When Perry Fewell was hired last off-season, we thought that the Giants would be switching to a Tampa 2 defense. Fewell and his assistants kept denying it though.
"I would label Coach Fewell as a multiple-front, multiple-, multiple-coverage defensive coordinator," Merritt said. "He is the furthest from a Tampa-2 guy."
A year later, I think we'd all agree that we run a Tampa 2 defense. Of course, there are many blitzes, stunts, and coverages that make the defense "multiple" but everything is a wrinkle to the original Tampa 2 base defense.
The T2 defense is still new to most of us. Nobody in our division besides us runs it. In fact, the only team on the 2011 schedule that runs it is Chicago and the only teams on the 2010 schedule that ran it were Minnesota, Chicago, and Indianopolis. That's not a great sampling. If we're going to properly prescribe what we need in the draft and in free agency, we must first analyze the T2 defense.
To help me do that, I will be using Monte Kiffin's 1999 Tampa Bay Buccaneers playbook.
Note: All of the photos have been scaled down. Click on them for a larger and clearer view. Unless otherwise specified, anything in a block quote comes directly from the playbook. All rights reserved.
I. The Basics
- Basic 4-3 alignment. 4 down linemen Over & Under.
- Gap Control - 1 Gap Football
- Defensive line coming off the line in an attack mode. Stepping first and reading the run.
- Basic 4 Man Front with Front, LBs, and Secondary coordinated. Will refer to as Strong Roll or Weak Roll.
- Mix of Zone, man, and combination Zone. Change up by the Secondary in Zones and man concept. Cloud, Cathy, Bump, Off, etc.
- Enough change up in defensive package so as not to be predictable but not to the extent that it cannot be learned or executed by the defense.
- In 2009 there were complaints about how often our defensive ends were out in coverage. Fewell was supposed to bring an end to that. For the most part, he did that. The Giants were near the top in the league in sacks. However, on that 65-yard TD pass to Brent Celek in the Eight Minutes of Infamy game, as I call it, Celek was being covered by Justin Tuck. I know Kenny Phillips missed the tackle but if you watch the video of that play, Vick had all day to throw. Perhaps a pass-rushing Tuck doesn't even let Vick get the throw off.
Celek 65 yard TD (via jimmykempski)
- With the change to a 1-gap philosophy, Cofield had his first chance at becoming a pass-rushing DT. In previous seasons he came off the field on most passing downs and this year he stayed on the field. He did well in the role. Still though, I'm convinced that many DTs could have done better. With Osi and Tuck at the ends and Canty taking on two offensive linemen on almost every snap, I can't help but wonder how Fred Robbins would've done in that role. He had 6.0 sacks for St. Louis at 33-years-old.
- Turnovers: Sometimes the offense will turn it over and other times you as a defense can force the turn over. Pursuit and gang tackling will cause fumbles. Pressure up front and reading the QB in your zones will lead to interceptions.
- Win 1st Down Run: (3 yards or less) Force 2nd & long so you can get into your Go’s and Greens for rush and your 7 man fronts. When you win 1st down, your odds go up to force the 3rd & long which is the key on defense.
- Get Off on 3rd Down: Every time you win on 3rd down, you automatically have picked up 6 snaps on your opponent and maybe more. It for sure is 3 less snaps for them because they are off the field and it just gave our offense 3 more snaps because we are on the field.
- Don’t Give Up the Big Play: Make them earn it. Sometimes they will stop themselves if you do not give them the cheap one.
- Eliminate Foolish Penalties: Ne excuse for foolish penalties. Foolish offside, late hit out-of-bounds, taking a swing, etc. There will be enough bad judgment calls as it is that we cannot afford penalties that we actually can control.
- Score on Defense: Whenever we intercept a pass, yell "Oskie" and think score. Everyone go immediately to near sideline and get a block. Your block can make the difference.
- Sudden Change: Have pride in sudden change. Our offense certainly did not turn it ever because they wanted to, just like we did not let a team score on us because we did not care. Take the field with a positive attitude with everyone pulling together.
- Stop the Run & Don’t Give Up the Big Play: You do this & the odds of you winning go up tremendously.
- We could have a FanPost on these alone. There were way too many big plays made against the Giants: the 71-yard TD on a screen pass to Felix Jones; the two 4th-quarter runs by LeSean McCoy; take your pick in the 2nd Eagles game and the entire Packers game. Even in games which we won such as the Detroit and 2nd Washington games, there were TD passes of 64 yards and 87 yards allowed to make those games closer than they should have been.
- I was underwhelmed with the interceptions. Perhaps Phillips needed last year to get his
feetknees back under him but I think playing so deep had an adverse affect on his INT numbers. Perhaps Rolle was still adjusting to playing so close to the line but he took too many bad angles to the ball. I'll cover this more in depth later..
- I think we'd all agree that the biggest and worst defensive penalty was the offside penalty on Jason Pierre-Paul. It gave the Eagles new life.
II. General Concepts of Coverages
III. Defensive Fronts and Stunts
A. Under Defense and Stunts
In this defense, the SAM holds the edge to stop cutbacks and tosses The WILL is out in zone coverage or fills the gaps to stop a run between the tackles. Both the WILL and the SAM must be good run stoppers in this defense.
An example of someone who did not do their job in this defense was Michael Boley in the first Eagles game. He was the SAM and was supposed to maintain the edge. Instead he was out of position and got blocked away from the play by Celek, allowing McCoy to get outside for a back-breaking TD.
LeSean McCoy 50 yard touchdown run on 4th down (via MrPlayerh8ter)
B. Over Defense and Stunts
In this defense, the SAM is aligned on the opposite side of the TE. If it is run, then the WILL maintains gap responsibility. In the Buck and Bass stunts, when the closed end (Tuck) uses an inside pass rush, the WILL must then move outside to fill the D gap. When the closed end uses an outside pass rush, he must also fill the D gap and the WILL stays back in coverage.
IV. Defensive Coverages
To properly read these coverages, you have to look at the alignment, the responsibilities, and the coverage areas.
A. Over 2 (Cover 2) Zone
This is your basic Cover 2 Zone defense. Play recognition is crucial because a lot of the coverage is predicated on reacting to what's in front of you. If you're slow to diagnose a play, then you're slower to defend it. Also, gang tackling is a staple of the T2 so even if a play isn't in your zone, you must still be quick to the ball.
The WILL is always on the side with the TE. He aligns on the inside or directly across from the TE unless it is an Empty offensive alignment. (In an Empty set, the WILL moves over to cover a WR or the HB.) Although #3 says that both the SAM and WILL have pass responsibilities, the WILL and MIKE key the TE.
The CBs play run first and pass second. As soon as he recognizes run, the CB must attack. In pass coverage, the CB wants to force WRs inside. It's to make the QB throw into the zone. With so many people out in pass coverage, it might confuse the QB, which could lead to a mistake. Another reason is that throwing into traffic could lead to a tipped pass and interception. Giants fans know that one well.
The safeties play pass first and run second.
In the Cover 2 Zone Flow alignment, the SAM handles hook routes. Based on the coverage chart in Section II we know that hook routes are 9-15 yards deep and go from the TE to the opposite OT. The WILL handles curl routes. The coverage chart says that curl routes are inside of a WR but outside of a TE and go 8-15 yards deep. The SAM has a smaller area to cover and is in a more confined space. The MIKE has the middle read. At the snap of ball he has to read the HB, QB, and TE and adjust according to what he sees.
Let's take a look at the Cover 2 Zone Diamonds alignment. The SAM has seam routes and gets help from the SS. Based on the coverage chart, seam routes are areas between two zones and usually where the TE lines up. In this look, the seam route would be between the slot area and the hook area but opposite the TE. The WILL has curl routes and gets help from the FS. The MIKE has deep middle and reads both sides.
The safeties play halfway. The CBs are in a straight zone.
B. Under Pirate 57
In this zone coverage the SAM is always across from the TE unless he is checked out of the alignment. He often lines up at the line of scrimmage. The MIKE and WILL remain in their base alignment. The SAM has more responsibility in pass coverage in this coverage than in the Cover 2 Zone. Whereas both the MIKE and WILL key the TE in the Cover 2 Zone coverage, only the SAM keys the TE in the Under Pirate 57.
In the Under Pirate 57 Flow coverage, the SAM stays in his curl zone and covers the FB who is out on a route. He lets the TE go by him, who is picked up by the SS and MIKE.
C. Over Smack 6
I believe the Giants ran the Over Smack 6 coverage a lot. There's a Nickel coverage that they ran a lot as well but I will address it later.
The SAM and WILL play a buzz zone. It means they handle the curl and flat routes.
The MIKE handles the hook routes and check downs.
In the previous two coverages, the CBs were 4 yards off the line of scrimmage. In this coverage, the CBs are 9 yards off the line. That is more in line with what we saw this year.
The SS plays deep middle and shades the side of the TE.
The LBs focus on 15 yards and in and the SS plays 22 yards down field. It's no wonder why the Giants had so much trouble in the middle of their zone. I'm hoping that two years after his surgeries KP will regain his speed. This defense requires a hard-hitting SS who has closeout speed. He can either make receivers pay for going over the middle or pick the pass off completely.
I don't want to put it all on KP. More athletic LBs who can retreat would also help. Boley can handle that but we have to see whether Goff improves in this regard in his 2nd season as a starter in the T2. This would be a concern for Clint Sintim as well.
D. Under China
Here is our first man coverage in the T2 scheme. The SAM covers the TE and gets help from the FS. This is more of what we're used to seeing. The SS has the deep middle.
Look at #5. You'll notice that the responsibility of the FS is to cover the HB. In other words, Antrel Rolle in run defense isn't necessarily a byproduct of bad LBs. It's an actual aspect of the coverage. In "Alert Yukon" or checked plays the SS covers the HB and the FS has the freedom to roam.
E. Nickel Coverage
There are four Nickel coverages: Nickel/1 Lurk; Nickel/1 Plug; Nickel/2; and Nickel/2 Man. I will address the Nickel/2 Man coverage only. It's the coverage in which the Giants gave up two big touchdowns that we all remember.
As the description states, this is a Cover 2 Man coverage as opposed to the Cover 2 Zone coverage that I addressed above. While in Cover 2 Zone the CBs force the WRs to the inside, in Cover 2 Man the CBs force the WRs to the outside. Since help isn't readily available in man coverage, you use the sideline as a defender.
In the offensive alignment below, the WILL covers the TE; the MIKE covers the HB or FB; the nickel CB or 3rd safety covers the 3rd WR. This debunks the theory that only the SAM covers the TE in man coverage.
Unfortunately, last year two plays that really hurt the Giants happened against this coverage. Let's take a look.
The first one comes in Week 6 against Detroit. It was 21-10 Giants with 13:36 remaining in the 4th quarter. Detroit had the ball on their 13-yard line and it was 3rd and 10. Drew Stanton was in the shotgun formation with two WRs split right and one WR split left. The TE was lined up next to the LT with the RB behind him. The CBs were head up in man coverage; the safeties were deep; the open end was lined up outside the TE, and the MIKE was lined up across from the TE.
At the snap of the ball, the RB immediately went out on a route and Goff covered him. The TE released and Boley covered him. Terrell Thomas gave Calvin Johnson a free release to the outside. Everyone was in man coverage. Stanton stepped up and threw high and to the sideline to Johnson as Thomas' feet got tangled up. He made a desperate try for the ball that failed and he fell.
This is where we should have seen Rolle closing in on Johnson to make the tackle and limit the damage. Instead he tried to undercut the throw and missed badly. Johnson made the catch and had wide open space between him and the end zone. Touchdown Detroit.
Calvin Johnson 87 yard TD (via spongebob89100)
The next play was in Week 16 against Green Bay. It was 1st and 10 Green Bay at their 20-yard line. Green Bay had two WRs split left and one right. Aaron Rodgers was in a shotgun formation. This time the TE was in the backfield with the RB. Same as above, the CBs were head up in man coverage and the safeties were in deep half coverage. However, this time Deon Grant was the second safety and Rolle was the nickel CB.
