“On the offense last year, they had great spacing. That’s what I remember. Great spacing, great shooters, like Nik Stauskas, who’s not there right now. But they always have someone to fill the roles. They have a cutting offense, kind of hard to guard.”
"Northwestern fans can be both heartened and disheartened by the loss to Minnesota just like how nineteenth-century resurrectionists were heartened when they pried a heart from a freshly-buried corpse and then disheartened it when they sold it to a disreputable anatomist."
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.
Good analysis. Thanks for taking the time to do this. As a non-coach, non-expert, even I noticed DG's lack of stepping into his throws, but your analysis helps illustrate why QB is such a difficult position to play well, There is so much that a QB must do well in such a short time to be successful.
These clips really demonstrate the perils of playing "10-man football" (or on a few of these clips, more like 8- or 9-man football). If the tight end doesn't sell PA and the QB also misses a read, even a well-designed play has no chance. Good thing these guys have all summer and fall to get it put together.
Thanks for doing these, and keep 'em coming!
Football allows the intellectual part of my brain to evolve, but it allows the emotional part to remain unchanged. And this is all I want from everything, all the time, always. --Chuck Klosterman
when there aren't a million comments on a detailed football post like this. Thanks for putting it up. Really helps me understand the game, though I'm only learning it slowly over time. This stuff is hard while reading on the couch, let alone being chased by Tom Gholstons and the like
all the high-low concepts Borges in implementing. It seems he is trying to give DG some similar reads out of different formations and sets. This makes the defense keep guessing while the QB can have less to worry about. I really don't see DG looking around at all in these plays. He just locks onto #1 guy and forces the ball. Hopefully he can work this summer on adding two guys to his progression reads. Thanks for the post, and I would love more of this stuff!