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Why Our Defensive Tackles Are Not As Bad As Portrayed

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After a long review of our games via Game Rewind it dawned on me that Hurney's not covering his butt, and Rivera's not blind as a bat: we really do not have anywhere near as bad a defensive tackle squad as we've all been led to believe by the media.

First, a quick recap of the obvious: we run a 4-3 defense, specifically of the Jim Johnson variety. This means that the responsibilities of the defensive line, especially in the run game, are far more geared to eating up blocks and containing their gaps than tackling the ballcarrier. That responsibility lies with the linebackers, who should have clear lanes left for them if the DTs are doing their jobs.

And guess what, they often were. The Chicago game stands out to me in particular; almost all of Forte's best runs came either off tackle (the DE and safety's responsibility) or through a hole that a linebacker had just shot through and completely whiffed in the backfield.

For example, take this offset I formation:

pic1.jpg

The fullback is lined up on the strong side, and James Anderson is showing a weakside blitz.

Here's the view from the coaches film, showing our 4-3 formation with Charles Johnson lined up strong side and Hardy on the weak:

pic2.jpg

At the snap, you see James take off on his blitz, Charles Johnson gets doubled by the tight end at right tackle, Fua does his job and takes up two blocks and slows down the right guard, McClain gets such a nice burst that the left guard has no choice but to chop block him, and Hardy fights to contain the cutback lane. Notice the arrow indicating Jason Williams free pass into the backfield, which is the entire point of running an aggressive Jim Johnson 4-3: giving your linebackers the opportunity to take down the ball carrier unblocked.

pic3.jpg

Unfortunately, Williams is not up to the task: he overshoots Forte completely, and Sherrod Martin gets completely turned around on his block and fails to prevent Forte from getting to the next level.

pic4.jpg

The play resulted in a 46 yard gash, with Charles Godfrey completely whiffing on a tackle that would have held the gain to half that, and Captain Munnerlyn and Darius Butler have to save the day with a tackle from behind (interestingly enough, McClain has an excellent chance to catch him from behind as well. He shows some surprising feet for a DT!) All of this happened even though the defensive tackles and ends all did their jobs adequately, and gave a linebacker a direct path into the backfield to tackle the ballcarrier.

This is a theme throughout the season, where even when the DTs made a nice push on the pocket or ate up the blocks necessary to give the linebackers the chance to clean up, almost no one but James Anderson was really up to the task, as Conner and Senn repeatedly failed to shed blocks or make tackles within their lanes. Even worse, once the ballcarriers got past the linebackers, they often made mincemeat of both Martin and Godfrey. This is not to say our DT corps could not stand improvement, because it absolutely could, especially since the line play improved when the rookies sat down and the more experienced DTs like Neblett and Kearse Shirley came in, but it cannot be stressed enough how badly our linebacker injuries wrecked the entire scheme and put an unfair onus on our DT group. What it really boils down to is that an aggressive 4-3 really requires disciplined, sure-tackling linebackers to be successful, and unfortunately those commodities were in short supply this past season. Sadly, our safety group badly regressed as well, especially in the tackling department.

In this context, the absence of a DT pick in our draft and the #9 selection of tackling monster Luke Kuechly makes perfect sense.

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Posted · Report post

Giving you pie for the analysis. But again. This is only one play.

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Posted · Report post

I bet is takes a lot of time, but I wouldn't mind a few more examples.

If anything to send to the dumbasses on The Drive.

Awesome job though, dude.

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Posted · Report post

Giving you pie for the analysis. But again. This is only one play.

Of course, but it shows up repeatedly. Another great example is Chris Johnson's 16 yard fourth-quarter run when we played Tennessee: Not only was there a clean lane for two linebackers to shoot through, but Omar Gaither (who was playing the Mike due to Connor getting hurt) ran in the completely wrong direction and blocked Charles Godfrey from being able to make a play because they both misdiagnosed the play direction.

The player our DTs clearly struggled against was Michael Turner; he would push the pile even when they clogged the lanes, and it was their responsibility to hold their ground. But a lot of the time when big gashes would show up on film it was due to a LB being completely out of position or blown off his block; there were a lot of good stops and pressure points otherwise (McClain looks really good on some plays, Fua stands out as more of a space eater than a tackler.)

