Strategy Session: Did the defensive playcalling actually improve?

Tomahawk Nation writer CaStauch went inside our defensive gameplan.  

So I went to the game, then watched the CSTV Maryland replay today at 4

As usual, FSU represents well up here in the DC metro area. Lots of grads/bandwagon fans that converted when we would venture up here and routinely smack around UVa and UMd.

I think this week was a vindication of the critique that has been posited and discussed on these boards throughout the week. Specifically on defense, where Mickey was unfairly by some eyes disparaged for his stubbornness, lack of creativity, and general oldness . Yeah, we dominated in that phase of the game. But the method by which we dominated was indicative of what a Mickey Andrews defense denotes.

Everette Brown is a perfect example of what I’m trying to get at here. He earned his pending paycheck last night. In person, this guy is impressive . He reminds me of a cross between Peter Boulware with his hand on the ground and Dwight Freeney. His speed rush was unblockable; we were guaranteed a sack every time they isolated him against either tackle. His footwork and intuition only accentuated the obvious physical disparity between him and everyone else on the field, as he would toy with the opposing linemen, get him to cross his feet, and then swim or speed by him. Admittedly, putting him at the DT position with Mincey, Moffett, and White may be the best schematic quirk we’ve employed in a while: it gave us 4 DE’s that each have superior 1on1 technique. This only works well when you have a first rounder like Brown to as the fulcrim, however, because he generates enough worry to shake the whole line’s confidence and divert their attention enough to accentuate the advantage that our other 1on1’s should take advantage of.

With ample pressure from the front four, the vanilla scheme behind the LOS was able to succeed. FSUncensored’s comparison to Miami’s ubiqitous man under during the early decade is spot on. Press coverage by the DB’s, not necessarily to remove the player as an option, but essentially to rush the play even more, skewing the timing between the QB and the WRs that is already stressed due to the lack of time in the pocket. Clogging the middle of the field with athletic linebackers playing a rough man zone, taking away the middle of the field from a quarterback that doesn’t have the composure, arm strength, or sure footing to drive it outside. Deep safety or robber-1 coverage from the back behind, a conservative aspect that works when you have DL pressure, changed timing, middle contain.

We didn’t try to fool anyone. We ran this look for much of the game (we used the robber coverage with Ingram, but switched to deep halves when Myron came back). But the reason it worked was not due to schematic advantage or precise response. It was due to our personnel advantage.

We had a verifiable game changer on the field. Brown last night was the definition of the necessary element of Mickey Andrew’s defense. Everything we did worked because of the havoc he wrought. Without him beating anyone he lined up against, wherever he lined up, our man coverage doesn’t work. The old hook that you can only successfully cover your man for under 3 seconds proves, true, and we get torched by crossing and rub routes. The deep halves we played get exposed, with multiple verticals or play action.

Whittled down to its core, the offense’s advantage over the defense in football is directly related to time and space . Each offense attempts to generate a temporal or spatial advantage against the defense in a unique way. Either they use the width of the field and create pockets of nuermical and directional advantage in space, or they use the duration of the play to create pockets of the same. A game changer on defense, one of those elite players that is a significantly better than anyone on the field, can singlehandedly remove the ability of the offense to use either time or space to its advantage. A dominant DE or CB do this most directly. The DE disrupts the timing of the offense, compressing its ability to make decisions and find those pockets of advantage, and the CB eliminates the spatial aspect: shrinking the field to 27 yards. Compressing the field to 27 yards makes finding that same advantagous situation very difficult.

Brown was the cause of our advantage last night. Mickey Andrews’ defense is predicated upon each player’s ability to beat his opposite. His scheme does not creatively or through subterfuge put his players in their best chance of success. Instead, it places the onus on each player to exhibit perfect execution and superior athletic ability. This can work when you have a dominant force on your side, because it disrupts the natural advantage of space, time, and direction that the offense possesses. But when you don’t have that trump card, the inevitable weight of personal responsibility and the stress of perfect execution is too heavy to bare. Good defensive coordinators use schematic know-how and creative intuition to limit that weight. When you put your athletic players in places that highlights their strengths and diminishes their weaknesses, you get great players making great plays. Mickey’s way can work. But it puts the albatross on the game changing player instead of the coach. It’s the player’s responsibility to highlight the abilities of his teammates and mask their weaknesses, through his disruption.

I’ve got impressions about our offense and employment of personnel on either side of the ball too, but I wanna post this first and see what the response is. If I’m completely off base, I don’t want to do it twice more.

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