Why we play defense the way we do, my humble opinion.

Jhesse17's picture
January 6, 2014 at 3:28 am

I think we can all agree that our defense isn't where it needs to be. But before I start you have to understand our coaches are not stupid. They do what they do for a reason, and here is my speculation as to why we do what we do: Our personnel can't do anything else. Having Curtis Grant on the field severely limits what we can do schematically in the pass game thanks to his lack of speed and cover ability. And Pitt Brown (whether at safety or star) is not good. I ask you this 11W readers, would you be comfortable with Curtis Grant alone in space on a back? Didn't think so. How about Pitt Brown man up against a slot receiver? No? Then man coverage is out. That leaves cover 3 and cover 2/2 man under. Let's attack cover 2 first. This defense has the corners bumping receivers on the line then settling in to protect the flats, the safeties playing deep halves and the linebackers/star playing the middle of the field or coming on the blitz. Roby and Doran Grant are both pretty physical, so they could certainly bother WRs at the line. Even Curtis Grant is fast enough to drop into an into a zone that's 5 yards behind where he starts the play, so the linebackers and the star can certainly handle their responsibilities. Then why aren't we doing this, you are probably asking. Well this would be a VERY effective defense for our personnel if not for one thing. Does anyone here trust our safeties not to get beaten deep by every relatively good WR we face? I know I don't. And if you don't trust your safeties to prevent the deep ball you can't play cover 2 or 2 man under. That leaves you with cover 3. This defense has both corners (always) and your free safety/star (changes based on alignment) playing deep thirds with the star/FS (changes on alignment), SS and the star/FS that does not have a deep third playing curl to flat. This means they look for a curl on their side of the field until they are sure there will not be one, then move the cover the flat. The linebackers are then left the middle of the field. I certainly trust Roby and Grant to not get beat deep, and since we are only relying on one safety/star to not get beat we're in better shape there too. The linebackers have basically the same assignment as they did in cover 2, except that we can't blitz them because we would leave the middle of the field wide open. But they should be able to take the middle of the field. So if all of our players are good enough to do their jobs, why do we still get beaten you ask? There are a few reasons. One: to run a cover 3 scheme you need big, aggressive corners that can shed a block and blow up a bubble screen by themselves or at least turn it back inside. Our corners have really struggled to keep contain, shed blocks and make tackles in space. Two: We need our star/safeties to make their curl to flat read quicker so that the help comes to the corners quicker, and 3: straight up blown coverages. Check out this image from the Clemson game. 
This was supposed to be cover 3. Vonn Bell, the guy trailing Sammy Watkins had near deep third, the far corner covering the far deep third, and the guy at the top of the 3 defender bunch (Tyvis Powell?) was supposed to have the middle deep third. Although at first glance it may appear to be Vonn Bells fault, it isn't. Sammy Watkins came off the line and ran a skinny post that started straight at Vonn Bell. Tyvis Powell saw that and jumped the short crosser, a huge mistake. Watkins then broke on his post route and ran directly where Tyvis was supposed to be standing. Vonn Bell realized that Tyvis blew the coverage, but he realized too late and he couldn't catch up to Sammy Watkins. Easy touchdown for Clemson.
Now, don't misconstrue this post as one made in support for our defensive staff or to attack our defensive staff. If our players weren't making crucial mistakes that should have been weeded out the first day they came to campus and/or were confident, effective tacklers and block shedders in space then we wouldn't have these problems. Whether that falls on the coaches or the individual players is for you to decide. 

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