Training Camp With the Portsmouth Destroyers

Think Hard Knocks of the United Kingdom:

Shot over 3 days in October 2010, this documentary gives an exclusive inside look at the University of Portsmouth Destroyers American Football Team. This insight into their pre-season camp aims to tell the story of what motivates a Championship caliber team and attempts to promote the game of American Football in the UK.

The film documents the physical toll demanded of American Football players and charts the highs and lows of being a student athlete.

For more information on University American football please visit buafl.net.

(Hat tip.)

Highlights from the championship game after the jump.

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Have any high profile quarterbacks significantly and noticeably improved their arm strength?

I listened to the Solid Verbal podcast this morning, and Ty and Dan discussed the plethora of “popgun armed quarterbacks” currently plaguing college football. Relatedly, a reader asked about why quarterbacks can’t seem to improve their arm strength once they reach a certain age. I can think of really only one example of a guy whose arm now seems significantly stronger than it did earlier in his career as a college player and rookie, and that’s Tom Brady. And, well, Tom Brady is Tom Brady. But it does seem like this is generally true, at least at the higher levels once a quarterback is physically mature: There are almost no examples of guys whose arms went from “popgun” to bazooka through discipline and training, not matter how tall they are or how many weights they lift.

This is not entirely surprising, given the unique nature of a throwing motion, but even golfers manage to add some power to their drives. (Maybe someone with more of a baseball background can tell me if any pitchers have added MPH to their fastballs after hitting college or the majors. Quarterbacks are not pitchers but there are similarities.) But I really can’t think of quarterbacks who have really improved the amount of power behind their throws. Of course, Dub Maddox and Darin Slack might have a thing to say about this, but I’m curious what the general reader thinks. Feel free to chime in.

Breaking down the Buffalo Bills’ game winner

It’s up over at the Grantland blog:

The route concept the Bills used on the play is an old West Coast offense staple: the “drive” concept. On the play, the outside receiver, usually in a short motion (just as Nelson was) comes in motion toward the line of scrimmage and runs a crossing route. An inside receiver will push straight upfield to 10 to 12 yards and break across (on this play, the Bills used a man-to-man technique where the receiver turned outside but pivoted back inside), while a third receiver, in this case the running back, ran to the flat.

Read the whole thing. I should have a longer feature up over there later this week.

Things that are uninteresting and interesting about conference realignment

With the news that Pittsburgh and Syracuse have applied to join the ACC, the conference realignment discussions have taken on a whole new character, namely, the potential destruction of the Big East. I personally don’t enjoy talking about conference realignment, and I think most players and coaches don’t care — just tell them who they’re playing.

But there are some elements more interesting than others, and there is significance for many when it comes to how their team will fare as the old order is unsettled or simply what rivalries will be retained or destroyed. Here’s a non-scientific list of things I do not find interesting in these discussions and things that are interesting.

Not interesting:

  •  The daily grind of the news cycle. One team applies, another team threatens to leave a conference, another threatens to leave and then says they don’t want to leave, and so on. Given the tectonic shifts in the distribution and amount of football revenues with TV contracts and their attendant revenues, exclusive TV networks (like the Big 10 Network and the Longhorn Network), conferences with equal revenue sharing or proportional revenue models, conference championship games and so on, all this is going to take years to sort out. I think it’s safe to say that in two years, we’re still going to be talking about realignment. We may even be seriously discussing it in five years. This is a very significant time, but the interesting parts won’t be apparent As The World Turns on a daily basis.
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Breaking down Bill Walsh’s “drive” concept with Miami OC Jedd Fisch

Hat tip:

If you want more detail into Walsh’s “drive” concept, read more about it here. (Also see here for more detail on the “smash” concept Fisch shows on the backside.) Lastly, Fisch has already shown that a lot of his passing game is built on putting different concepts or “beaters” to each side; for more on that idea, see here and here.

Smart Links – 9/16/2011

Alligator Army on Tennessee’s passing game. I hope to break down UT’s offense at some point, but OC Jim Chaney has done a nice job evolving his old Purdue offense and combining it with NFL concepts and sets from his time in that league. Bray threw touchdown passes on the 3-step fade/out combo, double post, smash with a divide post route backside, and then just a busted coverage pass.

