Formations & Depth Chart
We were in a 3-4 defense for about a quarter of the snaps throughout the game, otherwise we were mostly in Nickel with the line shifted toward the tight end:
In passing situations we lifted Foster for Cravens or Garvin. Cravens is seen here in our “Okie” front. Okie means all the lineman and linebackers are standing at the line pre-snap:
A few times, we replaced a safety for a 4th cornerback (line is ‘split’ for a better pass rush):
Depth Chart – Nickel (out of 53 snaps):
- DE: Kerrigan (40) and Smith (38), backed up by Murphy (31)
- DT: Hood (44) and Baker (43), backed up by Francois (16), Jenkins (10) and Ioannidis (4)
- ILB: Compton (53), Foster (40)
- Cravensbacker: Cravens (11), Garvin (3)
- Strong Safety: Whitner (44) backed up by Nacho (9)
- Free Safety: Blackmon (39) backed up by Whitner (9)
- CB: Breeland (49) and Norman (28), backed up by Dunbar (27) and Toler (5)
- Slot/Nickel CB: Fuller (40)
‘Cravensbacker’ is the hybrid Linebacker/Safety position we play in place of Foster in passing situations. With the 3-4 defense, Fuller gets lifted for an extra defensive lineman which was usually Francois. Compton and Whitner were the only guys to play all 53 snaps.
Against the Giants we faced guards pulling from side to side which created moving gaps that our second level backers struggled to defend. This time around the Lions tested us not with pulling guards but with pulling H-Backs (red path). The tight end lined up in front of Murphy (red X) is running a route, just pretend he’s not even in the picture:
- Whitner replaces Compton’s gap, so
- Compton can replace Foster’s gap, so
- Foster can replace Murphy’s gap, so
- Murphy can play contain on the extra gap added to his side by the pulling H-Back.
All gaps are accounted for. Ioannidis comes off his block to make initial contact with the back and Whitner is in position for the fill:
[AFTER THE JUMP: The Last Play, A Link to the Chart, Grades, Safeties, Safeties WTF!]
Another way we defended the H-Back pull was by slanting our line toward him. On this play Hood will slant and penetrate his gap, then blow up the H-Back’s path:
You can see Nacho coming down like a Japanese WWII pilot with no H-Back to fill against since Hood blew him up already. With no extra gaps to the backside, the RB has to just burrow his head and plow forward for whatever yards he can muster:
The main problem we had with pulling H-Backs came when Blackmon had to fill his gap versus the run. On this play, out of confusion or a business decision, Blackmon is late to come down and fill his gap:
Different angle of the same play:
It’s a Wham/Trap play and the H-Back (fancy people might call him a Y-off) is actually aiming for Ziggy Hood on this play. Regardless, he’s pulling and our linebackers adjust, so Blackmon needs to fill:
- Smith has contain on the outside shoulder of the H-Back
- Foster replaces Smith on the outside
- Compton stays over his A gap (no gap adjustment because of how we aligned)
- Blackmon (41) needs replace Foster by filling in between Foster and Compton:
We pulled him out of the game for a while after that drive and our next drive saw Whitner replacing Blackmon at free safety, so Nacho(!) could play strong safety and provide added run support. Nacho was aggressive versus the run as usual, the problem was Whitner did not make the best decisions at free safety.
In the following pic, Whitner takes the bait of the underneath route and leaves a post route wide open for a 52 yard gain. Norman is not beat on this play, he is playing trail position under the post route because Whitner was supposed to be over top:
Also, Whitner did this:
He’s in a linebacker squat while everyone runs by him. HOT TAKE: Whitner is not comfortable in space.
Compare that to Blackmon in space versus 2 ‘Go’ routes being run right at him:
And versus a ‘Whip’ route on a play that Blackmon had to cover for 10 seconds: he stuck with his man and undercut the route for a pass break-up:
So yeah, Blackmon has next to 0 run support but he’s the best option we got for deep coverage. Our safety combos so far:
- Blackmon-Whitner: Blackmon got yanked for lack of run support
- Whitner-Nacho: Whitner questionable at times with deep coverage. Gave up a 52 yarder.
- Blackmon-Nacho: ???
The data on the last bullet point from this game is: we didn’t even try it. I can only assume the only thing standing in our way from seeing a Kamikaze Nacho in the box is that he doesn’t cover very well in space.
During the Whitner-Nacho experiment, we lined up Nacho to Josh Norman’s side. This allowed Nacho to be aggressive in the box while Norman locked up the wide receiver without needing over-the-top support from Nacho (of course, their were still ways to exploit this scheme–see the 52 yarder above.)
