with a robust 63 points. 

Im sorry I was late with this post considering we have our first Thursday night game of the year.  I hope everyone got their pick in for tonight. 

Good luck!

Let's Cut The Bullshit

There are times, not many but a few times that I see something that I probably should comment on but instead I hold my tongue. One of those times came up last night when I read this article on TampaBay.com. It's about how the Bucs plan on making some changes to get their pass rush going. I don't have a problem with any of the things they are talking about doing (they sounded awfully familiar anyway), but some of the assertions made about WHY they are doing them were somewhat dubious. But I figured hey, no need to make a fuss about it as long as it gets fixed.

Then this morning I read this article over at TBO...

Now I'm going to tread lightly on this one but read that article then read my Bull Rush post from Monday and ask yourself if my suggestions and their suggestions don't sound an awful lot alike. I will just leave it there and let the readers decide for themselves.

But what actually compels me to blog about this isn't the fact that someone may or may not be reading my blog. What compels me to blog about this is that there seems to be a faulty premise being espoused by the Bucs at least publicly and if believe really believes what they are telling reporters then I still don't think the pass rush problems the Buccaneers are having will get fixed.
McCoy has drawn the biggest percentage of double-teams among the defensive front four this season. So Wash said the Bucs will try to move him around more in rush packages.

"We're going to do some more things to give him some freedom,'' Wash said. "Maybe it's not exactly, I wouldn't say sound, or worrying about a quarterback scramble. We're going to make sure he can get where he needs to get to rather than slow him down in the system. What happens is, if he's in the three-technique, the center slides to him. In the odd front, he had two knockdowns.

That's from the tampabay.com column

"And how do you become productive? Well, technique and opportunity have to meet. So we'll have the different combinations, the different use of guys around him, and see if we can find that right combination.'' The previous combinations often resulted in McCoy facing two or even three blockers. That created a lot of opportunities for sacks for other players, but in most cases they failed to capitalize on them.

That's from the TBO column.

Here's the truth, Ive watched every game and I don't think any team has changed their pass protection rules because of McCoy. In fact I'm about as close to being sure of it as you can get next to sitting in the offensive line meeting rooms of the opposing teams. But if you don't know what the opposing team protection scheme is and you keep sending McCoy to the side where the center is already supposed to slide, then yeah I guess he WILL keep getting double teamed.

Let's talk about the Falcons game for a moment. I went back to chart where the center slid when the Matt Ryan was either in the shot gun or it was 3rd and medium to long. There were 25 plays that fit into that category out of the 36 passes Ryan threw. Want to know how many instances there were out of 25 where the center slid in a different direction than where the formation dictated?


Three times out of twenty five.

But here's the kicker. Of those three times, Gerald McCoy was still away from the slide twice AND on the third he was lined up as a nose in a three man line.

It is clear that while the Falcons may have been concerned about McCoy's pass rush, they stayed consistent to their protections rules during the game.

And that's true for most teams the Bucs have faced thus far. But the what the problem ACTUALLY is comes back to McCoy being lined up to the center slide even when its predictable. That along with how much we went back to going with a 3-3-5 again after two games where it had been used sparingly.

McCoy lined up 4 times to the slide in a four man line when the Bucs should have known the slide was going that way against the Falcons. That doesn't sound like a high number until you realize that of the 25 clear passing situations the Bucs used a three man line 10 other times. So on the flip side there were 9 times during the game where it was an obvious passing down and McCoy lined up correctly based on the formation and had a one on one pass rush opportunity.

What happens if he gets 5 more bites at the apple? How about 10 more? Think he might be more productive if put in a better position to be so?

But let's be real here for two seconds. Ndamukong Suh is looking like a monster out there with 6.5 sacks already but teams aren't sliding to him on every pass. Are you really going to try to convince everyone that teams are showing more respect to McCoy who doesn't have ANY sacks?


If the Bucs really think the problem is that McCoy is being double teamed too much then they need to ask themselves why in the hell they aren't telling him to line up away from the center slide on definite passing downs.

I actually went back and watched the first Panthers game last night. And while they weren't consistent in their pass protection according to formation, they WERE consistent in having the center slide to the 1 technique. It just so happened that for that game the Bucs decided to have McCoy at the 1 technique quite a bit. But whether he was there or someone else was, all but one time the center slid to the 1 technique on obvious passing situations.

