Hard to Find Needs in Buffalo, Easy in Rest of the AFC East

New York Jets ER John Franklin-Myers
New York Jets ER John Franklin-Myers
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

For this May round of Four Downs, we will be looking at each team's biggest remaining need as well as notable undrafted free agents who will be going to camp with each franchise.

BUFFALO BILLS

Biggest Need: Guard

Trying to find a hole on the current Bills roster is difficult; this is a very well-built team. We'll point to the question marks at the guard position. Buffalo added a pair of mid-round tackles to bolster their offensive line, and both Spencer Brown and Tommy Doyle are solid depth options. They're definitely tackles, however; the only interior lineman the Bills drafted was Texas Tech's Jack Anderson in the seventh round. That leaves Cody Ford penciled in at right guard, which is the closest thing the Bills have to an offensive weak point. Ford only started seven games due to injuries but still had 13 blown blocks on the season according to Sports Info Solutions charting; a blown block rate of 3.7% was the sixth-worst among interior linemen with at least 300 snaps last season. Ford is only 24 years old, so there's still reason to hope that a fully healthy season will result in some improvement, but Ford should at least be challenged by Forrest Lamp for a starting job in camp.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents

You could make an argument for cornerback to be the Bills' biggest need instead of guard, and yet they didn't add a player to their secondary until the sixth round. That opens up a potential opportunity for USC corner Olaijah Griffin to potentially make an impact right away. Griffin went undrafted because he's small and lean (5-foot-11, 176 pounds) and had some lackluster pro day results. But on the field, he excelled in man coverage against players a good 30 pounds larger than he was, with great quickness and strong press reps. He needs to bulk up if he wants to play against NFL receivers; there isn't exactly a surplus of 175-pound outside cornerbacks dotted around the league. But if he can gain a little mass, the son of Warren G has coverage skills to regulate opposing receivers (sorry, not sorry). San Diego State safety/slot corner Tariq Thompson also falls into that mold of "great-looking on the field, sorry physical attributes." He's a candidate for a dimebacker and special teams maven role.


MIAMI DOLPHINS

Biggest Need: Center

The Dolphins addressed their offensive line by taking Notre Dame's Liam Eichenberg in the second round. He'll either compete at tackle, letting Robert Hunt slide inside, or at guard. The one position he definitely won't play is center, where Miami has downgraded from Ted Karras to Matt Skura in free agency. Skura suffered a torn ACL and dislocated kneecap in November 2019 and was not the same player last season. His blown block rate of 2.2% was his worst since his rookie season, and he was benched in November after struggling to get the snap back to Lamar Jackson in pistol formations. Michael Deiter could slide over if he loses the camp battle at guard, but Miami just had too many offensive line problems to solve in one draft.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents

Miami continues to search for more offensive line help by bringing in Robert Jones from Middle Tennessee State. A tackle who is going to be moving inside to guard, Jones didn't even start playing football until he was a junior in high school, going to junior college and then transferring to Middle Tennessee for his final two years. So we're talking mostly raw potential here, albeit potential the Dolphins felt justified guaranteeing $130,000 for. Scouting reports for Jones are filled with phrases such as "tree trunks for thighs," "thick-bodied frame," "nasty demeanor," and "uncoachable aggression," and not so much with praise of technique or skill. Still, gambling on traits and hoping you can teach finesse isn't a bad strategy for a UDFA, and the Dolphins need to take shots on the line. Elsewhere, Miami brought in Jibri Blount, son of NFL great Mel. They're listing him as tight end, but Jibri never played football at North Carolina Central—he was the MEAC basketball player of the year, averaging 19.1 points and 9.3 rebounds a game for the Eagles. The Dolphins also added UTEP's Kai Locksley, a quarterback who is switching to wide receiver. Locksley's father was Tua Tagovailoa's coordinator at Alabama and brought in Tua's younger brother to Maryland, so how he ended up in Miami is a mystery to everyone.


NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Biggest Need: Wide Receiver

Color us skeptical that seventh-rounder Tre Nixon of Central Florida is the balm that will sooth New England's receiving woes. The Patriots did upgrade their pass-catchers this offseason, signing tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry to massive deals, but they'll need a wideout or two on the field occasionally. New England is betting heavily that Nelson Agholor's shockingly good 2020 season (28.0% DVOA, fourth-best in the league) is prelude and not outlier (three of his previous four seasons saw him rank outside the top 75). Their most proven receiver might well be Kendrick Bourne, who became expendable in San Francisco. Julian Edelman's not walking through that door; now is the time for N'Keal Harry or Jakobi Meyers to step up.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents

As of May 17, the Patriots had signed exactly one undrafted free agent: kicker Quinn Nordin out of Michigan. Nordin set the Wolverines record in career field goals of 40 yards or more at 14. Yeah. That's it. That's what I've got on Nordin. A few teams have been hesitant about signing UDFAs this season, but the Patriots take the cake. One reason is a delay in clarification from the league on what the rules will be for preseason roster limits during (hopefully) the end of the COVID pandemic, as well as a shallower-than-usual pool of UDFAs, as quite a few people who may have come out in a normal year have opted to return to school to actually play one more "normal" season. The Pats have had a UDFA make the opening-day roster for 17 straight seasons, but that streak is in jeopardy.


NEW YORK JETS

Biggest Need: Edge Rusher

Robert Saleh's defenses in San Francisco didn't gel until 2019, when he switched to a wide-9 alignment and added both Nick Bosa and Dee Ford to his pass rush. Saleh built himself a deep stable of players coming off the edge, something he won't have in New York. The Jets did add Carl Lawson in the offseason, and he immediately becomes a focal point for Saleh's defense, but New York entered the offseason arguably needing two or three more bodies at the position thanks to the departure of Jordan Jenkins. Then again, the Jets needed two or three bodies basically everywhere and opted to use their first four draft picks on the offensive side of the ball, passing up the Jaelan Phillipses and Kwity Payes of the world. That puts a lot of pressure on players such as John Franklin-Myers to step up, taking advantage of Saleh's scheme and play calling to bolster an anemic pass rush.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents

The Jets were the one team in the division to sign a normal class of UDFAs, and they're the one with the weakest roster and the most opportunities to break through. They guaranteed six-digit figures to two signees, so we'll start with them. Tight end Kenny Yeboah could easily have been a Day 3 pick; the Jets had him with a fourth-round grade and gave him the most guaranteed money of any UDFA in the league this year. He's kind of an odd positional fit—he's really more of a wingback/old school fullback type, with speed and solid route-running. I'm not sure he'd fit well in most offenses, but he might fit a Kyle Juszczyk-esque role in the Jets' new Shanahan offense. Oregon State corner Isaiah Dunn is the other big-money signing. His athletic ability is off the charts; he was on the track team and has hops for days. He just also has zero career interceptions and doesn't tackle very well; he's a bundle of traits Saleh is hoping to mold into a solid player. My favorite signing, though, might be Dunn's teammate Hamilcar Rashed, a speed-only pass rusher. Rashed ended up with an 11.1 sack projection from SackSEER with a very high explosion index—dude's athletic as all hell. He also saw his production plummet when he bulked up from 225 to 245; he has roughly zero power. Still, I think he can be used creatively in a pass rush. With spots to be won on this roster, there are more UDFAs with potential to contribute we don't have space to talk about here—key an eye out for defensive tackle Michael Dwumfour, linebacker Milo Eifler, safety Jordyn Peters, and offensive tackle Teton Saltes in training camp and preseason as well.

Portions of this article previously appeared on ESPN+.

Comments

42 comments, Last at 24 May 2021, 10:27am

1 Pats QB situation

Until the Pats get actual passing production from the QB position, I'd still list that as their greatest need. Mac Jones is not going to burst into the NFL like Dan Marino, or even Andrew Luck. And Cam wasn't good last year, while Agholor was.

4 I’d agree here. Meyers…

In reply to by RickD

I’d agree here. Meyers seemed like he played very well given the constraints of that offense, and betting on Agholor makes more sense when you consider that he was utilized entirely differently in LV (adot >15) than in Philly (adot 9-11). 

9 I certainly see your point,…

I certainly see your point, but for these pieces we generally like giving a little bit of the benefit of the doubt with draft picks.  Otherwise, we'd still have the Jaguars, Jets and Bears with their biggest needs as being quarterbacks despite having just grabbed a first-round passer.

If the Patriots had done something wacky like taking Kellen Mond in the first round or something, we'd stick with quarterback, certainly, but Mac Jones was a first-round (...ish...) prospect.

