Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bull Rush

I, like many Bucs fans I imagine, was fired up during the first half of the game on Sunday about how turrible the Bucs looked playing the run against the Redskins. I figured, hey I just bought this new webcam and I have a lot to say so screw it, I'll just do a vlog!

Well after several attempted installations and troubleshooting I'm pronouncing that effort an EPIC FAIL.

I was so frustrated I just about said to hell with it and refused to blog about the game, especially since the Bucs won. But I figured that would be kind of trifling this late in the season to just drop the ball like that.

Which is why I'm up at 1:30 blogging right now instead of sleeping.


Anyway this will be another one of those instances where I just get it all off my chest in one post and then move on so get ready for a long post and probably a good bit of rambling thoughts.

I figured first off I might as well address the dismal performance by the Bucs defense in the first half. No diagrams this time but I'll give you the short version of what happened and who was at fault.

Keep in mind that in most of the Bucs' base defenses every guy has their own gap. It's why they call it a "one gap defense"(!). So all it takes on any given play is one guy to screw up and the running back can be out of the gate. But if you compound it with people in the secondary screwing up then you turn a good gain into a 54 yard run.

Other times however a team just runs a better scheme than your defense. This actually was the case several times as I will point out. Even when everybody essentially did their job the defense was still at a disadvantage.

You will notice many of these plays were back to back. It was truly unbelievable to see so many screwups in such a short period of time but the good news is the Bucs were still able to overcome it.

13:09 1st and 15 The Redskins just run a simple one back zone play. The first problem is that Roy Miller, who played a lot better in the second half, went up field and got reached by the center. Its the same problem he has had in other games and this time the defense paid for it. The ball ran in what was his gap after the guard went up to block the linebacker Barrett Ruud. Now Ruud is in decent shape to make the play about 6 or 7 yards up the field or at the least turn it to the safety, in this case Corey Lynch, who SHOULD be filling the ally. What ACTUALLY happened was that Lynch took a poor angle and ran right into the back of Ruud taking them both out of the play and opening the flood gates. 54 yards latter the Bucs at least kept the Redskins out of the endzone which although underplayed by many in the media, was really the catalyst for them winning the game. If they gave up TDs then there never would have been those missed field goals and the game would have been out of hand early.

Just thought I'd point that out.

6:48 1st and 10 The NFL being a copycat league, the Redskins featured that Saints play I drew up a while ago with a new twist. Instead of using two tight ends they used two wide receivers. And instead of both of them going to the flat on the snap, this time the receiver that was wide and the one that was close to the tackle in the slot criss crossed. The effect this had was the slot receiver still took one defender, usually an outside linebacker, out of the box while heading out to the flat, but the receiver that was out wide had the opportunity to come back in the box and help double team the middle linebacker.

Let me say this, I watched those plays over and over and tried to come up with a defense to stop it and short of calling a blitz, which obviously you can't do every play, I had a hard time coming up with an obvious way to stop it. So kudos to the Redskins for their ingenuity. (of course I STILL wonder why the Bucs aren't using the same play which gives their own defense fits)

This particular time the problem was Tim Crowder not getting under the kickout block along with the fact that Miller allowed himself to be pushed too far inside by the guard. The result was a lane big enough to drive a Mac truck through and the Redskins ended up picking up 12 yards. The WR didn't make it to double Ruud but he didn't have to because Ruud went with his correct fit inside of the offensive tackle which walled him off from being able to make the play.

6:13 1st and 10 The Redskins ran a zone iso strong. I've wondered several times this year why the Bucs line up with a 3-4 look a few times a game. It hasn't really hurt them most of the year but I can't remember it ever being some huge help either.

Well this time, it hurt. The Bucs tried a cross blitz with Ruud running up in the A gap and Geno Hayes crossing behind him to the B gap. Unfortunately the guard was waiting on Geno and grabbed him and kept him from getting over the top. Up front Gerald McCoy was lined up in a 5 technique outside of the offensive tackle but on the snap he went inside to try to make a play. Instead he missed the tackle and gave up the C gap between the offensive tackle and the tight end.

Now Quincy Black was on the line outside of the tight end but he isn't a true 3-4 linebacker obviously so he got pushed off the line and wasn't able to squeeze the hole at all. At that point there is nobody on the second level to tackle the running back and there are blockers in front of him damn near like a screen.

End result, 23 yard gain.

