That know-it-all football fan will never be quiet now. We’re sorry.
The NFL Conversation Domination Playbook: Volume 3
Last week, I was chatting with Bomani Jones on his radio show, The Right Time, and he made me confront an ugly truth that I had been avoiding. My quest to defeat Brads — annoying, ill-informed football opinion-givers — could be backfiring. Rather than write about preseason football, I had planned to give 22 football insights in five volumes. My hope was that well-intentioned football fans would use the insights to humble the Brads in their life. I hoped that with great power would come great responsibility. But you know what is also true? Absolute power corrupts absolutely. So with that in mind, I have to accept that I am probably creating more Brads. But I take solace in the idea that the Brads will be slightly more informed, if much more arrogant. So, Brads and non-Brads, enjoy these fresh insights now, but most importantly serve ’em up later, and season to taste with condescension.
13. the good ones Already Know
Here is a dirty little secret about quarterbacks: The good ones don’t read the defense during every play. They know what the defense is doing before they snap the ball and subsequently know where they are going to throw the ball before the snap. And if for some reason the defense’s disguise fools the quarterback, or his primary receiver is not available when he is expected to be, then a good quarterback can find another receiver quickly or throw the ball away. Great quarterbacks are rarely fooled by defensive disguises because they are aware of all 11 defenders and it is likely that at least one of the 11 will not be able to hold his disguise through shifts, motions and dummy cadences.
12. Why Pick Just One?
Both offenses and defenses have double calls. A double call is exactly what it sounds like — a team leaves the huddle with two different plays called. Obviously, they can run only one. So how do they choose? They don’t. They let the opponent choose for them.
Offensive double calls are meant to give the quarterback the ability to put the offense in a better play quickly and easily. It normally takes just one word: “kill.” The offense leaves the huddle with a run and a quick pass called. Now it is time for the quarterback to inspect the defense. He may do some shifts and motions, then a dummy cadence. “White 8 white 8 set go.” Believing that the ball is about to be snapped, the defenders shed their disguises and move to their proper landmarks to execute their responsibilities. Now the quarterback knows what to expect from the defense and can determine which of the two plays is best. If the first play is best, he’ll continue with his cadence and run the play. If he doesn’t like what he sees, he will say, “kill kill,” which tells the offense that the first play is now dead, and they’ll run the second play.
Offenses like to use doubles on first down and pair a running play with a three-step quick passing play. After the dummy cadence, the quarterback just needs to find the safeties. If neither is in the box, then run the ball; if one is in the box, then kill it and throw the ball.
Simple enough, right? So simple that defenses should understand what is going on. Many of them do, but few of them are given the autonomy to adjust. Last season, Houston Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel seemed to have given that power to the experienced Texans defenders, creating an intriguing game of cat-and-mouse between the defense and opposing quarterbacks. It will be interesting to see how much latitude the Texans defense will be given this year, now that Crennel has been promoted to assistant head coach and has been replaced by rookie defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel.
11. Two Can Play that Game
Reacting to offensive audibles is one thing, but that is not considered a defensive double call. Like offensive double calls, defensive double calls are meant to put the defense in the best situation versus a particular opposing formation. This is where incessant film study could pay off. Defensive double calls are most effective when they hinge on an offensive tendency. For example, if study reveals that on second down and 10 after an incomplete pass the opponent throws the ball 66 percent of the time when in a base I formation, and they run it 70 percent of the time when in a slot formation, then the coordinator could send in “23” as the coverage portion of the play call. That means that if the offensive formation is a base I formation, the D will play “Cover 2,” a more pass-friendly coverage. But if the offense lines up in or motions to slot, the D will play Cover 3, a defense that puts another man in the box.
Installing multiple weekly new defensive double calls customized for each opponent can be challenging. But it is an easier way to incorporate the multitude of insights derived from hours of film study. Rather than trying to teach the entire defense 20 different tendencies every week, like the one above, or try to guess right with your playcall as a coordinator, you could send in double calls with a simple if-then rule.
10. Blitz the back
While not all coordinators love double calls, there is a double call that I am sure all NFL defenses have in their third-down blitz repertoire. It is based on defenses’ desire to blitz away from the slide of the offensive line, looking to create one-on-one matchups or overload the weaker side of the pass protection. If the offense is in shotgun, the running back will line up on either the left or the right of the quarterback, and the O-line will normally slide away from him. So the defense will blitz to the side of the back. When watching games, occasionally you see the quarterback motion for the back to switch sides. That is because he thinks a blitz is coming from that side or he wants to watch and hear how the defense reacts.
As always, thanks for reading, tweet me your comments, and I will talk next week.