But, and here's is really the most damning indictment to me, even IF teams were sliding to McCoy all the time instead of following their normal protection rules, that kind of predictability should be something the Bucs have taken advantage of by now. Up above you will see two versions of a simple ass TOM pass rush game with the two defensive tackles. About the only time a TOM game won't work is when the center either sets in the middle and just looks for traffic, or he isn't consistent with where he slides.

If its a fact that the center is sliding to McCoy every time then the easiest thing in the world is to run a TOM game where the defensive tackle opposite McCoy gets penetration to the center's back and shoves him while McCoy takes a quick step up field to set it up then loops around the guard on the opposite side almost assuredly coming unblocked to the quarterback. And the great thing about that particular pass rush game is that it gives McCoy a chance while he is looping to notice if it might be a screen.

But have we run any TOM games so far?

C'mon Son!

So here is my thing, I think Dekoda Watson has a bunch of natural pass rush ability and so does Quincy Black. If the Bucs want to use them as actual defensive ends on passing situations then by all means feel free. But the truth is this, if all they are gonna do is continue to use them in a 3-3-5 alignment then to me it will still be more of a gimmick than a fix. To actually fix what ails the pass rush the Bucs need a left end that can pass rush on all 3 downs and they need to keep McCoy away from the center slide as much as can be predicted. And if in fact teams are sliding to McCoy regardless of where he lines up then after a drive or two that should be sniffed out and taken advantage of.

All this other stuff is just Mickey Mouse bullshit that looks pretty on paper but ain't worth a damn on the field. Get four guys who can pass rush, teach them protections, line up and let them whup people's ass.

That's the formula. Hopefully someone at One Buc starts using it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Bull Rush

Now that the season is half way over I want to give my thoughts on what has happened so far and I'm also going to make some judgements about what needs to happen going forward. I'll still do the individual breakdowns but they will be pretty brief this time.

Even though the Bucs lost yesterday I am still feeling really good about their season. Not playoff good, but I do believe that we will get to at least 8 wins which is what I predicted in the preseason. And I do believe that if we catch a couple of breaks we could possibly get to 10. But even if its just 8 wins I would think that its evident that Coach Morris and his staff have done a phenomenal job this season. I pretty much predicted that we would be around 5-3 at this point in the preseason but I made that prediction believing we would have the services of Tanard Jackson, Jeff Faine, Earnest Graham and Brian Price for all eight games. Had I known then how many starters and key backups would miss significant amounts of playing time its very likely I wouldn't have been quite as bold.

But the Bucs have won with a very simple formula, take care of the ball and take the ball away from your opponents will being great in the kicking game. I know people will point to this stat or that to try to make the case for or against the Bucs being legit, but the turnover ratio as well as Connor Barth's kicking stats are the only numbers I need to make the case for the Bucs. As long as they continue to win in those areas they are likely going to be in every game the rest of the season.

But it won't be easy. For a team that was already very young coming into the year, the Bucs have basically gotten even younger. Whether because of suspension or injury or release, the starters on the team at the moment trend heavily in favor of players with 2 years or less of experience under their belts. Clearly the future is bright with that kind of foundation, but it also makes for a lot of speed bumps along the way in the short term. And so no matter how the Bucs finish up the second half of the season, I hope fans stay on the bandwagon for the long haul because this team is definitely being built for long term success.

Now having said all of that and factoring in the youth of the team, of course I still have some complaints. Some of my complaints are just a personal preference kind of thing where "I" would have done things differently. But some of my complaints, specifically about the defensive line, are based on every bit of football knowledge I know and are as close to facts as you are going to get when it comes to how the game is supposed to be played. So as you read the rest of this hopefully it will be apparent which is which and I want you to keep that in mind because I realize that my way isn't always the only way when it comes to football strategy. But on the other hand there are some things that are right and some things that are wrong when it comes to how you play AND coach the game.

Because its my area of "expertise" for now I will just focus on the defense. Maybe later on in the week I'll offer up my thoughts on the offense and how it could improve but it will probably be a much more general post.

Last year I had a few major gripes about the defense. We didn't blitz enough, we didn't utilize line stunts, our pass rush was disjointed and we of course needed better personnel. Well I still gripes in all four areas but for very different reasons.


I believe the Bucs blitzed something like 16 or 17 times yesterday against the Falcons not counting when they lined up in a 3-3-5, but they didn't end up with any sacks or turnovers. To me that's a problem.

