Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

18 Mar 2007

Standout Linebacker June Heading to Buccaneers

I linked to the ESPN version of this story just so I could use the headline.

Cato June's on his way to Tampa.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 18 Mar 2007

82 comments, Last at 21 Mar 2007, 4:48pm by Jeff

Comments

1
by sam (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 9:32am

"Unrestricted free agent Cato June, one of the NFL's top "cover two" linebackers, is headed to the team that all but invented the scheme that helped make him a Pro Bowl performer."

I didn't know he was headed to Pittsburgh. The article seems to subtly imply he's going to Tampa. Weird.

"June, who helped lead the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl XLI championship in 2006..."

Yep. It's just like everybody's been saying. Where would the Colts be today without Cato June?

2
by Adam H. (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 10:04am

Are Sportsstars buddies of Big Len?

3
by Chris (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 10:18am

#1, Forget the fact that it is one of the simplest and widely used defenses in the NFL. Now the media has to wrongly credit Dungy with inventing it. He must be some sort of a rocket scientist in the offseason to "invent" the cover 2. Oh no wait, he's a good family guy and let's not forget that he's the first black head coach to win the Super Bowl... not that it matters or anything.

I love how they call Cato June a "cover 2 linebacker". Does that mean Mike Signeltary is a "46" linebacker?

This is going to eventually spawn off into these "puzzle piece" arguments. Like how Mike Tomlin is a "4-3" coach, and the Steelers are a "3-4" team and how it might not work.

4
by RecoveringPackerFan (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 10:26am

3: To be fair, June's skills are unsuited for just about any scheme where he is expected to frequently attack the line of scrimmage and consistently tackle the ballcarrier. This rules out, well, anything other than a cover-2 team.

5
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 10:47am

To be fair, I believe I'm right in saying that Dungy and Kiffin significantly adjusted the coverages, especially for the linebackers, in the cover-2 base. When people talk about the "cover-2", what they really mean 90% of the time is the "Tampa 2" or "Buc 2" variant of the cover-2, in which the middle linebacker drops very deep to help the safeties, leaving larger lateral zones for the OLBs. In essence, it's really more of a cover-3 (although of course a standard cover-3 involves the corners dropping deep). This, Dungy genuinely did help pioneer during his time in Tampa.

6
by Francisco (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 11:05am

Chris,

It sure seemed to matter to all the black people that I talked to about it. I know the stories are a little played out, but come on, don't be such a jackass about it.

7
by the K (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 11:26am

It's a great headline. Cato June can standout on the field just as well as anyone.

8
by Nathan (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 12:21pm

The Colts lose their best linebacker every free agency.

What a weird repetitive trend.

9
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 12:27pm

I read the headline, and all I can think is "sore thumb".

10
by Crushinator (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 12:55pm

Cato June definately stands out. I notice the area he's supposed to be in nearly every Colts game.

11
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 1:28pm

No doubt the Colts will get a 4th round compensatory pick in 2008 for the great "standout" Cato June.

Teams besides the Eagles know how to play the system too... the "secret" formula actually heavily biases towards the $$$ given to FA lost - $$$ given to FA signed. The first factor is probably # of FAs signed - # of FAs lost, then money comes up.

Performance is actually not weighted that heavily, or else the Redskins would've gotten decent pick for losing Antonion Pierce... and replacing him with Warrick Holdman.

Yes, I am bitter, and I wonder if this can be discussed in the Open Draft threads....

12
by Chris (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 1:41pm

5- Dungy didn't "invent" the modern cover 2. As you pointed it out he just ran it a little bit differently by dropping the MLB, and or having the corners zone extend deeper by the sideline. So basically the actual ZONES are a little bit different, and the players wouldn't be playing the middle of their zone. Sometimes teams run the cover 2 like that, some sometimes they run it with 5 guys in the shorter zones, and "2" deep. Sometimes they blitz a LB and have 4 across.

Of course, it is easier to run the "tampa 2" when you have Warren Sapp Chiti Ahanatu and Simenon Rice getting to the QB quickly, with Derrick Brooks, Rhonde Barber, and Brian Kelly providing solid coverage across, and Dexter Jackson and John Lynch deep.

In the cover 3, sometimes both corners have deep 1/3, but a lot of times the weakside corner has deep 1/3, and both safeties have 1/3 ( since they line up deeper).

