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BIg Blue a Tampa 2? Faz returns

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Faz is back, and this time we discussed the Tampa 2. Here is our e-mail conversation. Enjoy.

Me - Well Faz, the first time we discussed the 3-4 our readers either thought I was insane and invented my very own Tyler Dirden, or your comments were so forgetful the readers simply thought I was talking to myself. Let me refresh everyone. Faz was a scout for the New York Jets and although our college experience proves he isn't smarter then a dead turtle (this is a man who was once convinced that "Walking with DInosaurs" was a modern day documentary. He actually burst into my room as though his hair were on fire, turned on the television and excitedly blurted out "Oh My God, they're back.") the NFL thought otherwise and actually paid him for his thoughts. So I ask you Faz, with Perry Fewell coming to town, how will the Giants adjust to the potential switch to the Tampa 2?

Faz - Yes I thought dinosaurs were roaming the Earth again, but I wasn't exactly in my right mind. These comments are exactly why I won't let you use my real name. That, and you are a sorry excuse for a writer. Fortunately for your readers you occasionally say something funny and Ed takes care of the rest. First off, kudos to the Giants for getting Fewell, but still I wonder if they would have gone after Mike Nolan for a second stint had they had the chance. Still, Fewell brings with him a great fire, a relationship with Coughlin (1998 - 2002 as secondary coach in Jacksonville), and a great rapport with his players. I think the last part is what you need to focus on the most. His players love going out and fighting for him. In the Giants heydays guys like LT, Strahan and Tuck always talked about going to war for their coaches, Belicheck, Fox and Spagnuolo. Lastly, as a secondary coach he has always gotten great results from his corners and safeties, something the Giants sorely need.

Me - OK, enough dilly-dallying. Quit sucking up to our readers, clearly we already know Fewell is great, why else would a classy organization like the Giants have hired him? Still we loved it when you pushed Jets linebacker coach Bob Sutton, nice try. Now answer the question. How will the Giants deal with the potential switch to the Tampa 2.

Faz - Right, cause the Giants last defensive hire worked out so well. You know you sound like a guy who's girlfriend forced him to miss the Cowboys game to see "It's Complicated." This happened by the way, and for some reason he told me. Anyway, here goes, first off the Tampa 2 is actually the Steeler 2. Tony Dungy, an astute coach, who took much of the Pittsburgh Steeler defense from the '70s (the Steel Curtain) and formed what is now known as the Tampa 2. The defense is still a base 4-3 but the personnel is used differently. The defense is based on speed and aggressiveness. Here are the ingredients you need to run this D.

  • DE - You need your DEs to be able to get quarterback pressure without the help of a blitz. Obviously, speed is helpful.
  • DT - Your defensive tackles must eat up any holes and be able to stuff the run. Unlike the 3-4 they are asked to make tackles, not just take on two linemen at once.
  • MLB - This is the key position to the Tampa 2 defense. You MUST have a freakish athlete at this spot. In fact, many believe the defense was originally formed based on Jack Lambert's ability to be everywhere at once. The middle linebacker is asked to cover anywhere from 5-20 yards off the ball and still be able to help out at the line of scrimmage in case of a run. Basically you need Batman, only faster.
  • Outside linebackers - Again, these guys must be fast. They are asked to cover 5-15 yards off the ball and have excellent tackling skills. Speed is the key here.
  • Cornerbacks - Typically, these players are left in zone protecting the sideline to the middle of the field 15- 25 yards off the ball. Since they are often in zones they don't have to be the best man defenders, but they must be sure tacklers as the wide receivers/tight ends are often funneled their way. With zones comes more free lancing, so they must be assignment strong. Due to the zone schemes the corners have some time to peak into the backfield so there are chances for interceptions. Sure hands are a must.
  • Safeties - The Tampa 2 calls for a definite distinction between strong and free safety. Both players must be excellent in coverage as they are asked to cover their respective halves from 25 yards off the line and more. The strong safety must be a lethal weapon. He is asked to intimidate any receiver, back or tight end who comes over the middle of the field. He needs to be a BIG hitter. The free safety is an occasional blitzer and is often asked to cover for blitzing corners. Again, speed is the key.

Me - Uggh! I did see "Its Complicated" and I found myself wondering if a real life divorce would be less painful. OK, so we've seen your ingredients. Now do the Giants have the recipe to be successful?

Faz - What? Was that some bizarro cooking question or are you hitting on me? Let's take a look at the batter and see if they can make a cake.

DEs - Speed and pressure are the key and with Kiwanuka/ Tuck and Osi you got the potential. If Osi returns to '07 standards you're all set. Whatever scheme they use the Giants must find ways to get Tuck into more one-on-one match-ups, he's by far your best defensive player.

DTs - Right now you really don't have the DTs to run any system, but if Alford comes back healthy you have a decent chance with him and Cofield. That is If Barry doesn't leave via free agency, which will be based on the new CBA.

MLB - A big, fat NO. It's the key to the Tampa 2 and I don't see an answer here. Pierce can still be a force in a 4-3 but he does not have the speed to cover in the Tampa 2. Jonathan Goff has decent straight line speed but his ability to cut and burst was questioned in the combines and it's unlikely he could cover well enough to key your defense. They would need a major upgrade at this spot to run the scheme.

OLB - Boley has the speed and coverage ability to play in the scheme. Clint Sintim has decent speed but he really never had to cover at Virginia. He can put pressure on a quarterback and might do nicely as an end in this scheme but I'm not sure he could handle the drops into coverage. There are no other options on your current roster.

CB - Your biggest asset here may be Terrell Thomas. Thomas is already a bit of a gambler and has a knack for finding the ball. He may excel in zone coverage and would benefit from the occasional peak into the backfield. His tackling was an issue early in the season but he got better and better throughout the year. He would need to continue his improvement as a tackler to be a true Tampa 2 corner. Corey Webster struggled when he was asked to cover bigger, physical wide outs like Vincent Jackson and Roy Williams. The switch to the Tampa 2 may take that concern away. Webster is a smart corner who likes the one-on-one match-up but he has good tackling skills and might benefit from the scheme. Aaron Ross is a physical corner who sometimes lacks the speed to cover one on one. The switch to the Tampa 2 may help him as well.

Safety - The Giants currently don't discern between the Strong and Free safety positions. That will have to change. In fact, as Jacks likes to point out the Giants don't seem to use the safety position at all. If Kenny Phillips can return to form he would be a natural strong safety. He had the ability to cover half a field and lay the wood. I'm not sure I see any answer at free safety. Michael Johnson and Aaron Rouse can blitz, but neither has the speed to cover half the field. I'd mention C.C. Brown but I fear you'd light your whole apartment on fire.

Me - OK, so you're saying we have some batter. But is there a cake or not?

Faz - Again with the cooking stuff. My opinion, yes you have a much better chance to be a Tampa 2 than you did a 3-4. That said you must improve your team speed and you desperately need an upgrade at MLB. Most importantly for any unit you need players who buy into the scheme. Your coach gets you to buy into the scheme and he better be a good pitch man. Good news is Fewell is a great pitch man and it will show.

Me - Last question. The idea of zone coverage, rushing only four and bringing less blitzes is horrifying. We have been trained to think that pressing wide outs and blitzing quarterbacks is the way to go. Can you dispel the myth?

Faz - You do realize i worked for the Jets, who currently blitz more then any other team in the league besides the Saints. That said I can and will dispel the myth. Quarterbacks in this league are insanely smart and the good ones pick apart blitzes with ease. I know I mentioned the Jets, and while they did blitz a lot this past weekend, they also played a ton of zone. They were able to slow down a very good passing attack and did not have Revis locked up with anyone in particular. More playoff notes - the Eagles were absolutely torched by over-blitzing Romo. The Packers were killed for over-blitzing Warner (who, coincidentally, may be the best quarterback to play against the blitz ever). Strangely, in the same game the Cardinals got lit up for over-blitzing Aaron Rodgers.

Lastly, all Giants fans should remember the coverage the Patriots were in when Eli found Plaxico in the corner of the end zone. Cover 0, all-out blitz. The general idea of the Tampa 2 does call for more four-man rushes and zone schemes, but you certainly can blitz out of this package as well. Fewell knows how to mix it up, and most importantly his zone schemes have lead to many forced turnovers. In 2006 the Bucs ran the Tampa 2 and were 1st in the league in total D, the bears Tampa 2 came in at number 2 and the Colts Tampa 2 at 11th. The system has been proven, now you just need to by in.

Me - Let's hope this was more useful than our 3-4 post. It was great chatting with myself, thanks again Faz.