22 It seems a bit weird to give…

It seems a bit weird to give rookies the benefit of the doubt, and not do it for high dollar vets. 

 

The Patriots clearly thought they had a problem with WR/TE - but they spent a ton of money and then didn't draft anyone (high) at those positions - so they seem to think that issue is resolved. 

At QB, they re-signed a bad veteran, clearly don't believe in Stidham, drafted a guy in the first round, and then went out and signed another vet. 

 

 

It seems like they think they've got way less confidence in that position to me. 

2 CB not Edge is the bigest need for the NYJ

With Lawson, Franklin-Myers, Vinny Curry in a situational role, and a number of dart throws at other edge contributors for depth (I like 2nd year player Bryce Huff), the Jets are more set at that position than CB. At CB, they have unproven Bryce Hall (who can be a decent starter, IMO), Bless Austin (who can't), Jason Hardee (ST ace who doesn't offer much on defense), and then a bunch of later round and UDFA rookies and second year players. I have to imagine they sign a veteran free agent because there are zero proven starters at CB on the roster.

7 Agree with this, and I think…

Agree with this, and I think it's the biggest hole on a roster that still has a bunch of holes.  They're actually better set at edge/DE this year than last year, and still as bad if not worse at corner.  I think Saleh is thinking he can get a halfway decent pass defense just from pressure and coaching, and while he did awesome the last couple of years it seems to be a little too much to ask.  The most I expect from this season is slight improvement in record with a bunch of close losses.  If the Jets lose a bunch of shootouts all the better; it would mean they guessed right on the QB and offensive talent around him.

I think the biggest achilles heel (not really need) for Buffalo could be QB, if Josh Allen turns into a pumpkin and Trubisky proves to be as weak as before.

14 Allen's really unlikely to…

Allen's really unlikely to turn into such a liability that Buffalo can't manage - in my opinion the only QB risk they have there would be due to injury, which is pretty much the same that any team has.

The reason I say that is that really, Allen wasn't that bad in 2019. As a second year player, he was basically replacement level. Then he jumped significantly in year 3, which is, on average, where quarterback improvements tend to slow after. So even if you assume year 3 is an upward fluctuation, he's still way likely to be above year 2, which already was replacement level. And anything above replacement level is an asset to a team. I mean, Buffalo was 10-6 in 2019, and that's with a dominant New England still choking teams. 

So probably "Achilles heel" isn't the right term. It's more like "the difference between Buffalo being a wild-card team and a Super Bowl contender is QB," which is fair.

Honestly Buffalo picking up Trubisky was a great pickup, in my mind, as Trubisky is way undervalued by people. I mean way undervalued (which was pointed out in the Free Agency Cost/Benefit article). He's a pretty reasonable floor to QB performance - again, Chicago wasn't really totally hamstrung by Trubisky, for instance. 

17 I've had this discussion…

I've had this discussion with Pat a few times. Consider four scenarios that could happen for next year:

1) Allen improves - which means he joins the Mahomes/Rodgers tier of Qbs and is in the mvp convo

2) Allen stays more or less the same as last year - in this case, he's a tier 2 QB with Wilson and Watson.

3) Allen declines and falls into that crowded tier with Matt Stafford, Kirk Cousins, etc etc

4) Allen has a huge decline. Kind of like Cam Newton after winning his MVP

If the contract is going to remain unchanged in scenarios 2-4, then I guess you should sign him now because if scenario 1 happens, he comes a bargain

The debate comes with if scenarios 3 and 4 happen, does it lower his contract demand? Because if it does, you are basically risking him having scenario 1 happen and now hes going to want "F U money" vs signing him to scenario 2 money and him being overpaid. 

 

 

27 His contract demands are…

His contract demands are never going to remain unchanged over a year - the cap increases ~6%/yr, and QBs typically more than that. Every year you can pull "future" money early is a big savings.

If you're really unsure of the guy, just structure it so he's tradeable and limit it to a ~4 year extension. If he tanks, you're gonna suck for a year or two anyway, so it doesn't matter. Unless you're the Rams and decide to, I dunno, blow your entire future on the next two years or whatever the heck they're doing.

26 Yes, the cautionary tale of…

Yes, the cautionary tale of a QB on a team who's never seen a losing season when he's a full time starter. What a horror show that is. And that scary above-average ANY/A in every year after his first! Turn away!

