Nowadays, some teams go crazy with self-scouting: stats, odds, percentages, tendencies, and so on. One can debate how useful it is that you run to the right 54.5% of the time out of a certain formation if you have only used that formation eleven times. But the best advice I’ve heard for self-scouting is to identify and counter what you “always” and “never” do. If you always run to the right out of a certain formation, or you never throw the ball when you show another look, or you always or never blitz or play a type of coverage in another situation, then you better counteract that because your opponent certainly will.
So it was this past weekend when the Bengals faced the Redskins. Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden noticed that the Redskins, under defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, always ran Cover 0 when facing any kind of wildcat formation where the quarterback was not the one under center:
“We had a pretty good indication that they were gonna be in Cover-0 when we went wildcat with whoever we had back there other than a quarterback, whether it’s a running back or wide receiver,” Gruden told Adam Schein and Rich Gannon on SiriusXM NFL Radio this week. “It took a little bit of time, but the free safety came out of the middle of the field, and came in the box, and we knew we had A.J. one-on-one against a safety.
“And it was just Mo’s job to just launch it as high and as deep as he could and let A.J. run under it,” Gruden explained. “And he threw a great ball, a much better ball than he did in practice, that’s for sure. It worked out great, obviously.” . . . .
“Actually, it was just for this game,” Gruden replied. “Because Coach Haslett, I was just watching their wildcat reel. And every wildcat snap they had, they played Cover-0. And I’ve been waiting for it. We practiced it this week, and I told them on Wednesday when we installed our group that this was gonna be play one of the game against the Redskins,” Gruden continued. “We practiced it four or five times throughout the week, and made sure we protected it number one, and gave him a chance to step into it and launch it. And he did.”
Now, there’s nothing wrong with going Cover 0 against a non-quarterback formation, but, as I was told long ago, if you don’t notice your “always” and “nevers,” someone else will. Video of the play after the jump.