Do you guys remember that play where Rudi Johnson ran June over? It looked like Johnson was the bowling ball and June was a pin.

13
by asp_j (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 3:11pm

3 years, $12 million total?

Is it just me, or is that fairly reasonable? We're not exactly talking Leonard Davis money here...

14
by ZS (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 3:21pm

Well, when Cato June is to Linebackers what Leonard Davis is to Tackles, June might start making that kind of money.

15
by Reinhard (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 3:25pm

"In four seasons, June has 379 tackles, including 100-plus tackles in each of his three years as a starter. He also has one sack, 10 interceptions, two forced fumbles and three recoveries. He struggled at times against the run in 2006, often missing tackles and not holding up at the point of attack, but still led the Colts with 142 tackles."

What does football outsider stats say about him? 142 tackles!?? That would seem to contradict #4 "consistently tackle the ballcarrier"

16
by sam_acw (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 3:27pm

You mean when he is big, over paid and a big disappointment?

17
by johnt (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 3:32pm

15: It says that teams run at him as much as possible. Which is saying something considering the other Colts LBs. He's good at wrapping up from behind, but he can easily be bulldozed. Guards who get to the 2nd level absolutely destroyed him on a regular basis.

The guy is a safety playing LB. When he's on the field they're essentially playing a nickel package for all intents and purposes. Good for coverage, not so good for rush defense. The (perhaps unintentional) clever part is that Bob Sanders is sort of like a LB playing SS despite his size, so when Sanders was healthy they sort of offset each other. When he wasn't.. well, that's when you get 350 yards rushing.

18
by Podge (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 3:37pm

#15 - It says that he's excels at holding onto the ballcarrier and getting carried 10 yards downfield til a gang of guys get in to actually bring him down.

19
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 3:48pm

On the irrational hatred scale, where does "people only think he's a good coach because he had Chiti Ahanatu" rank?

20
by Bionicman (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 4:20pm

#15: In this site's archives (Too Deep Zone, I believe), there's an article showing that a player's tackle totals are not an accurate measure of his skill. Look it up.

21
by Reinhard (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 4:41pm

That's why I was wondering about things like his stop rate which I can not look up I think. Consistent tackler, or only bringing down a guy after he already ripped off a solid run?

22
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 6:56pm

19: Well played.

As someone who's watched almost every game June has played, here's how I'd break down his abilities.

The good:
Great speed, enough that he can always get to where he needs to be in run pursuit or pass coverage. Great coverage instincts, great hands.

The bad:
Poor tackling - he's not a lost cause, but a big halfback can steamroll him, and even the smaller backs can drag him for a few yards after he wraps them up.
Terrible strength at the point of attack - if you get a guard or a fullback to block him, he's out of the play. Period.
Mediocre run pursuit instincts - I see him take bad angles a lot. Combine that with his questionable tackling, and he can be pretty frustrating.

I imagine he'd be a terrible pass-rusher, too, but that's a waste of his excellent coverage skills anyway.

He's a solid starter if he's in a defense that adequately compensate for his shortcomings. He's worthless on runs up the middle, but his speed allows him to play very well in coverage and pretty well against runs to the outside. The problem with June in Indianapolis last year was that nearly everyone else on the defense had the exact same shortcomings he did.

23
by mmm... sacrilicious (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 7:11pm

#20: To add to that, tackle totals don't correlate with much at all. They can be given out pretty much at will by the home scorer; some writer (I believe it was Dr. Z) has done articles about this showcasing examples where popular, well-known players such as Urlacher and Ray Lewis are given assisted tackles simply for being around the pile.

Bottom line is that tackles hold the same weight as a legitimate stat as passes defensed.

24
by Jeremiah (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 7:14pm

I wonder who the Colts think is going to replace June next season. They hemorrage linebackers every year, and at this point there's practically nothing left.

I guess we'll see a very linebacker-heavy draft, but they could also use a 3rd receiver and a DT or two (and maybe a backup RB?).

I'm interested to see how they try to fill the holes.

25
by Jeremiah (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 7:18pm

Not to say that June is great or anything, just that the Colts really don't have anyone else.

26
by Dave (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 7:42pm

Cato June wants to be Donnie Edwards when he grows up.