5:29 1st and 10 Redskins run that Saints play again. This time the defensive line does a decent job. McCoy gets enough penetration to get a hand on the running back but can't bring him down with the offensive tackle still hanging on his back. Crowder did a good job of playing the kick out block which was a cut block and makes the ball bounce a gap wider. Unfortunately Ruud is doubled by the WR and offensive guard and Black is being blocked to the outside by the slot WR. That creates another natural lane and the running back finds it for another 10 yards.

2:22 1st and 10 The Skins run a zone cutback. Michael Bennett at left end decides not to try to get under the kickout block and instead go for the tackle on the running back. Unfortunately he missed and allowed the running back to continue basically going north and south instead of having to cut behind him. That was really unfortunate because this time the Bucs played a defense where Strong Safety Sean Jones was in the box to Bennett's side and was a free hitter to make the play if it has to bounce. Instead the free hitter was wasted and the running back gained 12 more yards.

2nd Quarter

13:53 3rd and 5 Redskins run a zone cutback with the tight end coming across the formation to kick out the end man on the line. Because its 3rd down the Bucs have their pass rushing group up front in and they blitz. Everyone is in their gap for the most part but Geno gets held by the offensive tackle and can't come off the block to tackle the running back coming straight through his gap. It was a pretty obvious hold to me but I'm not making any excuses.

What killed me about this play though was that Corey Lynch flew up into the box on the snap but instead of going for the running back he basically just ran blindly into the pile. He was a free hitter who could have, in theory at least, stopped the running back short of the 1st down marker. Instead there was nobody home and the Skins picked up another 8 yards and the 1st.

13:13 1st and 10 They ran the Saints play yet again. This time Alex Magee is at defensive end and he doesn't get under the kick out block. Also Jones comes flying in trying to get a knock out blow on the running back and instead misses the tackle. Instead of a gain of maybe 5 yards or so, it becomes a gain of 12 yards and another 1st down.

2:17 1st and 10 This was just a simple zone play. I'm sure the Bucs were in 2 minute mode though and they had Magee in at nose tackle I presume for pass rush. Well just like Miller, Magee got reached and the ball ran right into his A gap. Ruud had to give a little ground to play the cut block but he maybe could have been a little faster over the top but not by much. Everyone else pretty much played it correctly but one guy getting reached was the catalyst for a 20 yard run.

So lets do the math.


7 8 runs for 131 yards. Not a good look at all but mostly fixable. Not sure about that Saints play though.


I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge all the injuries the Bucs have been hit with of late. It sucks when you lose 6 starters in 3 weeks. It hurts doubly when you are the youngest team in the league. And yet the Bucs still are finding ways if not to win, to at least stay in pretty much every game.

And I'll be honest with you, my biggest complaint and concern heading into the season was what I thought was a lack of quality depth behind most of the starters. I am officially eating my words now.

I'm not saying every guy that has gone from the bench to starting or contributing has been a world beater, but at the least they have been good enough to keep the train rolling. If there is one reason in my mind that most personifies why I think Coach Morris should be up for coach of the year in the NFL, its how he has been able to keep this team together and playing well in the face of all of losing so many key people. I may not agree with every decision or every scheme, but you would have to be a blind man not to see the phenomenal job he has done with, and I don't mean this as a knock, somewhat average talent in a lot of spots.

The one thing I do worry about though is how some of these players will come back next year off their injuries. For the Bucs to take the next step guys like McCoy and Brian Price etc will have to take big leaps forward next year and that's hard to do without having a full season of game experience and also trying to just get your body back to 100%. But I'm hopeful that they will dedicate themselves to their rehab and come back ready to roll by training camp.

- One thing about injuries is that it gives other guys opportunities as I kind of alluded to before. One such situation is Bennett potentially being the undertackle the rest of the season. Coach Morris was kind of coy about who would be at that spot today in his press conference but as I look at the roster I don't really see anybody else that fits the position.

Roy Miller CAN play undertackle but at this point he is more off a bulky run stopping guy than a pass rusher. And make no mistake, an undertackle has to be an up the field disruptive pass rusher in addition to being a terror against the run. Al Woods seems like more of a nose now too. And although I don't know a lot about Frank Okam, 330 pounds doesn't exactly sound fast and agile.

Could be wrong though.

The only other guy that I think might be a good match for the position is Magee. He played a little inside in the second half and when he wasn't at nose he looked decent. He has some pretty good pass rush awareness about him too.

