NFL.com All-22 Breakdown: Colts Defensive Trends And The Pat Angerer Effect

Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

To say the Colts defense has been erratic this year is like saying there might be a bit of doping in bicycling. Stampede Blue's Eric Miller looks at NFL.com's All-22 tape and provides his observations on why the defense has been so shaky.

All-22 Breakdown: Colts V. Jets, Week 6

Wow.

The Week 7 Jets game was hard to watch. Even worse the second time around. The adage in the NFL goes: "You'll never win if you score FGs and allow TDs to your opponents." Never more what was on display in that game. Yes, the numbers look bad. Yes, the performance was horrible. Is there anything we learned from the game film? Most Assuredly!

First, a look at the alignments we used during the game. In our breakdown of the Colts dramatic victory over the Packers in Week 5, we were able to see the defensive staff make adjustments at half time that changed the game.

Against the Jets, the front adjustments were:

Colts Defense @ Jets
1st half 2nd half
Players Down Near Sent Press Players Down Near Sent Press
1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
2 0 0 0 0 2 2 0 0 1
3 18 0 1 3 3 16 0 0 7
4 16 7 9 7 4 8 6 5 5
5 0 19 18 0 5 0 12 11 0
6+ 0 7 6 0 6+ 4 12 14 0

A few points here:

  • Our "standard alignment" for this game was a 3 down with the two OLBs pressed up on the line. Dwight Freeney actually stood up more often than any other game this year, and was not effective. Was it because he was standing up or because he was injured? Hmmm....
  • The defense appears to have sold out to stop the run the majority of the game and still couldn't do it. It even increased in the 2nd half to no avail. 6 plus guys in a blitz position 7 out of 34 plays in the 1st half and 12 out of 30 plays in the 2nd half. Not a good sign for things to come.
  • The Colts played more press combination on the outside. There were times when half the field would be pressed up and the other would be backed off. Such variation was pleasing to see. It was rather obvious that the Colts coaches did not see the Jets passing game as a huge threat.

The problems with the Jets game were two fold:

  1. A number of times we were out-schemed by offensive coordinator Tony Sporano and the Jets offense.
  2. A couple times the defense blew assignments on running plays. At least one, we showed the ability to do better. That's the killer. We have the ability and talent to perform better than this and didn't.

How about an few examples of each!

Example One: 2nd Quarter, 5:59 remaining 1st and 10, Ball on NYJ 30

First, check out the alignment. Tim Tebow is at the QB position while Mark Sanchez is still on the field, split out wide to the far side of the field. With Tebow in, the Colts defense is obviously on alert for QB keep and run. Freeney has his hand down and, at the snap, jumps inside. The problem is, his responsibility is outside contain. The play is well covered to the other side by both inside LBs jumping inside to contain Tebow.

__jets_1

As the play develops, Sanchez does nothing, but keeps a defender over with him. That means the Jets offense has a man advantage for blocking. Tebow reads Freeney's jump down inside and gives the ball to Green. If Freeney had taken his contain responsibility, he would have been in position to make the play.

__jets_1

Now Greene has the corner with blockers in front of him. The play design got the Jets an advantage, and one missed responsibility (Freeney) let the play blow wide open.

__jets_1

Example Two: 2nd Quarter, 3:40 remaining, 1st and 10, Ball on IND 39

Same drive as the previous example. It shows how well some plays went for us. Again, a fairly standard alignment for this defense. 4 down and nickel personnel in the backfield. First thing I see is how "norma"l this looks. Freeman is not pressed up, showing blitz. With the silent count used by the Jets, Freeman is able to time his blitz just right and change the play.

__jets_2

Here's the Jets' scheme for the play. Its not great. They are counting on the TE coming across to take out Freeman on a trap block. With Freeman's timing being so good on the play, there is no contest.

__jets_2

Final Picture. Freeman has beaten his block and is ready to blow up the play. Also notice Hughes has set the outside edge and does not allow a cutback lane around the outside. Good design and good execution.

THIS is what the new defense should look like.

Example Three: 4th Quarter, 6:39 remaining, 1st and 10, Ball on NYJ 20

This is an example of poor design by the Colts coaches AND the timing being not quite right.

This time they staff appears to be selling out to stop the run. 9 players in the box trying to stop the run. My problem with design is that the Jets have an even alignment, but the Colts have overloaded the far side of the field. Again, the play design relies on the OLB to set the edge. If that doesn't happen, there is no help to stop a big gain.

__jets_3

Jerry Hughes gets taken out of the play by a perfect down block from the Jets TE. the only people left to make a play are the 2 LBs and Safety that were positioned on the other side of the field.

__jets_3

Another big play for the Jets in the running game. Why isn't Zibikowski on the other side of the LBs? The key to the play is Freeman again. He is not blitzing on this play, but reacts properly to the run he sees and almost blows it up. Again, timing is everything. One step closer and the play is stopped for a loss. A better design and the play is stopped for a minimal gain.

