Niko Porikos grew up in an NTDP billet home. Cool story.
Extended preview post of why Wormley and Henry are playing the positions they are, which includes the main reason. Full article can be found here.
Recently on MGoBlog, Brian wrote a piece previewing the defense as far as his expectations. In the past couple days, he's also discussed the Defensive Line and looked at the recently released Michigan depth chart. A question keeps arising, unknowingly getting answered, and then asked again. It's a common confusion, and an understandable one when looking at nomenclature of football.
In this post, I'm going to look at Michigan's DL and why Henry is playing 5-Tech (nominally, from now on called End) and Wormley is playing 3-Tech (nominally, from now on called Tackle).
What is Michigan Running?
I agree with Brian that this is a 4-3 Under. Michigan isn't going out there with a LOLB and a ROLB, and they aren't going out there and doing a lot of two gapping (though a 4-3 under will often two-gap somewhere). It's a 4-3 Under with a standup end sometimes. Furthermore, the defense will not consistently keep two guys in two-point stances and shift the DL every which way, like Wisconsin's one-gap 3-4.
This is a 4-3 Under all the way. Let's remind everyone of the gap assignments:
And let's take a look at what a nominal 4-3 Under looks like, the one most of you are familiar with from the early Mattison years.
Here, we're going to call the Weakside DE (WDE, 7-Tech) the Buck (it's Buck because "B" stands for Backer, like how MIKE is for Middle in middle LB), to keep with Durkin's terminology. He is, in fact, more DE than LB, but he will occasionally drop (see image below). The strongside DE (SDE, 5-Tech) we will simply call the End. The 3-Tech we are going to call a DT (or tackle). The 1-Tech we will call a NT (Nose).
This is close to what Michigan is running, but not quite. Actually, the image above is closer to what Michigan will now run than what Michigan nominally ran with Mattison as the DC. Notice how Beyer (the SAM LB at the top of the screen) is in a loose position. For Michigan fans, this is similar to how Greg Robinson deployed Stevie Brown in his 4-3 Under, when Stevie Brown managed to have a very good Senior year. This is what we call a "Loose" alignment, meaning he's 5-and-5 (5 yards off the LOS, 5 yards outside the offensive EMOL). Ross, the WILL in the picture above, is also playing a Loose technique (in this case, it is to allow the dropping DE to play an inside zone or spy and to allow the WILL to play the outside Flat Zone, where there is more likely to be an immediate threat in the pass game).
With Ross, an undersized SAM LB, Michigan will continue playing more of a 4-3 Under Loose.
Many 4-3 Under teams traditionally move the FS down into the box as the 8th man and rotate the SS to the center of the field. They do this because the Buck and DT generally protect the FS from having to face any wash, something the ILBs (WILL and MIKE) are more accustomed to. It'll look like this:
But Michigan won't be doing that as much this year. Instead, the SS (who always aligns to pass strength) will be the 8th man in the box. He can be inserted like this:
But more often he will align closer to this.
This essentially makes the SAM another ILB. He's protected a bit by the End, and the defense won't get out flanked because the SS holds the edge and the SAM can work over the top to provide additional support.
Wormley and Henry Primer
As a primer, Wormley is a guy that came in as a projected SDE. He was expected to be between 270 and 300 lbs. He has good straight line speed for his size and displays excellent burst when he's comfortable with what is in front of him. Unfortunately for him (and fortunately in some ways), he's also very long and tall. With hesitation sometimes coming when he has to take blocks from different angles, he often stands up. This leads to him struggling to handle doubles.
Henry on the other hand, was always a DT. He was projected as a slashing, penetrating 3-Tech that could also slide down and play the Nose if needed. He's more of a squaty player, but has the first step to beat OL to the spot he wants. This first step quickness gives him potential to be a two-gap player, and his squaty build also gives him the stout base to prevent him from getting clobbered when he's forced to choose one of two gaps. He also stands up too high at times, but has the strength to fight back against it.
Brian previewed these guys well in the DL articles linked above, and there is video there to demonstrate these traits in these players.
So Why The Position Switch
The Double Team
As I said, it's been explained, but never really answered. But the answer is quite obvious once it's pointed out. Wormley struggles more against doubles, and the 3-tech will almost never get doubled. The 5-tech will get doubled, possibly on about half the plays, especially with the way Michigan will align.
Notice the 3-tech isn't doubled on the run his direction.
This means that the 5-tech has to hold up to double teams quite often, it also means the 3-tech can simply be let loose to be a penetrating force on the interior. If you can get that out of your 3-tech, you cut off half the field and give the Buck a lot more options as a pass rusher, because he doesn't have to be as preoccupied with the rush.
