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.


  1. Great read Steve. Why do you think we were able to shut down Frank Gore? Did it have anything to do with better gap discipline, better LBing or less creative playcalling by 9ers?

    Also what do you make of absence of Quincy Black and the personnel that have replaced him?

  2. Dude I must have refreshed your page 20 times today. I was dying to read your thoughts, especially on Roy Miller, who I think is going to be really good for a long time.
    I thought the safeties had an excellent game in run support yesterday, and the D line played great, but it really is bizarre how we absolutely shut Gore down.

  3. Thanks for the article Steve.  It seems to me that the bucs were playing a lot the under scheme, which you recommended by the way.  One play where I though it was evident was the one where Roy Miller had good penetration and had the tackle for loss.  It look to me that they were putting the sam backer on the tight end more.  Am I seeing things… let me know…

  4. Love to read your thoughts every week! Keep up the good work Steve!

  5. @Jonny Ill expound on this tomorrow but the gap discipline, especially from Cody Grim was just damned impressive. But I also though the 49ers didnt do themselves any favors with play calling. As for Black Heyward and Watson played pretty well but I imagine the Bucs will be happy to have Black back.

    @aavila yes they played quite a bit of under but also more over than I would have guessed. A wrinkle was that they sent Crowder to the TE and Stylez away from the TE.

  6. Well... maybe I should say the D-line lacks talent more often. The D won the game and the line humbled me and was front and center (literally) in that fantastic defensive effort.

    Watching the run defense dominate a game against a pro bowl running back shows so much promise... That has easily been their biggest weakness to this point and if they can continue to flash that ability, they will prove to everyone that they are a legitimate contender.

    Let me summarize: I'm freakin' hyped. They're good, they're young and it looks like they're going to be in good hands for a long time.

  7. Just found this blog and really, really enjoy it. I'm really fascinated by the intricacies of the line play.

    I'm definitely interested in your take on Grimm. I've become a huge fan after going into complete T-Jax-shock early on. I feel like he's the best tackler on the team.

  8. Naismith, I agree on Grimm. He's flying all over the place making tackles, seems to rarely miss tackles and actually laying some pretty good hits on people.

    Steve, thanks again for another great breakdown. Looks like the D is improving, just at a slower pace than the offense. Maybe that is due to changes in certain positions mid-season. Grimm was not a starter to begin the season. Watson and Hayward are playing more, Woods and Magee are seeing more time as well.

    Looked to me like Geno Hayes (although somewhat "invisible") had a solid game. He was getting in on a lot of plays (whether credited with a tackle or not), got a good pass rush at least once, and did pretty well in coverage.

    Steve, besides DE, what areas would you think we need to address on the defense in the offseason?

  9. looks like to me that T-Jax has lost his job and became trade bait. maybe get a 2nd or third rounder for him or maybe line him up next to Cody if he can keep his head out of the clouds. If anyone has been watching college football this season then please direct your attention at the MLB from University Of Maryland (alex wujack) that man is a one man wrecking crew against the run and is decent in pass coverage. that is the type of MLB that the bucs could use. plays with the kind of violence that is needed out of that position.

  10. Steve what is your opinion of the BMore game? If we do find a way to win, will we be too banged up to slug it out with the Falcons?