27
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 9:11pm

24: You're pretty much right on about the Colts' draft priorities. LB, DT, WR, and RB need to be addressed, and they could probably use another defensive back of some sort. They have their 1, 3, 4, 5, and 7 picks to fill those five holes.

Freddie Keiaho, last year's 3rd rounder, might end up being a legitimate NFL starter. He didn't play all that much, but when he was on the field, he seemed pretty competent. If the Colts don't take a LB in the 1st or 3rd round, that's why. I still think it's very likely that they take a linebacker with one of their first two picks, and probable that they take one with their first-rounder. Even if Keiaho is a future starter, there's still room for a new quality LB on the roster.

23, 20: June's tackle totals are inflated because the WLB gets a lot of tackles funneled to him in the Tampa 2.

28
by Pat (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 10:18pm

#27: You're forgetting the three defensive backs that the Colts seem to draft every year.

29
by Erasmus (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 11:06pm

Dungy will probably just create another defense that has one less LBer on the field and an extra defensive back on the field. Perhaps name it after the number of DBs on the field.

The "Indy Nickel"

30
by Pat (not verified) :: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 11:27pm

Jeez, given how small June is, I'm not sure it wasn't fair to call Indy's base defense last year a nickel defense.

He was a safety in college, after all, and his listed weight just barely puts him larger than a number of strong safeties on a lot of teams.

31
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 12:46am

28: All the safeties get injured all the time, and Mike Doss and Dexter Reid suck.

It's just a depth thing.

32
by Scott (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 1:22am

Ummm, Where exactly do the Bucs plan on using June? Don't they still have a guy named Brooks playing weakside backer?

33
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 1:30am

I think I heard something about them wanting to move him to SLB, because he's slowing down. But I'm not sure, I'm not a big NFC South fan.

34
by kyle (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 3:36am

I can see June moving to strong side, actually, as unreasonable as it may sound.

What worries me, as a Bucs fan, is that the Bucs already have a one-dimensional linebacker in Barrett Ruud. Ruud is pretty much the opposite of June; he's strong, great at the point of attack, and a solid tackler (holds the career record at Nebraska, actually) but is terrible in coverage, slow, and occasionally overpursues. Is Tampa hoping these two balance each other out somehow?

35
by Theo, Holland (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 4:12am

Kyle, if anything, Brooks would move to strongside or middle, not June.
Question, can June still play safety?

36
by juri (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 7:08am

27: What about compensatory picks?

37
by andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 8:42am

When reached for a comment, all June repeated was:

"Ceterum censeo equus tutaminis esse delendam"

38
by Francisco (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 9:19am

Speaking of linebackers, I thought everyone should know that Joey Porter was cited for battery last night for punching Levi Jones in the face in Las Vegas. Seriously. Link in my name.

39
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 10:23am

"Standout"

Standout? As in Standout-of-the-way while the runningback goes by?

*rimshot*

40
by MDZ (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 10:38am

Instead of promoting Hagler or Keiaho to WLB, or drafting a starter, does Dungy move Brackett or Mathis to WLB? It seems to me that Keiaho is more suited for the MLB position in this defense. In his limited playing time he played very well against the run (at least compared to others with a horse shoe on their helmet), but I don't know how he is in coverage. Brackett has excellent range for a MLB, but I don't know how that would compare to other OLBs in the league. In the draft I'd still like the Colts to take a DT like Harrell in the 1st, because they don't have nearly as much depth there. In the past few training camps the coaches have tried Mathis out at LB to get him on the field more. I wonder if they draft Harrell, if he and McFarland would play running downs, moving Brock to DE and Mathis to WLB, with Mathis and Brock going back to DE and DT respectively when the Colts go nickel, or as vitriolic hate spewers may want you to believe "The mythical new defensive strategy that will revolutionize sport itself brought to you by the genius known as The Great Dungy".

41
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 10:45am

#31: The Colts have drafted 16 defensive backs in the past 6 years, though two they converted to LB. Still, that's about one thid of all of the players they've drafted. Except for Dexter Reid (who sucks), their entire secondary is from their past three drafts. They just let the longest-tenured member of their secondary go in free agency.

It's not just a depth thing. For some reason the Colts never seem willing to actually keep any of their DBs, and so they have to keep drafting more and more DBs, over and over.

For comparison, Philly's drafted 8 DBs in the past 6 years. The Patriots have drafted 11. The Bears have drafted 7. The Steelers, 7.

