While reading this interesting article from Andy Benoit at ESPN, on NFL teams and their “pillar needs”, the comments regarding the Cincinnati Bengals and their need for athletic defensive linemen caught me eye:
“A critical component of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer’s scheme, particularly in his aggressive third-down packages, is the zone blitz.”
“In its simplest terms, a zone blitz is essentially where a back-seven defender rushes and a defensive lineman drops back to replace him in coverage. Defenses, particularly 3-4 units, like it because it can create chaos and confusion without sacrificing bodies in coverage. The reason more 4-3 teams don’t zone blitz is it demands sensational athleticism from the defensive linemen. They must be able to explode off the ball, redirect into a backpedal, change directions laterally and move well in space. The more linemen a team has who can do this, the more diverse its zone blitz packages can be. Zimmer’s Bengals are diverse enough to use overload zone blitzes, meaning multiple linemen drop back.”
Most Bears fans who were paying attention noticed that rookie defensive lineman Shea McClellin dropped into coverage on occasion last year. It didn’t happen often because defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli was a Tampa-2 guy at heart and he really believed in staying with this basic alignment as much as possible (though to his credit he did recognize and act upon the need to mix it up on occasion).
In any case, though he was undersized for a defensive end, McClellin is very athletic. So much so that many writers still think he’s going to end up at linebacker (I don’t agree).
New defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has stated that he’ll keep the base 4-3 scheme the same for the Bears with some tweeks. I’m starting to wonder if one of those tweeks is going to include the use of McClellin a lot more in coverage in zone blitz situations. It should be interesting to watch.
The Sports Pickle “reports” that one team has made a progressive announcement:
The Kansas City Chiefs bravely stepped forward today and announced they are gay, becoming the first team in major professional sports to come out as homosexual.
I can’t believe they beat the Forty-niners to the punch.
Nolan Nawrocki at Pro Football Weekly reviews the Bears 2012 draft:
“Far from a great debut for GM Phil Emery’s first draft class, but it’s too soon to call it a failure.”
The pick that kills this draft? Brandon Hardin in the third round. Your third rounder is supposed to compete to start not be a back up limited by injury.
Having said that, as Nawrocki points out, its a little early to evaluate this draft. I think a lot of these picks like first rounder Shea McClellin were based upon anticipated future development. Both he and second rounder Alshon Jeffery needed to spend some time in the weight room and that wasn’t going to happen until this offseason.
Dan Pompei‘s mock draft at the Chicago Tribune works out well for the Bears:
20. Bears: Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia. If he makes it this far, Ogletree seems like an easy pick. A trade down remains a viable possibility, as the Bears have flexibility as far as needs.
This would be an outstanding scenario for the Bears. If Ogletree fell right into their laps like this, it would be a steal.
Fortunately GM Phil Emery has done an outstanding job of putting the Bears into a position where he can take the best player available with few exceptions (for instance at running back where he’s highly unlikely to find a starter better than Matt Forte). Whoever falls to them, its almost certainly going to be a good pick.
It the time of year when everyone, including me, starts paying more attention to player scouting reports and this one by Nolan Nawrocki at Pro Football Weekly reads like a bad movie review:
Started the season red-hot with the help of two playmaking receivers and created a national stir generating a lot of overexcitement in the scouting community. Quickly came down to earth after Kansas State disguised coverages and brought pressure he could not handle and he finished dropping six of his final eight games. A cross between Akili Smith and Aaron Brooks, Smith is a gimmick, overhyped product of the system lacking the football savvy, work habits and focus to cement a starting job and could drain energy from a QB room. Will be overdrafted and struggle to produce against NFL defensive complexities.
In fairness, Dan Pompei at The National Football Post responds:
Many do not agree with Nolan Nawrocki’s sources on Geno Smith… The closest I heard was a couple scouts suspect Smith has a little con in him, and they find him to be a little hard to read.”
Regardless it sound like he’s going to be a bit of a risk and a pick more controversial than usual even for a quarterback.
EDIT: I seemed to remember Nawrocki doing something like this in the past. Sure enough, as I looked back to previous blog entries, I found that Nawrocki posted a similar rip job on QB Cam Newton in 2011 that generated quite a bit of controversy.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that the evaluation isn’t honest but the strong language smells like a way to get more people (like me) to visit the PFW website.
I took some time off from writing this blog in part because its a slow time for the NFL and in part because I wanted to think about how I was writing it.
I have a suspicion that people didn’t like reading the articles because they were too long. As a result, I’m trying to cut down on the length, posting shorter, quick hit articles that highlight some of the things I’ve found. Hopefully this will make the blog easier to read 1) because it won’t require any kind of time commitment to punch the link and quickly read the article and 2) because you’ll be able to quickly choose the article you are interested in based on the title without wading through a bunch of stuff you really don’t care than much about.
There may be another interruption at some point because I’m thinking of moving the blog to my own server. But that won’t happen until this summer at the earliest.
Drop me a line and let me know what you think.