Whether the SAM is in a Loose alignment or inside, initially, the 5-tech will often get doubled against zone based rushing attacks.
Here, the 3-tech is doubled, so he has to be able to handle that a bit, but the double likely doesn't last as long as the OL tries to get out to the WILL, and it is on the backside of the play.
Against man blocking schemes, he'll get doubled on essentially every strongside run (Power O and Counter F, for example)
He has to hold up at that position for the rush defense to have success. If he doesn't hold up, he gets washed into the ILB, and large creases in the defense form, particularly when the SAM is playing in a Loose alignmnet.
Again, if you want to read about the other main advantage to Henry lining up at End rather than 3-Tech, here's a link to a full post at my blog.
MGoBlog football gurus,
Because not every MGoReader is an expert in football schemes, it might be helpful before the season begins for some of us to brush up on the fundamentals, particularly with regard to the types of offensive and defensive schemes that the Michigan will most likely rely on this summer. So for all you experts on fat man chess, what sites/videos/resources would you recommend (bonus for Michigan/Harbaugh-centered backgrounders)? I’ll add a few to start:
1. MGoBlog’s Hall of Fame page has a great set of basic primers (scroll to “Football Analysis”).
2. Perhaps more pertinent to the coming season is Space Coyote’s three posts on the forthcoming Harbaughing of the Wolverines. Space Coyote is, of course, a great MGoResource. Here are his recent breakdown on Harbaugh’s teams:
3. Maize and Brew has written about what to expect on Michigan’s upcoming defensive line after the Spring Game
4. “ISportsWeb” has a short bit on Durkin’s tendencies:
5. SmartFootball.com. Chris Brown’s blog helps break down football strategy. His new book is now available on Amazon for a mere 99 cents.
Bonus Space Coyote haiku:
Homer’s “Spirit Guide.”
Says to go find your soul mate. I
got dibs on Harbaugh.
FF410: 2012 Spring Game Breakdown - RB Pass Plays - Day 4
In the past I broke down 13 of DG’s pass plays (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3). This included my reaction about how DG and the offense performed, the idea or theory behind the offensive play, and how the defense performed. This helped me get a much better feel for how DG is actually improving and allowed me to evaluate his performance considering the performance of those around him.
Today, we will take a look at how Russell Bellomy performed. Note that it is sometimes difficult to determine the routes and defense being run due to tight camera angles, but I will do my best to grasp what I think is happening. I will once again be taking a look at all of the pass plays, and separate them into 2 separate days. Today, we will take a gander at the first 5 pass plays.
Play 14 – 0:00
The defense appears to be running a cover 0 look out of a their normal over 4-3 look and a safety coming down to help against the run.
Bellomy makes the right read (a fairly easy one), as he sees the DBs drop back into their soft coverage. His footwork looks good and he looks comfortable, and I think the short throw is really a matter of arm strength more so than any fundamental problem (he could get a little more push off his back foot, but that’s about it).
The design of the play and the theory behind it are going to look very familiar to readers of the previous days. The slot is running a corner route and the outside receiver a dig with the idea or running a high low on the corner. As the corner drops, Bellomy knows his play is to the dig route.
On the backside you see a post run. This is designed to do a double move on the boundary corner and get behind the man and into the deep middle of the field. This is to take advantage of teams cheating on the corner route with their safety by hitting the area of the field they vacate. You will seldom see the QB have the time/patience to go through his progression and hit this receiver, but that is the idea behind that route. The route is run well. Note that the boundary corner doesn’t bite hard on the initial slant as he sees the play running away from him (a QB won’t roll opposite a slant route). When the WR sees that the corner didn’t bite and still is step for step with him, he breaks his post a bit more shallow to take advantage of the intermediate zone being open.
The SAM is a little late diagnosing the play. His initial responsibility is leverage and FB coverage, but he could turn and get to the boundary quicker than he does. The outcome of the play isn’t affected because of a poor pass, and the play would have picked up yards regardless due to the design of the defense, but you would like to see the SAM closer to the man as he catches the ball, and preferably that corner as well, though being out on an island the primary responsibility is not to get beat deep.
[More after the jump]
FF410: 2012 Spring Game Breakdown - DG Pass Plays - Day 3
Last time we looked at the second five pass plays from Devin Gardner and analyzed the results. Today will be much of the same. I'll also break down one defensive play.
Play 11 - 4:12
It’s really hard to tell what routes the WRs are running as the camera doesn’t give a good enough look. Based on the down in distance I would assume it’s a verts play, either 3 or 4 verticle routes in an attempt to find an opening between the safeties downfield. In all honesty, I can’t even really tell what the defense is running. You can see that the two safeties are dropping. My guess is that this is a very safe cover 4, in which case hitting any seem pass is going to be difficult. If they were facing cover 3 or cover 2 the play would work very well, as the safety would have to essentially choose a side, however, against cover 4, the WRs are basically running directly at the defenders. If every assumption I made is correct, than DG makes the correct read on the check down.
DG’s footwork here looks alright. You can still see him thinking about his drop a little bit though once he gets set. It’s clearly his natural tendency to escape backwards out of the pocket still (or simply to keep dropping/back peddling). He hesitates and looks a little indecisive with his footwork as he attempts to at least maintain his position (or stand in the pocket). I’d still like to see him actually step in and make his throw though. He “arm throws” it again on the check down pass. It was successful, but it’s still breaking form, which leads to bad habits which leads to bad mistakes. DG looks like he does everything effortlessly (I mean that in a good way), but I think he needs to not be so lax on the shorter throws and stop trying to aim the ball and actually throw it properly.
The RB out of the backfield actually probably has an option route, either check to the outside, inside, or check back (in between gaps in the LB zones). Smith makes the correct read and Ryan does a poor job of getting a body on him. Typically, the LB in this case will essentially want to take away half the field by using his body. If the RB tries to cross the LB, the LB needs to stop the RBs body. If the LB is in the correct position, the RB will have no choice but to break this outside, where the LB’s body is facing and the LB can make a play. Ryan wiffs and thus the RB picks up decent yards. There is some confusion in the zone drops by the LBs as it appears Ryan and the MLB drop to the same point, rather than bracketing anyone coming out of the backfield/crossing the field.
A couple other things I’d like to point out: notice the nickel back over the slot toward the top of the screen. He is lined up inside of his receiver to stop any quick slants to break into the next level. He then forces the WR off of his path (though not exactly well) to disrupt the timing of the play and appears to let him through to the deep safety. He is covering the short zone to the field side, but is dropping deep because of down and distance.
Play 12 - 4:33
Michigan in a pro set I and the defense in their typical 4-3 under look with a safety rolled down. DG appears to almost drop the snap as he is really trying to bail out and get a good run fake. Michigan is doing something that should look familiar, deep post to one side to take advantage of any single man coverage, and a levels concept to the short side to take advantage of any zone look. The defense actually shows a wrinkle, which I can be seen below: a corner blitz.* Note how they roll the DBs so that they are still running a cover 3/ shifted cover 2.
I believe here that the TE is open but DG can’t get him the ball because of the pressure. The X receiver successfully takes the safety covering him out of the short zone. He does so by attacking the safety, which he would do regardless if the corner was blitzing or if it was a typical cover 2. He forces the safety to take him and take away the inside threat, before breaking to the corner. Will bites hard on the PA and gets out of position and the TE is athletic enough to get behind him, which is why I believe he is open toward the sideline. I believe DG was making the correct read as you see him look left when he sees the SS stay high (basically bracketing the Z receiver). But he feels the pressure and can’t make his second read (the TE). I think he actually had enough time to make the read if he stays in the pocket, but it would have been an uncomfortable throw. This is because of the O-line. The LT recognizes the corner blitzing very late but gets enough of a push on the corner to drive him deep. The break down on the offensive line actually comes at LG, as he gives up too much depth which doesn’t give DG a solid pocket. This forces DG to basically run and he makes some athletic plays to gain yards and use his center as a blocker.
The breakdown on defense comes from the WILL spot, as he slips when trying to contain DG. That changes this from a 3 yard play to a big gain.
*As said, Michigan is corner blitzing and turning into a quasi- cover 3 or shifted cover 2. It appears as if the FS is matched up on the X receiver, most likely to prevent any quick play like a quick WR pass so that he has the ball in space. He then follows him deep, so I think it’s more of a cover 3. It could also be a shifted cover 2 which is the second picture below.
Play 13 - 4:50
Slants with a play action fake to get the LBs to clear out from the underneath zones. Very simple play. I like it from the shotgun because it moves the LBs away from the single receiver side. The tightend sells the play action by faking a run block on a power play or a QB read. It also allows DG to see the play develop. The first thing DG reads is the single high safety and single coverage on the X receiver. This means that he is going to the X receiver pretty much all day as his initial read. If the CB over the X receiver had safety help, he would look to the other side initially. At the snap, the WR does a great job getting off the LOS cleanly. He runs a great route until the end, when he starts to fade up field. It doesn’t appear this is really his fault though. Clearly, there is PI on the CB on this play. But even before that it looks like he grabs the shoulder and pulls the WR into him. I guess it’s a good play by the corner as it would have been a TD had he not interfered. The problem begins with the WILL over committing to the run and not maintaining his underneath zone, which is intended to stop the slant. Basically Michigan has two LBs covering one zone that no one on offense is threatening.
The backside is actually more open on this play, but DG can’t know that because he is accurately going through his progression, which reads that the first man is open (which he is for a TD, good read). On the field side, the slot is more or less intended to clear out that underneath zone from the nickel back/ LBs/ safety by running an initial slant. He doesn’t run a great route but it isn’t too important. The outside WR then runs behind that to a news vacated area, which is also wide open. He runs it a little more flat and a little deeper to truly attack the endzone and the opening between the FS and the corners. The corner either needs to play it more inside, as the slant or in is much more dangerous than the fade route if he doesn’t have safety help; or the safety can’t react so much to the run fake and take himself out of position. The corners alignment tells me he thought he had safety help, but the safety’s eyes tell me he was looking run support first and would help over the slot first. There is some confusion there on the defense. It appears he is playing him straight up as if he has inside help, which isn’t there because of the slant from the slot.
This play looks eerily familiar to a great play in Michigan history, where Michigan attacks the 2 WR side with great success:
- Tight end will not be a position of strength this year. The run blocking is their strong area, which is meh. The route running is ugly.
- WR =/= getting separation. This was a worry last year and it gets even scarier this year. They still need to work a lot on their route running, as I think the athletes, while not great, are sufficient enough to get open. Hopefully they’ll be working hard over the summer.
- The O-line is still feeling itself out. Barnum appears to be struggling with some calls, which is expected at this point. LG is a worry. At this point I actually think having a Denard type QB is beneficial for this O-line, as the tackles still struggle gaining depth and any QB that takes deeper drops is risking getting beat up a bit. They are a much stronger unit at run blocking.
- DG needs to improve his footwork. You can tell he’s working at it, but it’s still not second nature. When his footwork is better, it still looks a bit mechanical. Otherwise it slips and you see some poor throws. The worst is that he doesn’t consistently step into throws. He has a strong arm, but needs to improve his mechanics to become more accurate. Also needs to work on getting the snap from under center (he’s bailing early). This is probably a bit nerves to be honest. Very good athlete though (aka get him in at WR).
- I’ll try to discuss the RB position a bit more later, but there is a wide separation between Fitz in the next guy. The depth seems decent, but Michigan needs Fitz to stay healthy this year (knock on wood).
- It appears that Kovacs has moved to more of a free safety position, which is something I haven’t seen pointed out here before.
- It looks like Michigan will run more odd fronts this year to get more LBs on the field as LB appears to be a stronger position group than the D-line, particularly on passing downs
- As many have seen, even during last year, the DBs have improved and continue to improve tremendously. This was partially due to them being so young previously, but also because they are actually being coached properly. You can see them starting to naturally understand why they are doing what they are doing, not just individually but as a group. There is no understating how much better that makes the position group.
- The LBs are still struggling a bit with their zone drops. This is something almost all programs struggle with as there as so many other responsibilities they are being coached to do. Most important is run fits, which they are improving on.
I think these break downs give a pretty good idea of where Michigan is going into the fall. They still have a lot of things to work on, particularly in the pass game. The defense looks decent on pass plays, but there is still some confusion in the zones, particularly from the LBs. Again, we didn’t see anything very interesting from the defense.
I still plan on doing select plays from Bellomy and some select run plays. If you have any questions or suggestions or things to add let me know.
FF 210 - Screen Package
FF 400 - Drag and Follow
FF 410 - 2012 Spring Game Breakdown - Day 1 (DG Pass Plays Pt. 1)
FF410: 2012 Spring Game Breakdown - DG Pass Plays - Day 2
Last time we looked at the first five pass plays from Devin Gardner and analyzed the results. Today will be much of the same, but hopefully there will be some more ideas that can be shared.
Play 6 – Time 2:15
Pre-snap, DG can see single high coverage. The front is also an over concept, rather than Michigan’s typical under look. The QBs appear to be taught to take even step drops in some cases in shotgun formations (note his left foot drops first, rather than his right foot, meaning he has to take 4 steps rather than 3 or 5). I’ve seen this before, and while I prefer to keep the QBs footwork consistent, especially at lower levels, it’s probably something that should be expected for a college QB. I would prefer a shorter first step and elongated second step and then gather, only because it keeps the shoulder rotation better, but it DG appears to be doing what he is taught, so that’s fine. What this 4 step drop does is allow more depth in the QB drop but protects the OTs in pass pro (whereas a full five step drop would force the OT to cover more depth to form the pocket). DG is going to see a single high look right away, so he knows it isn’t cover 2. It turns out to be a man concept. He knows if he gets a heavy blitz he has his x receiver on a simple fade route (could also be run as a back shoulder fade). The goal of the TE is pretty much to clear out the zone for any zone coverage or pick the nickel in man coverage. He actually does a pretty good job releasing and getting up field, taking the strong safety out of the picture. The TE also picks the nickel back. Unfortunately, the LBs are spying and/or zone dropping. This covers DGs first read and he quickly takes off.