I don't want to add it up for all the teams, but I think the Colts are probably ridiculously far ahead of everyone else in terms of the number of DBs they've drafted.

Tony Dungy just loves him some DBs. Well, for 4 years, at least.

42
by turbohappy (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 11:01am

Re: Colts draft

Keiaho looked pretty good in limited action as mentioned. In addition, Pope also looked pretty good assuming he can stay clean and get on the field.

It seems like the Colts like to draft a couple years ahead usually (why they drafted those 2 LBs and Hagler recently and why they drafted all the DBs in anticipation of losing Harper & Co.).

Therefore I would expect them to go with a WR or LT or something like that depending on availability in Round 1...from the mock drafts the better pick at the end of R1 would be WR.

43
by MDZ (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 11:07am

Yeah, and they've missed a lot with those DB picks, which is why they've taken more than other teams. Sanders and Bethea look like keepers, and the jury is still out on Jackson, Hayden and Tim Jennings. That said, the Colts are always one of the teams that are the least active in free agency. Only two of their starters and main subs during the super bowl run have ever played for other NFL teams (AV and Booger).

44
by Joe T (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 11:07am

#29 - LOL
#39 - ROFLOL

I think Indy ought to acquire Archuleta from the Skins. I mean, Arch is terrible in pass coverage, but great at stuffing the run, which is kind of pointless if you play in the backfield. Move him up to MLB or OLB (I think he's about the same size as June) and I think you have an adequate replacement with better tackling skills. Arch should have a modicum of pass coverage skills since he has played as a safety for several seasons now. He might be the perfect fit for a Tampa Buc 2 scheme.

45
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 11:28am

#43: See, I'd buy that, except that the player they just let go (Harper) is a draft pick that was clearly a success.

I just don't think they believe they can afford to keep defensive backs, which, to be honest, isn't that crazy. They're the most expensive position on defense.

That, and it does look like they're awful at drafting DBs. (Which again makes you wonder why they keep doing it.)

46
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 11:34am

Your crazy if you think June can play anything other than Will.

47
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 11:34am

Just want to point something out. People keep slamming Dexter Reid as sucking.

Do you realize that after this year, Dexter Reid has two superbowl rings? With two different teams? Out of a three year career?

Just goes to show how silly some arguments about judging player ability based on "rings" can be.

On the other hand, the fact that he's good enough to earn a backup roster spot on teams good enough to win the superbowl says something positive about him, right?

48
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 11:48am

On the other hand, the fact that he’s good enough to earn a backup roster spot on teams good enough to win the superbowl says something positive about him, right?

I think it has more to do with the fact that Reid has experience versus most of the AFC playoff teams. Reid's a safety, which tends to be an intelligence position, so familiarity is probably a big benefit.

49
by Alex (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 1:02pm

#47: "On the other hand, the fact that he’s good enough to earn a backup roster spot on teams good enough to win the superbowl says something positive about him, right?"

I don't know if having incriminating photos of the owners of competitive teams really counts as something positive.

50
by Jeremiah (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 1:06pm

It's curious that people think the Colts DBs have been so terrible. They're at least league average, IMO, and compared to the Colts linebackers, they're world-beating.

51
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 1:33pm

#50: Most of the Colts DBs which weren't retained over the past few years are out of the NFL, or last seen on the Detroit Lions.

That's why they're considered awful. The ones they have now might not be terrible, but they're all recent draftees, so it's tough to tell.

52
by MDZ (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 1:50pm

Nick Harper was a guy the Colts found in the CFL 6 or 7 years ago (before the run of drafting DBs), one of the keys to the Colts is the success they've had with undrafted free agents like Saturday and Harper. He's also part of the reason that the Colts kept drafting CBs. They were hoping to find a replacement for him, but he kept improving and beating the draft picks for the job. He has turned himself into a very good player, and who knows whether he just needed time, or if he needed the constant competition for his job. Also, Marlin Jackson is the only first round DB chosen in that time frame, so it isn't like the Colts were pulling a Millen. Each year the Colts had problems in their secondary so they kept using 3rd round and later draft picks on guys, until they got Doss, Sanders and Jackson.

53
by Nathan (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 1:52pm

I don't agree with the Colts CB talk either. I think Jackson looks just fine.

