Smart Links – 10/13/2011

Why have NFL passing yards gone up so much this season?

Bill Belichick breaks down plays from the Patriots’ win over the Jets.

Calvin McGee on the spread offense.

Buck and strong safety fire zone, against both the run and the pass.

Peyton Manning, dealing with his injury.

Bruce Feldman joins Ty and Dan on the Solid Verbal.

Plays (I think) I saw West Virginia run against UConn

In the spirit of Paul Johnson, below are the scans of what I saw Dana Holgorsen’s offense do against UConn. Keep in mind that, despite the gaudy stats, UConn’s defensive line largely controlled if not dominated West Virginia’s front, so that may have affected the tactics.

Take the doodles with a grain of salt, however, as they are merely based on a review of the television broadcast.

Video and more doodles after the jump.

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Keep it simple, stupid – Paul Johnson edition

From the AJC:

Q: Is there a coach out there whose schemes you like to watch for ideas?

A: I don’t know if there’s any one person. We’ve had our system, and we’ve run it for a long time and we don’t change a whole lot. If somebody has some ideas on the staff, I might listen to ’em. They’d probably tell you I’m hard-headed. But we’ve done things a certain way and it’s been successful for the most part, so there’s not much use to changing.

Q: Do you doodle plays on napkins?

A: [Lifts a yellow legal pad with plays drawn on it.] That’s for this week. All these plays. This is my game plan for this week. That’s it right there.

Q: How many plays are there?

A: [Counting] 10. There’ll be base plays with it and I won’t run all that, but that’s just the ideas I’ve scribbled down in the last two days watching tape and [Tuesday], I’ll go in with the offensive staff and I’ll tell ’em, ‘OK, here’s what I got. What do you guys got? You’ve got anything you want to do?’ If they’ve got some ideas that I think will work, we’ll put ’em in, we’ll look at ’em this week and we’ll sort ’em out. That’s the way we do it.

Hat tip one and two.

New Grantland: Al Davis’ strategic legacy — His role in the development of the “vertical pass game”

It’s up over at Grantland:

When Davis left Gillman’s staff he took Sid’s playbook — and, more important, his ideas — with him.But Davis wasn’t content to stretch the field horizontally; he wanted to get vertical. If Gillman could get a trash can open against a zone, Davis tested how good he’d do if he added his favorite ingredient: speed. Gillman, of course, used “vertical stretches” — passing concepts that spaced receivers not left to right, but deep to short — but for Davis they became the centerpiece of his offense. Indeed, this is what Davis meant when he brought the “vertical game” to Oakland. It was not a matter of throwing deep bombs (though it was sometimes), but was instead the science of stretching defenses to their breaking point. With receivers at varying depths, a small defensive error often meant a 15-yard pass play for Davis’ offense, and a serious mistake meant a touchdown.

Read the whole thing.

Draw it up: The Packers’ post/dig off of play-action

It’s up over at Grantland:

But this is only a two-man route; for it to work, those other defenders — particularly the Falcons’ linebackers — have to be convinced it is a run play and take themselves out of pass coverage. And the Packers did just that. As Bill Walsh explained, the play-action pass is probably the best play in all of football, but it only works if the entire team is committed to selling the fake. Obviously a good fake by the quarterback is important, but what you’re doing on a play-action pass is messing up the linebackers’ reads, and they only sometimes (or tangentially) read they quarterback. More often, they are reading the offensive linemen to the running backs, and those are the players that all too often give away that the play is not a true run but is instead a pass play. But the Packers’ do an excellent job: instead of immediately popping their heads up and sinking back on their hips as they would in pass protection, Green Bay’s linemen fire out low and flat, making it impossible to detect the play’s true intent.

Read the whole thing.

Al Davis, 1929-2011

I will have more to say on the passing of Al Davis, but, for now, it’s enough to say that it’s unclear whether there was any more influential figure in the history of professional football, or ever will be. Al had his enemies and his grudges and there are many incidents that don’t always reflect so well on him, but those won’t be what I remember. I will remember the owner who was a coach, who learned from Sid Gilman, taught Bill Walsh, and hand picked and groomed John Madden (who was an obscure college assistant coach under Don Coryell — Al knew what he was doing). I will remember the man who was commissioner of the AFL and was never afraid to fight the system from within. And most of all I will remember the man whose teams, for the better part of four decades, lived up to not only his famous adage “Just win, baby!” but also to his more serious motto: “Commitment to Excellence.”

So blows the autumn wind.

New Grantland: Darren Sproles and the rise of the “space player”

My new piece is up over at Grantland. Check it out.

Scan the list of the NFL’s total yardage leaders and you’ll see their names. Most of them have the title running back — Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy, Jahvid Best, and Ray Rice, to name a few — but there is no one prototype for these players. Indeed, in the same group you’ll also see receivers, most notably Wes Welker of the Patriots, a “slot receiver” who is the undisputed master of the underneath route and the receiver screen (although this year he’s been doing all that and more). An older example is former Pro Bowler Eric Metcalf, who made the rare switch from running back (where he ran for more than 600 yards in two different seasons with the Cleveland Browns) to wide receiver (where he had more than 1,000 yards in 1995 while playing in the Falcons’ run-and-shoot offense), all while returning kicks and punts. But without a doubt, today’s top space player is the New Orleans Saints’ runner/receiver/kick returner/human Molotov cocktail Darren Sproles. Sproles is straight-ahead fast, but he is a great space player because of his other attributes: quickness, lateral agility, a second gear to blow by defenders, and a low center of gravity. Sproles returns kicks for the Saints but, then again, every time he touches the ball it’s like a kick return — he’s in space, and one missed open-field tackle against him might mean a touchdown.

Read the whole thing.

Smart Links – 10/6/2011

Advice from Steve Jobs.

The tire juke drill for runningbacks.

- Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has no qualms about taking risks.

History of the Erhardt-Perkins offense.

Love the fullback pop pass.

Re-conceptualizing the strong safety in the 46.

Celtics great Bill Russell joins the lawsuit against the NCAA regarding the use of former players’ likenesses.

Civil Rights leader Fred Shuttlesworth has passed away.

Seth Davis, an intelligent guy, fails economics.

Closing the book on Bryce Brown.

A mixed bag, but a couple of these deleted scenes really are great.

New Grantland Blog: LaGarette Blount and the Power O

It’s up over at Grantland:

The game-winning play is one of the oldest plays in football, and is used at every level, from high school to the NFL: the “Power” or “Power O” play. It’s called “power” because the goal for the offense is to get extra blockers to the point of attack, i.e. where the ball is going, to simply outnumber the defense. (It also sounds tough, and coaches like that.) There’s more strategy on why teams like to go to the power play on a given down and distance as opposed to a zone run (as we saw this season with Darren McFadden), but there’s no question it was the better look against the Colts on Blount’s 35-yard touchdown run.

Read the whole thing.

The Play That Changed College Football: Spurrier’s “Righty”

That’s the title of this new ESPNU documentary about the new SEC Championship game, and specifically the 1992 Championship game between Alabama and Florida.

At the risk of spoiling the fun, the play call that changed the game is revealed after the jump.
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