At the snap of the ball, the TE acts as if he is going out on a route but he stops at the line of scrimmage to block. Rodgers fakes the hand off to the RB with a play-action, leaving the RB to block as well. As such, both Goff and Boley stay at the line as the play develops behind them.
Rolle should have keyed his man, 3rd WR Jordy Nelson. Instead he looked at Rodgers and fell for the fake. He took a step toward the line. By the time he realized that it was a pass play, Nelson was already running by him and Rolle was in perpetual catch-up mode. Rodgers threw the ball to Nelson and he ran for a 80-yard TD.
Obviously, Rolle was the first culpable person. However, he was not the only one. Stop the video at 0:09 seconds. KP and Grant were too far outside and left the middle completely exposed. They were supposed to be shading the middle. Also, KP seemed to key just the WR on his side of the field instead of looking at the entire field. Nelson was already a step behind KP before KP even turned.
Jordy Nelson 80 yard touchdown vs Giants (via SNNightly)
V. Final Thoughts
- The Giants need someone who has the sideline-to-sideline speed to close out in zone coverage. This player must know the defense in and out. It's a read and react defense and he will often have the middle read. If he is indecisive, then many plays will be given up in the middle of the field. Jonathan Goff is excellent in run defense. He handles himself well when plugging a gap. I don't think he has the requisite speed but that wouldn't be a big problem if he were better at diagnosing pass plays. He must improve his awareness.
SAM and WILL:
- There are more coverages where the WILL keys the TE than I thought. Based on the numbers, the WILL plays the TE more than the SAM does, which is surprising. It seems Sintim and Bullock were in fact playing SAM after all but simply a T2 SAM. Calling Boley the WILL as Fewell did was accurate. Of course, nobody knows how many plays were run in each coverage. Just because they're in the playbook doesn't mean they were used a lot or at all.
- Similar to the MIKE, both will have to play in space and will need speed. However, if we assume that Fewell will use more of the plays that require the WILL to key TE, then the WILL needs to be faster and better in space than the SAM. Kiwi had his success early in the season as a rover SAM and played close to the line of scrimmage while Boley handled most of the coverage duties.
- I see no reason why Sintim can't play the same rover SAM role. Don't tell me it's because Kiwi has better hips or more speed than Sintim because it's simply not true. I can no longer say that Fewell did not use Sintim at SAM but I still say that Sintim wasn't given enough opportunities. I'd still like to see Sintim in more blitzing situations. He led the NCAA in sacks in 2008. I'd still take someone like Foster who has experience playing all three LB spots. He and Adrian Tracy could vie for playing time as backups.
B. Defensive Backs
- While Fewell used a lot of zone, it seems he used a fair amount of man as well in nickel coverages. Thomas definitely regressed last year and I can no longer defend Aaron Ross. I'd like a real athlete to be the #2 CB behind Webster and move Thomas to the slot/nickel CB role. I don't feel that Thomas has the speed to hang with the athletes that the Giants will face at WR. Jimmy Smith fits that role.
- They were leaps and bounds better than what we had in 2009 but the safeties were a problem in 2010. KP needs his speed back. Playing the deep middle, too many plays are being made by opposing offenses in front of him. I think too much blame was put on the LBs for those plays. KP is one of my favorite Giants but he has to take his share of the blame. I'm hoping that the 2009 KP that ate up Tony Romo will be back in 2011.
- I was very disappointed with Rolle. He was great in run defense but as a former CB, his decision-making in pass coverage was scary bad. He took reckless chances that left the entire defense in a hole. Maybe he didn't like playing close to the line and he wanted a few plays on the ball. Maybe he was trying to prove himself to the new city, fans, team, etc. Be consistent and disciplined. That's enough.
- Grant was a solid performer and played better than I anticipated. Nonetheless, I'd like to draft Marcus Gilchrist as a replacement. I shake my head when I think of what Chad Jones could have been for us. I pray that his quality of life isn't compromised.