We’re getting into a playoff push for a sure part of the league, however the enjoyable by no means ends for the opposite groups with their eyes in direction of the NFL Draft. We’re into Week 11, and now we’re getting to search out out which groups make the ultimate playoff run and which gamers separate themselves going into the playoffs, or into the subsequent season.
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This week, we’re specializing in either side of the ball, and on a few gamers who’ve improved week by week, in addition to a protection that may solely be described as “ornery”.
Derrick Brown: God of Conflict
Round this time final 12 months, there have been many questions surrounding Panthers DT Derrick Brown and his long run slot in Carolina. His move rush potential was minimized, and he was completely a run stopper.
Nonetheless, Brown slimmed down within the offseason to assist his move rush and boy has it been noticeable. He has extra pressures by means of 10 video games than final 12 months and is 18th amongst defensive tackles in tackles for loss. Towards Atlanta, Brown unlocked Spartan Rage and dominated the inside offensive line, and showcased some issues I didn’t know he had in his bag.
The very first thing that stood out about Brown’s sport was his quickness. He seemed faster and extra agile than he did at any level final 12 months, and that agility gave the Falcons PROBLEMS.
Watch Brown on the zone run right here. As a shaded nostril, the suitable guard expects him to assault the hole that he’s in, and he can get his exterior shoulder pad on him to drive him out the hole and create a cutback lane for the RB to assault. Brown shoots again into the alternative hole, and his preliminary quickness stuns the suitable guard. Then watch the closing pace to make the sort out for loss, it’s absurd.
The transfer was so good that he did it twice, whew.
This quickness additionally stood out within the passing sport, however then Brown mixed it with highly effective move rush strikes that fully disregarded the Falcons inside offensive line. Atlanta tries to run a rollout move the place the Falcons offensive line. Brown is engaged on Falcons proper guard, and places him on rollerskates earlier than getting the preliminary strain that results in a sack.
The Panthers are at the moment in a rebuilding part and evaluating gamers who’re going to be part of the franchise sooner or later. With the way in which Brown has performed, and the potential he has, he must be part of the Carolina Panthers’ future plans, no matter who the top coach is.
Elementary, my pricey Christian Watson
It has been largely recognized that Aaron Rodgers may not have favored his receivers very a lot. Since buying and selling away Davante Adams, Rodgers has been throwing to Allen Lazard and the 2022 model of Randall Cobb, on the lookout for one other risk, particularly downfield. By way of the primary 9 video games of the season, Rodgers was first within the NFL in passing makes an attempt of over 15 air yards, however his completion share was a horrid 39.4 %.
Christian Watson was drafted within the 2022 NFL Draft to stretch the sphere, however he had to have the ability to catch the ball first. By way of 9 video games, he solely noticed two extra targets than Josiah Deguara and 26 much less targets than Aaron Jones. This constricted the offense, and so they couldn’t generate explosive performs.
Then the Cowboys sport occurred.
Of their upset of Dallas, Watson caught three touchdowns, two of them over 30 yards downfield. This was the proper sport to get a receiver going for the Packers, particularly Watson. What was fascinating was how they did it.
Primarily, they used Watson because the vertical, downfield risk off of the effectiveness of their run sport towards Dallas. Watson is a size-speed marvel at 6’4 and working a 4.36 40 yard sprint, and towards the Cowboys that pace was evident.
His first landing, the Cowboys CB is in a press method, however doesn’t get arms on Watson. Should you don’t get arms on a speedy WR in press method, he’ll run proper previous you. What I like about this from Watson although was how he works again exterior after successful on the within and stacking the nook. He’s lastly getting the prospect to flash downfield, and he’s profiting from it.
His second landing was a very good design by Inexperienced Bay towards the Cowboys’ Cowl 1 protection, which they play on the fifth-most snaps in the whole league. The Packers are in a bunch formation, and on the snap, the Cowboys are in LIB protection. Which means the purpose man, on this case Allen Lazard, is locked in man protection by the urgent nook, on this case Trevon Diggs.