But having said that I still think Bennett is the best option for now. I don't think it will be a long term place for him, but this is a chance for him to become a huge factor on the defense. I'm sure teams will run right at him and test his ability to play a double team or a slip block and that's fine, as long as he plays with reckless abandon I don't think it will matter.

But that's just it though, he NEEDS to play with reckless abandon. Its pretty obvious by now that I'm a big fan of who I think Bennett COULD be. He has every tool you could want in a defensive lineman. But its also obvious to me that he is still feeling his way through.

Last year and the beginning of this year Bennett's get off was so much better than everybody else's on the defensive line that he put them all to shame every time the ball was snapped. But here recently his get off has been average at best. When he plays blocks the way he is supposed to he makes plays, explosive tackles, against anybody. But he still tries to free lance a little too much. On pass rush his speed and power should be giving offensive linemen fits. But instead he has started relying way too much on finesse moves and head fakes instead of just smoking a guy around the corner or going right under their chin.

Or hell a combination of both!

If I could get that kid in the lab for a week or two I guarantee you I'd turn him into a monster. Basically I'd just teach him to unleash the beast that he already has shown he has in him and he would end up destroying people.

But since I don't have that kind of contact with him let me write one piece of advice for him at the under tackle position in hopes that somehow some way he gets to see it.

When in doubt, haul ass!!!

One of the things that drove me crazy about McCoy here lately is that he started relying too heavily on inside moves. For one they rarely worked. For two he was basically running himself into a double team if the center had any awareness about him.

With the undertackle you want a guy that pierces the heart of the offensive line's pass protection. That means a guy who is getting upfield and making the quarterback move in the pocket. It doesn't always matter if the undertackle gets a hand on the quarterback or gets the sack. If he can get around the guard and make the quarterback feel him then more than likely he will give the other three defensive linemen an opportunity to get the sack or force the throw.

I've talked before about a natural game where the undertackle gets up field and the defensive end sees the quarterback stepping up and just falls back inside to make the sack. Well that will never happen if the undertackle is never trying to get around the corner on the guard. And so you end up with everyone just stuck on blocks and the only guy really having a legitimate shot at pressure being the backside end who could possibly have a one on one.

This is where Bennett can really shine though, especially against play action pass. If he can start back flying off the ball and getting up the field as an undertackle he will be able to help not only his fellow defensive lineman but the secondary tremendously.

And really, if he isn't hauling ass and using his speed and quickness which are his best assets, what's the use of having him in the game anyway?

- It appears that Mike Williams has caught a mild case of the butter fingers here lately. Thankfully fellow rookie Arrelious Benn has caught fire to take up the slack. Imagine what will happen if both of them start balling out. I asked a question on twitter Sunday and I didn't get a response but I'll ask it again here. Has there ever been too rookie wide receivers on the same team that were both as dynamic as Benn and Williams? I'm not engraving their names in Canton yet, but those two guys are explosive as hell, even though they aren't mirror images of each other. If they can stay healthy......DAMN!!!

- I expressed concerned about Derek Hardman starting at guard last week but I thought he played pretty damn well. I know some folks will blame him for the fumble on the goalline but it wasn't his fault. Either you don't call that play on the goalline, OR you don't have Josh Freeman reverse out for the handoff. One of the two. But aside from that play and another when he got knocked on his ass on a pass rush where Freeman got sacked, he held his own in there.

- Speaking of Freeman I thought he bounced back well from two "slump" games. He wasn't perfect but the biggest thing he did in my opinion was not turn the ball over (even though he came close a couple of times). And he still took his shots down the field and burned the Redskins with the big play a couple of times. His TD pass to K2 was one of the best throws he has made all year. Indefensible.

- Cadillac Williams made so many little plays in the game yesterday to help the Bucs win that its hard to point them all out. The one handed grab that moved them close enough for a field goal. The catch in the flat where he makes a move for the first down. He continues to be an asset and he has accepted his demotion with as much class as I think anyone could. I don't know what the future holds for him but I for one wouldn't mind seeing him continue here in the third down role he has carved out for himself.

- I have to give it up for Ronde Barber again. All he did was go out and make 10 total tackles by my count, get a pressure, a PBU and and hit on the quarterback. The old guy continues to be the glue that holds the Bucs young defense together.

