Defensive Personnel Trends

Discussion in 'NFL Draft Forum' started by ckparrothead, Jan 5, 2018.

  1. ckparrothead

    ckparrothead Premium Member

    May 2002
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    I mentioned this in another thread and I thought I would put it in its own thread with the full year-end numbers. I know some folks here like Slimm don't necessarily watch enough NFL to keep up on all of the trends happening in that league.

    It's very relevant to the Draft because the relative value of certain positions will change due to these trends.

    So here are some thoughts:

    1. It's official. The "Front Seven" is no longer a "Front Seven". It's now a "Front Six". In 2017 the NFL marched out 6.04 players per snap that played DL or LB in college. The rest of them were either true NFL defensive backs, or in college they played safety or safety/linebacker hybrid (e.g. "rover" or "spur").

    2. That nickel is more popular than base is not new. That's not the significance of the number above. The significance is that nickel is now the average. There are damn close to as many dime/prevent snaps as there are base/heavy snaps. That's remarkable.

    3. What does this mean? It means the run defending linebacker, and the nose tackle, are as much a "specialist" as a dime defensive back. The nickel defensive back is a starter and as much a full time player as any defensive lineman.

    4. Half the league uses the six-plus defensive backs or hybrids on at least 1 of 4 plays. A third of the league uses those packages on 1 of 3 plays. About a quarter of the league uses those packages damn near half their plays. Nobody really exceeds that, though. Not yet.

    5. The Patriots have gone cutting-edge yet again. When the league were stuck on base defense, they were using nickel. When the league went nickel, they were using dime. Now the league is using dime a lot, so what's next? That's right, the Patriots used SEVEN defensive back packages on about 1 out of 6 snaps.

    6. People have suggested that this was purely due to injuries at linebacker (no doubt, Hightower's absence played into it) but I do not buy that. Other teams have linebacker injuries. The Patriots have had linebacker injuries in the past. None of them, no other team, nor the Patriots in the past, decide to use a 215 lbs former college safety at linebacker AND THEN still put six other true defensive backs on the field on 1 out of 6 plays. Just doesn't happen. Until now.

    7. Continuing with the Patriots, on those 161 snaps with seven defensive backs, they only had 1st downs converted 19% of the time (which is equivalent to league average conversion on 3rd & 11+). This was not merely a 3rd & Long defense for them. They only had like 50 snaps all year where they defended against 3rd & 10+. This was a real defensive package used in predictable passing situations (91% of the 161 snaps were pass plays), and they only allowed 4.7 net yards per pass attempt from this package, with 2 TDs and 6 INTs. Stunning success.

    8. League average run efficiency versus base defense? Only 3.62 yards per carry. League average pass efficiency versus base defense about 7.01 net yards per attempt. League average run efficiency versus nickel defense? About 4.13 yards per carry. Pass efficiency versus nickel only about 6.06 net yards per attempt. League average pass efficiency versus dime defense at about 5.82 net yards per attempt. Nickel and dime defenses are winning against the pass, and base defenses are winning against the run.

    For what it's worth since this ultimately is a Miami Dolphins message board, the Dolphins were once again allergic to dime defense, total of 7 snaps spent in that defense.

    Miami's defensive weaknesses were clear:

    1. Pass defense in Base: Ranked #26 in net yards per attempt
    2. Run defense in Nickel: Ranked #30 in yards per carry
    3. 3rd & Long: Ranked #32 in conversion rates on 3rd & 5 thru 3rd & 10
    4. Red zone defense: #30 in TD rate
    5. Tight end defense: Ranked #32 in fantasy points allowed to TE
  2. TedSlimmJr

    TedSlimmJr Hartselle Tigers (15-0) 5-A State Champ

    Jul 2008
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    It's just really good insight in my opinion. Well done. It really sheds some light on how back 7 defenders are to be looked at going forward in terms of the draft. Versatile DB's and LB's are going to become even more of a premium than already thought.

    In a traditional 4-3 defense, your 'Mike' linebacker is really the only player in your entire front 7 that's 2 gapping anyway against the run. Everybody else is typically 1 gapping...with primary gap responsibility to the inside of their technique. Which is why it always made sense that only your Mike really needed to be a physical thumper vsn the run to take on those iso blocks from a FB in the B-gaps.