- The 4-3 “Lightning” Cover Zero.

- Runningback Balance Touch Drill.

- Klosterman on small-school offensive wrinkles. I enjoyed this, but I have a hard time forgiving him for the use of Gregg Easterbrook’s inapt “Blur Offense” moniker for Oregon.

- Why Noel Mazzone?

- When will Ray Lewis slow down? Uh, maybe never, it seems like. I’m beginning to think he’s a Highlander.

- Chase Stuart likes the Bills (to an extent) but isn’t so keen on the Chiefs. I tend to agree.

- World’s worst analogies.

The history of american football in Europe

Hat tip:

Smart Notes – Brady’s 99-yard touchdown pass, Solid Verbal, valuable video games, pro combat uniforms, defending the option – 9/13/2011

Tom Brady, in the method predicted, carves up the Miami Dolphins:

How great was the 99-yard pass? And it was so simple. The Dolphins had played a lot of man-to-man coverage, primarily man-free with a single deep safety. The Patriots lined up in no-backs but with a tight-end in the game: The beauty of this is that the no-backs invited the press-man pressure but the tight-end let them protect with six blockers as opposed to five. And then the route combination? Literally the first pass that every high school installs: The hitch/seam combination. The outside receivers run five-yard hitch routes; had the Miami defensive backs played loose, Brady would have taken the quick pass to the flat. Instead they pressed and the slot receivers faded their routes to the outside and turned it into a fade route. Brady actually didn’t throw away from the safety, as the free safety rotated to Welker. But the safety looked like he was trying to jump the seam, and instead Brady lofted it over his head. Great stuff. The Patriots entire gameplan was extremely simple; their other best play was four verticals off of play-action with Brady hitting those tight-ends in the seam.

- Big moves. Ty and Dan are taking the Solid Verbal to Grantland.

- Just what you were waiting for. Nike’s pro combat uniforms are here. And, um, yeah:

I’m just waiting for uniforms that light up on contact like those old L.A. Lights shoes.

- South Carolina is preparing for Navy’s triple-option:

To get ready for Navy’s triple-option rushing attack, the Gamecocks’ defensive unit practice without a ball. The Midshipmen lead the nation in rushing, averaging more than 400 per game. The key to stopping an option attack is to be disciplined and not blowing assignments, Ward said. Which was why the Gamecocks’ defense practiced without a ball. “It was different, but it made you concentrate on your assignments,” Holloman said. “You can’t follow the ball and I think it’ll pay off for during the game.”

All good, but remember that you can’t only rely on playing assignment football against the option; they’ll figure out those assignments and screw with them.

- The quest for the golden cartidge (i.e. a video game cartridge worth $5000) is a real thing:

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Breaking down Cam Newton’s first NFL touchdown pass

This piece is up over at Grantland as well, this time on The Triangle blog. Check it out:

Entering this season, the biggest questions surrounding Cam Newton were about his ability to stand in the pocket, identify the pass coverage, find the open receiver, and deliver the football under pressure. Newton showed a level of maturity against the Cardinals he had not shown in the preseason, aided in particular by go-to receiver Steve Smith. Newton’s first career NFL touchdown, a 77-yard bomb to Smith, showcased Newton’s poise in the pocket.

Read the whole thing (and check out the earlier in-depth piece on beating the blitz with Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers).

New Grantland article: Beating the Blitz with the Best

I will be contributing this fall to Bill Simmons’ Grantland, and the first piece is online now. Check out my first piece, about how the best (Rodgers, Brady, Manning) beat the NFL blitz:

Identifying, and developing a quarterback who can play under pressure is a true challenge. As one NFL personnel director told me, while there are 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL, there aren’t 32 players qualified for their jobs. Throwing motions and mechanics go out the window unless a guy can be accurate under pressure and make great decisions. No one cares how good a quarterback is against air. What matters is: Can he beat the blitz?

Smart Football is still home (and I’ll be sure to link to all the Grantland pieces from here), but I’m very excited to contribute to Grantland this Fall. Look for both NFL and college football centric articles and blog posts throughout the season.