FFODC Looks At Our Formations

In the ‘Breakdown’ posts I usually start with a Lining Up section that shows formations we used and how we matched up our personnel.  Below are our 2 main formations:

3-4 defense:


Rotation at each position (parenthesis notes lesser playing time):

  • DT:  Baker, Jenkins, Hood, Francois, Reyes, (Lanier, Ioannidis)
  • OLB:  Smith, Kerrigan, Murphy, (Bates)
  • LB: Compton, Foster, (Cravens, Spaight)
  • Safeties:  Bruton, Ihenacho, Blackmon, (Everett)
  • CB:  Norman, Breeland, (Toler, Dunbar, Phillips, Fuller)

The defensive line has 5 guys, 3 of which are space eating 300+ pound defensive lineman (labeled as DT) who usually require a temporary double team if the offense wants to run the ball and move them off the line.  Unless the offense wants to keep in 8 blockers, it is impossible to double team all 3 of our DTs without letting one of our 5 guys at the line run free.  This forces the offense to block one of our DTs one-on-one and that is where the advantage of this formation lies.  This 5 man front is called an “under” front and is built to stop the run.  Our outside linebackers are essentially defensive ends but with a few more coverage responsibilities.

When Do We Use This Formation:  When the offense sends out 2 wide receivers or less.

Nickel Defense:


Rotation at each position:

  • DT:  Baker, Jenkins, Hood, (Francois, Reyes)
  • DE:  Kerrigan, Smith, Murphy, (Bates)
  • LB:  Compton, Foster, (Cravens, Spaight)
  • Safeties:  Bruton, Ihenacho, Blackmon, (Everett)
  • CB:  Norman, Breeland (Toler, Dunbar, Phillips, Fuller)
  • Slot CB: Phillips, (Fuller, Norman, et al)

This formation can also be called a 4-2-5, since there are 4 defensive lineman, 2 linebackers and 5 defensive backs.  We have morphed from a 3-4 to a 4-2-5 by removing one 300+ pound DT and adding a cornerback.  Our outside linebackers have converted do defensive ends by putting their hand in the ground.

The defensive line is in an “over” look.  This is more of a balanced look with 2 defensive lineman on either side of the center.  It is not as dominant versus the run as an “under”–now the offense has the numbers to double team both DTs–but it does allow us to play more defensive backs while still covering gaps up front.  Our converted defensive ends now have fewer pass coverage responsibilities.

Slot CB is our shiftiest corner not named Norman.  He’s a guy that can deal with quicker wide receivers like Cole Beasley and Jamison Crowder.  The slot CB’s specialty is dealing with guys that can get in and out of cuts quickly.  Sometimes we will move a regular CB here for match up reasons.

When Do We Use This Formation:  When the offense has 3 wide receivers.  If a 4th wide receiver comes into the game, we sub out Foster for Cravens.  Cravens plays with linebacker responsibilities at Safety speed which allows him to play more comfortably in space.

Continue reading “FFODC Looks At Our Formations”

FFODC Looks at Cleveland

We Have The Meats:  Chris Baker wanted bigger bodies on defense near the goal line last week.  He should see more space eaters up front against the Browns because they like to go with a heavy personnel since they don’t want to see their quarterbacks throw and die.  Against the Dolphins they ran a lot of 2 tight end and 2 back sets:



I’d expect us to be in a 3-4 look for most of the game.  Cleveland looks to be an offense that doesn’t know what they have and are trying anything and everything.  It’s lawlessness in the upstairs booth!  Last week, Miami loaded 8 in the box and dared the Browns to throw so Cleveland ran a lot of misdirection plays such as “Counter”, shown here:



in an attempt to find breathing room with their run game.  With Pryor in, they ran zone reads and used a multitude of zone and gap blocking schemes as they attempted to figure out what worked best.  Their should be a lot of option-like assignment football against the run this week for our front 7.

The passing game looked laughable with Kessler and Pryor taking turns throwing ducks and jump balls.  Kessler seemed to be pretty locked in on Pryor so if Norman can eliminate him and Preston Smith can do Preston Smith things then we should be in business.

