Monday, June 30, 2008

Nickel & Dime/Gun Control and what dialect do you speak?

One reason I love the game of football so much is its seemingly endless capacity for innovation. I was fortunate to work under a brilliant head coach who was steeped in football history. Not who necessarily won what when, but certain coaches at certain schools and what they came up with and what they called it. It wasn't just formations and defenses, it was drills, plays, blitzes, etc. All the stuff he used had the appropriate names paying homage to its originator and place of origin. That's another thing about football, the need to communicate. Certain terminology is ubiquitous while some is local dialect.

Shotgun formation has been around for a long time shooting the ball from the center to the QB. Hey, if you could snap it to a FB in Single Wing and to the punter, why not in ... shotgun. Then came the fairly recent combo of gun + option + spread formation = spread option. Then Chris Ault at Nevada shortens the gun and puts a TB behind the QB, and it's ... pistol. All this stuff is great for the game and you can see it in HS football stadia if you are a student of the game. Try it , football fans. It's not expensive and it won't interfere with college and pro ball. Surely you NFL/fantasy league guys can figure what mere high school football teams are doing. Plus, it's educational; you might learn something ... about football, that is.

Each football team must make up certain terminology. Most defenses have four DBs. So, if you take out a backer or a DL and put in a fifth DB, it got called nickel because the author thought, "One, two, three, four, five pennies make a nickel." Hey, if the HC said it, who's going to argue with his impeccable logic? After all, this is the guy who has the power to name any player anything he wants and to send assistants to scout in Jal. What if you add a sixth DB to that? Another line coach and I used to vehemently insist that you can't call it dime unless you have TEN DBs. If five DBs is nickel, ten DBs is dime. Come on! Be consistent! Actually, we just wanted to see a D w/ten DBs. Didn't Ray Rhodes try that? Once again, logic is defeated and dime is six DBs, usually with four DL and one LB.

There are certain core rules common to all levels of football (not including Arena, Canadian, XFL, etc.). Offense must line up seven players on the LOS who must be set prior to the snap of the ball. Only the players on the ends of this line are eligible to touch the ball before it touches the ground. There are four who line up in back of this line one of whom may be moving when the ball is put into play. Isn't it amazing how much variation has been derived from that? Five WR sets two of whom must be ends; empty backfield; watch out for QB draw.

Given the caliber of NFL WRs today, such an offensive formation needs the best possible defensive coverage. The Broncos' WRs seem quite deep. Could we see five wideout/empty backfield formations this year? If you want to run cover 1 against that it could be done with dime either using one DB as a FS or doubling the most dangerous receiver with one backer as a spy on the QB and rush four DL. You could have nickel cover zero and still keep a couple of backers in. With such limited time between plays, someone in the box with binoculars and a headset must do nothing but watch personnel changes going in. How they get that done amazes me.

NFL teams that run cover 2 have acquired the necessary safeties to cover deep halves. They're really more like corners. The Broncos may play more of a 4-4 w/a box safety and a deep/FS. That works great aginst the run and in cover 3, but what about nickel and dime? If it was cover 1 or zero, I'd pull both safeties and the MLB. Assuming Jack Williams makes the team, the Broncos have five good corners. If you need another DB for dime, put in the best FS type along with the five corners. When an offense lines up with four or five WRs, you don't have to play man. D can play zone even in nickel and dime. Always try to make it look like what it isn't; look like zone, play man; look like man, play zone; man under, zone deep; zone under, man deep.

Around the time of the draft it seemed there were many voicing the idea of trading Domonique Foxworth. I guess at draft time some guys think if they have twenty picks it means they're going to the Super Bowl. KC expressed some interest in Karl Paymah (love the Nordic spelling), but as I recall, Shanahan himself nixed it. Hmmm. You don't suppose any of this had to do with the departure of Ted Sundquist ... do you? I just can't imagine Mike Shanahan wanting to be rid of any of his corners. It was a surprise when Jack Williams was drafted, but it seems that NFL teams can't get enough corners. A bunch of them were drafted rather early. Remember the playoffs? Deep playoff runs like the Giants' require depth everywhere, but especially in the secondary because the teams you're facing have great receivers.

As the Broncos get ready for training camp, cornerback is the strongest, deepest, most settled position they have. This is a good thing, compadres, embrace it and desire to keep it that way as long as possible.

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