It's far too early to say that the Rams are doing the right thing by trading away Goff. Give it 3-4 years and see where the Rams are at, and then we can judge if that decision made sense. I'm incredibly skeptical that it was a good move.

32 You're assuming their…

You're assuming their decision's correct. Way too early for that. Like Wentz, Goff is basically just swapping teams, but will likely stay the starter (unlike Trubisky, for instance) which means it's way too early to have a guess as to where Goff's career is going. And unlike the Eagles and Wentz there weren't externalities involved (Philly was multi-year screwed anyway, and *really* needed the cap space in future years).

Anyone can have buyer's remorse. Doesn't mean it makes sense.

33 Considering the price the…

Considering the Rams paid a hefty price to move on from golf, I think it's pretty clear it was buyer's remorse.

 

Now whether they should have made the trade or not versus sticking with goff is beside the point... If they had just waited a year they would have understood the position they were in much better. That's all I'm saying. More info, especially if it's not going to cost you that much more is better no?

 

That's why I'm saying if those scenarios play out with Josh Allen is it really worse to delay the extension?

 

36 "Now whether they should…

"Now whether they should have made the trade or not versus sticking with goff is beside the point... "

It's not beside the point. You don't want to look at an organization which made a mistake and say "well, look at what they did."

You want an example to illustrate what I mean? Look at the Dolphins. We're kinda brushing off how big a mistake they made considering Tua was, I dunno... not horrible in year 1? But keep in mind, they drafted Tannehill, he had a great year in 2014, they sign him to a dirt-cheap extension, his performance drops to ~replacement level, they have buyer's remorse and churn through garbage for two years before trading him away for peanuts.

Now, of course, they're hoping Tua turns out to be viable while the Titans have been in the playoffs for 2 years and were 1 game away from the Super Bowl in 2019. And Tannehill's performance has been easily top half QB for the past two years. That's the big risk with moving on from a quarterback - that you go from a guy you can manage/build around to churning through garbage for years.

This is the part that I don't get: what's the "cautionary tale" for a franchise who sticks with a QB who's "not quite good enough"? The Bengals? Does anyone seriously believe Dalton's the reason they didn't win a playoff game, as opposed to the cheapest owner in the NFL being happy with a cheap coach? Or what, the Giants or Ravens, both of whom won Super Bowls with said mediocre QB?

The Giants and Ravens had no serious problems managing Flacco and Manning, because they are (or were) well-run organizations with a solid coaching staff. The Bengals have a nickname that should tell you that sticking with Dalton was not the problem.

"That's all I'm saying. More info, especially if it's not going to cost you that much more is better no?"

And what I'm saying is that, at this point, Buffalo's decision (along with Cleveland's!) is already brain-dead. You need to extend Allen for 4 years, at least. You need the cap flexibility (Allen's cap number is already $20+M next year!), and if Allen does turn out to be a consistent top-10 QB, keeping him happy is literally the most important thing in the world.

The "risk" that he might decline like Goff, Tannehill, or Flacco - that's not a real risk, because you will be in the exact same position if you don't sign Allen. If you grab a random QB from free agency, or the draft, chances are they'll be replacement level. You already know Allen's floor is replacement level, so it's all upside.

37 Pat the big disagreement, as…

Pat the big disagreement, as always, is that magic inflection point where it is indeed not worth it to pay the QB and basically try your hand at QB once more. 

Consider if Trubisky was a tier 3 QB. At what price point is it worth it for the Bears to basically pull the same strategy they did with current Trubisky, ie - let him walk and draft a first round replacement in Fields. 

I don't know the number. But there is a number. Is it 50 million? Is it 60? I'll say something super loopy. I'd rather the Cowboys let Dak walk and draft Fields or Jones than do what they did. That's partly with hindsight because those players fell to them, but that's what I would have done. 

I am not saying Josh Allen will fall to that price point. But that price point exists. And my argument is something as follows: If Josh Allen declines to Tier 3 or lower but demands (pick the magic number), are the Bills not better off having waited? Yes there will examples like Ryan Tannehill but there will also be examples like Flacco where the Ravens would have been better off letting him go and trying to draft a replacement. 

 

There is a number and that's my point. 