Then, the 2 different defensive backs are enjoying Banjo protection. The within nook takes the primary man inside, exterior nook takes the primary man out. The Packers know this, and with their bunch they’ve Watson, who’s all the way in which on the surface of the bunch be the primary man in. How this helps is giving him a free launch the place he doesn’t have to fret about press protection.
Watson will get a full head of steam and units up the DB inside, then breaks exterior, AND THEN has sufficient pace and burst to interrupt again inside, establishing the protection who’s anticipating an out of doors route. It’s a terrific route and a terrific idea that provides Watson a TD.
There are nonetheless reservations I’ve with Watson’s arms, and the occasional focus drop, but when he can stretch the sphere like this along with being the jet sweep man for Inexperienced Bay, it ought to assist the Pack get extra explosive of their passing sport, one thing they desperately wanted.
UPDATE: since this writing, Watson has caught two extra TDs. It’s just like the Packers are studying my thoughts. In that case, get out of my head!
The Titans’ boa constrictor protection
The Titans protection can solely be described as “ornery”. By way of the primary ten video games of the season the Titans are third in EPA/speeding try and twelfth in whole EPA allowed per play. What I like in regards to the Titans protection is that they play so nicely in live performance with one another. It makes not having Jeffrey Simmons, Bud Dupree, or any wholesome corners a bit bit satisfactory, as a result of they cowl these issues as a unit.
The Titans put the Denver Broncos within the Partitions of Jericho for 4 quarters of their victory, and it actually begins up entrance. The mix of Simmons, Denico Autry, Teair Tart and others have created a dominant entrance, which permits for linebackers like David Lengthy to fly into open gaps.
This can be a run blitz by the Titans, and watch Tart work again throughout the middle’s face, then David Lengthy insert himself on the run blitz. They get two free defenders for a TFL from an Over entrance.
The Titans’ self-discipline within the run sport additionally stands out. They’re in an 5 man over entrance set to the in-line tight finish, and the Broncos attempt to run Energy with the H-back. 53 not solely does a terrific job of spilling the pulling guard (hitting him along with your exterior shoulder as a substitute of inside shoulder), however he disrupts the trail of the RB as nicely, forcing him exterior to his assist. The Titans additionally at all times have numbers across the ball. There are at the very least 2-4 Titans defenders across the ball on each play, you’ll be able to’t educate that.
The Titans not often blitz; Professional Soccer Reference has them on the fifth-lowest blitz charge within the NFL. Nonetheless, among the many groups with the ten lowest blitz charges, they’ve the second highest strain charge within the group, sixth highest in the whole league. How they do that is twofold: compressing the pocket as a substitute of bending round it, and utilizing tight protection plus shifting protection shells in each zone and man.
The Broncos are within the purple zone and at the start of the play it seems like three deep, right? Nicely, on the snap, the Titans shift to Cowl One with Kevin Byard robbing any over route (Byard is their robber man—and he’s actual good at it). Nothing is open downfield, and the pocket is slowly closing in on QB Russell Wilson. If you concentrate on it, the Titans protection is sort of a Boa Constrictor, making every little thing tighter and tighter, compressing every little thing till you make a mistake.
When the Titans do blitz, it’s usually a fireplace zone, or some sort of simulated strain. A second stage defender comes and a lineman drops. On this play, Tennessee brings David Lengthy from the quick facet of the sphere, and drops the sting defender to the vast facet. What this does is takes away the new route of the fast in breaker, and it forces Wilson to tuck it and run, to no avail.
The constrictor referred to as the Tennessee Titans protection has dominated the competitors this 12 months, and compelled many groups into errors and errant throws. Bear in mind, they’re dropping gamers like Denico Autry, Simmons, Kristian Fulton and their 2021 first spherical draft decide Caleb Farley at nook. How they maintain getting good outcomes is astounding, and lots of credit score goes to move coach Mike Vrabel and defensive coordinator Shane Bowen. Even with out stars on offense and an oft-injured protection, they’ve remained among the best defenses within the league.
Even when the top of the snake is gone, one other one pops up.