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]
Play 15 – 0:19
The play appears to be 4 verts which the defense covers well out of their cover 2 (note the safeties drop immediately, whereas if it were cover 4, the corners would drop initially and the safeties would be more responsible for run support. Here, you see the near corner jam and the far corner diagnose if anyone will attack the under zone before he follows the receiver deep as he is supposed to do). The two defenders covering the slot do a nice job of not allowing the receivers inside of them and taking them off their routes. The WR on the bottom of the screen gets jammed very successfully, which is good for the corner, but I see some issues with the WR. He doesn’t bring his hands, he instead just tries to run through the corner, almost as if blocking him. Good WRs, just like DEs, use their hands to do swim moves, etc. to shed the corner’s grip on them. With Michigan’s WRs not being as fast or quick as other receiver groups, you would hope they would have something like this down (because it is essential to their success, and they got jammed often and relatively successfully last season), but they don’t seem to have a good grasp on it yet.
Bellomy does a good job of stepping up into the pocket to avoid pressure, though the LT looks clumsy in his pass pro (still very slow and uncomfortable looking as he tries to gain depth), which is how the DE gets around him. The field corner has done a nice job of going down field with his man when he sees no one is attacking underneath. The third group on the field, the refs, show up in poor position, as the umpire impedes the RBs release. The throw is made a bit off balance and Bellomy doesn’t step into it as he decided to check down at the last second after scanning deep and left. While you’d like to see perfect passing technique at all times, it isn’t really realistic, and I think he’s fine with the throw he made here. You’d like Smith to get out of his break a little quicker to get a bit more separation though, but Smith is going to be Smith and make solid, but not necessarily the most athletic of plays most of the time. As for the MLB covering Smith, you can tell he’s still a little jittery in coverage. He makes a false step to his right, and that’s just enough to make it so he can’t break up the pass. He does close well though.
A note about the offensive play call: I love it. Here’s why. It’s 3rd and 4, so most likely you have to pass the ball, but the defense still needs to respect the run. Because of that, you know almost certainly that the defense will be playing a cover 2, cover 4, or man. Basically, you know you can clear out everybody and have your RB matched up with a LB in space, which is an easy 4 yards. On the other hand, if the defense defends the first down marker (rather than sticking with their true coverage responsibilities) then one of the 4 verts will be open for a big gain on third down.
Play 16 – 0:48
This is the same formation from the same hash as play 14. Expect to see variations of this play a lot this year and years to come, as it is one of the most basic and important west coast offense pass plays.
It’s a cover 3 look with a zone drop from the WDE. The defense is in its typical under look. Bellomy gives a very good fake, drawing the LBs up in coverage. The offensive line does a good job of moving the D-line and selling the fake. The biggest problem is the DT, who is put in a position on the zone read that he is unaccustomed to (contain), and then messes up.
Rather than maintaining leverage and forces Bellomy to stay inside (and attempt to throw over top of him), he gets sucked in by the run fake after he has feigned doing his assignment. This essentially puts him in no man’s land and is even more frustrating. If a guy is going to make a mistake you want him to make a mistake hard and fast, right here, if Bellomy hands off on a true QB read, the DT isn’t in position to make a play on the RB either way. The DT believes he did his job so the QB won’t keep anyway, but there is no reason for him to leave his man, and even if it was a run play and the QB kept it by mistake, the DT needs to be there to make the play.
The DE also drops into a sort of read type zone, and doesn’t read the FB leaking into the flat. Bellomy makes the quick over/under read on the playside corner (who dropped with his man) and makes a good play.
Also open on this play, especially if the DE runs to the flat, is a play similar to the QB WHOOPS play that many people love around here. Basically, the slot fakes a down block on the SAM and slides behind the LBs. That dump (“pop”) pass to the tall slot receiver in the vacated zone behind the crashing LBs was wide open and could have also been hit for big yards. But because the DT didn’t maintain leverage on the play and the DE didn’t cover the flat, Bellomy never made it to that point in his progression.
In summary, this play picks on the LBs more than the corner, forcing them to cover the middle of the field and the flat and the run the opposite direction. I really like this play as it attacks all areas of the field and exploits any position group cheating.
Lots of easy to read options and very difficult to defend, especially if a team is successfully running the football, which is why this is a cornerstone play of the west coast offense (you’ll tend to see it a lot more out of the I-formation, but this is basically running it out of split backs, a loved formation of WCO people, but with the QB in the gun).