In order to see the full development of the play, he shouldn’t have taken off so quickly. He had one more read in the progression, as now the W receiver has cleared another zone where he vacated. This leaves an opening for the Z receiver, and he had him open. I’m guessing DG was told in situations like this that if he could pick up the first with his feet then do so (3rd and 3ish). The Z receiver doesn’t get great separation and it would have been a relatively difficult completion because of that.
DG does do a good job stepping up into the pocket to scramble. If he tries to reach the edge it gives the defenders time to flow. It makes the threat of the pass less likely, particularly with the routes they are running. If DG scrambles outside left, he needs to square his shoulders and hit receiver behind him with the defenders collapsing on the receivers. If he scrambles right, the receivers are running routs in the opposite direction and there is no real threat to pass. By stepping up, he forces the defenders to play him honest. The receivers take their defenders toward the center of the field, DG gets to the second level, and then escapes outside and has a huge running lane. The defenses single high man concept takes them out of position for a QB scramble which is why DG picked up so many yards.
Play 7 – 2:27
Almost the exact same concept, but now toward the outside. The defense is back to their normal ways, running a 4-3 under with a single high look. Tough to run against this look. On the snap the corners quickly fall off, and it is clear that it is cover 3 and Michigan has a great play call on. If blitz comes from the far side (the boundary side), then they have a quick slant built in for a hot route. The defense doesn’t blitz from that side, and instead a WILL drops into fill that hook, curl, hot area of the field. The SAM blitzes, but that’s ok, they have RB help on that side for protection. As far as DG’s reads, once he sees cover 3 he knows he’s going left. The outsize Z receiver is tasked with taking his man deep. He may also take the safety support, but most likely the safety will stay toward the single receiver side (as that’s typically the bigger threat). There are multiple ways to read the defensive coverage from here, but my feeling is that DG’s first read is the SS. If the SS breaks outside with the W receiver, he looks inside to the TE, where the W receiver has left a large vacant gap in the defense. If the SS doesn’t break outside, DG reads the corner, and there is a simple high/low concept.
The SS breaks. Even though the SS doesn’t break well and the W receiver looks open, I don’t think DG has the arm to make that out to the far sideline (most QBs outside Henne and Navarre don't), so that’s probably the reason he is playing so far inside. All is pretty much lost though, as the TE runs an awful route. The TE never threatens inside, he doesn’t get into the body of the MIKE, and he takes forever to get out of his break. The MIKE never actually even has to leave his shuffle to successfully blanket the TE (see the view from the endzone after). DG actually places the ball fairly well, and the TE does a decent job with his body, but in the end the MIKE is right on top of him and the TE can’t get any separation. Michigan is going to struggle at TE this year.
Play 8 – Time 2:49
Very simple play, but a good play with easy reads. Michigan goes to the I-form and the defense sticks with their 4-3 under. The FS creeps down to support the run. One thing that is lost in the shotgun/I-form debate is the reaction that the defenders have to the play action. While it is true due to Michigan’s very good running out of the shotgun, particularly at QB, that defenses tend to react more to the run threat out of shotgun, the flow of the defense tends to be different. In shotgun, the flow is more laterally. You are manipulating the defense from sideline to sideline (pretty much the basis of the spread run offense). Against I-form, you are threatening more downhill, essentially forcing the flow of the defense to change their depth. While it is obvious (QB OHNO!) that both depth and flow are effected using play action out of both sets, it is clear how much depth is affected on this play.
Because the FS is rolled down into the box, DG knows it is going to be a single high look most likely. This means cover 3 or cover 1. Once DG sees the FS in the box, he knows he has the X receiver open on the post, because the FS will have vacated any coverage help underneath due to the run threat. To the near side, you see the cover 2 beater. You see the TE running a delay and release. This is essentially another high/low concept. The TE is inviting the SAM to blitz in hopes that when he sees his cover man he attacks the QB. This also provides a little bit of extra time on DG’s back side so that if the SAM is straight up blitzing, he has time. The TE then releases into the flat. The corner, seeing that no one is immediately going under, is gaining depth on the Z receiver’s corner route. The Z receiver is hoping that, due to his initial inside release, that the corner will release him to the safety, where the Z receiver can then break back outside behind the corner and out of reach of the safety.
