STOPPING opponents from scoring quickly on deep strikes should be the chief focus of any defense. Once deep coverage has been shored up, then and only then should the focus turn to coverage underneath.
Last year we got killed on passes into the flat and on crossing routes from slot WR’s. This is direct fallout from the way our LB’s are used in this system:
Our OLB’s (Trent Cole and Connor Barwin) are primarily rush LB’s. They generally don’t trail slots and TE’s, or chase down backs on routes to the flat (shallow routes outside the numbers). Our ILB’s (DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks) played run first, and intermediate zone second. That made for some pretty easy completions on passes attempted under 10 yards.
While we got caught up celebrating the accomplishments of Nick Foles, we lost sight of us allowing a 60.9 completion percentage, and over 4,600 yards passing. Out of 32 teams in the NFL our pass defense was 32nd . Often when passes were thrown into the flat, our ILB’s had to run down that receiver, but often the damage was already done. Yards were already gained.
In order to stem some of that bleeding, our OLB’s are going to have to be asked to do more in shallow coverage this season. There is simply too much ground there for the ILB’s to cover it all effectively. (It’s also not fair to put all that on them.) Our OLB’s simply cannot be allowed to be so one dimensional in 2014.