That’s how you block the second level

Tulane’s graduate assistant offensive line coach Matt Jones posted some great clips of NFL offensive linemen doing their thing recently, with this one maybe being my favorite:

These weren’t too bad either, though:

New Grantland: The Receiver Ripple Effect – Ranking the top wide receivers in the 2015 NFL Draft

It’s now up over at Grantland:

For a long time, conventional wisdom held that receivers took a few years to develop, and that the wideouts picked near the top of the draft carried a nasty bust rate1 because of the physical and mental demands of playing receiver in the NFL. But last year’s rookie class appeared to obliterate those concerns, and the position should continue to produce sterling talents now that college teams are using three or four receivers on every play, year-round 7-on-7 camps are leaving prospects as polished as ever, and schools are increasingly emphasizing the passing game.

The 2015 wide receiver draft class exemplifies this trend, boasting numerous physical marvels and future stars. Of course, as always, there will also be some busts. The trick is figuring out which players will be which.

Read the whole thing.

New Grantland: True Grit — How a formula (and a secret ingredient) can help us evaluate Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, and the 2015 QB class

It’s now up over at Grantland:

Drafting an NFL quarterback is risky business, and the lesson of Druckenmiller’s story and others like it is that no one truly knows which players will succeed in the pros. Even the brightest GMs and coaches can whiff badly: By nearly any measure, fewer than 50 percent of passers drafted in the first round wind up as quality NFL starters, while fewer than 20 percent become stars. The odds are even worse after the first round, with Tom Brady and Russell Wilson serving as rare exceptions that prove the rule.

Yet there’s no question that teams must continue drafting quarterbacks; the position remains the most important on the field, and since it’s nearly impossible to find a franchise QB via free agency, teams are forced to keep braving the murky waters of the prospect pool. The question is how clubs can get better at drafting quarterbacks. Fortunately, research on improving decision-making in unpredictable circumstances can help us craft a formula for evaluating quarterback prospects in general, and the 2015 crop of Bryce Petty, Brett Hundley, Marcus Mariota, and Jameis Winston in particular.

Read the whole thing.

New podcast with the Solid Verbal

I went on the Solid Verbal podcast with Dan Rubenstein, where we chatted quarterbacks, TCU, defensive adaptations to the spread, and lots more. Listen in here, or on iTunes.

Smart Links – Virtual Reality, Spider 2 Y Banana, Jet Sweeps – 4/6/2015

New Kentucky offensive coordinator (and Air Raid alumnus) Shannon Dawson mic’d up at spring practice as he installs his new offense:

Virtual Reality for Quarterbacks?

Stanford head coach David Shaw: “It was the first time I could actually visualize something like that. ‘I was like, ‘Wow, if we could actually put quarterbacks in a virtual world so we’re not using extra practice reps, we’re not extending practice at all — we’re not messing with the 20-hour work week, we’re just creating a library of things for a QB to learn something, that’d help your backup QB who’s never gonna get as many reps as a starter and helps your starter get three reps on a play that he screwed up on and he can just watch the same thing over and over again and see everybody and feel like he’s there.’ When Derek started explaining it to me, I got really excited.”

Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan: “When you’re watching on film you have a birds-eye view from the sky. It’s hard to see if they’re leaning one way or the other. But with this, when you’re going through your cadence and start to go through your dummy count, you can see the safety start to creep up a little bit. That’s an indicator. When you’re just watching film, you don’t get the sound, you don’t get that real-life feel of the game. With this, I can see what the structure is.”

Breakdown of Washington linebacker/safety prospect Shaq Thompson by Matt Bowen:

I tend to side with the scouts who see Thompson as an outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme. And I would put him on the weak side (Will) where he can run to the ball, scrape over the top and clean up. Think of Lovie Smith’s scheme in Tampa with the playmaker at the Will ‘backer position. Thompson could be that guy.

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New Grantland: Bill Belichick’s wily, ruthless strategic methods

It’s now up over at Grantland:

It worked. The Giants held Kelly and his receivers in check en route to a 20-19 win, albeit with some help from one of the most infamous missed field goals in NFL history, and today Belichick’s Super Bowl XXV game plan sits in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Already well known at the time in coaching circles, Belichick became a household name by relying on two of the pillars that continue to define him: ingenious defensive tactics and precision without sentimentality.

Twenty-four years later, head coach Bill Belichick is still bombarding opponents with shrewd, coldly rational tactics. The result: His Patriots are making the sixth Super Bowl appearance of his reign, chasing their fourth title. To claim the crown, they’ll have to best the defending champs, a Seattle Seahawks team coached by a man who knows a thing or two about defensive tactics himself. But while Pete Carroll’s otherworldly defenses have succeeded the last few seasons largely because of the way Carroll elegantly uses simplicity to unleash his squad’s great talent, Belichick resists classification. No modern football coach can match Belichick’s deep knowledge of schemes and strategies, or his multidecade track record of applying that knowledge to devastating effect.

Read the whole thing.