A problem occurred when Norman left the game and we had to align Nacho next to Breeland. Stafford immediately tested Breeland’s one-on-one coverage (Nacho had underneath zone coverage) with an 11 yard back shoulder throw that got the ball to the 1 yard line en route to a touchdown. So, Norman’s injury is probably another reason why Nacho lost out on snaps.
On the bright side, there is still a good chance neither safety has hit their ceiling. Blackmon is making a first year transition, Whitner just got here, and Nacho hasn’t been on our active roster this late into the season since…ever. Maybe something clicks in the weeks to come, until then it’s a carousel at safety with Nacho getting on last.
Back to the H-Back pull thing:
One last thing with that pesky pulling H-Back. They hit us with a 22 yard end around that had the H-Back lined up like he was going to pull (black path), but actually saw him lead block outside. Foster was supposed to stay outside of this outside pull (red path) but got caught looking in the backfield for that pull inside.
That lead to Foster running parallel to the line of scrimmage, trying to fill outside the H-Back and Preston Smith is left with a cornfield to cover:
Power and Counter run plays: 3 runs for 9 yards. These run plays aren’t really in the Lions repertoire. FWIW, 2 Power runs for 1 and 9 yards, and 1 counter run for -1 yard. The 9 yarder was due to a Blackmon bust in run support.
The Last Play:
2 things, Compton bites on an underneath route designed to bait him and Fuller over plays the out-fake by Boldin:
You can see Fuller establish a position that shows he’s responsible for forcing Boldin toward the sideline:
Compton’s eye-candy is coming across underneath.
Fuller comes over top of Boldin too soon, thinking he’s running an out-route:
Fuller doesn’t keep Boldin out of Compton’s zone and Compton doesn’t get enough depth in his drop, because he’s worried about a harmless route that is 4 yards from the line of scrimmage:
Defensive Line (snap count in parenthesis):
Hood has jumped ahead of Francois and Jenkins as the interior guy who gets to start next to Baker. His +5 overall in run support lead the line and covered up for some deficiencies behind him. Earlier I showed how he stunted and blew up a split zone run play, also on a toss sweep play, Hood displayed the ability to disengage from a cut block and work all the way to sidelines:
|Player||+||–||Total (Run)||+||–||Total (Pass)|
Compton’s day oscillated from amazing run fits to horrible zone drops. We already talked about his snafu on the last play which he got a -3 for, but Compton also showed ineptitude with his zone drops on a 3rd down play earlier in the game.
Here he covers a seam route by the tight end that Fuller is responsible for. Compton should be sticking to his Hook zone coverage (Boldin’s route) but instead he lets Boldin get wide open for an easy first down.
The good news from Compton’s day came versus the run where he made decisive fills. Here he outran Foster who was lined up closer to the spot the play was being run too:
Whitner’s -3 came from the 52 yard bust described earlier. Breeland struggled a bit in man coverage including an 11 yard back shoulder throw in the Red Zone. Fuller’s -3 came from the Last Play bust described earlier. Blackmon’s run woes and coverage proficiencies were also discussed earlier.
Coverage: +16, -18.5 for a total of -2.5
Pressure: +9, -9 for a total of 0
- Run D:
- 1st level (D-line): good, led by Ziggy
- 2nd level (Backers): Up (Compton) and Down
- 3rd level (Safeties): Nacho ++, Blackmon —
- Pass D:
- 1st level: Not the normal pass rush we are used too. Took a dip this week. Contributed to the minus grade in coverage.
- 2nd level: Compton, ugh.
- 3rd level: Did ok without Norman. 2 major busts came from Whitner, then Fuller on the last play.
- Pulling Guards were our kryptonite, so the Lions tried to mimic that with pulling H-Backs. If you take out the 2 Stafford scrambles, they achieved a paltry 3.6 yards per carry. We’ve figured out this pulling gap scheme thing pretty well.
- Nacho only had 9 snaps for 2 reasons
- Norman’s injury
- Stafford only threw for 266 yards, but at an efficient 9.17 yards per attempt–that would be good enough for 3rd best in the league right now.
UnderneathCompton’s zone coverage was abysmal backed up by 2 huge busts from the secondary.
- A middle linebacker that can cover is a huge need. This is probably the end goal for Cravens (preferably no later than next year.) At this point, it’s not going to happen for Compton. His ceiling has been hit, we can file that case as closed.
- A safety that can play either Run or Pass without completely sucking at the other is a top need. We know Blackmon can cover and Nacho & Whitner can stuff runs. The question is can either not be a liability at the other end? The ceiling has not yet been hit for any of these guys.
- Chart with all the data
Your Moment of Zen: