Sunday, February 07, 2010

Things I Got Out of the Decent Pregame Shows

So, rather than watching the interminable garbage that makes most most of the Super Bowl pregame, I instead elected to watch the game preview shows that are worth a damn: ESPN's NFL Matchup, a 30 minute show that aired Sunday morning, and NFL Network's Playbook, which aired 30 minute preview shows Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and an hour show Saturday, with each focused on the offense or defense of one of the participants.

NFL Matchup

  • Merrill Hoge points out something I noticed while watching the Colts-Jets game: the Colts changed from 2TE sets to 3WR beginning with the 3rd drive, and the Jets were never able to adjust. This is one thing I think will be different; the Saints will show better positional flexibility, and not show the Colts such a pass-friendly look.
  • Nice breakdown from Hoge of the Gregg Williams Jaguars getting pressure with a fire x stunt up the middle-that kind of pressure up the middle and outside press coverage is what gives the Colts problems. Ideal solution is of course pressure with 4 and cover 7, but if you can't get pressure with 4, that's one solution, though of course it leaves you vulnerable to the 7 yard slant turning into a 70 yard touchdown.
  • Jaws was very enthusiastic about the matchup potential of Reggie Bush. I was very much a downer on him in Scramble this week, because I think the Colts' defense is one well suited to do well against Bush's strengths. He's not the kind of player you want or have to feed if he doesn't have the advantage, so I don't think he'll have a big game.

Playbook Wednesday-Saints Defense

  • Good coverage of the Saints showing some 3-4 look in the NFC Championship Game against Minnesota. This is one of the options Gregg Williams has, and I suspect it's one he'll turn to; I question a little whether the Saints players, particularly the outside linebackers are sufficiently modular-i.e., whether or not they can get at Peyton if they do blitz or cover Addai or Clark or cover even a shallow zone against one of the wideouts, plus it'll only enhance their vulnerability against the run. Even if the Colts aren't ripping off big gains, they could have a consistent 3-5 yards doing that, which is one of the reasons I expect a shorter game in terms of possessions and a similarity to SB XLI.
  • This was mentioned a bit in NFL Matchup as well, and it seems kind of trite, but one thing the Saints back 7 has shown they're vulnerable against, partly for scheme reasons, is being over-aggressive against both play action and pump fakes. That's how Shiancoe got so wide open in the AFC Championship Game, and I'm sure Peyton will nice that. The aggressiveness is part and parcel of Gregg Williams' defensive philosophy, though. If the Colts blow the Saints out, it'll be taking advantage of this aggressiveness.

Playbook Thursday-Colts Defense

  • One important thing to keep in mind: the Colts safeties are extremely fast at reacting once they see what's happening. That's how they can maintain some credibility as a run defense despite being so pass-oriented, but doesn't prevent you from getting the consistent short gains if you want them.
  • Linebackers, more of the same: quick reactions, and great speed on defense. The unspoken lesson for Sean Payton is that if you're getting consistent success on the ground, even if it's not many yards, the point is that you're getting consistent success on the ground. The Rams' loss in Super Bowl XXXVI was about Mike Martz's hubris and insistence that he had to win the game his way, ignoring the fact that his first priority had to be winning the game, regardless of how it happened. Sean Payton: you can't be a genius if you lose the game. Win first, then worry about looking like a genius.

Playbook Friday-Saints Offense

  • Watching Mike Lombardi talk on NFL Network, I'm reminded of a piece he did a year or two ago, about how it didn't make sense the Saints drafted Robert Meachem; while this was a pick I loved at the time and looks like it's paying off now, their receivers at that point were UDFA Lance Moore and 7th round pick Marques Colston. If you can have success finding guys there, why do you need a first round pick? On a related note, if I could get an honest and complete answer from Bill Polian to any single question, it would be about his theory of running back acquisition. He has Marshall Faulk in IND, but dumps him for a 2nd round pick, then spend a first round pick on Edgerrin James. He spends 1st round picks on Joseph Addai (a great pick) and another on Donald Brown, which seemed more like a luxury. Teams are able to find great RBs in all situations, as a look at the Saints' UDFAs of Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell shows, why spend 1st round picks on 2 RBs like that?
  • Cool thing you get on Playbook: Sean Payton breaking down a play. Key part of the play: the use of strong I, twin WRs weak to force the Will to play the deep middle of the Tampa-2.
  • Quote of the shows: "Sometimes, I believe the New Orleans Saints in their window dressing do a little bit too much." He was referring specifically to pre-snap movement to create different formations, but that's something Payton will have to guard against. See also Smart Football's Super Bowl preview, which comments on the Colts' basic offensive simplicity. I charted for FO much of IND's previous Super Bowl run and was struck by the ridiculously simplicity in the run game. It really was as simple as outside zone left, outside zone right, inside zone left, and inside zone right, plus the rare draw play. In that way, this game presents a great contrast of offensive styles.

Playbook Saturday-Colts Offense

  • Austin Collie and Dallas Clark are the same player but of different size. Those '06 Colts were in double-tight, double-wide formation virtually every single play in the playoffs, and their flexibility was moving Clark in the slot or not. This year, they can play Clark at TE and legitimately go 3-wide with Collie or play Clark, either tight or flexed, and Robinson as 2-TE. I really expect a lot of Collie today, to try to force the Saints into nickel personnel or play conservatively to avoid mismatches.
  • Video of the Texans running a fire-X stunt, with success. It's not clear what the Texans were doing defensively, but there seemed to be a little bit of a delay in the rush, so Peyton wasn't looking for his hot, and the coverage was good downfield.
  • Under-reported story: the Saints D has in the playoffs seen two QBs who will end up in the Hall of Fame in Kurt Warner and B**** and F****, while the Colts have seen a second year guy and a rookie.
  • Sterling Sharpe says some very nice things about the Colts' offensive line. I throw something. I don't see this as a particularly good offensive line. What they are now is well-coached and work very well together, thanks to Howard Mudd, but Peyton makes them look like a much better line than they are. He doesn't move a lot, but he moves very intelligently.
  • The Colts don't have big receivers; none of Garcon, Collie, nor Wayne is particularly big, but they're not soft either-good shot of Wayne getting a good release off Revis by being physical at the line of scrimmage. That's normally a big advantage for Revis against most wideouts.

Gee, that was a lot easier than writing a real preview.


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