So now you basically have a high/low on the corner, as it is very difficult for the SAM to get back on the TE.
A few things of note though. DG is clearly excited to get the ball out because he knows he has an open man for big yards. He does a good job of getting his head around after the play action, but his excitement leads to bad footwork again. He throws a bit off his back foot and doesn’t follow through all the way. This leads to the ball going high and behind the receiver. DG needs to step into that throw and hit the receiver in stride for much more yards.
On the defensive side, whoa they committed to the run. A bit of an exaggerated reaction. The linebackers and FS need to read the O-line coming up high better. The O-line didn’t do terrible selling the run (they stayed fairly low and didn’t get a huge drop), but the defensive side needs to do better. Watch out for in the game though. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility for the defense to give this pre-snap look and have the FS drop into a cover 2 look, it isn’t that difficult of a roll. This is how interceptions happen; the QB relies too heavily on pre-snap reads. The defense played very vanilla all day.
Play 9 – 3:25
Screen play all the way. This was discussed during the game so I’m not going to go into great depth here. But the O-line cannot allow the defense to get a free run at the QB. You need to at least give him enough time to gain depth so that he has a gap in the defensive levels to drop the screen into. Defense did a good job reading the screen, as they had defenders there, but the Michigan running back did an awful job selling it.
More on screen plays here.
Play 10 – 3:34
*Ignore the red square here, it's meaningless.
The Michigan defense is going to be tough to beat on this play. They have 12 men on the field. Looks like they are supposed to be playing straight man with the SS helping on the X receiver, but with 12 people on the field it’s tough to tell exactly what’s going on. DG is confused by this 12 man look, which, ok, but is clearly staring down his X-receiver, who is trying to get into the SS’s body and then break outside toward the corner for a TD. The fact that DG stared him down this man isn’t that big of a deal. I think he initially saw all the bodies on the right side and assumed they were completely covered and that the nearside option would be his best bet.
Anyway, what this play is supposed to do. The X receiver really beats any tight press coverage. The goal is to get the corners back to the ball so that the receiver jump ball-esk play in the corner. On the far side, you see another high/low concept to defeat cover 2. The Y receiver is tasked with holding the safety in the middle of the field. Notice that the Y receiver is attempting to get beyond his man before making the post cut. This is because he doesn’t see over the top coverage, he is trying to get the man covering him to have to turn his back, essentially making it easier to get the ball to him. The big bust on the offense, regardless of the 12 men from the defense, is the Z receiver, who runs a very unconvincing route. He releases too quickly and doesn’t force the man covering him to break hard and to the inside, thus allowing for the free release toward the sideline where you hope the W receiver can block off his man and the Z can make his way into the end zone. The Z needs to really sell the hitch route to get that free opening.
As for DG, his footwork seems fine. He does a great job stepping into the pocket to escape outside again, avoiding the rush. The biggest worry here is his eyes. He appears to do only a passing glance to the right side of the field and seems pretty intent on throwing to the left. The 12 man defense probably had a lot to do with that, but it’s something else to keep an eye on.
So we see a lot of similarities in the pass plays. Fairly simple concepts, lots of high/low concepts, and fairly easy reads. It seems on a few plays the DG’s decision making was good, even on the scrabbles. His footwork remains the big issue, and continuing to grow through progressions. He appears to be able to, for the most part, determine the coverage type and pick one or two reads off of that. Michigan is spending a lot of bodies in protection and doing a lot of play action. Relying so heavy on play action could be construed as a little worrisome for the O-line and the receivers ability to get separation, or it could be interpreted that Michigan has a good run game and you should set up the pass with the run. I think it’s a bit of both, but I think Michigan wants to be a heavy play action team, so I’m not surprised by this.
As far as defense, very vanilla, but no big busts in coverage, which is always good to see in spring.
If you have any questions or comments for me, please let me know. If you think formatting should be different I’d be glad to hear. I would like to embed the video at the exact point for each play but I can’t seem to figure out how to do that, so I’ll stick with this method for now. Anyway, at least one more of these coming to finish off the DG pass plays. I will probably do another one after that sometime on select run plays that I’ve seen, and maybe one that focuses on Bellomy some and how he is progressing.
FF 210 - Screen Package
FF 400 - Drag and Follow
FF410: 2012 Spring Game Breakdown - DG Pass Plays - Day 1
There are several goals to this diary. First, it will analyze Devin Gardner, but I hope it will do more than that. I will also hope to dissect the intentions of the offensive play pass plays, including the reads, the reasoning behind the routes, and how the other players are performing. There will also be some discussion about the defense, as is necessary to understand what the offense is supposed to do.