Guys left are even younger and have time to Grow. Giardano seemed like a good pick, Jackson was, Harper, etc.

I think you're right about not wanting to pay a CB when you can draft them and turn them into Linebackers or Safeties, heh.

But on bad drafting? No way. They trade down, and get O-Line/Linebackers/CBs out of the draft.

Nothing wrong with that. When they need a skilled guy, they draft him in the first (RB).

Seems entirely reasonable to me in a league where so many people are doing so many things, that's one tactic that isn't taken.

Embrace it.

54
by MDZ (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 2:31pm

Have compensatory picks for this years draft been announced yet? Last offseason the Colts lost Edgerrin James, David Thornton and Larry Triplett and only signed Vinatieri so they should be in line for a few picks.

55
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 3:12pm

#53: It would be a good tactic, if the guys they drafted didn't suck.

2001:
Idrees Bashir: signed by Lions (this is not an endorsement)
Cory Bird: out of football
Raymond Walls: Chargers, played on 4 different teams since 1 year with Colts
Jason Doering: out of football
2002:
Joseph Jefferson: out of football (injuries)
James Lewis: out of football (released during preseason)
2003:
Mike Doss: free agent, unsigned
Donald Strickland: 49ers, bounced around since leaving the Colts

That's 8 players in 3 years. I wouldn't be surprised if none of them was a starter next year. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if Doss was the only one on anyone's roster come opening day.

That's pretty bad drafting for DBs. That's 2 seconds, 3 thirds, a 5th, and 2 6ths, and maybe - maybe- one starter between them.

I mean, even the Detroit Lions had better success with DBs over the same period - while none of them are with the team, at least two will be starters for an NFL team next year (Holt and Goodman), and they only drafted 5.

They were hoping to find a replacement for him, but he kept improving and beating the draft picks for the job.

Well, considering the guys he was beating out routinely flopped out of football, I'm guessing that it might've been the draftees, and not Harper.

56
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 3:27pm

Dungy if Fungible

57
by MDZ (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 5:12pm

#55
In 2001 they were drafting for Vic Fangio's defense. I know that Polian was the GM for all of these drafts, but the players for Fangio's complicated blitzing scheme were not well suited for Dungy's version of the Cover 2 (To avoid a flamewar I am just stating that Dungy runs cover 2 as his base defense). The 2002 draft was the first with Dungy as coach (he was signed a few months before the draft). Jefferson and Strickland didn't make it with the Colts because of injuries, and Lewis was a 7th round pick that was cut. Doss was a serviceable starter who got hurt, but was no great shakes either. In the past three drafts the Colts have taken their starters at all four DB positions plus both candidates for nickelback and their main backup safety. While Bob Sanders is the only difference maker of the bunch, Jason David is decent, Marlin Jackson can become a good CB and Antoine Bethea had a great rookie season (where he beat out Doss before Doss got hurt).

58
by andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 5:44pm

#46 - at first I thought you said "can play anything other than Wii", thinking it was a reference to a video game.

59
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 9:24pm

but the players for Fangio’s complicated blitzing scheme were not well suited for Dungy’s version of the Cover 2

Those players weren't well suited for the NFL, apparently, considering none of them have caught on anywhere else, either.

There's always mitigating circumstances. That doesn't change the fact that that's a very, very bad DB drafting record over that period.

60
by MDZ (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 10:15pm

#59
That is true, they were bad picks. My point was that the drafts have gotten considerably better. If they didn't make those bad picks, they wouldn't have had to use more to get what they have now. At least they knew to cut their losses and improve the team, or maybe they got different scouts that were a better judge of how a DB would play in the zone. What they have now is solid, by no means great, but they also aren't the weakness of the team like the DBs were 4 years ago.

61
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 11:29pm

My point was that the drafts have gotten considerably better.

Well, we'll see. The best pick in the lot is probably Bob Sanders, and I'm not sure how many years he'll actually play.

Other than that, it's a whole lot of 'decent, but not great' - and given that they don't have the money to pay for a free agent DB, I'm not sure it doesn't explain exactly how up and down the Colts defense has been.

It'll be interesting to see if they keep any of their current DBs, and if they continue the constant 2 or 3 a year drafting.

62
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 03/20/2007 - 10:21am

Did the DB's get better, or is the Colts offense slowing down the tempo and not scoring as fast?

Playing Corner when your winning 20-13 is different than playing corner when your team is winning 28-7.

The Colts offense seemed to be less aggressive but more efficient this year. ( Note: Mannings Higher dvoa, but less TD passes). They seemed to rip off long time consuming drives that kept their D off the field.

In the past, Manning and the O would score quicker and more ( off memory), and then the opposing offense would certainly have to go out there and throw more.

63
by Scott (not verified) :: Tue, 03/20/2007 - 10:36am

Re:62, Chris, The offense was very patient this past season, However I do think the cb's did a pretty solid job this year as well, What truly amazed me as a Colt fan who never misses a game was how well they did in press coverage, Out of desperation they pretty much abandoned the Cover 2 and went with alot of single coverage on the outside so they could use the strong safety in run support, Harper and David both actually aquitted themselves well IMO.
You were not mistaken though, The defensive MO vs the Colts this past year was pretty consistent week to week, Drop deep, Don't let Manning and company beat you deep and force them into long drives, With Manning's new found patience the Colts had the perfect set of weapons to exploit that type of defensive philosophy.

64
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 03/20/2007 - 10:53am

In a lot of those games ( Dallas/KC) it was basically...

1. Play deeper and let the colts earn their yards downfield without penalties/TO's.
2. The Real "game" for the defense was starting at FG range/redzone.

I think the Colts realized that if they let Manning try and score every possession, sometimes it will happen quick, sometimes he might turn it over on a risker play. This could lead to more points, but would leave that defense exposed.

The second scenerio ( 0'6 colts), was to be more efficient, take less risk. It will lead to less points, but it will keep that bad defense off the field and it will help them.

My point is that don't you think that shift in strategy also helped out the defensive backs? Teams were more inclined to run the ball ( at Freeney) because the games were closer, as opposed to playing catch up ball and passing down field.

65
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 03/20/2007 - 11:45am

I've been of the opinion for some time now that, until this year, Indy's explosive offense actually made their defense worse because they scored so quickly and had such short drives that their defense never had a chance to rest. I think playing a more patient offense this year helped their defense, especially in the playoffs.

66
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 03/20/2007 - 12:09pm

65- That is exactly what I was getting at!

The patient/ ball control offense actually helped their defense this year.

It's not just about offensive and defensive rankings, but the team as a whole.

Don't you think those long, time consuming drives keep the defense fresher than being thrown back onto the field after coach Manning and the offense score at will?

How about being in closer games where your not in prevent defense the whole game?

I just wanted to see if some of the FO crowd also thought that the more patient offense, made their D better.

BTW, I also agree the DB's played better, but let's not forget they were in more favorable situations.

67
by Bobman (not verified) :: Tue, 03/20/2007 - 2:09pm

Comments 60-66 (roughly) are all on the right track, but it's not just this year. I'd say it was a gradual change since Dungy arrived, culmminating (so far) in the past two seasons. Even in the 49 TD season a couple years ago, in one of those games, Detroit's D limited Manning's deep game the way many teams did this year. No problem, he just handed to Edge for 210 yards. But with their shakier short yardage game 3 years ago, Manning went for 4 TD passes inside the 10 in that game (6 total).

If you look at his career INT stats, you can see the mature patience starting about 2002/2003, with INTs dropping because he was forcing fewer balls.

It also has to do with the offensive pieces in place: With Stokley playing #3 WR (his only full season, 2004 IIRC) they were a little more explosive and apt to score more quickly (undermining the D physically), with Clark (2006) it's a very effective interior passing game, but fewer long scoring plays to the #3 position (allowing the D to rest). And with Clark hurt, well, they lost 3 of 4 this year (less scoring and shorter drives doubling the D's misery).

Luckily, when they have to, that are still capable of the long, fast, drive. (end of Jets game, end of Pats playoff game, etc)

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by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 03/20/2007 - 3:33pm

But if the media is saying that " The D has improved", that might not neccesarily be the case.

It might in fact be that more patient offense that plays less risky ( and reward). The less risky offense isn't as powerful, but it improves the defense and therefore the whole football team.

It brings back the whole theory of DVOA. An offense that is down 3+ touchdowns will approach the game differently than a team that is down 3.

One the other side, a team up by 3+ touchdowns should play different than a team up by 3.

