PS Dynamic Opposition has taken over the NFL – Wild Card Saturday

Posted: January 6, 2019 in All Things Power Spread
a-wild_card_weekend

Over the last two to three years, Power Spread has exploded on the NFL scene. This year every NFL team runs some version of PS with concepts and schemes evolving at a surprisingly fast rate. Teams maximizing their Space Time & Talent through Aggressive Variety in all three phases of the game – Offense, Defense, and Special Teams.

A Wild Ride

The Power Spread explosion in the NFL this year created all kinds of close games and wild endings. Offenses, Defenses and even Special Teams were experimenting with all kinds of schemes and ideas with a ferocity we have never seen before in the Pro game. Throughout this year I have seen ProPS, ProPSAR (air raid), Full ProPS, GillmanPS+ and even some simple, but very effective, PS 101 – straight from the College game that started it all.

Teams cannot get passive – even for a play or two – anymore. There must be a constant aggressive search for combinations of plays and players that will work in a cohesive mix. Even when it doesn’t seem to fit. Dynamic Opposition!

Not only has this begun to happen consistently in the game on Offense and Defense, but also on Special Teams. Unique combos of scheme and talent has led to all kinds of fireworks in this phase of the game. Even creating a lot of Kicking issues throughout the league as every team has used unique schemes and/or techniques to create havoc with the Kickers.

Lastly teams are injured like never before as the game continues to become more spread with more power. Depth is huge. Aggressive Variety with Scheme even more so. Energy is #1. This comes through clear thought within aggressive schemes that mix tendency. Injuries become less of an issue when these concepts are in place.

We have seen a lot of craziness throughout the year and this trend may continue right into the playoffs as 7 of the 8 teams playing this weekend were not in the playoffs last year! Though the only team with a significant absence from the playoffs is Chicago. By the end of the weekend I wouldn’t be surprised to see some improbable endings with all the road teams winning. Starting with the first game on the slate.

Indianapolis Colts at the Houston Texans

Is O’Brien getting the most out of Watson?

I have never been a big fan ob Houston HC Bill O’Brien. He’s a decent coach and knows Offense, but I think his schematic style is too Pro Spread oriented which doesn’t work anymore. Power Spread is a balanced mesh of what appear to be contrasting concepts. The power game must create from the spread pass. And vice versa.

O’Brien controls the Houston Offense with the very talented Dual Threat QB Deshaun Watson. The route designs and passing game in general is solid, but I don’t like the mesh of pass/run. Especially with such a dynamic athlete like Watson. There’s too much “Ok, now we are in spread pass mode” followed by “Ok, now we are lining up with a OneBack or heavy set to run it down your throat”. This is too obvious, lacks variety and eventually destroys aggression. What’s more, it doesn’t use Watson’s biggest talents – his quick feet and improvisational skills.

As the year wore on, I actually liked the direction that the Houston Offense was taking. There were more scheme breaking tendency and surprising misdirection and play action. Houston got on a roll and won their way right to a division title. But for playoff time, I’m not sure it’s enough. Watson will not succeed against the best defenses as a pocket passer. He will need freedom to move and improv.

Frank Reich’s ProPS via Doug Pederson

As for Frank Reich he’s doing a great job continuing the Pederson legacy from last year. He uses the same style of aggressive variety that Pederson does – all from a simple, but effective ProPS mix. The difference is he has Andrew Luck, who in my estimation is a better QB than what Pederson has had to work with. Luck is next in line right under the top few QBs in the league that will go down as some of the best ever to play the game.

Once the Colts Offense got used to the new schemes and philosophy it really came alive under Luck. Especially when Reich started implementing some no huddle up tempo schemes to the mix. If this continues, and I expect it will, the Colts won’t be easy to stop.

The Colts TampaPS Defense

Reich hired Matt Eberflus as his DC. Eberflus has a unique defensive background. He learned under Gary Pinkel’s at Missouri, which ran an aggressive style of 4-4 /4-2 used by Virginia Tech’s great DC Bud Foster. Eberflus then went to the Raiders to learn under the brilliant mind of Rob Ryan, who’s defensive pressure+coverage mixes may be ahead of their time. Then Eberflus went to Dallas under another intelligent DC named Rod Marinelli.

Along with Eberflus, Marinelli concocted a type of Tampa2 Defense (created by his mentor Monte Kiffin) that incorporated more variety in fronts, coverages and blitzes. Eberflus is basically a mix of 3 brilliant defensive minds in Foster/Ryan/Kiffin. Reich also hired a slew of Tampa2 students to help Eberflus run this new style of Defense I call TampaPS.

The TampaPS still starts from a 4 man front, but mixes the coverages from Cover 2 to 3 to 6. Also there is much more blitzing both from 4 and 3 man fronts – nickel and dime packages. All the while using the Tampa Concept. A LB/DB hybrid types up close to the Line of Scrimmage, either to stuff the run or blitz…OR…to race back into deep coverage. Thus keeping the Offense guessing as to what’s coming next.

Marinelli is using it at Dallas with great effect. Once the young Colts gained some experience and straightened out some injury issues, their Defense started to flourish – just like the Offense. Enough so that the Colts went on a run to make the playoffs in Reich’s first year at the helm!