38 That number has nothing to…

That number has nothing to do with the skill level of the quarterback. It'll be the same point for Trubisky, for Prescott, for Mahomes. Prescott just got a significantly better contract than Mahomes did. Is Prescott better than Mahomes? Absolutely not! Prescott just suffered a severe injury last year, which raises his injury risk long-term, and Mahomes actually has evidence that he's less injury prone from the dislocated kneecap in 2019. Plus, there's the, uh, obvious performance difference. Y'know. That.

Now, you might say "well, yes, but a guy like Flacco would never get the contract Mahomes did" because he obviously wasn't at that level. Except look at Prescott's contract - the Cowboys built themselves an "out" in 2023 in case Prescott's value tanks. That's what you do to deal with the uncertainty that a QB will reach the potential that you want. Wentz and Goff's contracts were similarly tradeable to ensure the team could manage their risk as well.

The only reason it makes sense to get rid of a QB is if you're certain of his ceiling or if his floor is garbage. His contract demands are fairly immaterial - they're all the same as everyone else's. It's not like Mitch Trubisky is gonna walk in the door and demand $50M/yr when Mahomes is making $30M. Obviously if that happens you laugh and close the door, but it's not going to happen. The only way a guy a mid-range guy with flashes of great play (like, say, Wentz or Goff) ends up demanding $50M/yr is if *everyone else is already making more than that*.

In which case, letting the guy walk and going and drafting a new QB isn't going to help. Why? Because you'd only get him for 4 years anyway, and statistically the first 2 are garbage. The price on 5th year option for draft picks is tied to average league salary, and so if QBs are all getting $50M/yr, the 5th year option's gonna be like, $40M/yr too. (as in, Lamar Jackson's 5th year option is $23M already).

Yes, you're right, there is a point at which teams won't accept QB contract demands and would prefer to have them walk away. But we'll never see that, because once you get to that point, the market will dry up and QBs will have to lower their demands. It's just basic economics. Has nothing to do with the skill level of the QB.

QB contracts are surprisingly performance-insensitive compared to other positions. It's mostly just age and injury risk.

39 "But we'll never see that,…

"But we'll never see that, because once you get to that point, the market will dry up and QBs will have to lower their demands."

I am not sure I buy this. All it takes is one team desperate enough to sign a QB at that price tipping point. Remember, not all team's have the same aligned incentives. If you are a team who views themselves as a championship roster and just needs an upgrade, you may as well pay that tipping point number. Or if you are a team desperate to make the playoffs or you will get fired, you'll consider paying that absurd figure, 

I keep coming back to the Flacco example. Were the Ravens better off signing Flacco to that huge deal vs letting him walk? I am getting a sense from you that even if they knew exactly what Flacco would become, they still were better off signing him anyway. 

 

40 I am getting a sense from…

I am getting a sense from you that even if they knew exactly what Flacco would become

No, if the Ravens have precognition, they should quit football and go into the betting markets.

How in the world does it make sense to evaluate a decision based on information you can't possibly have? Again, to be clear, the reason you don't keep a QB (barring weird factors) is if you're sure of their ceiling, or if their floor is too low.

In fact, you're asking the wrong question: the Ravens should've signed Flacco one year earlier. Contract would've been much cheaper and since Flacco wouldn't've had the Super Bowl win as leverage, they could've easily given themselves more of an out. On a 4 year contract extension (reasonable) they would've ended up at 2015 with Flacco getting injured, maybe franchising him for a year and letting him go after 2016. Vastly cheaper, and completely reasonable.

Flacco's the perfect example of why you do sign QBs you're uncertain about early - because it allows you to leverage that uncertainty into the contract. If they fail, no big deal, you'll suck for a year or two anyway because you have a bad QB. If they come out and have a boom of a year, you're gonna end up overpaying, period.

41 We just agree to disagree…

We just agree to disagree here. I think there is a price point at which it doesn't make sense to commit X number of dollars to and you are better off going with Tyrod Tailor and trying to find a better Qb

42 I never said I don't think…

I never said I don't think that. I said that if that time comes, Tyrod Taylor will be demanding 70% of X anyway. There aren't enough QBs in the NFL. If some of them take themselves out of the market by overpricing, it'll just raise the value of the guys below them.

Besides, this is all silly-academic anyway. Players and teams know what the market is. A QB isn't going to demand X unless he knows someone's going to pay it. And if a team knows that another team's willing to pay that, they also know that even if they switch to a new QB in a few years he's going to demand that too.