If the Colts were to score more points this year, would that make them a better team? Look at the Super Bowl, they dominated the time of possession even against a top notch D in the rain.

69
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 03/20/2007 - 3:35pm

Betting on Colts games this year, you had to realize their shift in paradigm.

70
by Jeff (not verified) :: Tue, 03/20/2007 - 3:40pm

Having seen alot of Colts games during the Dungy Era, I do not think that the Colts made a particular effort to " slow down " the offense to " protect " the defense. I think that the Colts simply took what the opposing defense was willing to give them. It has been that way for years. When the Colts were " explosive " it was more or less because teams were blitzing the Colts in an attempt to rattle Manning. As that proved fairly useless teams started to drop back 7 players into coverage. Where Manning really improved over the years was instead of trying to force balls into coverage he has learned to simply either hit the tight end or throw to the running back in the flat.

Essentially, scoring points helps your defense out whether it is a 15 play 10min drive or a 1 play 80 yard bomb or run. I don't put any particular stock in the Colts trying to protect the defense by having the offense play " keep away ". The Colts are an aggressive offensive team. They want to score however and whenever they can.

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by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 03/20/2007 - 3:57pm

Jeff-

I agree with your first paragraph, but disagree with the second. You must have never played football before. Imagine your on the field, for 8 or so plays, then a special teams play, you sit down on the bech for 1 play, then your back to a special teams play and then a new defensive set.

When you bench press, do you do all your sets in a row, or do you take breaks inbetween?

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by Jeff (not verified) :: Tue, 03/20/2007 - 5:38pm

Chris,

No I have never actually suited up in a football uniform before but I stand by what I said in the second paragraph.

I understand the whole letting the defense rest theory. But IMO quick scores can wreak havoc for an opposing offense in a variety of ways. I.E by forcing a team to play faster than it wants to or by having a team abandon the run earlier than it should. Scores however they come can rattle a team.

In a perfect world, it would be great to always have 25min
scoring drives that keep a defense " fresh ". But think of it this way. This past Superbowl the Colts dominated TOP yet midway through the 3rd quarter they only held a 5 point lead and the Bears were in position to take a lead a couple of times. They blew the chances but if the Bears HAD won the game chances are the Colts STILL would have had an TOP edge. Remember you win football games by scoring more points not by having the lead in TOP. If you can do both, then all the better.

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by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 03/20/2007 - 7:45pm

I'd agree that scoring points helps your TEAM out ( obviously), but it doesn't always do your defense a service to throw a tired D right back on the field against an opposing offense with some urgencey.

Think of every play like maxing out at the gym, or running a 40 yard windsprint. A couple in a row isn't that bad, but what about doing 8 in a row, and then being tossed right back out there for potentially 8 more? It can get tiring, and psyological.

I'd agree that quick scores CAN also wreak havic on opposing teams too though.

The colts dominated TOP, but remember the bears had a special teams touchdown and the colts weren't converting everything into touchdowns.

The object of the game is to score more points ( obviously), not have the ball longer. If it's 60-40 your right, it probably doesn't matter, but if you can wear down a Defense you make your job a hell of a lot easier, especially later in the game.

Think of like how the Yankees make opposing pitchers throw more pitches. It wears them down, or forces in relief pitchers ( or backups in football) who are presumibly not as good as their starters. Not only that, but it makes the team worse off at the END of a game when it is most important.

Remember a couple of years ago when dallas would start the games out with 2 tight ends and just pound away at the defense early in games? Even if the cowboys only got a first down or two, Parcells liked the psychology of the whole thing. " we're brusiers, and were going to come after you." Some say that your either the hammer or the nail when you play football.

74
by Cato June's Mom (not verified) :: Tue, 03/20/2007 - 8:05pm

Cato June stinks.

75
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Tue, 03/20/2007 - 8:25pm

Remember a couple of years ago when dallas would start the games out with 2 tight ends and just pound away at the defense early in games?

Remember a couple years ago, when the Cowboys were real good? Me neither.

Seriously, dominating TOP is a good thing. However, it ceases to be a good thing if you can't score. I think that was Jeff's point.

76
by Chris (not verified) :: Wed, 03/21/2007 - 9:33am

But look at the NY Yankees example. Would you rather be in the 9th inning facing a teams top closer, or facing their 5th releiver because all the other guys are worn down?