Prognostication – Indianapolis Colts

As I mentioned above, I am liking the road teams this weekend. Houston was in the playoffs under O’Brien 2 years ago so they have the experience edge over a young Indianapolis team, but Houston had injury issues the second half of the year and now WR Demaryius Thomas is also hurt. The most pressing question remains – will O’Brien let his dual-threat QB rock-n-roll?

The Texans have good talent on Defense and a have a former top DC in Romeo Crennel. His schemes are no longer cutting edge, but still have aggressive variety. With some of the injured DBs getting back to health, Crennel may be more aggressive.

They can slow Luck and the offense, but at this point in the season they won’t stop him. Can the Texans keep up with enough points? Unless O’Brien shocks me with a philosophical change, I don’t see it. The young Colts defense is clear thinking and executing in their TampaPS mix.

I can see the Colts jumping up early with the Texans coming back late behind Watson and the home crowd, but the Colts hanging on to win. If Watson gets hurt, O’Brien could get really conservative and shut down the offense completely resulting in a blowout loss.

Seattle Seahawks at the Dallas Cowboys

Marinelli’s TampaPS

This is the same Rod Marinelli I mentioned about that worked with Matt Eberflus to create a more evolved version of the Tampa Defense originally created by Monte Kiffin with Tony Dungy. Marinelli had 20+ years experience as a DLine coach before working under Kiffin and Dungy at Tampa Bay. His style of TampaPS differs from what Eberflus does, but the main premise of the scheme stays at its core. A mix of LB/DB hybrids threatening to blitz or drop into short or deep coverage.

TampaPS is not an easy Defense to run or teach. It requires a coach that knows how to expertly mix his play calling and schemes as well as the type of talent that can execute the high precision schemes required. If done correctly it’s a highly effective “bend don’t break” defense that will also create big plays. If done incorrectly it’s a complicated mess with a lot of mis-communication leading to easy chunk plays and touchdowns for the offense.

The Cowboys have both the Coach and Players. The big name talents are on the offense – Prescott, Elliott, Cooper – but it’s the Defense that has carried the Cowboys all year. It will be this Defense that will carry them again.

Legion of Boom No More

TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN

For Seattle nothing could be truer. Not only has Power Spread overtaken the NFL since their last Super Bowl appearance, but the makeup of the team is completely different. With the season ending injury to FS Earl Thomas, Seattle no longer had a player left in the Secondary that was a part of that “Boom” Defense. Their LB duo, Wagner & Wright, are still around, albeit a bit older. So is their veteran WR Doug Baldwin. Then of course, there’s their leader, QB Russell Wilson. But that’s it.

In addition to age and defection, Pete Carroll is also dealing with the burgeoning Power Spread Schemes in the NFL. Seattle had a different OC and DC for the first time in a while. Offensively the move to Brian Schottenheimer as OC was a good one. He updated the Offense – using Wilson’s legs and improv skills in a more cohesive ProPS scheme.

Unfortunately the change on Defense didn’t have the same positive effect. Although Carroll is a defensive coach, these days he likes to delegate. Former DC Kris Richard is a real strategist with coverages. Ironically, he’s now with the Cowboys. He helped to further enhance Marinelli’s TampaPS mix. Sure enough Dallas had their best year defensively, while Seattle took a step backwards.

The current DC, Ken Norton Jr., coached under Carroll for years at USC then early at Seattle. I wouldn’t call him a bad DC, but he’s not the strategist of Richard. Carroll needs that kind of help now. His schemes are no longer cutting edge and haven’t been for a while. He’s always run an aggressive type of Cover 2 Man Under scheme with a slashing speedy DLine and Linebacking crew. He ran a hybrid front when it was still relatively new many years ago. He was aggressive for that time. Even using some Cover 1 Robber – which he still does a lot. But none of this is considered cutting edge strategy anymore.

To make matters worse, the Defensive Players are young and inexperienced. Especially after the injury to FS Earl Thomas. There is some young talent starting to come through, but I don’t see them being able to keep the Cowboys offense down. Especially with Dallas’ mid-season addition of Amari Cooper at WR, which in turn helped to improve the play from their OLine, which in turn helped Prescott and Elliott.

Prognostication – Seattle in a Toss Up / Probability Dallas

I want to go with all the away teams winning this weekend, but this is a tough one. Wilson and the Seattle offense had a big year, but the running game can be inconsistent and the Dallas D is tough! I think Seattle will need some points to win as Dallas should get at least 20+ versus a young Seattle D. Especially if Dallas continues the No-Huddle they were using at the end of the year. I’m not sure Seattle can keep up.

The one edge I like for Seattle is at kicker. Dallas replaced an aging legend in Dan Bailey with an unknown from the CFL in Brett Maher. Seattle has the ageless wonder Sebastian Janikowski. Maher had arguably the better year, but Janikowski is far more experienced. I trust a seasoned vet much more in crunch time than a first time player.

If Wilson can shred the Cowboys Defense some and Seattle can keep it close to the end, then I think their edge in the kicking game could pull this out. As I pointed out above, the Kick Blocking units this year have been fantastic at disrupting kickers. Carroll loves to jump lineman and do other aggressive scheme/techniques on the kick block unit. So Seattle could win with a kick, a kick block or kick disruption of Maher.

Probability points to Dallas. Too solid on Defense and good enough on Offense. I’d give Dallas a 60% chance of winning. But in a crazy toss up game like we have seen all year, I will give it to Seattle!

~DP

Comments
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