What to watch for when we are on defense?  Hood versus double teams, linebackers versus misdirection and safeties filling correctly versus run.  The Skins have a tough assignment against the run but I’d expect them to hold the passing game in check.

Advanced Stats:  Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings are out for week 3.  Bad news:  Philly is number 1.  Good news:  It’s because they’ve been playing crappy teams.  Better news:  one of those crappy teams is Cleveland!  The Browns check in dead last at number 32.

Not Sure If Serious:  PFF ranked their top 10 players from week 3 and OH HAI THERE, former Skins corner David Amerson comes in at number 1.  Meanwhile, Browns’ outside linebacker Nate Orchard was ranked the worst at his position for week 3.

Preston Smith got our defense’s 2nd highest grade :

he registered two hurries, batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage, and made four solo tackles, all of them being run stops. He also did not miss any tackles

I had him checking in with the 3rd highest grade behind Kerrigan and Norman.  Notably absent from both our top grades: Trent Murphy, which makes his 50/50 snap count split with Smith seem a bit odd.

Offensive Line Shake Ups:  We sign center John Sullivan to the roster after losing starter Kory Lichtensteiger to IR.  We had a different back up center to start the year but then:

Austin Reiter made the initial 53-man roster, but was inactive in the Sept. 12 season opener against Pittsburgh. The Redskins cut Reiter the next day and re-signed him to the practice squad. But the Cleveland Browns signed Reiter to their 53-man roster last Tuesday.

Ironically, he will be in uniform this weekend when Cleveland plays the Redskins at FedEx Field

I hope he hasn’t reported to the Browns’ staff regarding any practice snafus with coaches quitting, buildings set ablaze, and Bruton entering an existential crisis after it was discovered teams like to run Power in the NFL.  FWIW rumblings out of practice indicate Spencer Long has been getting snaps at center and it looks like he’ll be slotted as our starter.

Too Good Not To Mention:  247sports pays homage to Les Miles’ career the only way you can: by reliving his best quotes.

Breakdown: Defense vs Giants (I)

Lining Up:

Giants stayed in 11 (1 RB, 1TE) personnel the whole way and we responded with our Nickel defense:


Compton stayed aligned to the side that had more wide receivers.  Fancy people call it the ‘field’ or ‘passing strength’.  It tends to be the side of the field with more space when the ball is lined up on the hash:


He’s lighter and can cover more ground than Foster and has a better grasp of zone drops than Cravens, so it looks like no matter which linebacker he’s on the field with the coaches will ask him to stay lined up to the passing strength.

I might have missed it, but I didn’t see a 3-4 defense one time in this game.

On With The Show:


The Giants ran a play some people call “Power” which allows for a double team to the side the running back runs toward and has an offensive lineman pull and lead the back through a hole.  The Giants usually doubled our 3 technique (lined up in between the guard and tackle) and pulled the backside guard as shown above.  They ran it versus Dallas in Week 1:


and Dallas chose to keep 2 safeties back and defend the Power play with 6 in the box:

The Giants running backs profited as Vereen finished that game with 6.3 yards per carry and Jennings with 4.2 yards per carry.  The following week the Giants played New Orleans and the Saints tweaked things around a bit:


They consistently brought down a safety and played with 7 in the box, blitzed linebackers and changed up their fronts to match up with and confuse the Giants’ Power blocks:

Vereen finished that game with 3.0 ypc and Jennings with 2.1 ypc.  Guess which game plan we picked!

Continue reading “Breakdown: Defense vs Giants (I)”

FFODC Preps For Saturday

Attack of the Crab people:

Brandon Herring on Twitter

Stanford and @mbloom11 taking pad level to a new place


DMV’s Other Team:  247sports currently has the 2017 Football Turtles ranked as the 17th(!) best recruiting class in the country.  Coach Durkin’s staff has been putting in work trying to catch up with the blue bloods on the trail.  They’ve been pulling out all the stops like invading SEC country and doing things the previous staff wouldn’t such as looking out their front door:

Maryland football’s class of 2016 was its first in eight years to include a player from local powerhouse DeMatha Catholic High School, located just down the road from campus.

