THIS is not a new gripe for me. Too often we’ve let TE’s into their routes with little or no challenge. The results are high completion percentages, and easy scores. In fact, until OLB Nate Gerry went on IR last year, he was being victimized on a weekly. Some of it was his slow feet, but most of it was the scheme that told him to allow clean releases.
Here’s hoping that a new Defensive Coordinator means asking new things from the OLB’s. Specifically, not letting TE’s routinely set up for quick passes, within 3 to 6 yards of the line of scrimmage. A ball coming out of an opposing QB’s hand that fast, means that our pass rush won’t have time to get home.
It also means that we aren’t seeing that the opponent is using a timing or rhythm based passing game. Or even worse, maybe we are seeing it, but refusing to adjust to it. If an opposing QB keeps executing ‘1, 2, throw’, ‘1, 2, throw’ then it behooves us to slow up that TE, and take away that quick pass.
This can be done with all receivers (later article!), but the TE has to be played a little differently. Their position lets defenders beat-up on them more, but being physical with them can backfire easily. So TE’s have to have their routes disrupted in few different ways.
Jamming can and should be used, but it needs to be used sporadically. Trying to jam a TE too often, will tell an opposing coach to run the ball, since the defender is putting himself in position to be blocked easily. We should jam primarily on long downs. The run risk decreases, and it allows the SS to not have to immediately crash down to pick up that TE.
Re-directing in Man Coverage. All a re-direct is, is aggressively pushing a receiver (within 5 yards!) to an area where you have help in coverage. While a defender likely won’t know the route, if the TE is escorted to a more populated area of the field, the odds of a completion go way down, and the chances for big hits, tipped passes, or quick fumbles, go way up.
“Holding”. Used to be if your hands were inside the shoulders, you were allowed that grasp. Today, at no point are you allowed to hold. That said, TE’s get held all the time near the line of scrimmage. Particularly if they line up tight to the formation.
In that situation the refs can’t know if a held TE was supposed to run a route, or was supposed to block, and did a good job. Holding a TE has to be a quick, grab-pull-release, right around the line of scrimmage, and look just enough like fighting off a block. Just long enough for the QB to decided to go elsewhere with the ball.
Chipping is thought of as something that only offensive players do, but that’s a myth. In Zone Coverage, an OLB delivering a hard bump to the TE, then settling into a shallow area as the SS patrols the intermediate, is generally enough to cause a QB to think “Nope”, before progressing to his next read.
If the idea is to rush the passer with just our front four, then taking away the opponent’s quick and easy options, will give our defense the best chance of forcing their plays to run off-schedule. Plenty of tools here. We just need to finally start using them better.