    My question is, what kind of coverages are these NFL teams predominantly playing? Are they mostly playing some variation of quarters coverage in order to get two "safeties" involved in the run game? Reason I ask is because it effectively allows you to have an 8 men in the box vs the run if you choose, but out of dime personnel.
  3. Dakar001

    Dakar001 Active Member

    Dec 2005
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    Thank you for this new trend write up. I hope our Executive Vice President/G.M./Head Coach/Defensive Coor./ are keeping up with the new defensive trends. I hope they are talking to all of our scouts and talent evaluators so that we are looking at the correct athletes for the up coming draft. I know Burke was talking about adding a "Spur" /or "Rover" in the off season. We will have to look at the Derwin James (FS/SS/LB) types more closely. We will also have to look at the Roquan Smith(LB) types as well. Howard/Tankersly/McCain need to continue to improve in 2018. We will definitely need Lippett back at full strength to shore up our CB's. We will also have to more CB's that can play Nickel/Dime positions. McMillan needs to come back fully healthy and be able to man the MLB position. Anthony needs to continue to show that he can play either the SLB or WLB position. I am curious to see what Burke can do with McDonald, can he play the rover or spur position?
  4. j-off-her-doll

    j-off-her-doll FinHeaven VIP Finheaven VIP

    Apr 2009
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    Excellent stuff, CK. McMillan's return should help Miami's LB unit, but - as we've discussed in other threads - they could really use another fast, instinctual LB. I still wouldn't rule out moving McDonald to WLB and filling the FS spot with an actual FS.

    Jeremy Reaves is high on my want list - 1st Team Sun Belt as a CB in 2016 and Sun Belt Defensive Player of the year as a S in 2017. He plays the run as well as the pass, and he hits as hard as you want - while also showing FS range. I think Safety is his position in the NFL, but he should put in good work in the Slot - very aggressive, very aware.

    Josh Kalu also jumps out for his versatility. He doesn't look particularly fast, so I think teams will knock him, but he's long, a great tackler, and he plays the ball very well. I like him better at CB than Safety, but in short time, he'd likely also be the best FS on Miami's roster. He reminds me of a not-quite-as-good (but longer) Desmond King.

    Some other guys who either have experience at Safety and CB or who are CB's who tackle well/Safeties who cover well (not ordered - and not all have declared):

    Jamar Summers
    Sean Chandler
    Parry Nickerson
    MJ Stewart
    Essang Bassey
    Brian Peavy
    DJ Reed
    Holton Hill
    Kris Boyd
    Darnell Savage
    Mike Minter Jr
    Curtis Mikell
    Darious Williams
    DeAndre Farris
    Amari Coleman
    Heath Harding
    Brad Ellis
    Darius Phillips
    Daniel Lewis Jr
    Jalin Burrell
    Kameron Kelly
    Jermaine Kelly
    Quenton Meeks
    Carlton Davis
    Duke Dawson
    JaMarcus King
    Simeon Thomas

    Obviously, there's a range of talent/where you'd like to get a particular guy. Aside from some of things guys returning, testing will also thin the group, but these are the types of DB's Miami hasn't looked at enough imo.
    dolfan_101, ckparrothead and BobDole like this.
  5. jlfin

    jlfin old pro

    Mar 2005
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    There is nothing “cutting edge” about 7 DBs. That was the game plan the 49ers used in the XIX SB against Marino.
    Dakar001 likes this.
  6. NorFlaFin

    NorFlaFin PowerHungryMo'fo

    Sep 2004
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    Correlation does not imply causation.

    Rich Rod when taking over WVU was once asked why he favored the 3-3-5 stack as opposed to Don Nehlen 4-3. He responded, (paraphasingly) "I had to find a way to get the best players I could recruit on the field at once." If all the high schools are turning out kids as finished products who are DB's and not kids who developed enough to be considered a bona fide LB recruit it's tough justify anything else but a nickel or dimes as the base defense.

    Apply the filter that is the NCAA football season and then NFL draft and talent pool decreases even more.

    If we could drill down into the numbers as posted. I do wonder how many teams automatically go nickel or dime regardless of down and distance.

    I can remember when both the Falcons and Oilers ran a run-n-shoot offense and the opposing teams would play the entire game in a 4-2-5 or 4-1-6.

    Good numbers and worth a second look but without context even good numbers can be misleading
  7. Lovethefish

    Lovethefish Well-Known Member

    Dec 2012
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    The idea of opening in base 4/3 on 1st and 10 is as much antiquated as it is annoying. The better teams pass as much as run on 1st down. If you open in base you better get to the QB.

    The other issue I see too often on defense- 2nd or 3rd and 5 and CBs allow a 10 yard cushion. Drives me nuts. I just don't understand it and don't need some circular bullshit explanation from an experienced coach. I have enough of an education to see nonsensical answer when I hear it.

    You win on defense in a couple different ways:
    1. You have a shutdown CB who takes away someone - making the game 10 on 9
    2. You have an edge rusher that must be double teamed and even if double teamed may wreck the game.
    3. Scheme. With scheme comes variations / surprise. Doesn't allow QB to audible into favorable plays. Causes delays and confusions.
    TheWozz likes this.
  8. outlawd2u

    outlawd2u Pro Bowler

    Jul 2004
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    This is why Roquan Smith would be a perfect fit in today's NFL, and is Exactly what we need on defense.
  9. Phinatic8u

    Phinatic8u Adam ****ing Gase Finheaven VIP

    Nov 2008
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    IF they move TJ to WLB and draft say Elliott or James then I can say with happiness and a puffed out chest that Miami majorly upgraded the defense..

    but that probably won't happen LOL.
    miami365 and j-off-her-doll like this.

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