“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."
"The experience he has from last year is starting to show," Jazz forward Gordon Hayward said. "He’s making shots, and he made some gutsy plays against Portland. He’s got a confidence about him that he can get the job done."
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.
Here is some further reading on passing concepts that may help some of you out that want to further inhance that portion of your football knowledge. Levels. Triangles.
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.
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.
Thanks for these write ups, it really helps as someone who has never played/coached before. Since it seems a big part of Borges' game plan is to force defenses into leaving someone uncovered with the high/low stuff does WR speed become less important than catching ability and route running? Just wondering because of the types of WRs the staff seems to be recruiting.
These concepts are relatively normal. Route running is always extremely important, but so is stretching the field. The high/low concept probably relies more heavily on route running, but is also something used to beat zone concepts. Against man coverage you still need to beat the guy, and route running is still a big part of that, but so is pure speed. I think speed is always desired, so is good route running (obviously), and you need at least one or the other to be successful.
I really appreciate your work here. It's at a level of sophistication that is just right for a lifelong fan and two-year Mgoblog devotee. It's one thing to read about these concepts at Smart Football, etc., but more enjoyable to have them explained in the context of evaluating Michigan-specific plays and players. Keep up the great work!