02-01-2017, 11:21 AM
It's been really busy recently gearing up for the draft but obviously, I have my thoughts on this weekend's game as a religious fan of all things NEP. Wanted to pass along my thoughts purely from a tactical standpoint; trying to keep it light on opinion and heavy on useful facts. Hopefully some of this is interesting and you'll be able to see it throughout the game.
Scheme - Conceptually rooted in zone run and west coast passing concepts. Shanahan obviously the son of a WC innovator and worked his way up with Kubiak (also a big proponent of outside zone concepts). In the run game, you'll see very little gap or man techniques from the linemen. They'll come off the ball laterally looking to find a spot and then engage with the DL. The entire line gets flowing in one direction for staple outside zone runs; tailback pushes towards the hashmark and theoretically has at least three options. This opens up passing lanes down the seams when linebackers have greedy eyes and flow laterally too quickly - you're bound to see numerous boot plays in the passing game. ATL will sneak a backside TE out on boot plays into the flat when they are ahead of the chains on 2nd down. Simply put, an exceptionally diverse offense from a passing standpoint. Trips, motion, stack releases create stress on the defense and displace zone assignments. You'll see a ton of 'hi-low' routes which force intermediate defenders to pick a vertical level to defend (leaving the other route open). ATL's scheme forces you to defend the entire field, which is rare.
Personnel - Outstanding and diverse skill group. Julio Jones has been sensational and is likely the most physically gifted WR in the league. Excellent combination of size, length, play speed, coordination, and balance. Not as dominant on the ball as highlights and reputation would suggest. Dominates by being a big player winning on 'little man' routes (slant, speed out, orbit). Gabriel a gimmick player but sudden and can get up field quickly. Small catch radius and allergic to contact. Sanu has a good catch radius but inconsistent hands. Not a natural runner, stiff. Monotone speed. Both tailbacks are talented. Freeman a compact inside runner who delivers sufficient contact power for his size. Can catch the ball and has v good lateral agility in space. Coleman a more linear player but can really run. Good long speed, a legit 4.45 player at his H/W. Matt Ryan's numbers have been a bit flattered by the collective talent around him; but he's quite good. A generally patient passer with a strong sense of the backside rush. Finds the backside of passing plays consistently and without issue. Throws the ball downfield without hesitation, though worth noting he lacks the arm strength to drive far hash deep throws consistently. In a dome, it shouldn't be much of an issue. Can be flustered by tight man coverage and baited into seemingly obvious errors. Extremely productive in the red zone this season and as in-command as i've seen him. All in all, a top 5 passer.
Scheme - For whatever reason he won't admit it, but Quinn has more or less dropped in place the general scheme from SEA. There are subtle differences for sure, but big picture this is a 3 cover defense that wants speed at LB to cover the flats. They run more 2 cover man (sounds weird 2 cover = zone but it's simple - 2 high safeties, man coverage underneath) than SEA does. They lean more towards the PITT and SEA side of the spectrum in terms of 'we do what we do', you don't see a ton of change week to week on that side of the ball. As season has gone on, they've shown more confidence playing man concepts and walking safeties down. Results have been mixed. Generally play a straightforward 43 under front in their base defense. Again, not a ton of variation on this side of the ball. They generally let their guys shoot upfield more off the ball; you won't see as much 2 gapping especially on the inside.
Personnel - The DL is unexceptional save for their two tackles. Both Hageman and Jarrett can play; though the latter is far more consistent. Neither are explosive upfield rushers. Hagemen flashes a power and first-step combination that is tantalizing, but he's a dog half the time. LB level is led by a youngster who I loved coming out of LaSU; Jones. He can run like the wind and always finds himself near the action. Reckless as a tackler and v light; can be displaced in the run game. Prone to over-pursuing in an effort to make the play. Beasley a fast-developing edge rusher. Finally starting to convert speed to power and has largely ditched that useless spin move. Excellent first step allows him to push upfield with haste. Turns the arc with ease and stays low in his speed rush. Not productive against the run and plays light. Can chase laterally without issue due to his speed. Secondary group is young but scrappy and not lacking for talent in certain spots. K. Neal a striker as a safety, uncoils and explodes into ball carriers. Not productive as a coverage player but already a plus player in run force. Jalen Collins and Robert Alford are both favorites of mine, though candidly neither have truly panned out relative to their lofty draft placement. Collins a classic 'Seattle' corner from LaSU; long limbed and can run down the field. Stiff and wooden in his lateral movements. Alford is a sensational athlete; sudden and fluid with the speed to carry down the field. Picks up a ton of flags and is often clueless when he gets out of phase. I think both corners are talented; question will be if the stage and pace that NEP throws at them will be too much.
Scheme - Arguably the most diverse offense conceptually in the NFL; either this or ATL. NEP is fortunate to have had stability at QB and HC for so long that the same fundamental Perkins system has been in place and evolving for almost 20 years. The passing game has become more balanced and vertically oriented this season in particular; due largely to adapting to better talent outside. McDaniels exceptionally aware of his personnel's strengths. More motion than any team in the league pre-snap. Lot of underneath crossers vs. zone; deep in cuts and digs; vertical seem routes; and skinny posts from this offense. Man beaters abound via rub routes and pick plays. In the run game, you'll notice a lot more of the 'pull' concept, where the guard on the backside of the run play pulls out of his gap, loops around the center, and acts as a lead blocker for the tailback on the playside. It's a staple of gap run coaching and is very effective when executed well - but by definition it leaves an unblocked rusher on the backside of the play. NEP will probably take their chances in this game; ATL lacks a truly explosive 3 technique to take advantage (Hageman and Jarrett both good, but not upfield types).
Personnel - Before Gronkowski got hurt, this was the best skill group NEP had fielded since 2011. Obviously losing Gronkowski changes the equation; having Bennett as a talented backup has preserved some of their staple 12 personnel (2 TEs) concepts. Bennett is hurt so not running down the field as well as he'd normally; still a massive player with soft hands and excellent lateral agility. Hogan has striding speed and gets on top of corners in the 15-25 yard area. Quite good on deep boundary throws and deep in cuts or digs. Edelman the key to the passing game; sudden and elusive in short space but able to run nearly the entire route tree effectively. Malcolm Mitchell a long limbed, athletic rookie. Relatively pedestrian long speed but gets off the ball quickly and separates with authority. Floyd gives them a fundamentally different H/W/S component but he probably won't play in a game of these stakes. On paper, a natural outside WR with excellent size, bulk, and ball skills. NEP has three tailbacks who play snaps, all who present different challenges. Blount a dancing bear for a 230lb runner. Is just as apt to hurdle someone as to run through them. Somewhat plodding going downhill, takes a few yards to generate contact power and rhythm. Deion Lewis is a matchup issue both as an inside runner and as a pass catcher. Capable of carrying the ball inside on one snap, but then motioning outside on the next. Excellent lateral agility; almost impossible to tackle in space 1:1. James White exclusively used in the passing game for his soft hands and crisp routes. A marginal NFL runner who lacks forward lean and contact power to be effective in that regard. Gets behind linebackers for large gains with frequency in the passing game. Brady is sensational and somehow improving in several areas of his game. Still susceptible to quick a gap pressure and can lock onto top targets in tight games. Unmatched ability to win the down pre-snap.
I'll come back with NEP defense shortly :handgestures-thumb: