Category Archives: Film Study

9

June

Xs and Os: The Three-Deep Zone Defense (Cover 3)

The cover 3 pass defense has the cornerbacks and free safety splitting the deep half into thirds.

The cover 3 pass defense has the cornerbacks and free safety splitting the deep half into thirds.

Continuing with our series of defensive coverage shells, this week we’ll take a closer look at the three-deep zone defense, which is more commonly known as the cover 3.

Previously, we looked at the cover 1 and cover 2 defenses.

Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers predominantly prefers the single-high safety look, but he has deployed the cover 2 shell frequently over the years.

However, the Packers don’t use the cover 3 all that often, but it’s a defense that every NFL team must have in their arsenal because what it brings to the table.

Of course, this article comes with my standard disclaimer that this is an oversimplification for illustrative purposes only.

Cover 3 Defense Defined

When defending the field, the defense usually divides the area vertically into “halves.” The underneath half typically extends 7 yards from the line of scrimmage and the deep half usually extends 15-20 from the line of scrimmage.

In the three-deep zone defense (cover 3), the free safety and both cornerbacks play zone defense and each guard a third of the deep half. They must cover any receiver entering their respective third of the field and drive towards to the ball once it is in the air. Additionally, they must carry the receivers vertically all the way to the goal line.

The GIF below highlights the assignments.

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Strengths of Cover 3

There is no perfect defense in football. If the defense sells out to stop the run, they are extremely vulnerable to the pass. Likewise, setting up a strong back end to guard the pass makes them susceptible to the pass.

The cover 3 is a compromise defense of sorts. Because the deep third is covered by the free safety and both cornerbacks, the strong safety is free to align in the box.

This means the defense can play eight in the box to stop the run. The front seven (defensive line and linebackers) are in the box in addition to the strong safety.

In a nutshell, the cover 3 allows the defense the flexibility. It can be considered a “jack of all trades” defense. It is a very popular run defense, with pass flex, in the NFL because it allows the defense to pack eight in the box and still drop seven into zone pass coverage.

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28

April

Xs and Os: Phases of Man-to-Man Coverage

Cornerback Sam Shields excels at man-to-man coverage.

Cornerback Sam Shields excels at man-to-man coverage.

Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers became famous while implementing the zone blitz defense. However, while in Green Bay, he has let his talented cornerbacks, mainly Tramon Williams and Sam Shields, play a lot of man-to-man coverage.

This article looks at some of the basics of man-to-man pass coverage. While it’s popular to simplify it as “you go wherever he goes no matter what,” there’s definitely more to it than that.

While the above tenet is true about going everywhere your man goes, there is the importance of alignment and body position. Also, the overall strategy of defending the pass differs depending on how the defender is covering the receiver.

During man-to-man coverage, the defender usually turns his back to the quarterback. Based on his position with respect to the receiver, he has two options:

1) Play the ball

2) Play the man

For simplicity’s sake, let’s only look at how a cornerback covers a wide receiver in true man-to-man coverage. Assume there is no double coverage or other creative forms of bracketing.

When aligning the cornerback to the receiver, the alignment usually has the cornerback inside of the receiver with reference to the ball.

The reason behind this is because it puts the defender in between the ball and receiver and also allows the cornerback to use the sideline as an extra defender. If the ball is caught out of bounds, it’s an incompletion.

The most basic form of man-to-man coverage is called in phase “even”. The cornerback is running even with the receiver and their shoulders are almost touching.

In phase "even"

In phase “even”

While in phase “even”, the cornerback is instructed to play the ball, essentially becoming a receiver on the play. In this position, the quarterback’s throw must go through the cornerback.

Similarly, cornerbacks often trail the receiver by playing “in their back pocket”. As long as the cornerback is not in front of the receiver, he’s still in phase. If trailing, he’s in phase “hip”. 

In phase "hip"

In phase “hip”

While in phase “hip”, the cornerback also plays the ball.

Conversely, the cornerback may, at times, play in front of the receiver. This is called out of phase.

Out of phase

Out of phase

27

February

What if Packers GM Ted Thompson takes a WR Early in the NFL Draft?

Could Packers GM Ted Thompson take a WR like LUS's Odell Beckham, Jr. in the NFL draft?

Could Packers GM Ted Thompson take a WR like LUS’s Odell Beckham, Jr. in the NFL draft?

It’s obvious to both diehard and casual Packers fans that the team desperately needs to upgrade at the safety position and also on the defensive line. Middle linebacker or tight end (if Jermichael Finley can’t play) could use upgrades as well.

With Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb returning at wide receiver, and Jarrett Boykin emerging last season, nobody is clamoring for the Packers to add another receiver. But the upcoming draft is overflowing with receiving talent, and Packers general manager Ted Thompson might not be able to help himself.

If the Packers take a wide receiver in the first two rounds, I’ll have no problem with it. Sure, it might not fill an immediate need, but Thompson’s batting average in drafting receivers is one of the best in the league. It’s definitely a lot higher than when he tries to draft a pass-rushing complement to Clay Matthews, a dynamic defensive lineman or an offensive tackle.

If Thompson does take a wide receiver early in the draft, here are five guys that I think would be good selections for the Packers.

Odell Beckham, Jr., LSU
5-11, 198
Combine results

Fit with the Packers: I thought Beckham could possibly be a second-round target for the Packers, but he has rocketed up draft boards in recent weeks. After an impressive performance at the NFL Combine, he might be gone by the time the Packers pick in the first round. What I like most about Beckham is the consistency of his speed. Aaron Rodgers takes his footwork and timing on passing plays seriously. When Rodgers is in position to make a throw, he needs his receivers to be where he expects them to be on the route. Beckham’s quickness off the ball and smoothness in his acceleration makes that possible. He’s not herky-jerky in his movements and won’t be a half-step off when Rodgers is ready to throw.

Davante Adams, Fresno St.
6-1, 212
Combine results

10

January

Packers vs. 49ers Film Review: Micah Hyde’s Woulda Shoulda Coulda

Micah Hyde vs 49ers

Hyde’s near interception kept the 49ers last drive alive and allowed them to kick a game-winning field goal as time expired

Now that we are nearly four days removed from the Green Bay Packers loss to the San Francisco 49ers (again) in the wild card round of the playoffs, it’s time to take a look back at the game and some of the key plays that led to the final outcome.

Another early exit is hardly something to want to watch again and I’ll be honest, I haven’t watched an actual replay of the game since.  I probably never will.

Our team here at ALLGBP.COM will be tackling various plays and series over the next few days and offering some insight into what the Packers did, what they could have done and what ultimately happened.

I chose the near interception by Micah Hyde with just over four minutes left in the game.  Call me a frontrunner if you will, as this was arguably the biggest missed opportunity of the game for the Packers.

At this point in the game, the score is tied 20-20 and San Francisco has the ball at their own 30-yard line.  49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick had just overthrown tight end Vernon Davis deep down the seam on the previous first down play.  Below is the next play that ensues:

A few things to note about this play.  Upon taking the snap, Kaepernick takes a three-step drop and immediately looks left at receiver Anquan Boldin.  One of the knocks on Kaepernick is that he tends to lock in on his receiver, which he did on this play.

Boldin runs a five-yard out route.  Kaepernick taps the ball a few times, loads up and makes the throw.  Hyde was keyed on Kaepernick’s eyes the entire time and breaks on the ball.  He is in perfect position to make an interception in front of Boldin and leaps to make the catch.  Hyde gets both hands on the ball but cannot reel it in and it falls incomplete.

Had Hyde made the catch, there appears to be a lot of field in front of him and a good chance that he could have returned the pick for a touchdown.  Still, if he is brought down or ends up out of bounds, the Packers are already in field goal range and they put the ball back in the hands of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.  San Francisco had just one timeout left so they would have had only that plus the two-minute warning with which to stop the clock.

24

October

Charting Life After Finley

Much has been made rightly so about Jermichael Finley’s injury; I won’t go too much in depth because it’s been covered by several of my fellow writers but I will add that it’s great to hear that indications point to Finley avoiding a life-changing injury; ultimately the injury may cost him his career as a professional football player but at least he will be able to live a relatively normal life afterwards.  Going back to football, the question becomes “what do the Packer do now without Cobb, Jones AND now Finley?”  Obviously Finley was more a wide receiver than a traditional inline tight end and therefore could compensate somewhat for losing both Jones and Cobb but now that Finley is also out for the foreseeable future, what does the Packers wide receiver and tight end cores look like and how will they operate?  Keep in mind tight end is the joker of the Packers offense as tight ends often play inline, in the slot, as a fullback, as a move tight end and sometimes even on the outside; a lot of the Packers’ creativity, versatility and matchup problems come from moving tight ends around so seeing what they do with their tight ends is often a good indication of what their offense will operate.

