Yesterday I did a post giving my thoughts on the offense after watching a bunch of All-22 games.
First, Iíve went back and forth on Rob Ryan as the D-Coordinator. I have concluded that at this moment he is a Ďgood coach.í That does not guarantee that he gets better or even remains a Ďgood coach.í Sometimes good coaches have a Ďblind spotí that prevents them from getting better. Or they may have their defense exposed by the league and struggle to adjust to it.
But from what I see on All-22 is a defense that is advanced schematically, that adjusts well to its personnel and to the opponents and that new players can pick up fairly quickly. I sometimes question his initial gameplan, but given the injuries and the offense having turned the ball over so much, I do not know if that is really an issue we have to consider in the future.
I see 3 issues with this defense this year:
1. Safety Play
2. Defensive End
I have always been a bit lukewarm on Sensabaugh. Couchscout mentioned his problems in zone coverage and All-22 exposes that. However, he is quite good in man-to-man coverage. So I can see why he appeals to coaches, he plays man-to-man better than most safeties. But, itís part of the recurring theme with this teamÖa poor job of meshing skill sets. I liked what I saw out of Barry Church, but I thought he had some issues on deeper zone coverage. Short and intermediate zone coverage, I liked what I saw. IMO, you would want somebody like Sensy paired with a good deep zone coverage safety so Sensy could take away short-to-intermediate pass patterns in man coverage.
I thought McCray looked good early on, but teams caught on quickly to him being a liability in coverage. I can see why Rob Ryan is not afraid to move Brandon Carr to safety. I havenít seen enough of Peprah and company. But, I think Ryan lost confidence in McCray in the Redskins game when he botched his assignment on the long pass to Robinson. I think Rob could live with getting beat athletically, but getting beat mentally is unacceptable.
Even if Church was still playing, I think the safety play would still not be where it needs to be. And personally, Iím more interested in athletic, good tackling safeties who play zone coverage well versus athletic safeties who play man coverage well. We have to remember that we will face RG3 and Mike Vick in 25% of our games for the year and their scrambling ability means much more zone play and requires the DBís to help out in tackling them. Plus, my gripes against the lack of INTís from the safeties are justified when you watch them play zone coverage in All-22. Lastly, I think the zone play of the safeties becomes even more important given Robís scheme. He likes to have the ILBís and Safeties run north and south. We have ILBís in Carter and Lee that can do that, but we donít quite have that at safety. If Matt Johnson ever gets healthy and is nearly as good as advertised, expect to see a big north and south style running defender.
Because the safety play is poor, that has Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne playing less press coverage. Mo can handle it. I think the kid is really impressive to watch. He may end up being our version of Revis. Revis plays more with his upper body strength, Mo plays more with his long arms and athleticism. Furthermore, heís really starting to play better and better in zone coverage. And while his tackling could be better, it has improved and is actually better than I expected it to be.
Carr has really lost his confidence. Heís not allowed to play press coverage enough because Rob canít trust the safeties if the WR gets a break off press coverage. And then they have Carr playing safety. I actually think all things considered, Carr has put an admirable effort. But unless we get safeties behind him and get him playing to his strengths, weíll just have wasted his time here.
Oh and Scandrick has been downright excellent in coverage for almost the entire year. This really surprised me how well heís played. Unfortunately, he botched 2 crucial plays against Atlanta and had a stupid roughing the passer penalty. Then he went on I-R.
Where we did a great job of meshing skill sets is in the LB corp. We could use Lee and Carter in a variety of ways. We could give Carter deeper zone responsibilities and deeper man-to-man responsibilities. We could give Lee more short responsibilities and take on blockers. It also helps that both are smart football players as well. And we can switch up the responsibilities from time-to-time to throw off the opposing offense.
Iíve flip flopped on Spencer, but All-22 exposes the problems better. Spencer is a really good player. He can rush the passer, is really good against the run and sometimes elite against it. And heís capable in pass coverage. The problems we have had are at safety and Defensive End. Unless we were able to get another elite pass rusher like an Aldon Smith, thereís just no reason to let Spencer go unless heís asking for way too much. And good luck finding another Aldon Smith in the draft.
Lastly, we get to the DEís. I recommend people focus on Jason Hatcher in the All-22. You may be surprised how great he has played this year. Heís thoroughly impressive out there and is a top-5 player on the team right now. I think our scouting on defense has been very good, we just donít go after safeties or DEís that much. Guys like Hatcher give me hope that somebody like Crawford is the real deal and perhaps the same with Matt Johnson.
But, whatís disappointing is that the team seems to be afraid to send a message to a player in the middle of the season. I thought they did a nice job of sending a message last year when the released Gurode and company. This year, there is just no way that Marcus Spears should be starting. And the only thing that would prevent me from releasing him is the injuries. In fact, if Lissemore comes back and Ben Bass shows some desire, I would then release Spears. There is no way he deserves to start over Tyrone Crawford.
I will say this, there is some real hope for this defense in 2013 if they can stay healthy and make an upgrade at safety. Yes, they need to be better on the D-Line, but I think that moving Crawford to starter and getting Lissemore as a passing down rusher and getting another year out of Ratliff will make for a very good D-Line. And if we get some real safeties, we can get Carr back to playing more press coverage, a very underrated Scandrick in the slot and hopefully Mo just gets better with another year of experience and becomes ĎRevis-esque.í
For right now, we are just seeing a sad replica of the defense with all of the injuries. Sims is pretty good in space, but stands no chance if blockers get on him. He does put up an admirable fight. Connor has gotten better, but is still limited. Iíve already gone over McCray.
But, whoever is the head coach here next season, I think itís an imperative to keep Rob Ryan on the team. And I did not quite feel this way a little while ago.