This is by no means meant to replace a UFR. I will not look at individual players so much as assignments based on positions. There will be no +1/-1 or anything of that nature. It is purely to analyze what I’m seeing on film. While I do believe what I am “coaching” here, it is important to have a small grain of salt. I am by no means a coach at Michigan. I do not breakdown film for Michigan or have any connection with their football program, so I don’t know exactly what the coaches are coaching. What I do know is what I’m seeing on film, and what I believe that means. Other coaches on here may have other opinions, and that happens often in football. I may not be seeing something properly (though I hope not), it does happen, especially when only one person is looking at the film alone.
Anyway, today we will look at the first 5 pass plays from DG. I will definitely get to all the DG pass plays, and I won’t promise more beyond that (though I would like to dissect at least all the pass plays, but we’ll see).
Here is the film that I am basing this on, with the time stamps the time when the play begins.
Pass Play 1 – Time 0:00
Can’t really tell much from this play based on the quick pressure. The play action should probably be better, but that comes with a lot of practice. This play should look fairly familiar to Michigan fans during the Carr era, it is very similar to what Michigan used to attempt to get big chunks with.
The read is going to be the free safety. It is clear even from the pre-snap motion and alignment of the defense that it will be cover 1 or cover 3. The goal is to get him flowing towards the action. The post needs to get behind, which will essentially be behind the coverage as the SS will be expecting deep help. If this isn’t open, the second option is the sideline go route, if he beats his man then DG would go there. The third route, or the hot route, is the TE coming across. He’s pretty blanketed though as the PA wasn’t very convincing.
Pass Play 2 – Time 0:08
Defense is in fairly basic cover 2 and this should be an easy read for DG. The goal on the left side (near side) is to do a High/Low on the field corner, because it is believed that the SAM won’t be able to cover the entire flat. On the right side (far side) you have a hot route in case of a quick blitz. Blitz would typically mean the corner doesn’t have deep help and is forced to play more off and tentative. This is why the dig route is set there.
DG’s footwork is pretty good here. It’s a 3 step drop and he gains depth with his first step. His next two steps are shorter and more compact to gather his body. His shoulder look good and his eyes are down field. He steps into the pocket, but seems to relax and doesn’t use his legs in his throw (even though he steps into it a little). This is why it looks like he is just playing catch in the back yard. The ball goes where his shoulders are pointing, and thus the result. Let’s break it down a bit further.
DG’s first read will be the safeties to read the coverage type. First, Gallon is wide open above. DG doesn’t even give the X receiver a chance, but this is probably the correct read as he isn’t getting pressured. Second, he has the Y receiver. The problem is the placement of the ball with the position of the corner due to the coverage 2. The corner is going to undercut routes, he isn’t worried about the receiver beating him deep and to the middle because he has help there, so he is breaking heavily on everything and won’t let anything short and to the inside. One or two things went wrong on this play. DG needs to put the ball towards the outside and up. It needs to take the receiver deep and to the corner. The second problem may have been the Z receivers fault, though I don’t think so. I don’t think he has an option route here, one in which to read the defense and take the corner route. Either way, DG needs to put the ball toward the outside and deep due to the cover 2 and the corners position. The offensive line and TE need to work on selling run a little more (they come up high a little too quickly in my opinion) and the TE needs to work on his route, as he is fairly unconvincing in his fake pass block, doesn’t threaten the inside at all, doesn’t press into the SAM, and so the SAM covers him relatively well.
Pass Play 3 – 1:12
The premise appears to be a similar premise as the last play (high/low the corner). This time the defense is in cover 4 (you can tell by the quick bale by the corners and the SS attacking the PA). This time you have a drag route coming across with the idea that the slot will be able to beat the LB covering him, especially with the assistance of the PA flow. The problem is that the PA is extremely unconvincing from the O-line, meaning the drag route is essentially bracketed. This is the primary option and it’s now gone. The biggest problem comes from the TE though. He needs to hook the end. He needs to let DG threaten the edge so that the drag route can’t be double covered. Due to the defense, the route from the other receivers are going to be fairly easily covered. DG does a nice job side stepping the pressure and stepping up, but then his footwork goes to hell. He doesn’t step into his throw, his shoulders aren’t faced the correct direction, and he throws with only his arm. Otherwise they still may have been able to pull something out from this play.
In the end though, once the PA doesn’t work and once the TE doesn’t hook his man, this is a tough play for DG to make, even with correct footwork.
