FF410: 2012 Spring Game Breakdown - DG Pass Plays - Day 3

Submitted by Space Coyote on May 25th, 2012 at 11:16 AM

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:


Offensive notes:

  • 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).


Defensive notes:

  • 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.

Up next

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.



May 27th, 2012 at 2:39 AM ^

Play 11--

The standing offensive tackle is spying Gardner. His responsibility isn't to cover the back (notice his eyes remain on Gardner even as the RB comes towards him). There's nothing to blame there. 

The coverage is clearly Cover 2 to the boundary with Wall technique by the OLB (Nickel). The corner gets beat outside and has to turn his back (explaining why the checkdown got 13 yards on 3rd and 4). It's Cover 4 to the field. Note the corner backpedals out at the snap, probably playing Catch technique. Note the OLB (Nickel) to the field attempts to jam and continues outside (he doesn't Wall). I'd call it Cover 6.

Play 12--

Safety to side of the X WR goes deep with the X (you can see him enter the screen as Gardner steps out of bounds). The coverage is 3 Under, 3 Deep. I'd call it Cover 33. It's the traditional zone blitz coverage, just a little different in terms of who's pressuring.

The Will is out of position because it's play action. It's not sold well by Gardner (because of the bobble), but is by everyone else.

Surprised Gardner didn't throw to the X. One-on-one with your best WR (in theory) on a safety playing outside. I think (big emphasis on think), he was looking that way right before he took off (which seemed early to me).

Play 13--

Surprised you like 3-step in the Gun. It doesn't time up as well as being under center. I think Gardner does a fantastic job selling play action and then getting rid of the ball quickly. That's very tough to do.

The WR does do a good job getting open. The problem is he loses a good 4 yards inside doing it. If this is straight dropback or catch and throw, it should be a pick going the other way. The WR could widen his split or sell fade off the LOS before coming underneath the CB (not always easy), but the Will will get into that window if he isn't biting on play action.

Space Coyote

May 27th, 2012 at 11:20 AM ^

I think you're clearly right about play 11 after looking at it again.  

On play 12 I don't think DG is comfortable with that throw yet (see his interception) and though he had enough time to scan to see the TE open.  I think if he was more comfortable in the pocket he makes that pass, but it's a tough pass when you feel pressured from behind and start getting the bubble in front of you closed in on.  I don't really blame him for taking off.

I like gun out of play 13 because it allows DG to keep his eyes downfield to see if WILL is biting on the PA.  I think the split could be a little wider, but I think you want to force the corner to play you straight up, and if you widen too much they are going to start cheating inside.  So yes, maybe a yard wider, but you don't want too much IMO, especially seeing as Gallon isn't as much of a fade threat.


May 28th, 2012 at 1:25 AM ^

Play 12--

I don't fault Gardner for leaving either. We don't have a good view of the secondary there and it's possible the WR fell down. That being said, I believe he had time to step up and throw the ball to the X right there. He chose to run and gained a lot of yardage. Hard to blame him for that choice.

Play 13--

Is he reading the Will? It's a 3-step route. He should have already made a pre-snap read that nobody's in the alley to the single WR side. I think he's going to Gallon regardless. I don't think the QB needs to read the Will to do that. The play action keeps the Will in the box and does give the WR room to do what he does, but the WR really loses a fair amount of yardage to get open. Right before he tries to make the catch he actually make a more vertical move that allows the DB to get in on the play. That doesn't help your QB. Outside stem, force the CB to turn his hips or at least respect Fade, and then cut inside of him.

It's hard to say how wide the WR could get before the DB plays more inside (which wouldn't be the end of the world anyway). We have a slight clue at the top of the screen--30 yards from the ball and CB is playing the Z head up at 5 yards off. I think two yards wider would still get the WR what he wants, but I don't know. It's also possible Borges doesn't give that option to his WR or wants him lined up at the bottom of the numbers on this particular route. We don't know.

This is also a case where we don't know how this is being taught. If the CB does play hard inside leverage with, can the WR and QB hand signal to a Fade route.

Space Coyote

May 28th, 2012 at 9:14 AM ^

But after watching it several times, I think he beat Floyd cleanly and then Floyd reaches out and pulls Gallon vertical by the shoulder of his jersey.  Otherwise I think Gallon has enough room to maintain his route.  That's what I thought I saw anyway.


June 3rd, 2012 at 1:30 AM ^

Watching Devin since high school it's always been obvious that his footwork isn't very impressive. He "arm throws" a lot more then he should. With his stature and arm length and proper mechanics he could sling it like Ryan Mallett. Hopefully we see more consistency out of him this fall if and when he's called upon or in our two qb set. I'm confident in our top three quarterbacks, but have always thought Devin would turn out like Vince Young @ Texas. He should have one year to himself so I hope he improves on everything and becomes a leader.