The value is attatched at the margin. You either want to beat your opponent early on and hold onto the lead or weaken them for the finale.

77
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Wed, 03/21/2007 - 10:24am

I've got to say I'm 100% with Chris on this. It was quite obvious in the 4th quarter of the AFC Championship Game (maybe even earlier) that the Patriots defense was simply too physically tired to have a chance of stopping the Colts O. Belichick should have noticed this and gone for a couple of 4th-and-shorts or 4th-and-mediums where he punted, as by that stage it was clear that the Colts were going to score wherever they got the ball, but their defense was still only ok.

78
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Wed, 03/21/2007 - 12:11pm

76-If you're facing the other team's 5th reliever with Angel Berroa 2.0, who fouls off 8 pitches and grounds out, then it isn't helpful.

I actually agree with you, I was just qualifying the statement for extreme conditions.

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by Jeff (not verified) :: Wed, 03/21/2007 - 12:21pm

This is why I love this website and the people who contribute to it.

TOP can be VERY important in certain contexts. In the AFC Divisional game Indy v. Balt the two most important drives came after the McNair int at the goal line and the end of the game drive the Colts used to ice the game.

The first drive, after the int, was important because the Colts needed to get from underneath theyre own goaline
and shift the field position game. They were able to get into FG range and score.

The end of the game drive was
important in terms of TOP because in that case the Colts were less interested in scoring a TD than they were in making sure that the Ravens did not get another position or two to score a lucky TD. So in that case the Colts really wanted to keep the ball as long as possible although with the Colts defense playing well and the Ravens struggling on O I am sure that the Colts could have turned the game over to the defense in confidence. But clinging to a 6 point lead why take the chance on a fluke pass int penalty or hail mary pass.

So in that context I agree with Chris that TOP was of the utmost importance.

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by Jeff (not verified) :: Wed, 03/21/2007 - 12:24pm

Although that being said had the Colts scored a touchdown in 1 or 2 plays to make the score 19-6 I seriously doubt the Ravens would have had much success getting back into the game irrespective of how tired or not tired the Colts defense was at that point.

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by Chris (not verified) :: Wed, 03/21/2007 - 2:31pm

79-

Your right. But the key thing to remember is even though the Ravens offense wasn't doing much, you don't want to keep giving them the ball ( chances).

Longer TOP reduced the number of possesions they have ( in theory), and you could argue that it could keep them "cold".

3 and out, sit on the bench 10 minutes, 3 and out, sit on the bench, short drive, sit on the bench.

That doesn't let the players get into the flow of the game, and it doesn't let the coaches see how the defense responds to certain formations and packages.

We've all seen games start out where the offense is running all sorts of different formations early on to test the defensive players alignment and responsibilities. Does the corner follow the man in motion ( for man coverage) across the line of scrimege, or does the OLB jump out on him. Do the D-Line or Linebackers shift on a formation where there are 2TEs to the same side etc.

People could point to that "D" as winning the games for the Colts, but Manning holding onto the ball forever helped that D. If you took Manning away from the Colts they stink, you take Dungy away and coach Manning still wins the super bowl.

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by Jeff (not verified) :: Wed, 03/21/2007 - 4:48pm

Chris,

Going to have to disagree with you quite a bit on your last two paragraphs.

First off, a common misperception about the Colts playoff run that I have seen on various meesage boards on the Internet is that Peyton Manning had a great post season and was the reason they won the Superbowl. When in fact the Colts did not win the Superbowl BECAUSE of Manning but won the Superbowl
WITH Manning. Big difference.

Remember a key part of the game in the wildcard game against KC was when Manning threw a bad pick to Ty Law that was returned to the Colts 5 yard line. Three plays later the Chiefs had to settle for a FG attempt( which they honked ) Quite frankly, Manning probably put the Colts defense in some precarious situations throughout the postseason( as his 8 ints in the postseason can attest to) including the pick six that gave the Pats a commanding 21-3 lead near half. Believe me the Colts D put in work in the playoffs. Even the 34 points they gave up to NE can be attributed to one offensive turnover and being placed into tough positions defensively due to bad special teams coverage.

No one unit " won " the Superbowl for the Colts. The team as a whole won them a ring. To simply act as if Peyton Manning won the Superbowl in a vaccuum or that Tony Dungy had nothing to do or contribute to them winning, is just plain crazy.