Play 17 – 1:18
Bellomy sees 1 deep safety right away and knows it’s cover 1 or cover 3. In this case it’s cover 1 and the field corner is playing off. The defense looks to be playing a cover 1 man under and taking away the inside routes with the nickel/SAM. The read is good, but there are a few problems with the play, and I’ll start with the non-Bellomy related aspects. The WR does a good job of using his body to shield the corner, who makes a good break on the ball. I like the quick break on the pass and solid wrap up and tackle, but you’d like to see him take a little better angle and get his hands in there and break up the pass (he actually beats the ball to the man).
You also want to see the O-line either get the D-line to the ground or at least maintain contact with them so that they can’t get their hands up. If Bellomy went to the top of the screen there was a good chance the defensive line could have knocked the pass down. Other than that, the protection slide was well done. The TE does a good job of reaching the SAM (who is helping with a called slant). This TE needs to get that reach to ensure that the SAM jump that passing lane on the quick pass. He then does a delayed route over the middle. This is in case the corners are playing tight coverage or jamming, thus disrupting the timing. In that case, they most likely have over the top safety help. If that happens, then the middle of the field will be open, Bellomy will have to reset his feet, and then throw pass over the LB to the TE, which should be successful late.
The WR does not threaten deep. After 3 steps his body gives away the route. He isn’t quick in his break (note the top WR is already turned to the ball while he is just starting to drop his hips). He pivots rather than breaking back to the ball, and then fades downfield. The fade may be a requirement due to the throw, but you’d still like to see the WR work toward the ball rather than fading down field. That is how pick sixes happen.
Now Bellomy. His footwork is too slow. It’s very deliberate, as if he is going through a rep trying to nail it down in practice. The footwork looks good, but it’s slow, it’s not game speed. He needs to have the ball out a half beat sooner. The ball may be out at the pace it is though because Bellomy expects the WR to take his route deeper (and better). The throw is upfield and inside, and where his foot is aiming. This is a timing issue that takes practice between a WR and a QB, and may be the problem here. If Bellomy expects the route to be deeper than he needs to maintain his eyes to the center of the field more, because he is staring down the man very early.
This play shows several important aspects: the timing between the QB and WR; the accuracy of the pass; and the accuracy of the route. None of those were done very well here and the offense is lucky the defense didn’t actually put up some points here.
Play 18 – 1:28
Defense shows their normal look and moves and extra safety down into the box. Bellomy knows he has a single high safety before he snaps the ball, which is nice because as he turns on the play action, he can anticipate cover 1 or cover 3 when he turns his head. LBs are blitzing hard and crashing on the run. The RB picks up the blitz very well, taking the blitzing safety to the ground. Bellomy leaves the pocket well before he needs to, as he didn’t put enough trust in his RB, and essentially bails on the play. This puts the RT out of position and allows his man to eventually apply pressure.
The WILL overreacts to the run, but does a decent job turning his head and finding a man to cover in his zone drop (rather than dropping blindly into a zone). MIKE is very slow and caught in no man’s land and doesn’t know what to do when he gets there. Again, make mistakes hard and fast if you’re going to make them. Don’t do nothing.
Here’s the problem. Bellomy saw single high safety and then felt pressure, so he went to his hot read, which is open after is break. But because Bellomy bails and doesn’t trust his protection, he can’t hit him. This should have been easy pickings. He’s then late and the WR lacks awareness to know where he is on the field.
Toward the top you see what I think is a play on the classic high/low concept we’ve been seeing. I believe the TE here is actually running a wheel route, and that they are essentially picking on the corner on a sort of inside/outside concept. The WR takes about a 10 yard in and is wide open in the middle of the field where the crashing LBs have vacated. I anticipate that if the FS crashed down as well, this route would turn into a post route. This route combination would really pick on cheating corners who either break on the TE flat or follow their man too far inside. At the end of the day Bellomy makes the correct read though, which is get the ball out to your hot read against the blitz, but he doesn’t trust his protection enough to make the play successful (this will happen to young QBs facing pressure, the play could have still worked if the WR knew where he was on the field though).
Note that this is a clear variation of play 8 (seen in FF410 – Day 2).
You can continue to see the philosophy from Borges with this offense and a bit of what Mattison is thinking on the other side. So far, Bellomy has made pretty good decisions, but has been a little bit nervous with pressure. I still question his arm strength, though he appears to be making the correct reads, I would fear that if he got significant playing time (ie had to start some games), defenses would start forcing him to try to throw the ball deeper and fit it into windows to test his arm strength.
On defense, it appears the LBs were really being drilled on reacting to the ball. I think that’s better than them being passive and trying to over think plays, but play action is not this teams strong suit right now. The defensive backs have made a lot of improvement and are making very few mistakes, though this second unit still had some trouble covering in man.
There are 4 more pass plays from Bellomy, and then we will take a look at the run game a bit.