Seriously Edsall, what the hell were you doing all those years?

Keim:  Skins players go full Belichick and reduce their problems on defense to not doing their jobs.  Some of the issues boil down to bad zone coverage.  This particular play:


was left out of this site’s Breakdown post because I felt it was being too hard on Compton, but lo and behold he called himself out on it.


Football Study Hall has a report on the relationship between team talent and performance.  Some results are obvious, others not so much.

Capping rookie contracts has burdened the NFL with an age problem

Extra Gaps

Inside Zonin’:  In the fourth drive Dallas lined up in 13 personnel (1 OL moonlighting as a TE) with a bunch of big uglies to the left of the center and just two guys to the right.  They ran it inside and destroyed our nose tackle with a double:


Both Hood and Baker got doubled with Hood getting discarded out the way.  One Dallas blocker from each double team was able to climb up to the 2nd level and double Foster.  On coaches film you can see our pre-snap alignment had Foster (54) lined up in between Hood and Baker:

Continue reading “Extra Gaps”

FFODC looks elsewhere

Length matters:  In the Steelers breakdown I clipped a couple of instances where Ben was flinging lazers 1 second after the snap to wide open guys who had yet to run a proper route.  According to Robert Mays at The Ringer, this could be the start of a trend:

Play callers and quarterbacks across the league were content to dink and dunk their way through opening weekend. During the 2015 season, only three of 34 qualified quarterbacks — Blaine Gabbert, Alex Smith, and Matthew Stafford — averaged less than 7 air yards per target (AYT). In Week 1 of the 2016 campaign, that number jumped up to 16

I’d like to see a follow-up report on that after week 4.  Also, I feel sorry for the poor sap that had to calculate how many yards in the air each throw traveled.

Roman fired:  Buffalo fired the league’s top paid OC Greg Roman and his 19 points per game.  This site did a breakdown of his offense last season when they played us and came away kinda stunned by how closely it resembled Tom Herman’s offenses (former Ohio State OC and current Houston head coach) with it’s plethora of quarterback counter and power schemes.  I really thought he was going to take the NFL by storm.  WELP guess not.  I’ll give Football Outsiders the last word on this:

This is some varsity-level scapegoating here. Greg Roman took a backup quarterback nobody wanted and turned that into a top-10 offense by DVOA even though LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins couldn’t always stay healthy. Meanwhile, the Bills defense collapsed last season. And yet, after a 37-31 loss, who gets fired? That’s right, goodbye Greg Roman

Hey, Skins are ranked in the TOP 5:  It’s not important at what but if you must know:


Ok, how are the Rams rated that low?  The Browns just lost their best wide receiver, so that makes sense…poor damn Cleveland.  No matter how laughable our franchise has been we can at least be thankful we aren’t Cleveland.  Right?

Norman will be tasked with following—oh damn there’s about to be a fight! 

Britt McHenry on Twitter

Josh Norman to shadow Odell Beckham Jr. Sunday & why it took til 2nd half Dallas game https://t.co/hUOladaUlX

I guess we can move Norman around the field after all.  Kinda like this past Sunday:



Your Moment of Zen:



Breakdown: Defense vs Cowboys (I)

Note:  The idea for these Breakdowns come from a Michigan blog called mgoblog.com.  Brian Cook is the founder of that site and if you want to find where all good things on the internet come from you should check out his site.  He’s got the football acumen of Belichick and the writing chops of David Foster Wallace-adjace.  You can’t ask for a better combo than that so check it out.  Unless youre a buckeye, in which case you should check out Ross Fulton at rivals.com by clicking here.   He has got some great Xs and Os but like Ohio State recruits, you gotta pay for it (take that!)

