The Electric Commentary

Friday, December 17, 2004

The Philosophy of Football, 101, Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

Let’s talk defense.

#1 Defensive Priority: Defensive Line.

The play of a defensive line creates secondary benefits (or costs, if they play poorly) just as an offensive line creates secondary benefits. In the case of the defensive line, a pass rush helps DBs by forcing quicker, less accurate throws. A good pass rush will create opportunities for even bad defensive backs (I might, at this point, mention Larry Brown and Dexter Jackson). They don’t have to cover WRs for more than a few seconds per play, they will not get as tired, and they will also not have to worry about deep throws as often.

Linebackers also benefit from a strong defensive line, specifically the interior defensive line. Grady Jackson is undoubtedly one of the best examples of this phenomenon. When the Packers are without their stout defensive tackle, they are barely a defense at all. The Bears’ Brian Urlacher famously suffered when the enormous Keith Traylor and Ted Washington were forced out of the lineup by injury and free agency. The Bears 2001 season in which they went 13-3 is now considered to be a fluke, but the defensive play dropped of markedly with the loss of Traylor and Washington on the line. Even the great Ray Lewis has seen his play decline with the loss of Tony Siragusa. Linebackers perform best when they are not confronted with offensive linemen.

A good defensive line also allows a team to play with smaller, faster linebackers (like Urlacher and Derrick Brooks). This increases the available pool of possible players for a defense and saves money, as not every team can be successful with small linebackers.

It is important to generate a pass rush with four players. Blitzing can be used effectively, but it leaves the secondary vulnerable. If the need for blitzing is reduced, offensive big plays are reduced. Forcing an offense to run more plays per score will increase the likelihood of a turnover. Combining a solid pass rush (denying the QB time) with run stuffers in the middle will make any secondary and linebacker corps look great.

When building a defense, a premium should be placed on the large men up front. Money can then be saved in the secondary (Note: I feel that DBs are overvalued in the NFL) and at the linebacker position.


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