Here are the defensive line breakdowns:

Tim Crowder: I had him with a tackle for loss, 1 other tackle, 2 assists a pressure and a pass broken up. Very good game for a guy that was questionable heading into Sunday with a bad shoulder.

Gerald McCoy: Only had him with 1 tackle before the injury. Thought he was getting good penetration though. He also tried another bullshit spin which made my head start spinning.

Roy Miller: As mentioned before Roy had a rough start to the game but he got better as the day went on. I had him with 4 tackles and 2 assists and I have to point out that on Crowder's tackle for a loss it was Roy who PWNED the center and drove him back into the running back which made that play possible in the first place.

Now he just has to work on getting off to a better start.

Stylez G. White: I had Stylez with 1 tackle for loss, 2 other tackles and an assist. He didn't get the pressure we are used to seeing from him per se, but I will say I was encouraged to see him working a lot more inside moves. He needs some help from the rest of his line mates though.

Mike Bennett: He wasn't always perfect but he made some nice plays. 3 tackles an assist and a pressure by my count. That one tackle he made down at the goalline was just ferocious. Hoping to see more consistency out of him in these last three games though.

Al Woods: I thought Woods played well at nose tackle. I had him with 1 tackle and two assists. He seemed to play the center reach block as well as anybody on Sunday.

Alex Magee: Magee continues to show flashes that intrigue me. He only had one assist by my count but I saw him make some pretty nice pass rush moves. In particular he had a nice hands move when rushing inside and he had a good long arm when rushing at defensive end. He, like Bennett, has to be more on the details but I'm hoping to get to see more of him the next few weeks to see how he progresses.

Well my eyes are glazing over so that's all for now. See you in the comments section!


  1. More outstanding analysis from Mr. White, we are greatly appreciate it!!

  2. i agree, great write up. i'm probably putting my expectations too high, but i really feel like the bucs have a chance to make the playoffs and play either the bears or the nfc west champ. i'm looking ahead like a mother, but that's a winnable game.

  3. How can a defense that makes all those mistakes in the first half correct them all in the second half? This has happened nearly every game. It's hard for me to imagine a D getting coached up that much at halftime. Is it that the Bucs play a lot of base in the first half and then mix it up in the second? What gives? Clearly the Bucs make some adjustment because players don't improve like night and day during halftime.

  4. Totally concur with Steve on the ineffectiveness of the 3-3-5. We didn't have the personnel to run it before, and we definitely don't know. Hasn't generated one positive outcome all year.
    That and McCoy's spin moves. He's got to drop that next year.
    Stylez is starting to make better inside moves, but he has been maddeningly inconsistent this year. Granted I had very high expectations for him, but he has not been a consistent difference maker. Its as if he takes himself out of plays at times.
    Couldn't agree more about our dynamic young receivers. Love Benn most as the long term prospect, kid has great speed and hands. Need to toughen him up a little, get him comfortable with all the routes.

  5. I meant to mention this but I was sleepy. The Bucs played better in the second half for two reasons.

    1. They blitzed 15 times, damn near every 1st and 2nd down.


    2. The Redskins were dumb enough to get away from running the ball. 19 carries for Torain in 1st half but only 6 in the 2nd half.

  6. Idiots like Ian Buckles and Justin Pawlowski keep hanging this stuff on Ruud. It seems to me from your analysis that Ruud is usually in the right place, its just that others mess up.

    Comparisons always come up with Ray Lewis. Do the Ravens funnel a lot of stuff to Lewis, or does he freelance to have the impact he does/did?

  7. That seems to be a recurring pattern with many of the teams the Bucs have played, they just stop running the ball. I'll take it, but why would they stop running if its working? If I was a coach playing the Bucs and running against them was wouldnt stop running

  8. Comparing Ruud to Lewis is just unfair. Lewis is probably a top 20 player of all time, one of the best linebackers to play the game. Ruud seems to act more as a safety valve on this defense, and he's very good at that. Problem is that fans (and maybe the team, too) want a thumping run-stuffing middle linebacker who blows up plays. That's never going to be Ruud.

    Steve: It's interesting that you're so impressed with Bennett's potential. I know Seahawks fans were pissed when we grabbed him off their practice squad, so that potential was seen before. But the NFL graveyard is littered with corpses of players with tons of physical talent but no production for whatever reason. From what you've seen, do you think Bennett has the work ethic and hustle (I know this is probably hard to judge) to make the most of his talents?