Lining Up:

We tried a few different looks versus Dallas’ 11 (1RB, 1TE) personnel, first we tried a 2-4-5 look:

2 DL, 4 LBs, 5 DBs
2 DL, 4 LBs, 5 DBs

Smith blows a zone coverage, Dez gets an eighteen yard gain.  So we scratched that and tried a 3-3-5 look:


They hit Dez for a 17 yard gain–this was more a function of a poor pass rush–so we scratched that formation and stuck with our ol’ reliable Nickel defense.  We stayed in Nickel for 39% of all snaps.  (I didn’t chart 4 plays because they were run-out-the-clock runs prior to half and end of the game.)

Any formation that had 2 backs or 2+ tight ends we responded with our 3-4 front which puts 5 guys on the line of scrimmage:


Personnel was same as last week except Reyes didn’t play so Francois and Jenkins got a lot of snaps.  DHall played a ton of strong safety and matched up on-one-on with the tight end where as last week he was more of a free safety playing deep coverage.

On with the Show:

Ben Standig on Twitter

Ricky Jean Francois on lack of adjustments not being a one week issue. #Redskins https://t.co/5Qjwl0Cuu1

“[Zeke] had a few big breaks”  I think the drive that is annoying Francois is the 5th one which was the 1st drive of the 2nd half.  Throughout the 1st half the Cowboys ran it outside with zone and we slanted our line to get into the backfield and stop it.  Here they come out in 12 (1 RB, 2TE) personnel which means we come out in our 5 man line 3-4.  They run it at Francois and Smith, Francois penetrates and blows up the play:

Continue reading “Breakdown: Defense vs Cowboys (I)”

Breakdown: Defense vs Steelers

Note:  I stopped charting after the 8th drive because…reasons.

Lining Up:

Pitt came out in 11 personnel (1RB, 1TE) and we matched up with our Nickel defense:


That yellow line is where the Steelers tried to run the ball.  You see Baker labeled as “3-tech” which means he is lined up on the outside shoulder of the Guard (i.e. in between the Guard and Tackle), the Steelers ran away from the 3-tech and into that space/bubble almost the entire game.  I charted runs AWAY from the 3 tech and runs TOWARD the 3 tech and got:

AWAY:  16 carries for 81 yards (5.1 ypc)

TOWARD:  6 carries for 31 yards (5.1 ypc)

They didn’t attempt a single run to the 3 tech side until the 2nd quarter.  Coming into the game it looks like they wanted to run away from Baker and toward any combination of Reyes, Hood and Golston.  The yards per carry were the same to both sides but that’s a little misleading.  There was one big gain on a run toward the 3 tech that was a function of our line slanting away from the direction the RB was running:


That’s just the perfect play call from the offense.  They pulled the guard and down blocked on our slanting line.  Outside of this play the Steelers could only manage 3 ypc when running toward the 3 tech–which was usually Baker before we started shuffling guys around.

We stayed in Nickel and Dime until the 3rd drive.  Pitt starting deploying 2 and 3 TEs and we responded with our 3-4:


DHall is off screen as the Free safety where he played the majority of his snaps.  Strong Safety was manned by Bruton (top of the frame, yellow shoes.)  He spent most of his time lined up over the tight ends and we brought him down into the box more frequently in the 2nd half.  Compton and Foster started at LB.  Compton went the whole way, Foster was subbed out for Cravens on 3rd downs.

Cornerbacks were Norman and Breeland with Dashaun Phillips coming in as our Nickel corner.  Cravens is the Dime package substitution but plays with linebacker responsibilities.  I wasn’t sure how to classify those formations so I just called them “Cravens Dime.”

Anyways, on with the show:

Defensive Line            
  Run     Pass    
Player + total + total
Baker 3.5 1.5 2 2 0 2
Golston 4 4.5 -0.5 0.5 1.5 -1
Kerrigan 3 1.5 1.5 0.5 0 0.5
Francois 0.5 0 0.5 1.5 0 1.5
Hood 2 4.5 -2.5 1.5 0.5 1
Smith 1 5.5 -4.5 3.5 0 3.5
Reyes 2 2.5 -0.5 0 0 0
Murphy 0 0.5 -0.5 0 1 -1
Total 16 20.5 -4.5 9.5 3 6.5

Continue reading “Breakdown: Defense vs Steelers”