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Podcast: Mark Schofield on Giants and the future of defense in the NFL

Dan and Chris talk to Mark about ... defense?

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NFL: New Orleans Saints at New York Giants Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants wrapped up their mandatory mini-camp last week and have just one more week of organized team activities (OTAs) left until the players break before training camp at the end of July.

Welcome to the Dog Days Of Summer.

There isn’t much to talk about right now and, frankly, that’s a good thing. If there is news in June or July, odds are it is of the “bad” variety and not the kind of thing we want to be talking about. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t football to talk about.

About two weeks ago, Mark Schofield wrote an excellent piece Pats Pulpit detailing how Bill Belichick seems to be looking toward the Big 12 — and Iowa State in particular — for ideas on how to defend the spread offense.

According to Mark the premise of the piece, and behind Iowa State’s unique defense is pretty simple. Football coaches at the collegiate level are paid to win games. As the easiest way to field an effective offense under the current rules, it follows that the spread “Air Raid” offense would explode at the collegiate level. It is easy to install, puts enormous stress on the defense, and lets offenses get their best players the ball in space to make plays.

By the same token, NFL coaches are paid to win games as well. And under the current CBA, being able to get young players on the field and contributing as quickly as possible is a massive competitive advantage. So it only makes sense that NFL coaches would begin to ask young players to keep doing what they know — albeit with further refinement.

Change doesn’t happen fast in the NFL, but it is happening as college concepts are finding their way into NFL playbooks. The teams that are implementing those concepts the best are seeing an offensive explosion and proving to be.

With offenses figuratively (and almost literally) leaving defenses in the dust, some thing has to change on the other side of the ball. And from the NFL’s point of view — Mark argues — it only makes sense to go to school on college concepts at college. And nowhere in the NCAA do they do the spread offense better than in the Big 12. That conference isn’t known for its defense, but Iowa State has devised a novel and effective counter.

The Cyclones run a “3-3-3” front out of a modified dime package as their base defense.

As you might guess, their base “Air Raid Killer” defense fields three down defensive linemen, three linebackers, and three safeties, with a pair of corners wide. Iowa State ran this defense to a 25th-ranked pass defense by S&P+ in 2018 among all college defenses.

With the Giants being able to field a stout line of Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson, and B.J. Hill, and a variety of versatile defensive backs behind them, we wanted to talk to Mark and see if we should be watching for this look from the Giants in 2019.

In this podcast

  • Non-football things to watch until football comes back.
  • The premise behind Mark’s piece.
  • Iowa State’s unique defense.
  • How it translates schematically and personnel-wise to the NFL level.
  • How it could apply to the New York Giants’ defense in 2019.

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