QB contracts are weird and silly. It looks like collusion, because it functionally is - I mean, at one point Tom Condon had like nearly all of the top NFL QB contracts. You've got 1 guy talking to all the teams - obviously it's going to look collude-y.

24 I also suspect that, while…

I also suspect that, while Allen may decline, the talent on that football team will keep it from having a huge impact. I only expect a real decline once the supporting cast starts to weaken. Unless Allen continues to improve, of course. But the point is it's hard to evaluate a QB when the supporting cast is so good. Otherwise bad QBs have been known to shine under such circumstances.

28 The reason Buffalo looks…

The reason Buffalo looks like a well constructed team is that they're practically batting a thousand on draft picks since Beane came in. Seriously. Since then, literally their worst pick in the first 2 rounds was Zay Jones. That's 6/7 picks that have been viable starters (I'm leaving off 2020+, obviously).

Literally their biggest risk is that Beane's drafting success is a mirage and they revert to the mean. Otherwise talent decline just isn't a worry. Things start to get tighter next year, obviously, but they don't really have any albatrosses on the team weighing them down (Milano's a bit of a gamble, but when your biggest gamble is "hey we have to carry this linebacker we drafted for 2 years at ~$10M/yr" that's a damn good situation).

31 Yeah, I should've said Beane…

Yeah, I should've said Beane/McDermott, I forgot about that weirdness. I'm more impressed with the roster construction in Buffalo than the coaching (although I'm a longtime fan of McDermott, who got *screwed* at Philly) which I naively assign to Beane, although I don't know what's going on with the power structure there.

8 It was a toss up between the…

It was a toss up between the two positions for me for sure, and I agree with most of your takes on the corners.  This is a multi-year rebuilding project, and they focused heavily on offense for year one.  Can't fix everything in one go, I suppose.

What pushed edge over corner for me was seeing just much Saleh's defenses in San Francisco were predicated on those pass rushers, and then trying to map skills and roles to what he has in New York.

10 Saleh's defense in SF also…

Saleh's defense in SF also had Richard Sherman plus another CB who made a Pro Bowl!  But I agree they couldn't fix everything at once, and I also agree that pressure is more important than coverage in today's NFL.  I'm pretty happy with the offseason for the Jets.  Having an actual plus edge rusher in Lawson should make a big difference.  And Rankins is almost an elite interior rusher (if healthy, a big if) and with Quinnen that's a really formidable interior pass rush.  I'm very interested to see what happens.  If Mosley is close to his old form and they can coach up the kids, the defense could be nasty.  If not, there might be a lot of 3 step drops, 3rd down conversions, and blown coverages for TDs.  We'll see!  

12 "I also agree that pressure…

"I also agree that pressure is more important than coverage in today's NFL"

Not just in general, but seems particularly true for Saleh's scheme, based on his results in SF.  Saleh's defenses were pretty mediocre until he got the pass rush in place - without much change to the coverage personnel.  For that alone, rush is probably a bigger gap than CB *assuming Saleh runs the same scheme as in SF*

13 "I also agree that pressure…

"I also agree that pressure is more important than coverage in today's NFL"

Is this true? What are the implications of this statement? That the NFL should prioritize pass rushers over corners in both the draft and free agency? Or that teams need to shift schemes towards more blitz heavy approaches?

I actually take the opposite view and I think coverage is more important than ever, mostly because the rules are stacked against coverage + NFL Offenses are more ruthless about exposing weak coverage units. And pressure is so heavily tied to the Qb that in some sense, its out of the defenses' hand how much pressure they are going to get.

I get that its become the narrative that the Bucs won the SB on the backs of a terrific pass rushing unit, but they also covered well in that game, especially their linebackers. 

18 My thought is that the rules…

My thought is that the rules and sophisticated passing concepts basically make it impossible for anyone to play man coverage consistently.  So you have to play zone at least part of the time and, regardless of coverage scheme, get pressure to slow down offenses.  And you can coach up players to play zone, at least more so than man.  

 

23 You need pressure, sure, but…

You need pressure, sure, but this is a bit chicken and egg.  The Patriots had one of the best defences in the league a couple years ago with very mediocre pass rushers. 

They were able to apply consistent pressure schematically because they had very good corners and safeties. 

 

I think you need one chunk of your defense that's good enough that it allows you to be aggressive with your usage of the other parts. 

