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What "tweaks" will Coyer bring to our Colts' Tampa-2

So, Larry Coyer is likely Indy's new defensive coordinator. While I always appreciate praise from you folks, I didn't really pick Coyer as the DC. I said he was a possibility. I've always liked Coyer, and I thought he got a raw deal in Denver courtesy of Mike Shanahan (Side note: Looks like Shanny has defected and is joining Scott Pioli in KC).Coyer goes way back with Jim Caldwell. They were on the coaching staff at Iowa together back in 1977. Caldwell also played DB for Coyer at Iowa when Coyer was Iowa's defensive coordinator (Caldwell played defense in college, and his first years coaching were on the defensive side of the ball).

So, in many ways, Coyer is to Caldwell what Tom Moore is to Tony Dungy.

With Coyer here, Caldwell is now able to begin putting his stamp on things. Remember what was said last week [emphasis mine]?

Dungy said the plan that named Caldwell as the heir to the job made it easier for him to think things through and make the right decision. But he promised that Caldwell was not going to be a clone. He expects Caldwell to tweak things and put his own stamp on the Colts moving forward.

So, what are these "tweaks?"

First and foremost, any talk of switching to a new defensive scheme is utter silliness. I know some think the 3-4 is better. These "some" are wrong, and don't have a lick of proof to back up their claim. Yes, I know two 3-4 teams are in the Super Bowl this year. Great! I'm happy for them. Two years ago, two Tampa-2 defenses were in the Super Bowl. Last year, a 4-3 blitz defense won the Super Bowl.

No one scheme is better. It is all about coaching and personnel.


Sometimes, the personnel makes the defense. Coyer ran a version of the Tampa-2 in Denver from 2003-2006. In many ways, it was a hybrid between the Tampa-2 and the 4-3 blitz (made famous in Philly under former Colts DC Jim Johnson). The best write-up I have found on the system Coyer ran is provided by a traitor... er, excuse me, a Bronco fan living and working in Indiana. His name is hoosierteacher, and he writes a great series of articles at Mile High Report called MHR Football University:

The Show Blitz system (spoken as if one is saying, "the team is showing blitz") is a fun system to watch for fans.  In a nutshell, the LBs and safeties creep up to the line of scrimmage on many downs and "show" a blitz is coming.  At the snap, most of the players either bring an overwhelming blitz, or drop back.  In most applications the players go back into zone, but in the Coyers system the players dropped back into man coverage.  They staggered their distance from the line of scrimmage to allow lateral movement to cover their principles (targets, assignments), and then went after them.  One cute tactic was to stagger only for non blitz plays early in the game, then to eventually stagger on a play that was blitz, which confused the offenses.

It's an interesting concept for a system, but as you can see it is very similar to the 4-3 blitz. While hoosierteacher doesn't say this, in my opinion this system was born because Denver's front four simply were not that good. Recall the 2003 playoff game between Indy and Denver. Tony Dungy moved Jeff Saturday from center to guard. He went one-on-one with Denver's best lineman (Trevor Pryce) and completely and utterly stoned him. The result was Peyton Manning setting NFL playoff records in that game, and blowing the Broncos out by halftime

So, in many ways, I think this system was born out of necessity than just simple scheming. As hoosierteacher says, the system (and the coach) had several flaws:

Once teams saw through this, it lost some effectiveness.  Coyer (as great of a coordinator as he is) also failed to adjust his system, both tactically (in game) and strategically (over the course of a season).

Adjusting the system is difficult when your front four are crap. Basically, in order for Denver to generate a pass rush, they had to blitz their linebackers. No blitz, no rush. No rush, you lose. That simple. When you are limited in this way, in-game adjustments are nearly impossible. I'm not making an excuse for Coyer here. I'm just saying that when Courtney friggin Brown is your best DE, you are pretty limited in what you can do adjustment-wise.

So, how does this apply to the Colts? Basically, if you look at the strengths of the "Show Blitz" system, we can expect our linebackers to blitz more in 2009:

Advantages of the system include:

  • Hard to scheme against.  Everything the defense does (whether in run or pass) presents the offense with choices that can result in a minor gain or a major disruption.
  • Tires the OL.  Like the Zone Blitz systems, this system keeps OLmen guessing and taking a lot of hits.
  • Present multiple chances for turnovers.  INTs are common, since the QB faces a lot of pressure.

Now, one of the big weaknesses of Coyer's system in Denver is it was vulnerable to the big play. Look no further than Brandon Stokley streaking down the RCA Dome turf in 2004 as an example. Coyer is not going to totally implement his system here. Instead, he will take elements of it and employ them in our Tampa-2. With defensive ends like Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, and the up-and-coming Marcus Howard, Coyer has more options.

  • He could "show blitz" but drop back into normal Tampa-2
  • He could blitz Bob Sanders, drop into Cover-3
  • He could blitz his outside linebackers, put Bethea in Cover-3, and drop Brackett and Bob in zone.

The key here is to provide more packages that can possibly fool people, or make them guess, and use our linebackers more to blitz the run or pass. The run blitzing might be the biggest change. If Indy gets their opponent into 3rd and long, they pin their ears back, play Tampa-2, and come after the QB with reckless abandonment with their front four.

Personally, I'm not big on trying to "fool" people with a scheme-heavy defense. Lineup and beat the opponent with technique. Very rarely do you really "fool" anyone in this league. But, with Coyer, he has a strong knowledge of how to run a one gap defense, and he certainly knows the Colts Tampa-2 style. He has a strong relationship with Caldwell, and he is a respected assistant.

We shall see the final results in a few months, but so far this looks like a strong hire.