I think the simplistic view is to look at body types and try to project players into Finley’s role.  Andrew Quarless is naturally the first option as he has the most experience and receiving production of the remaining tight ends.  Quarless is also a good blocker and thus likely would have seen time on offense even with Finley playing so playing him wouldn’t arouse as many suspicions as any other player.  The second option would be Brandon Bostick, a former wide receiver in a tight end body that has been with the Packers since 2012 who might be the most athletically gifted of the backup pass catchers.  The Packers obviously see something in him by keeping him this long and keeping him on the 53 man roster and his history as a wide receiver could help compensate for the more “wide receiver” like plays that Finley often made. However, just looking at body type and playing history is often misleading, Quarless has been in this situation before in 2010 when Finley was lost for the year with a torn ACL and did nothing with it and Bostick wasn’t even able to beat DJ Williams last year for a spot on the roster.

2

October

Mike Daniels Fitting in Nicely with the Giants Along the Packers Defensive Line

Mike Daniels tries to chase down RGIII

While Packers first-round pick Datone Jones got the hype, Johnny Jolly grabbed the headlines and B.J. Raji wondered aloud about a new contract, Mike Daniels kept plugging away.

The undersized fourth-round pick out of Iowa made the team out of training camp and has been the most disruptive Packers pass rusher on the defensive line this season.

Despite playing only 74 of a possible 198 snaps Daniels leads the defensive line in QB hurries (3) and is one of only two defensive lineman to record a sack. He also has four solo stops — the same as B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett, who have played 115 and 95 snaps, respectively.

Daniels won’t overwhelm anyone with his size and strength, but he makes up for it with explosiveness, athleticism, and a motor that runs on high all the time. He’s kind of the DuJuan Harris of the defensive line — a rolling ball of butcher knives that is all over you before you know it.

Take a look at this video of Daniels sacking Andy Dalton.

Daniels didn’t dominate the offensive lineman and make a highlight-reel sack, but he stood his ground and used his quickness and burst to disengage and make a play once Dalton tried to escape the pocket.

Do Raji, Pickett or Jolly have the athleticism to make a play like that? Maybe. But Daniels for sure has it, and he’s an excellent complement to the slower behemoths that make up the rest of the Packers defensive line.

As Jones goes through the same struggles that most rookie defensive lineman go through, Daniels has stepped up and provided the pass rush and versatility that many thought Jones would provide out of the game.

Now that Daniels has put several exceptional plays on film, we’ll see if he can keep it up as more teams become aware of his ability.

Raji, Pickett and Jolly provide a nice base along the Packers defensive line. Daniels is an excellent change of pace that can provide some much-needed pass rush up front. Will Daniels become more than just a nice change of pace? You could argue that he already has.

We’ll see if he can sustain it.

20

September

Ruling Down The Merriweather Hits

A lot of fans were angry and confused in regards to the Brandon Merriweather hits on Eddie Lacy and James Starks.  And rightly so, Eddie Lacy suffered a concussion on his first carry and was done for the day and naturally there was a lot of outrage as to why no penalty flag was thrown.

Afterwards, many fans have been calling for more consistency in terms of penalties, as they don’t understand why Merriweather wasn’t penalized on the Lacy hit but Dashon Goldson and Bernard Pollard were.  Obviously Packers fans were a little happier with “karma” being served with Merriweather ultimately knocking himself out on the James Starks’ hit but some Washington Redskins fans have complained that actually Starks should have been penalized for knocking Merriweather out (which is pretty ridiculous since defensive players attack the offense, not the other way around).

I think that realistically fans don’t really understand the rules of the game and only use them when it benefits their team, so in an effort to see what the rules are exactly and how they apply to these hits, I’ve gone through the NFL rulebook and some of their ruling memos in an attempt to see what exactly is going on.

Brandon Merriweather hit on Eddie Lacy (click to see the video)

From the first look I think many fans would claim that this should have been a penalty because Merriweather leads with the crown of his helmet on Eddie Lacy, who appears to trip over Jordy Nelson (who was blocking), gets turned towards the sideline and therefore does not see Merriweather coming.  The rule that most fans are thinking about in this case is Rule 12, Section 2, Article 7 (b): Players in a defenseless posture.

Prohibited contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture is:

(1)Forcibly hitting the defenseless player’s head or neck area with the helmet, facemask, forearm, or shoulder, regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the defenseless player by encircling or grasping him; or

(2)Lowering the head and making forcible contact with the top/crown or forehead/”hairline” parts of the helmet against any part of the defenseless player’s body; or