__jets_3

All in all, this was a game to forget! Tough to watch and tough to watch again and breakdown. Sometimes, the Colts defense looked like a team that really wanted to win. Other times, they forgot assignments and got taken out of plays too easily.

All-22 Breakdown: Colts V. Browns, Week7

General Observations

  • Tom Zibikowski was great all day long. Coverage, tackling, blitzing. There wasn't one play that I was upset with where he was or what he was doing.
  • The Colts played a lot more single high safety than I can ever remember. The CBs were on an island an awful lot.
  • Standard nickel package during this game was a 3-3-5 alignment. Ricardo Matthews, Drake Nevis and Dwight Freeney playing the line. Jerry Hughes, Jerrell Freeman and Pat Angerer at LB. This was different from Indy's 2-minute package defense which was also a base nickel. Moise Fokou was in for Angerer in the 2-minute drill situations.
  • With Fokou in, the Browns ran crossing routes in front of him and seemed to target him.
  • The starting linebackers (until Robert Mathis comes back) are Jerry Hughes, Pat Angerer, Jerrell Freeman and Dwight Freeney, in that order. When the outside guys switch sides bases on the alignment of the offense, but the inside guys switch as well in order to keep that order intact. Angerer is always next to Hughes and Freeman is always next to Freeney.
  • Cleveland's playcalling after the Andrew Luck fumble in the 4th confused me. 1st and 10 - pass for 9 yards. 2nd and 1 (run formation) shot down field, incomplete. 3rd and 1 (run formation), shot downfield, incomplete (should have been TD). Punt?!??! Why punt? It's 4th and 1. Your defense has stymied the Colts offense for most of the half. If you are going to take two shots downfield, go for it on fourth down.

The Pat Angerer Effect (aka, Pat Angerer v. Kavell Conner)

Pat looked good against Cleveland. You can really tell he was excited to be back on the field. His energy was a huge lift for the defense. Angerer played 20 of 60 defensive snaps. I'm sure that was planned.

The biggest surprise for me was the ability and timing Pat showed while blitzing. This is something he hasn't gotten to do often here in his career. His runs were well timed and right in line with the defensive scheme of the play. He does need to watch lowing his head as he reaches the QB. He was close to a "driving the QB into the ground" penalty twice in this game. Careful!

When it came to comparing Angerer with Kavell Conner, the All-22 tape made it easy for me. Cleveland ran the same play twice during the game with the Colts in the same defensive ailment each time. The first time, Conner was in at ILB. The second, it was Angerer.

Conner in at ILB: 1st Quarter, 7:17 remaining, 1st and 10 ball on Browns 10

This was the Browns first offensive play of the game. The first picture shows the defensive coverage and offensive play call. Fairly simple on both fronts.

V_browns_1

Colts are in a Man-Under 1 concept. Zibikowski has deep centerfield with the LBs and CBs in man coverage underneath that. Jerry Hughes is standing up and will rush the passer while Freeney has his hand down on the opposite side.

The Browns run a deep hitch (15 yards) on the near side and a go on the far side. The near TE crosses the middle of the field while the opposite TE stays in to help on Freeney. The RB wheels out of the backfield. The play is designed to either confuse the man coverage between the safety and the linebacker, or have a hitch open in the case of zone.

V_browns_1

The play design works here because Kavell Conner and Antoine Bethea both follow the TE underneath. With the corner cleared out by the deep hitch and Zibikowski held by the deep routes, the RB has 10-20 yards between himself and nearest defender.

V_browns_1

Here's the last shot when you can see Conner realize that he has blown his assignment on the play. Easy completion for young rookie Weeden and 9 yards on the first play from scrimmage.

Angerer in at ILB: 3rd Quarter, 3:19 remaining, 1st and 10, ball on Browns 20

Well, would you look at this. Same alignment, same defensive scheme, same play. Hell, it's almost the same spot on the field.

V_browns_2

This time Angerer stays with his assignment on the play and is in the flat to cover the back before the ball is delivered. Weeden actually reads this and goes to the second option on the play. You can see the coverage on the play is quite good all around.

V_browns_2

It takes a very good throw and a great catch from Greg Little to gain the yards on that one. Check out the last picture. The defensive line also did good work to clog the throwing lanes on the play. No one was going to get to the QB this time, but we got people in the way.

V_browns_2

While the play still turned into a first down for Cleveland, it was much more work. Weeden had to make a top-notch throw, with people in his throwing lane. All players in the NFL are professionals. We cannot win if we let things be easy for people. Blowing coverages on the first play on the field is unacceptable in this league. It will lead to losses.

Angerer showed me on Sunday that he is back. His burst was there. His timing was on. His tackling was solid. His motor was as high as ever. While I'm sure the play discussed above is not the only reason for giving Pat more snaps, it does illustrate the fact that Angerer was better on Sunday.

In the end, that's what matters.

Follow Eric Miller's weekly All-22 write-ups about the Colts here at Stampede Blue. An All-22 breakdown of the Colts offense is available here.

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