“Off” Coverage

On Saturday at Training Camp, we noted a very ordinary pass pattern which resulted in a very ordinary completion.  The problem is that the pass coverage was less than “2010 ordinary.”

The Giants were playing “off” the line of scrimmage.  Mario Manningham drew the defender in on his first move and then changed direction on the second move.  The defender had no way of responding to the change in direction and the pass was complete with good enough separation for big potential YAC (yards after catch).

“Off” coverage is part of the defensive scheme being brought in by Perry Fewell to let defenders read the quarterback instead of the player.  The theory is that this will lead to more turnovers.  Here is my problem with the theory- the defense will pile up pretty statistics versus weaker teams and weaker quarterbacks but will get victimized by the best quarterbacks.  The best ones will understand the defense well enough to be patient, look for opportunities and capitalize when given the chance.

“I absolutely hate off-coverage,” said Wonder.  “Athletes today are too good in today’s game.  If you let them go where they want to go and do what they want to do, the quarterbacks have pinpoint accuracy and you are asking for trouble.  The game has changed so much with the amount of film study and athletic ability of the Wide Receivers.  “

If Fewell is crafty and shifts up his amount of use of “off” coverage, perhaps that can help. 

Steve Spagnuolo’s defense worked because it used pressure from the defensive line and press coverage.  The two together gave opponents less time to direct their passing attack.  Last year, CBs like Aaron Ross and Corey Webster were weaker when they did not press and the DL did not get its pressure.  Yes, it did not help that the Giants’ Safeties were horrid and offered no assistance.  But off coverage will not help anyone beyond an occasional change-up.  The game simply moves too fast- why give the opponent any room?!

The passing game is all about rhythm.  Disrupt the rhythm and you disrupt the timing.  Once the timing is compromised, the choreography of the entire 11 man ballet is harmed.  The Tennessee Titans, as an example, are going to great lengths to figure out how they can maintain the timing, hence the drafting of Kenny Britt (amongst other things) in response to these difficulties.  Explain to me why in today’s game you want to making the opposing offense’s life easier?      

The issue of personnel also makes this confusing.  Reese has been drafting cornerbacks that are physical enough to play well vs the run and also press at the line of scrimmage because of their size.  Ross, Thomas and Webster are all 6’0″ and 200 lbs.  If they were not big enough to bump the receiver at the line of scrimmage, we could understand the reduction in press.  But they are not.  If Fewell still is going to use these players up at the line most of the time, then it is okay to practice this and just keep a few more items there in your bag of tricks.  If on the other hand it gets used a lot, don’t be surprised to see our CBs look less spectacular and our defense look more ordinary. 

Webster in 2005-2006 with the off-coverage of Lewis: ”Perhaps no one was more affected than the usually upbeat Webster, whom teammates said grew more subdued off the field while scaling back his aggressive style of play on the field because of Lewis’ verbal barbs and his scheme that asked corners to play off the ball more often than in press coverage.”

Fewell is not going to be Lewis and/or Sheridan.  But Fewell must leverage the players’ strengths.  Press early.  Press often. 

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