    Also, as you mention the injuries, maybe we should be giving the D-Line coach more credit for getting all these young, inexperienced players to play.

  9. Steve, excellent analysis as always.
    I really enjoy your individual breakdowns on the DL. I'd be real interested in similar comments on the LBs, but for the season as a whole instead just a game. How would you rank them against each other? Do we have anybody that's a keeper?

  10. Sander, I understand the comparison is unfair. My question is more about his play style. Does he play the system like Ruud or does he leave the scheme on instinct like Hayes.

  11. @CharlieB Yeah, there has been some really subpar "analysis" out on the Bucs this year. Mostly from people who were trashing them before the season and just won't let it go.

    The Ravens play a 3-4 which is a totally different situation for Ray Lewis than Barrett Ruud. You can read Sanders explanation also. Bottom line is this, Ruud isn't a big hitter, not a great blitzer and he doesn't come down hill sometimes as fast as I would like. But he isn't close to the caricature that some folks who evidently don't have a clue about defense have made him out to be and he is usually where he is supposed to be on any given play.

    @Sander As far as Bennett I've made note that at some point he is going to have to convert all that potential into production. I am just hoping its sooner rather than later.

    On the credit issue, nah I haven't changed my mind in the least. Several of the guys we have now as backups came from other teams. But none of the guys who have been here have really progressed much at all. I'll give Wash credit for teaching them the defense, yes. But teaching them how to play defensive line? Hell no.

    @Bradentonian I actually like all of our linebackers. I think Geno has played better this year though he hasn't gotten a lot of recognition. I think Black has played well but I disagree with how the coaches have used him at times. I think we can win with Ruud although I prefer more of a thumper.

    At one point this season I thought all three guys might push for a Pro Bowl berth. If they are all back next year they might just pull it off if they stay healthy.

  12. Great post Steve. Was going to mention how the Redskins got away from the run in the 2nd half, really letting the Bucs off the hook. Seem to recall a few other teams this year doing the same thing. Is that just coaches out-thinking themselves, or what? Btw, been getting to know McCoy, Miller and Okam recently, you definitely need to get together with those guys.

  13. Also, just read where George Johnson was brought up to the active roster. Curious to see what he can do. Seem to recall he had a nice training camp and preseason. The one plus to having this many guys go on IR is the team really gets to see what other guys can do when given a chance. The Bucs may find a few gems after it's all said and done.

  14. Steve, great write up. One thing I have noticed as of late is teams are using a yellow foot mat with bristles to clean their cleats during time outs and stopages. I see it at Ray Jay all the time now and saw it once during a time out by the Skins. I have not seen the Bucs use this "Cheater pad" (we call it). Footing seemed to be a big problem for the Bucs' defense. I was wondering if you know what size cleats they use. I know standard youth cleats are 1/2" and you can buy 3/4" replacements. Do NFL players use 1" or other than 3/4" for sloppy conditions? or cleats that are not standard cone shape. The Skins just appeared to have better footing than the Bucs and I wonder if the Bucs are giving up an advantage they could use. Next time you do the Vlog, will you break down that Saints' play that seems to be unstoppable. I'm sure we will see it against the Saints. I hope Raheem is listening to you.

  15. Steve,
    I continue to be thankful that I discovered your blog as there is no better writing about the Bucs. I agree with you that Raheem deserves a lot of credit for finding ways to win with the players he has been dealt. However, his game management skills need alot of improvement. At the end of the first half, with the Redskins near our goal line, we could have been calling timeouts so that Freeman and the boys would have had about 1:20 to get down the field and score. Does he just get lost in the defenses he's calling? I like the fact that he has made a number of aggressive calls this year, but sometimes I wind up just shaking my head.

  16. Steve, being a former player and being around a bunch of injuries can you comment on McCoy's torn bicep? How long of a recovery is he looking at and is this something that can become recurring? Thanks! Love your blog.

  17. Benn and Williams are dynamic as Lynn Swann and John Stallworth; rookies during '74 Steelers Superbowl season.

  18. @BigMac Everyone is able to get the same size clips. The reason the Redskins looked more comfortable is probably because it was their homefield and they were more used to playing on it.

    @crispy Normally in those situations you only call time out when it appears you will stop a team and make them punt to you. That wasn't the case this time. And really why call a time out when the Redskins themselves imploded and end up helping them out?

    @whomeverisstillcommentingasanonymous I have no information about the injury

    @Dan That's a GREAT comparison!