The hypocrisy of “player safety” in a violent sport

Oh, Roger Goodell.

You say you’re concerned about player safety. I think you’re concerned mostly about your own image. Continue reading

The Jets’ big looming question: To fire Rex Ryan, or not to fire Rex Ryan?

(ed. note: please welcome our latest contributor to the blog. Smiglet will be writing regularly in coverage of the Jets, advanced statistical analysis, and more.)

All offseason I’ve seen opinions and articles how Rex Ryan is guaranteed to be fired following the Jets upcoming season. Reasons cited have generally fallen into the following categories:

  • He failed to come through on his Super Bowl guarantees,
  • The new GM should be allowed to bring in his own guy,
  • His continuous support of Mark Sanchez in the face of fire and poor play.

All of these reasons are perfectly legitimate. Ryan always seemed to promise just a little more than he delivered. New regimes always create turnover in both rosters and coaching. Ryan’s opinion on Sanchez has never been close to the truth. All that said, the Jets would be making an enormous mistake in firing him after just one more year.

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Arrhythmic play calling: The fad of 2013

We all expected Chip Kelly to bring his unique brand of red-yellow-green no-huddle to the NFL. (If you’re not familiar, those three colors represent the pace he wants his offense to run– red being “huddle up normally” and green being “get to the line as fast as possible and run another play.”) But what we didn’t expect is that, based on preseason, other teams seem to be mimicking some of his concepts already.

No-huddle offenses have been run in the NFL before, and are run by every team in their two-minute drill. But they were almost always run in a more standardized way– stopping to huddle when the clock has stopped, while immediately returning to the line if it was running. This is what we see at the end of games, and it’s borne out of the trailing team’s prime objective: defeating the clock.

Well, if you’re not under the pressure of the clock, then your first opponent is the defense, and why not use the concepts of the no-huddle to throw off the defense’s sense of timing and take advantage of personnel mismatches? Teams are starting to run no-huddle offenses in ordinary game situations, mixing in huddles and no-huddles as they feel would best interrupt the defense.

Where before, teams always huddled, substituted personnel, and got to the line with no particular urgency other than the play clock, now teams are beginning to pick and choose when and how to do so as a weapon. Adding another element the offense can control and the defense can’t is surely a point in the offense’s favor. “Pace” is a term usually reserved for basketball, but I think we’re going to start seeing teams use playcalling strategies in the NFL to control it. For a basketball analogy, it’s like if the league just realized, for the first time, you could run the fast break instead of always playing in a half-court set.

Combined with the increased use of “packaged” plays, where the QB has the option to either execute a run or pass depending on how he reads the defense, offenses are finding new, creative ways to gain advantages, and I’m excited to see how this plays out in the 2013 NFL season.

Five Questions: St. Louis Rams

The Rams are continuing to rebuild the roster in the second year of coach Jeff Fisher and GM Les Snead’s new regime. They’re in a difficult division, though, and will have to square off against two of the best teams in the NFL four times in total, as well as a Cardinals team that seems to be improving. The Rams finished 7-8-1 last year, a surprising step up from the 2-14 end of the dismal Steve Spagnuolo era, but where do they go from here?

My thoughts… Continue reading

Nnamdi Asomugha: Comeback Year or a Preseason Cut?

Back in early April, the 49ers signed former shutdown corner Nnamdi Asomugha to a 1-year, 1.3 million dollar contract. Nnamdi had a brutal two years trying to fit into the Eagles scheme. He is two years older than when he left Oakland and is very much not the cornerback he was in 2008. At age 32, though, the 49ers are likely not expecting him to be an elite corner who can cut off half the field– instead they are likely looking for a cheap veteran signing who could be a solid starter.

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Five questions: New Orleans Saints

Every NFL team has some questions they’re hoping to solve in training camp– some more important and serious than others. (After all, teams run the gamut from “Super Bowl contender trying to reload for another go” to “Disaster franchise in complete organizational overhaul.”) As part of a series, we’re going to look at some of these teams’ questions and where the answers might lay. (Hopefully we can get to every team before the season starts, but nothing is guaranteed.)

Today we’ll look at the New Orleans Saints. While ordinarily I would try to provide some sort of definite answer to the questions I’ll pose in this post, my unabashed Saints fandom means I will not be likely to look at these moves objectively. Take any answers I provide to these questions with a grain of salt.

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Defending the Zone Read Option

Needle here. I thought it was only appropriate that for a blog called Zone Reads, I write an analysis of the Zone Read play, and how teams use it and defend against it.

So I’ve finally gotten to spend some time sitting back and enjoying the spectacle that was Robert Griffin III of 2012. After watching the film, I came to a surprising conclusion: Despite all of the greatness that RG3 showed, the biggest surprise I saw was other teams’ inability to adapt to the zone read.

I, for one, believe in the importance of scheme, and have a lot of praise for coaches who can adjust rather quickly and find weaknesses in certain schemes. For example, the Dolphins rocked the Patriots with the pseudo-single wing scheme that is known as the Wildcat. That kind of team performance had yet to be repeated– until last year, when the new breed of QBs brought the zone read to the NFL. Though I put the Wildcat single-wing and the Spread Offense Zone Read into two separate categories, the concept of using scheme to gain a man advantage in the running game is the same. With that said, I want to look at three teams’ attempts to stop this scheme.

Quick note: While I have watched Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson run their offense, I’m focusing solely on Griffin, as I want to keep this analysis consistent and to the point.

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