New Grantland: Inside the Evolution (and Oregonification) of Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Offense

It’s now up over at Grantand:

At Florida, Meyer’s offense revolved almost entirely around the quarterback. From 2007 through 2009, Tim Tebow led the SEC in pass efficiency while also leading the Gators in rushing yards, and the lasting image of those UF offenses is of Tebow plunging into the line on power runs. That approach worked with a 6-foot-3, 235-pound rhinoceros at quarterback, but with Tebow off to the NFL in 2010, Florida’s offense began to fall apart, and the Gators limped to an 8-5 finish. Meyer stepped away from the game in 2011 to spend more time with family, and during that time he was able to study many of the sport’s most innovative coaches and schemes. When Meyer rejoined the coaching ranks and started searching for a coordinator who could mesh the newest trends with what Meyer had done before, he asked around for suggestions, and several of his closest friends in the business suggested the same name: Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Herman.

Read the whole thing.

New Grantland: Aaron Rodgers, Mike McCarthy and Creating the New Joe Cool

It’s now up over at Grantland:

More than 20 years later, on the brink of a divisional-round playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys, McCarthy again finds himself in a teacher-student partnership with an elite pupil: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Though McCarthy is facing a similar challenge of figuring out how to help one of the game’s best quarterbacks get even better, his relationship with Rodgers is far more collaborative than his pairing with Montana ever was, allowing coach and quarterback to try to improve themselves, each other, and the very offense Walsh taught Montana so long ago.

Read the whole thing.

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Most Popular Books Bought by Smart Football Readers in 2014

I’ve always been floored by the quality of the feedback and discussion from Smart Football readers (whether on this site, Grantland or on Twitter or Facebook), so it’s always fascinating to see which books are most popular among readers. The following is a breakdown of the books purchased over the last year by Smart Football readers. I get very minor referral revenues from Amazon purchases and, as a result, I am able to track which books are purchased by readers. The data is entirely anonymous but it is, to me at least, quite interesting. (Click to enlarge the charts.)

The Most Popular Books Bought by Smart Football Readers in 2014

2014 Chart 1

The Most Popular Books Bought by Smart Football Readers in 2014 (excluding The Essential Smart Football)

2014 Chart 2

Below is the full list of books. Note that I simply included the top books and did not include a separate “other” category. I thought the list was fairly eclectic this year, as non-football books had numbers comparable to the football ones. And, as usual, books that focused on football strategy dominated all other sports or football titles.

The Smart Football Glossary

Football is bathed in jargon. Other sports have their wonky terms but anyone who even casually watches a football game is bombarded with a cascade of code words, while even experienced fans usually can’t make heads or tails of what coaches and players say to each other on the sidelines. Some of this is inherent in a game made up of a few seconds of action interrupted by breaks for communication. And the phenomenon of platooning — where offensive players don’t play defense and vice versa — creates additional opportunities for coaches and players to communicate, and, like any other pressure filled profession, from the armed forces to medicine, communication in these circumstances is condensed so that the most information is conveyed in the fewest syllables.

wordcloud1All too often, however, discussing even the most rudimentary and fundamental football concepts is needlessly offputting, something exacerbated as too many announcers and analysts use streams of buzzwords to sound intelligent without actually conveying any information (something I try very hard to not do, though undoubtedly with inconsistent success). Unless you’re sitting on an NFL sideline trying to tell your position coach what the defense is doing, you are better off using as little jargon as possible and instead trying to explain what you see in English.

But in football, terminology is often destiny, and some terms have become so ingrained that being familiar with them is critical for any intelligent fan; on the other hand, others have become so misused that using them actually deters rather than enhances understanding. The goal of this football glossary is simply to unpack a limited set of football buzzwords in a way that will make watching games on Saturday and Sunday more enjoyable. The important thing, however, is not to focus on the terms but instead on the explanations: if we’re all on the same page with those, the names we given the underlying ideas — whether you call it Smash, China or Shakes — what we end up calling it is simply detail, not substance. I’m sure your high school coach had his own name for each of these below.

Arm Talent: A notorious bit of scout-speak that is either a pseudo-scientific way to describe something obvious (“That quarterback has a strong, accurate arm”) or an extremely clumsy way to describe something better served with colloqiual english (“He has the ability to throw the ball from different angles to avoid oncoming rushers and still find an open throwing lane through which he can deliver the football”).

Bang 8 Post: A particular version of the “skinny post” or “glance” routes, the “Bang 8″ or “Bang 8 Post” was developed by former San Diego Chargers head coach Don Coryell and calls for the receiver to run seven-steps straight downfield before breaking inside at an angle. The particular angle the receiver takes, however, depends on the leverage of the defender covering him: the receiver’s job is to take whatever angle is necessary to ensure he is between the quarterback and the nearest defender. (“8″ is the number for a post in the Coryell route tree, see “Route Tree” below.) “Bang” indicates that the route is not thrown as a deep bomb but instead is a rhythm throw thrown by the quarterback on rhythm as soon as he hit the fifth step in his dropback. Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin of the Cowboys ran the Bang 8 better than anyone in NFL history:

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