Pass Play 4 – 1:21
Michigan is in a 3-4 here. That’s right, a 3-4. The blitz just completely overloads the right side of the O-line and the O-line does not adjust well at all. I understand a new center and all, but this is getting ridiculous with these types of blitzes. Michigan has been getting killed on inside stunts going back to the MSU game. Once a team gets penetration up the middle they are a decent contain man away from a huge loss with very little chance of the play ending in anything other than a sack (the QB can’t step up and can’t get out of the pocket to throw it away, it’s almost a sure blitz). If this blitz is actually communicated and picked up it’s relatively easy pickings. This needs to get figured out please! (/rant).
Anyway, behind the blitz appears to be a man cover 1. This was intended to be some sort of slant and go combination. We will disregard the complete confusion by the O-line and the heavy pressure so we can actually look at the play, though it’s hard to see what’s really going on.
The goal of this play is to match up the quicker and faster slot on a slower LB or safety and beat him deep. The slot runs a pour route and convinces no one he is running the slant. Because of this the first read is that FS. If he bites, the next thing to look at is the right side corner, who will now be showing either man or cover 3. If man, he will be up on the X receiver, and the SLUGO (slant and go) will be open behind the FS. If the corner is dropping off, it is cover 3, and the X receiver running the hitch will be open. Essentially another high/low concept.
Pass Play 5 – 1:34
One of the most common plays in the game today, and one of the most successful and difficult to defend. This play has picks (or as offensive coaches like to say “rubs”) all over the place. The goal is actually to get Gallon open. The defense again appears to be in a 3-3-5, and this time drops into a cover 3 look. Everyone save the FS is up towards the line, meaning there is a good chance you are getting a zone blitz. The offensive line actually picks it up pretty well, though the tackle needs to take the DE deeper.
Again, let’s look at DG’s footwork, because it’s pretty bad again. His drop is sloppy. It looks like it is supposed to be a 5 step drop, and he does a decent job gaining depth, but the outside pressure doesn’t allow him to finish his drop properly. When he steps up his shoulders are fine, but then he again only throws with his arm and almost shot puts it out there. He actually looks like he puts the ball where he wants it, and that’s another problem we will discuss in a bit.
DG is locked in on his primary receiver (the W here) and misses a wide open Y TE. The reason the Y is open is because the Free is probably bracketing the X receiver. The near-side corner is making sure nothing gets outside of him.
The Z receiver is attempting to take bodies with him while the W receiver delays and reads the defense. Finally, the W receiver goes and rubs off of the Z receiver. If this is man, the linebacker, nickel, or safety attempting to cover the W receiver will be picked and the W receiver will get big, big yards as he drags across the field. It’s not man coverage though, but this play is still set up to work. The W receiver drags across the field and has two options based on what he sees. He can see that the near-side corner hasn’t gone with the TE, and thus is still playing outside and shallow or he can see that the near-side corner has gone with the TE and the flat is wide open. The W receiver reads correctly that the corner has maintained the outside coverage, and settles in the zone. DG doesn’t make this read and tries to lead him into a big hit.
The progression is to read the FS to see the coverage type (cover 3), then the Nickel. Regardless the coverage, reading the Nickel will tell DG where to put the football, as the Nickel is essentially being forced to play inside or outside and gives away who the open man will be. In fact, even if it’s man, if DG reads the Nickel following, he will know his W receiver is going to be open on the drag.
This was probably DGs worst play that I’ve broken down so far. He had good protection, two open targets, and relatively easy reads and failed to make them.
By the way, checking to a veer play could potentially go for big yards here.
So the coverages from the defense have been fairly straight forward so far. The 3-4 front was a nice touch, but we aren’t really seeing much from the defense that we haven’t before. You can already see common themes in Borges offense. He is going to put a defender in a lose/lose situation, and if the defense plays it correctly the QB is usually going to be hitting short and intermediate routes.
The key is, and the reason defenses allow this sort of thing, is because the QB still needs to make the play. He still needs to make the right read and right throw all while being pressures on the fifth play dissected here. That is no easy task. And then even when they make the play it’s probably a 5 yard gain and as a defense you’ve forced them into a third down and have a chance to get off the field. I didn’t go into many defensive concepts (Mattison has left them fairly basic at this point), but hopefully you can read into what the goals are for them by this breakdown. If not, then understand that Mattison has a few basic ideas: be gap sound, don’t allow big plays, and put pressure on the QB. This often leads to relatively open short and intermediate routes, but again, forces the QB to make the reads under distress.
DG had a rough start to the day, he struggled to make reads, he struggled with footwork, and he struggled with PA, but it isn’t all on him. The O-line didn’t sell PA well. The TEs have a lot of work to do (this will probably become a common theme). I have actually rarely been disappointed in the receivers at this point. While the separation hasn’t been great (particularly on the interception), but they did a sufficient job for what they were tasked to do.
I will continue to break down the next group of plays when I have time, for now, read, dissect, and enjoy.