 

That can be a great line that can pressure on their own, or great linebackers that can allow the corners and DEs to gamble, or a great secondary that gives the line more time. 

20 "Is this true? What are the…

"Is this true? What are the implications of this statement? That the NFL should prioritize pass rushers over corners in both the draft and free agency? Or that teams need to shift schemes towards more blitz heavy approaches?"

 

Is it true that I believe this?  Yes, absolutely.  Is it true that pressure is more important?  Maybe.

Why do I believe this?  Passing effectiveness has a dramatic drop when the QB is pressured.  This is not tied to the QB (year on year correlations), though sack numbers are.  Pressure rates are increasing or consistent, when the measures of coverage effectiveness (interception percentage, passes defensed) are going in the other direction.

BUT

These are measures of league-wide effectiveness - that's not the same as your comments on what an individual team should do, or how.  So, is it more effective for a given team to try to get better at pressuring the QB, or get better in coverage?  Linked to this has to be - which is easier?  Maybe it's more effective to get better at pressure, but if that's harder (more expensive, riskier) then it may not be worth it.

 

To link back, for a second, to the original point - the Jets have made this decision.  Saleh's defense (based on his time in SF) is very good when it can consistently pressure without blitzing, regardless of the effectiveness of coverage.  As such, for the Jets, they've decided pressure matters more, and is where they put their resources.

 

For a general team, middle of the pack, generic scheme?  Who knows. If you're middle of the pack, I think you're better off spending player resources (draft picks, cap dollars) on rushers, since a single player can have more of an impact in this area.  The best CB in the world can be avoided, so to get good coverage, you can't have weak links.  In general, though, the coverage unit seems to benefit well from coaching (Seattle's continued success with cycling through players) so that may be a better place to focus your coaching resources.

Blitzing a lot may be a quick win.  You get pressure rates up without needing new coaches or players - no expenditure of limited resources.  However, there's an obvious in-game problem - the risk is that the cost of your improved pressure is some big passes for the offense, and the resource you're effectively spending is points.  Not good.

As ever, this isn't being applied in a static environment - the teams you are playing against can react dynamically to whatever you do, as well - who knows, in extreme cases, you get so good at shutting down passing that you can be exploited by a particularly good rushing team.  You've still done the right thing in general - since most of the league are moving to a pass-first offense, but the wrong match up at the wrong time and you're still going to lose.

21 Shocking

“  Saleh's defense (based on his time in SF) is very good when it can consistently pressure without blitzing,”

I do not think that is limited to his defense, e.g. TB in the SB.

34 Sorry, you're correct, of…

In reply to by Raiderfan

Sorry, you're correct, of course, what I meant to say was that it turned that corner (as Bryan mentioned) when it had those rushers (Ford & Bosa) without any real change to the back end (Sherman etc.)

 

As such, there's no evidence that spending resources on the back *for Saleh* would help, but there is evidence (again, for Saleh's defenses specifically) on the rushers will help

25 There two aspects to the NFL…

There two aspects to the NFL that makes this question frankly unanswerable. One - As hoodie mentioned above, pass rush and coverage linked. The other is the point you mentioned, offensive and defensive approaches are dynamic. A team isn't going to play the same way against every defense. 

I think in practical terms, team's really don't have much of a choice. You grab the best you can. But in terms of pure theory, this question is an interesting one still. Forget which unit is easier to build. The Question should be posed as follows:

A) I have A+ corner, an A+ safety, A+ linebacker, and the rest being solidly B level ancillary cover players but Im saddled with an F rated pressure grouping.

B) I have three A+ pass rushers, B level ancillary cover players, and an F rated Linebacker, an F rated Safety, and an F rated starting outside corner.  

In this universe, I would rather be in scenario A.

 

35 That's a good way of putting…

That's a good way of putting it - I'd rather have scenario B

In general, based on league wide trends, my cover group is going to perform worse year on year (based on the main league-wide measures of INT%age and passer rating*).  The line, on the other hand, is getting better, or at least staying constant (pressure rate). 

This says to me that with all the improvements that are happening in the passing game, rushers are doing better at keeping pace with the offense than the secondary

 

*Other measures exist

3 From Miami Section

" he was benched in November after struggling to get the snap back to Lamar Jackson in pistol formations."

Pretty sure you mean Tua.