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Posted · Report post

You just made me want NFL rewind.

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Posted · Report post

Please dont confuse mindless ass grabbing hyena like fault finding with what was really going on last season.

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Posted · Report post

After a long review of our games via Game Rewind it dawned on me that Hurney's not covering his butt, and Rivera's not blind as a bat: we really do not have anywhere near as bad a defensive tackle squad as we've all been led to believe by the media.

First, a quick recap of the obvious: we run a 4-3 defense, specifically of the Jim Johnson variety. This means that the responsibilities of the defensive line, especially in the run game, are far more geared to eating up blocks and containing their gaps than tackling the ballcarrier. That responsibility lies with the linebackers, who should have clear lanes left for them if the DTs are doing their jobs.

And guess what, they often were. The Chicago game stands out to me in particular; almost all of Forte's best runs came either off tackle (the DE and safety's responsibility) or through a hole that a linebacker had just shot through and completely whiffed in the backfield.

For example, take this offset I formation:

pic1.jpg

The fullback is lined up on the strong side, and James Anderson is showing a weakside blitz.

Here's the view from the coaches film, showing our 4-3 formation with Charles Johnson lined up strong side and Hardy on the weak:

pic2.jpg

At the snap, you see James take off on his blitz, Charles Johnson gets doubled by the tight end at right tackle, Fua does his job and takes up two blocks and slows down the right guard, McClain gets such a nice burst that the left guard has no choice but to chop block him, and Hardy fights to contain the cutback lane. Notice the arrow indicating Jason Williams free pass into the backfield, which is the entire point of running an aggressive Jim Johnson 4-3: giving your linebackers the opportunity to take down the ball carrier unblocked.

pic3.jpg

Unfortunately, Williams is not up to the task: he overshoots Forte completely, and Sherrod Martin gets completely turned around on his block and fails to prevent Forte from getting to the next level.

pic4.jpg

The play resulted in a 46 yard gash, with Charles Godfrey completely whiffing on a tackle that would have held the gain to half that, and Captain Munnerlyn and Darius Butler have to save the day with a tackle from behind (interestingly enough, McClain has an excellent chance to catch him from behind as well. He shows some surprising feet for a DT!) All of this happened even though the defensive tackles and ends all did their jobs adequately, and gave a linebacker a direct path into the backfield to tackle the ballcarrier.

This is a theme throughout the season, where even when the DTs made a nice push on the pocket or ate up the blocks necessary to give the linebackers the chance to clean up, almost no one but James Anderson was really up to the task, as Conner and Senn repeatedly failed to shed blocks or make tackles within their lanes. Even worse, once the ballcarriers got past the linebackers, they often made mincemeat of both Martin and Godfrey. This is not to say our DT corps could not stand improvement, because it absolutely could, especially since the line play improved when the rookies sat down and the more experienced DTs like Neblett and Kearse came in, but it cannot be stressed enough how badly our linebacker injuries wrecked the entire scheme and put an unfair onus on our DT group. What it really boils down to is that an aggressive 4-3 really requires disciplined, sure-tackling linebackers to be successful, and unfortunately those commodities were in short supply this past season. Sadly, our safety group badly regressed as well, especially in the tackling department.

In this context, the absence of a DT pick in our draft and the #9 selection of tackling monster Luke Kuechly makes perfect sense.

Great work and analysis my friend.

Too many people think a good or bad rushing defense is due to the DT's.

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Posted · Report post

Please dont confuse mindless ass grabbing hyena like fault finding with what was really going on last season.

What? You'd rather believe your front office is lying for no apparent reason about the talent level at only one particular position or that certain defensive schemes require certain defensive traits that we lacked in order to be effective?

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Posted · Report post

This is front page worthy. Great post. Makes the Kuechly pick a phenomenal upgrade.

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Not to be an a$$ OP, but kearse really wasn't more experienced than Fua or McClain, he was also a rookie. The Chicago game was an example of poor gap control and horrible tackling on the back 7

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Thank you. Just goes to prove the biggest problem was with the linebackers and safeties. Is it so strange we brought in 2 safeties in free agency and drafted a linebacker in round 1 now doubters?

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Thank you for showing tiny bit what the coaches are seeing and a big factor as to why they drafted Kuechly.

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