Its not a problem that they called that many blitzes. Its a problem that the blitzes were so weaksauce that out of almost 20 times they were called they didn't force a single game changing play. I have seen all kinds of blitzes out of all kinds of defensive formations ran in all kinds of situations. (Hell I even designed a blitz in my short time at USF) But I admit that many of the blitzes the Bucs employ puzzle (and irritate) the hell out of me. I don't get their purpose nor how they are supposed to actually work even in a best case scenario.

I have brought up several times on this blog the zone blitzes we used to run back when I played for the Bucs. The only reason why I keep referring to them is because of out effective they were. That's not to say they would still work perfectly today or that no team ever caught on to them (the Eagles really had kryptonite for our zone blitzes those years they were beating us in the playoffs). But the fact remains that they were relatively simple, they forced the action, and they were highly successful.

Right now I can almost guarantee that if I asked all eleven starters for the Bucs what their best blitz is I would get at least 5 or 6 different answers. To me that's not a good thing. Several times so far this season the Bucs have run blitzes where nobody picked up the back out of the backfield. Other times they have run blitzes where the quarterback had all day to throw and his receivers were running wide open down the field.

What I think they need to do going forward is start using overload blitzes. Whether its overloading one side, or its overloading the middle so that the tackles have to leave an outside rusher free, overload blitzes force a quarterback to be both quick and extremely accurate. The only reason I can come up with as to why we haven't run many thus far is because of concerns that our secondary might get burned. But the more I watch Aqib Talib looking like a Pro Bowler and E.J. Biggers playing like a seasoned vet, the more it is apparent to me that they are ready to have more challenges on their plate. We already have a very fast linebacker corps and everybody knows that Ronde is an expert at making big plays, so why not bring the house a few times and create some havoc? Especially when opposing teams are always doing it to them?

I really believe a few over load blitzes would have helped the Bucs get off on 3rd down yesterday.

Line Stunts

Well the Bucs are definitely using line stunts now. The question, however, is to what effect? Right now the Pirate stunt seems to be a top call and that is where the undertackle and the defensive end to his side stunt inside to the A gap and B gap respectively. If its a run they should be trying to penetrate when the action is towards them and get into the backfield. When the action is going away they should be trying to cross the blocker's face and make the ball turn back behind them. If its a pass they should stay in their new gaps while the nose tackle loops around for contain.

That's how its SUPPOSED to go.

But there are two major problems the Bucs have had with running this line stunt. For one the defensive end and undertackle rarely get penetration into the backfield. For whatever reason they continue to line up too close to the line of scrimmage which means they have to go so laterally to stunt inside that there is no chance of getting penetration or push. In practice it also makes the whole defense soft because while going that laterally neither guy can really stop themselves from getting pushed down the field by the offensive lineman. And so you end up with defensive linemen pushed back into the lap of linebackers and instead of the line stunt being a weapon it becomes a hindrance.

The other problem is the nosetackles, primarily Roy Miller, continue to forget to loop for contain on pass at least once or twice a game. That means that along with giving the quarterback a clear line of sight down field to whichever side the Pirate is run on, he also has the ability to break containment and put pressure on the secondary to continue covering or come up to stop their scramble. Now a Pirate will never be confused with a good pass rush game, (although inexplicably the Bucs have run it in passing situations in the last two games) but there is a possibility to get pressure if the quarterback can't throw quickly to their primary target. By not looping for containment the nosetackle is potentially giving away a pressure.

Now that's freshman level stuff. When you talk advanced level play the nosetackle has the ability to get over the top of the pirate so that the defense buys an extra defender to the side of the run. But you can't even think about getting to that until you have he basics down first.

On a bit of a better note the Bucs did in fact bring back Over Stick (although, again inexplicably, they didn't run it against the Falcons). So far it has been a very productive line stunt and it has helped Stylez G. White's pass rush as it has forced offensive tackles to respect the potential for him to make an inside move.

It it were up to me two things would happen. 1) The defensive line would learn how to get penetration with the Pirate stunt and 2) The Bucs would run just as many or more Over Sticks every game as Pirates.

If those two things can happen I really believe the defensive line will be a lot more productive both against the run and the pass.

Pass Rush And Personnel

These two issues kinda go hand in hand. The Bucs went out and picked defensive tackles with their first and second round picks this spring after having spent a third round choice on a defensive tackle the previous year. Those guys are obviously young and now it turns out the second round pick, Brian Price, is out for the year with an injury. But still you would think the pass rush would be better, if inconsistent. At right defensive end Stylez White, the leading sack guy from last year, returned but at left end last year's fifth round choice, Kyle Moore, as installed as the starter in the offseason. And if you believed the hype about Moore this preseason he should have also helped to upgrade our pass rush.

But it turns out after 8 games we have a total of six sacks.

What gives you ask?

Well I'm going to give it to you straight. Our defensive linemen do not seem to be getting better under Todd Wash and so coaching appears to be an issue. And Kyle Moore should not have been, nor should be going forward the starting left end.

Now these assertions actually encompass both my opinion and facts based on my football knowledge. I won't say everybody should agree with me, but I will state my case.

And I know that making these kind of statements can get me labeled as hater.

I really don't give a shit.

How is it that 8 games into the season our starting nose tackle is still not looping on Pirates versus pass rush? How is it that none of the young defensive linemen have a signature pass rush move? How could our best pass rusher not be coached up to make an inside move the first 5 games? Why don't any of the young defensive linemen look much better than they day they first came to Tampa?

Simply put, it has to be coaching.

I don't know what goes on at One Buc every day, but I do know what I see on Sundays and what I see are guys making the same mistakes over and over again and guys who are consistently inconsistent.

Let me give you some for instances.

I said before that Kyle Moore shouldn't be starting and its true. But I'm not sure its his fault. He is big and strong and fast and quick. But he also has terrible technique and can't self generate a pass rush. But aren't those areas where he should be getting coached up?

Instead although he is strong he is consistently soft against tight ends. Although he is quick he is the slowest defensive lineman on the roster off the ball. Although he is fast he continues to run right into offensive lineman and get stuck instead of getting on an edge and trying to get to the quarterback.

But its not just Moore.

Remember a few weeks back when I drew up all the plays that gave us trouble against the Saints? Well the Rams and Cardinals have both run variations of play #7 against the Bucs since then and guess what? The defensive ends STILL aren't getting underneath those kickout blocks.

Let me go deeper though because this hit me last night when I was watching the game again. This may go over some people's head but I'll try to be as clear as possible.

Certain formations tell defensive lineman which way it is likely the center will slide in pass protection. This is a big deal because in general unless a tight end stays in there will be three blockers versus two on one side and on the other side its going to be two against two. You REALLY want to take advantage of the side where both guys get a one on one match up because of course its harder to win when the numbers aren't in your favor.

Well one major key that hasn't changed much in over a decade is that when there is one back in the backfield and they are offset to one side, the center will usually slide away from the back. So in that situation you want to either have the end and defensive tackle to that side do their best pass rush move, or for them to run a good pass rush game to take advantage of the center sliding to the other side.

But it appears that in that situation what the Bucs do instead is have the defensive tackle to that side make an inside move.

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with making an inside move if the guard is giving up the inside move. But if every single time the defensive tackle away from the slide is making an inside move when will they ever have the opportunity to make an outside move to SET UP the inside move?

Moreover the Bucs appear to be telling the defensive tackle to the slide to make an outside move. But unless that defensive tackle beats his guy clean outside, which isn't likely on the side of a slide, he is going to end up naturally coming back inside when he can't turn the corner. That means that you end up with two A gap rushers, little to no inside push, and and only one true one on one, that being the defensive end to the back.

Now I'm not saying its impossible to win that way, but I AM saying its a hell of a lot harder. And in my opinion a good defensive line coach would know that.

You want to know what else sucks about the situation? With Price out Moore is getting most of the inside reps when we go with 4 down lineman in 3rd and long. And he usually ends up to the side of the slide. So the Bucs have their best interior pass rusher, McCoy, make an inside move, and they have Moore trying to make an outside move which I haven't seen him win on so far.

What we SHOULD be doing is having McCoy line up away from the slide on passing situations and allow him to make which ever move he wants to make to beat his guy one on one and let Moore rush the A gap, try to get some push, and if the quarterback tries to take off he can go hunt him down.

Now you have unleashed McCoy so he can really get after the quarterback, you allow the end to his side to play off him (if McCoy makes an outside rush the end to his side can come under neath him at the level in what is called a "natural game") and the defensive end to the slide at least has some lee way on where he can go rather than getting pushed wide.

As for pass rush games, the Bucs look worse than most college teams trying to run them. I won't lie, it drive me nuts every time I see a defensive end take just two steps up field and then come underneath on a TEX game. That's harry high school bullshit and they might as well not even run the game rather than running it so poorly that they give up containment like they did against the Falcons.

So far I haven't seen the Bucs run a TOM game with the two inside guys which you would think we would do to try to help McCoy get free. Of course that would be a little too much like right. Better to just keep sending him out there with no plan and hope for the best.

People keep talking about Ndamukong Suh and comparing McCoy to him unfavorably. But if you ever watch the Lions play the one thing you notice is that they are constantly trying to showcase his talents. First and foremost he rarely moves from his left defensive tackle spot which means his development has been building every week. But when he DOES move its because they are trying to get HIM free so he can wreck shop. And oh by the way he has two pretty good pass rushers at end starting with him and they all haul ass every play at the snap of the ball.

The Bucs on the other hand have been too busy trying to showcase Quincy Black at the expense of McCoy's development, to try to design any defenses for him to have a favorable match up.

Look, I like Black and I think he is a really good player, but this defense will be built around Gerald McCoy for the next 10 years if the Bucs are lucky. And that should have started THIS year. Again that's something a good defensive line coach would have been fighting for.

If the Bucs want to get better at pass rush enough to make a difference the one place that they can make the most gains is pass rushing on early downs. Its a lot harder to get sacks, at least in theory, on third downs when the offensive linemen are more alert for moves and when quarterbacks are more apt to get the ball out of their hands quickly. But on early downs offenses tend to run a lot of play action which takes longer to develop and also can make for a harder block for an offensive lineman trying to sell run.

So how can we take better advantage of that?

Start Michael Bennett at left end.

Its a simple but obvious solution. Bennett is still fuzzy sometimes on the details but he is the only left defensive end on the roster who can create his own pass rush on any down. He uses his power, speed, and quickness most effectively and he also has the best get off. Its worth having him miss a few tackles or not getting under a few kickoff blocks if on the other hand he is harnessing the hell out of the quarterback on play action pass. I like Tim Crowder and he is a decent left end but he doesn't have the tools Bennett has. I am not as high on Moore honestly as either Crowder or Bennett even though he is in fact a decent player.

If you DVRd the game yesterday just do this one favor. Replay the game, let it go and only rewind when you see the left end do something that catches your eye. I can just about guarantee you that almost every time it will be Bennett flashing on screen. And that's even though Moore made more tackles.

I can't put the decision to start 100% on Wash though because Moore WAS fifth round pick so maybe the front office wants him playing to make them look good. But the more Bennett plays the more obvious its going to be to everyone on the team who gives them the best chance to be successful. I don't know what kind of practice habits Bennett has or doesn't have but if the Bucs are serious about improving their pass rush putting him in the starting lineup is the easiest and quickest way to get that done.

It of course won't solve everything, after all there may need to be some more additions come next spring from the draft. But it will be a shot in the arm for a defensive line that needs it.

Well I know that was pretty long so I won't wear your eyeballs out. In closing here are the quick individual breakdowns.

I will say that the pass rush overall was very very average

Kyle Moore: I had him with 4 tackles and an assist, and a pressure.

Gerald McCoy: I had him with 4 assists a pressure and a hit on the quarterback. He also had two penalties for offside and he also helped to give up a long run when he got out of his gap on a scoop block.

Roy Miller: 3 tackles and an assist. He was a little soft again against double teams and he didn't loop on a Pirate.

Stylez G. White: 3 tackles and two assists along with two pressures, a hit on the quarterback and another good rush. He played ok but after the previous two weeks I was expecting more.

Tim Crowder: 1 tackle and 1 assist along with a really good bull rush. He also had a good drop on a blitz.

Al Woods: I was very impressed with Woods being able to play after only a week and being productive. 2 tackles and an assist and he really showed some good hustle playing both the nosetackle and undertackle positions. Can't wait to see more of the guy.

Mike Bennett: 1 tackle and a pressure along with a hit on the quarterback. He also was really good against the tight ends, knocking them back and getting off the blocks. He did have a missed tackle that would have been for a loss but he forced the play and that's what the Bucs need more of.

That's all for tonight. I'll see you in the comments.